So a few blog postings ago I wrote about what is natural beauty? Afterall, the natural beauty world can be a minefield to navigate what with all of the confusing words being thrown around like “eco” “herbal” and “green”. So because there are no legal definitions for these words (although “anti-aging” and “organic” do have some requirements I thought I would take a stab at what I think the following words mean, (at least to me) and in my own words:
Anti-aging- For me, this term is even more offensive than seeing parabens, sulphates, or formaldehyde on a beauty product label. Not from a physical health point of view, because obviously you don’t want any of the above in your beauty products. My offensive is more from a mental health point of view. The word “anti” is a strong word meaning “against” and I don’t think any woman should be against aging, despite all of the magazines, tv, media, etc illustrating otherwise. Instead I think we should be “pro-maturing gracefully.” Ok, rant over. Technically speaking a product needs to have SPF in it in order to slap anti-aging on its label. This is because blocking UV rays actually does slow down the skin’s aging processes. So there you go, if your fancy and expensive night cream says “anti-aging” on it, that’s why. Not because it’s doing magical things overnight but because if you did wear it during the day it would have some sun protection in it (ironic, no?)
Eco – probably short for environmental, I believe it has to do with the impact of the product on the environment, for example will it pollute water in the runoff or was it made from recycled material? However I’ve also seen it used in context with health and beauty products so it’s probably also supposed to mean that it’s good for you, but be your own judge of that and read the ingredient list.
Fragrance – I used to think that fragrance and perfume were synonymous. You see/hear it in commercials “the new fragrance by XXX brand.” However, fragrance can also be listed as an ingredient and when it is you really need to avoid the product because it could contain any one or more of thousands of different chemicals. You’ll never know which ones because companies are protected by trade-secret laws from disclosing them. It’s best to go with products which are “fragrance-free” but again don’t take the company’s word for it, check for yourself. (See “free” below)
Free – I’m sure that any sane, rational person would think that “free” means that a product doesn’t contain even a smidgeon of what the product purports to be free of. Sadly as consumers we’ve learned the hard way from the Brazilian Blowout controversy that you can’t take it from a company’s website or media that a product is “free” of anything (in this case formaldehyde was found at dangerous levels when samples were sent off and tested in labs. Brazilian Blowout took the position that because it had reformulated but not recalled the already in existence toxic brews, it had done nothing wrong. However the damage was already done to the company’s reputation. Shame on you Brazilian Blowout!). Lesson learned – when getting a treatment done in a salon, ask to see the ingredient list on the bottle they are using on you.
Green – similar to “eco” but probably even broader. You rarely find this on a product label, it’s more about how a company markets or brands itself. For example The Green Girls are a group of women who care about women and the environment (and yours truly is a Green Girl Guru!
Herbal – I suppose at a very basic level, if something is labelled “herbal” it should have some herbs in it. We assume that herbs are good for us. However, just because something contains herbs doesn’t mean it won’t contain a whole host of other yucky stuff. Exhibit A: Herbatint.
Hypoallergenic –not just used in beauty, this term is supposed to mean that the product claims to produce fewer allergic reactions, but compared to what? Really people, this one annoys me almost as much as anti-aging but in a different way. This one lures people in with its perceived scientific sounding name. There is no medical definition despite its name.
Organic- In order for a product to be called organic it must contain at least 1 ingredient which is certified organic by a recognised certification body (e.g. USDA, Ecocert, UK Soil Association.) Therefore you should be wary if you just see “organic” without the logo of a certification body. Is organic better necessarily? A lot of people say yes because by growing ingredients that aren’t sprayed with pesticides, there is less chance of contaminating the ingredient with chemicals. I like to use organic products myself, just be aware that different products will have a different percentage of organic ingredients and it’s pretty rare to find a product that is 100% organic. Some companies like Neal’s Yard Remedies are quite helpful by labelling their products with what percentage of the ingredients are organically sourced.
So after all of my musing and guessing what all of the above words mean, the main lesson here is do not take for granted what is on the label of your product bottle or a company’s website. Read the ingredient label instead, ask questions, and demand answers from any company whose claims are not stacking up to their ingredient lists.