Hello! Today I wanna break down some common buzzwords used by beauty and skincare brands. Deciphering the meanings of some sustainable words can be tough, and that makes it easy for brands to greenwash us. I’ve put together a glossary, of sorts, to help clear up the words being used, as some have no regulation and are pretty vague.
Sustainable: Sustainability incorporates many things, including ethical and environmental standards. This means having reusable, recyclable or biodegradable packaging, ingredients which are made with the environment in mind and with ethical labour (safe working conditions, fair wages etc). Both the planet and it’s people are the priority.
Organic: By itself, organic has no regulation so any company can use it on their labelling. It’s best to look for a certification like the Soil Association’s COSMOS symbol which is an international award. The certification means that nothing is grown with genetically modified crops (GM), herbicides, synthetic fertilisers, no parabens or controversial chemicals. They also promote biodiversity, sustainably sourced ingredients & transparent manufacturing.
Natural: The above certification is also available for natural, which means there’s no GM, animal testing, synthetic colours or controversial chemicals. Without certification, it means nothing – and man-made ingredients can be included, so look for some proof or through the ingredients.
Related: 7 Zero-Waste Swaps
Parabens: Parabens are a type of preservative and so they increase the shelf-life by stopping the growth of mould and bacteria in the products. There are lots of different types but the most common are butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. So why are they avoided in green beauty? There have been studies that show the parabens absorb into our skin and mimic the hormone oestrogen and have been linked to cancer. They’re also being found in marine animals after getting into the waterways.
Vegan: Vegan products have been made with no animal products. Common animal products used in beauty and skincare are beeswax, honey and lanolin. Vegan doesn’t equal cruelty-free – so make sure to check for that too.
Cruelty-Free: This means that the product hasn’t been tested on animals in any stage of manufacturing – from the ingredients to to the final formula. It also includes things like animal hairs that were extracted in an inhumane way, like for makeup brushes. Remember that a product can be cruelty-free but not vegan!
Clean: Like a few of the other terms on this list, this one doesn’t really mean anything unless accompanied with a certification. It usually means that it’s free of certain chemicals, like Parabens, however it doesn’t equal sustainable or good for our skin.
Green or Eco-Friendly: Another wishy-washy term that generally is used to indicate a product being environmentally-friendly, through both the creating of the ingredients, the impact of the product on the planet and the manufacturing process.
Ethical: Ethics is generally more focused on the people-side of things, so ethical brands are transparent, pay fair wages, provide safe and positive working conditions and protect their employees. There’s no particular certification for this however you should be able to find all the info on the brand’s website.
I hope that this post has been useful and helped clarify a few common words that are used in sustainable beauty. Let me know if there are any you think I’ve missed & should add – or if there are any great sustainable beauty brands I need to try!
Bye for now x
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