These days, everyone wants to be vegan! And gluten free! And all natural! But when it comes to beauty products, are these just bullshit marketing ploys to convince you to buy the products, or do they actually hold value? Well, thanks to major loopholes in federal laws (and according to the FDA’s website), the FDA doesn’t have a list of approved or accepted claims for cosmetics—odds are, they’re most likely meaningless. But *extremely JLo voice* because we’re real, we’re here to clear up all of the confusion about the misleading beauty terms associated with some of the products on the market right now.
So if you’re overwhelmed with trying to figure out which products contain ingredients that are actually safe for you, and which are using fancy buzzwords and misleading beauty terms to try to trick you, keep an eye out for these words and phrases.
1. All Natural
What you want “all natural” to mean versus what you think it means is a lot like those “you vs. the girl he tells you not to worry about” memes. If a label claims a product is all natural, all it really means is that some of the ingredients are plant or mineral-based versus synthetic. That itself in no way guarantees that the product is safe since the FDA doesn’t regulate it. If you want to know if a brand is really committed to being natural, check for certifications by organizations like the Natural Products Association, BDIH and EcoCert. Unlike the FDA, these third-party organizations have standards that products have to meet in order to earn their approval.
By FDA standards, a “non-toxic” label literally just means that the company left out ingredients in the product linked to toxic reactions in humans: neuro or hormone-disruption, cancer, and death. Cool, thanks for looking out! In general, a good rule of thumb is to check the ingredients list for major no-nos like formaldehyde, petroleum, hydrous magnesium silicate (aka asbestos) and lead acetate.
What does “chemical-free’ on beauty products mean? Nothing, that’s what. It’s really one of the most misleading beauty terms out there. A chemical-free label really makes the marketers behind the products look like incompetent people that didn’t pass seventh grade science, because it’s literally impossible to have a chemical-free product since chemicals are any forms of matter or pure substances. To illustrate this point, I asked my friend with a B.S. in chemistry about this, and she said, “Excuse me. Water is a chemical. Its name is dihydrogen monoxide. Just because you can’t pronounce it doesn’t mean it’s scary.” What these companies probably want you to believe is that the product is free of synthetic chemicals, and maybe it is. But there’s nothing inherently bad about synthetic chemicals, the same way there’s nothing inherently good about many non-synthetic chemicals.
If a product claims it’s vegan, then it’s saying that the product does not contain any animal products or byproducts. To ensure that that claim is true, look for logos by Vegan Action or Vegan Society, third party organizations that actually regulate the term and confirm that the product does not contain any animal-derived ingredients. However, just because a product is vegan, that doesn’t necessarily mean the product wasn’t tested on animals. To make sure that the product wasn’t tested on animals, look for PETA’s little pink and white bunny logo.
Once again, the FDA does fuck-all when it comes to regulating the term “organic” on beauty product labels. If a product claims it’s organic, all it really means is that the raw ingredients contain no chemical pesticides. But the products themselves? They could (and probably do) still contain preservatives. If you want to know if a product’s really organic or not, check the label for terms like “parabens,” “phenoxyethanol,” and “benzoic acid/sodium benzoate.” Those are signs that some inorganic shit is in there.
6. Dermatologist Approved
A dermatologist may have approved the product, it’s true. But that dermatologist could be literally any Tom, Dick or Harry from Nowheresville, U.S.A. It also doesn’t mean that the product has gone through any standardized testing. “Dermatologist approved” most likely means that said derm knows that the product may work. But it doesn’t mean that they’ve evaluated the safety of the ingredients in the product.
The takeaway? If you are conscious about what you’re putting on your body, good for you! It’s a good idea to read the label to check for ingredients that you might not want to put on your skin.
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