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The Cosmetic Science Guide to Marketing Terms

It’s so confusing.  Marketing terms in the cosmetics industry often mislead consumers by suggesting unwarranted safety, ethical or environmental benefits. Terms like "clean," "natural," and "cruelty-free" sound appealing but lack clear, scientific definitions and can misrepresent the product's actual benefits and regulatory compliance.   

There are so many misleading and misinformed claims but we will look at the most common.


This is a completely made-up term originating from the West Coast of the USA.  It has no basis and no meaning in cosmetic science.  Its purpose is to convey a false sense of safety and purity usually in order to increase sales and charge more for the product.


Phrase used to exploit the knowledge gap in consumers.  Every single cosmetic product placed on EU and UK market must go through the same safety assessments, every product must attain the same safety standard.  

Claiming a brand is ‘safer’ than another is incoherent and illogical.  It also suggests that the brand owner doesn’t understand cosmetic legislation.


There is No legal cosmetic legislation definition so it can mean whatever you want. Every single cosmetic ingredient must be of cosmetic grade for safety, efficacy and standardisation and as such, has undergone some synthetic process to achieve that.


There are dozens of ‘Organic’ certification business models, all with their own agenda. ‘Organic’ standard with one means that it isn’t ‘Organic’ with another. Organic doesn’t really mean anything when it comes to cosmetics. It’s all just smoke and mirrors.

These commercial businesses used to focus solely on food but then saw the commercial opportunity that could be realised in broadening it to the Cosmetics industry.  Food is ingested, Cosmetics are not.  They are two very different areas.

Cruelty Free / Not Tested on Animals

Animal testing in cosmetics is banned in the UK and Europe and has been since 2009.  Cruelty free is not the same as Cruelty free International which is a certification business.  A brand claiming simply cruelty free or not tested on animals makes no sense as EVERY cosmetic product sold in the UK and Europe has reached the market without animal testing. Also, just because a brand also sells in China does not mean they have had to test on animals.


Ludicrous claim because by just being in existence a business has a carbon footprint. Being as sustainable as you possibly can is the goal and communicating this with the consumer is key.

Planet Friendly

No definition or meaning.  It’s simply another marketing buzzword that is associated with Sustainability.


Similar to Sustainable and Planet friendly.  Meaningless.  There is a term in Chemistry that uses Green but that is to do with processes and manufacturing.


What, like Goblins and Trolls?  This is a classic marketing word used to sum up the lack of cosmetic science education within the company’s marketing / ownership structure. Individual ingredients are singled for exclusion, like Free From. It serves no purpose and perpetuates mistrust and ignorance around cosmetic ingredients. If anyone needs to avoid a specific ingredient due to sensitivity or personal choice, the INCI list can be used to identify the individual ingredient.



Cosmetic brands and Marketing departments often use these appealing but scientifically unsupported terms. If we can shine a light on the complex and fascinating world of cosmetic science whilst understanding the regulatory framework our industry operates in, these ambiguous and misleading phrases can then be taken with a pinch of salt. 


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