Understanding Beauty Buzz Words

As an English teacher by day and mad-beauty-chemist by night, nothing excites me more than the moments where my two passions converge. I was researching information on a new formulation that popped in my mind as I was preparing my zombie lesson plan — oh yes, I get to teach an amazing senior high school elective and zombies are our current topic — and the idea of the formulation came to me as I was exploring zombie skin. There is so much jargon and rhetoric wrapped around beauty language,  it’s easy to get lost in just trying to comprehend. Then BOOM, the idea for this blog — why not help translate?

An educated consumer is the modern world’s most powerful tool.

VEGAN – A product is considered “vegan” when all of its ingredients are botanically derived. There can be no animal by-products whatsoever. This even extends to some botanicals which are considered endangering to animals – for example, products made with palm oil are sometimes not considered vegan because of the controversy surrounding palm oil not being sustainable. Common beauty ingredients derived from animals: beeswax, lanolin, lard, emu oil, tallow. More than 90% of our products are vegan; the only products considered “vegetarian” are strict vegan followers who do not consider palm oil to be vegan, but none of our products use ANY animal byproducts whatsoever.

SUSTAINABLE (SUSTAINABLY SOURCED) – Products that are considered sustainable are products that give back to the environment when consumed. For example, sustainably sourced palm oil (which is all we use when we do use palm oil) is palm oil that is sourced from palm trees, but new palm trees are planted to replace the ones that were used. It also means that the resources being used are not endangering any existing animal habitats. We also use sustainable soy wax for our candles; the soy that is used is replanted. There are strict RSPO guidelines for products that are labeled “RSPO Sustainable.”

Photo Credit Greenpalm.org

VEGETARIAN – For a product to be vegetarian, all of its ingredients must not be derived from animals. For example, a beeswax candle can still be considered vegetarian because there are no actual BEES inside of the wax; however, a soap made from tallow is actually derived from beef fat, therefore it cannot be vegetarian.

ORGANIC – For a product to be organic, it must have been grown or derived from a source that does not use genetically modified organisms, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, or ionizing radiation. Organic products, and products made from organic ingredients, are often much more expensive because it is considerably more difficult to produce a healthy, usable organic crop.

CRUELTY-FREE – For a product to be considered cruelty-free, there are several layers and standards. Generally speaking, cruelty-free means no animals were harmed in the production of the product; however, certain organizations, such as Leaping Bunny, have a much higher standard to be considered cruelty-free. To be Leaping Bunny Certified (which we are), no animals must be harmed in the production AND all of the materials/ingredients used to make the product must have come from cruelty-free sources.

FAIR-TRADE – Fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries. Most beauty ingredients are derived from outside of the United States, simply because our country’s climate is not inclined for certain crops, but sometimes the workers who help produce and render the crops are slave workers, child workers, or paid considerably lower than the necessary means. When an ingredient is fair-trade, this ensures the workers were paid a fair wage, under their own desire for employment, and of an appropriate working age.

ALL NATURAL – In general, this means that all of the ingredients in the product are derived directly from nature. Of all the terms, this is the most ambiguous. The reason is because there is no agency or certification program which truly verifies “all natural,” and because “all natural” is not always good… for example, viruses, mildew, and excrement are “all natural,” but it doesn’t necessarily mean you want that in your sugar scrub! The best option when you see “all natural” is to ask what it means.

ETHICAL – Companies who consider themselves ethical may do so for several reasons: 1) They practice fair-trade, 2) They are charitable with their profits, 3) They source sustainably, 4) They’re cruelty-free. There are many wonderful attributes of “ethical” companies, it really comes down to what the consumer cares about.

ESSENTIAL OIL / FRAGRANCE OIL – An essential oil is a plant-derived oil, whereas a fragrance oil is usually a combination of natural and synthetically derived oils. (There is so much associated with this particular topic, I recommend you read a former blog post here.)

Are there any other terms which are confusing? Comment below and I’ll be happy to research them for you!

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