Sunday, 4 September 2011

Cheat Sheet - Beauty Industry Jargon

This one has brewing for a long time, but reading the Top 100 beauty products in a 'top' magazine yesterday sent me over the edge. My love for the beauty business is well-documented. I love the beauty industry.

However, a business it IS - and there is not much I hate more than 'corporate' trying to rip off the consumer - whether it's badly-priced 2for1's on pies in a supermarket (how rude) or the constant spew of CRAP that gets shoved down the average female consumer's throat.

On that note - look at men's products next time you're in a store - men don't buy into jargon - they want to know what it is, what it does, and how much it is. End of. Think of ANY tool in Homebase. 'Power Saw', 'Hedge Trimmer' - products aimed at men say 'Shower Gel', 'Shave Cream'.

Products aimed at us girls go into detail about how the leaves were picked when the flowers were at their optimum at dusk/dawn and how the female workers weren't allowed to pick the flowers when they were on their period due to the 'negative energy'. Please make it stop.

I have been asked at one point or another about all of the below at some point in the last few months...

Glossary of Terms - Beauty Industry:
  • Hypo-allergenic
    Pretty pointless. No industry or legal standard. Different standards in USA and the EU. Lip service. What is an extreme allergen to you may be perfectly fine to me.
  • Non-comedogenic
    Literally means 'does not block pores'. Where to start? Unproven. Untested scientifically. All evidence is anecdotal. Meaning case-by-case. Pure naturally derived lanolin is supposed to be a 'non-comedogenic' alternative to synthetic lanolin. I put any lanolin anywhere near my face it will be covered in huge whiteheads within hours.
  • Silky smooth
    Loaded with silicone - check the inci label - anything ending in 'cone' or 'one' is a silicone - I actually don't mind silicones at all - but let's be clear why the product is silky smooth.
  • Velvety soft
    See above
  • Shrinks pores
    I'll say it again: Pores are not doors - they do not open and close.
    Nothing opens and closes pores. NOTHING. Well, except glue and sellotape perhaps. There is a difference between saying 'closes pores' and 'minimises the appearance of pores'.
    A big fat difference. One is rubbish and the other is a possibility.
  • Absorbs immediately
    Full of synthetic pushers that force the product into the skin - basically most serums that aren't completely natural (really natural) or organic. Think about it - your skin is highly intelligent - it's not going to absorb anything in a hurry in case it's harmful to you. If it did, we wouldn't need patches for things like HRT and injections for insulin - you know - things that actual DOCTORS recommend? If it absorbs straight away - it's not natural. Which brings me to....
  • Natural
    The most over-used and abused word in the industry - causes apoplectic rage in me in the middle of stores..The truth? I could take a cup of glue, a sip of aloe vera juice, spit the aloe vera juice into the glue, label it 'natural' and sell it as a beauty product. There is no legal guideline or industry standard AT ALL. So seeing something win 'best natural product' in an awards when anyone with a PULSE and the ability of sight can read the inci and see that it is about as natural as Katie Price's boobs/lips/hair/tan (no offence to KP intended) - drives me insane to the point of irrational blogging on a Sunday morning when I should be making a fry-up about now. It's all about marketing. If a product is labelled 'natural' you think you're doing yourself some good. Read the label. Educate yourself. There are of course excellent 'natural' brands out there. There are also some heinous ones. And word to the wise - it's worse on baby products. Outrageous.
  • Organic
    This is marginally better as at least there are SOME standards in place - however, the Soil Association, Ecocert and all the others have different standards between them. You'd need to go directly to their websites to see if your standards match theirs.
  • Animal Testing
    Poor animal lovers. Talk about a minefield. If a product does not categorically state: against animal testing OR no animal testing - assume it may sell in China and that animal testing is, therefore, a possibility. The Chinese government reserve the right to test any incoming goods on animals. They are slow to catch up with the rest of the World, but I think they will get there.
    That is the easiest way to steer clear if the issue is important to you. Also - just because a brand doesn't test its final product on animals - it doesn't mean that all of the ingredients weren't tested on animals in the past. Being clear: animal testing is banned in the EU - sticklers will point to China and say they won't support a brand because the product is sold in China. That is obviously your call, but nothing you put on your face in the UK was tested on an animal in order for you to use it. If you want to know categorically where a brand stands you need to ask their PR department: 'Are your ingredients tested on animals at their source?' and 'Do you retail in China?' If they don't know - assume they are. A brand that cares about animal testing will ensure its standards are met from the very beginning and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Waiting List
    How on earth does a brand/store have 30,000 people on a waiting list before something has launched? Answer - it doesn't. The brand will have orders in place for 30,000 ready to be sent to retailers (if they are very lucky and mass market). You could also say that Sainsbury's has a waiting list for 2000 bunches of bananas. It does, because they have ordered them. Individual stores may have waiting lists for certain things when they go out of stock or a list of preferred customers who get first dibs when a new product launches - but there are not 30,000 women clinging to their mobiles waiting for a phone call from a store telling them that their product has arrived - ever.
  • As used by
    The biggest load of bollocks in the industry. Fake/phony and infuriating. Here's the difference:
    1. Victoria Beckham tweets that she has used Elemis Camellia Oil to prevent stretchmarks through all her pregnancies and that it's brilliant. That is PR you cannot buy. Elemis are now perfectly entitled to use the words 'as recommended/used by Victoria Beckham' when talking about that product. Elemis however, are a class act and haven't shoved it down our throats. You have to look at the product page on their website to find it in small print.
    2. A beauty editor uses a picture of Kim Kardashian when recommending Bum Lift by Rodial (as you would). Rodial then take that clipping and it to their website under the heinous 'Celeb Secrets' section and give the impression that KK uses that product - thus endorses it. Bollocks does she. Interestingly, you can't actually read the article that the site links to - it just pops up a picture of KK. *eyebrow*
Feel free to add your own to the comments section - this is just the tip of the iceberg...


  1. I love this Caroline - thankyou, (natural gets me everytime). All of this I have found over my many years of consuming products but you have the authority and the knowledge to state this and I applaud you for it. Jan xx

  2. How friggin fab is this post! :-) I feel better/relieved after reading your post, a really refreshing read! Well said.

  3. Love love love this post, only thing I'm not sure about is the hypo-allergenic thing, apparently some test on those with especially sensitive skin to say that? (No7) and I absolutely couldn't agree more about the rest. I'm glad you've pointed this out specifically :)

  4. Glad you got that out of your system! My dermatologist in the US told me about the hypo-allergenic, non-com and open/close pore stuff years ago I was kinda gutted at the time but ever since then it's stopped from buying even more crap. :D

  5. i love these kinds of posts, they are so honest and things that we need to know so we dont fall into the obvious traps :D

  6. Love it! Advanced bullshit busting, no one does it better!

  7. That 'waiting list' nonsense has amused me for years! I always where the waiting list came form, when Joe Public has no idea the product's due to launch in the first place!

  8. Excellent post Caroline, I want to help my pores!!

  9. Hahaha!! Excellent. I'm glad it's not just me that gets over-excited (read ranty) about these things. I could test the non-comedogenic stuff but it would take months and many, many people. I sincerely doubt anybody bothers.

  10. This is a great post. We are lied to constantly. The most stunningly ridiculous to me are the pseudo scientific studies cosmetic pamphlets and ads use that have ultra fine print like "as tested by 8 women".
    I just recently found your blog. It is a breath of fresh air and I look forward to your posts.
    Thank you!

  11. Love this blog,
    get sick of all the promises made by all the cosmetic companies.All i want are products which help to maintain my skin,not claim to make me look ten years younger.No cream can do that,a big thank you joy shildrick

  12. Having worked in the beauty industry for many years it's SO refreshing to read something like this. Some of the things i'd forgotten bacuse you get brainwashed by your companies SO much. Thank you once again for an amazing post. X

  13. great post, the one I love is "dermatologist tested".....

  14. Caroline: this is great! Thanks for the explanation!!!! WOW! I am so out of the loop when it comes to cosmetics.

    I love your blog!

  15. Oh the natural thing doesn't half wind me up too. I'm particularly interested in 'natural' products/ingredients but it's so bloody difficult to get beyond the greenwash (and the insulting pictures of petals and waterfalls because those things are OBViously natural and thus we are by association). The strategy I've taken on my blog is to promote education. If we can't rely on all of the brands out there to tell us the truth, then we just have to get better informed ourselves. And opt for those brands who are getting it right.
    p.s. I'm also a cleansing/facial massage obsessive and now have a stiff neck and a rictus jaw from all the nodding and smiling while reading other parts of your site!

  16. Brilliant Post! Caroline Hirons, where have you been all my life? :)

  17. I LOVE THIS. And more than that, I love that it is in your quicklinks - it shows how much you care about consumers, and you wanna make sure they are well informed :) Genuine as ever!

  18. Absolutely love this! So glad to find out I'm not a completely cynical $#%@^ when I don't believe every claim.

  19. Technically an ingredient ending in "one" may not contain any silicon, for example propanone (acetone) is a carbon, oxygen and hydrogen compound, no silicon (chemistry undergrad). But other than that I totally agree with everything you say and love your blog. One product that gets to me with its jargon, even though I like the product, is the boots botanics hot cloth cleansing balm. Which is apparently "97% organic" cracks me up every time.

  20. I am in love with your blog after being recommended it today and your way with words/how you write is really very good. Thank you for being straight to the point, non fluffy with how you describe things and for your humour.

  21. This is great advice. What gets my goat is, like another commenter, where brands advertise a product as having worked for NINETY PERCENT of women who tested it (!!!!!), while in small print you see that they only really had 100 women in their sample study. When there are, oh, I dunno, billions of women out there? Absolutely bloody infuriates me every time.

  22. Two other terms I hate are: "Dermatologically Tested" and "Statistically Proven To ... " I don't even know where to begin with these two.With the first, all that it means is that the product was sent for testing. That's it. Firstly, we all know that in the cosmetological industry, favorable lab results can be bought a dime a dozen. Super easy. Secondly, since all they claim that the product was 'tested', we know nothing of the test results! It could be the exact opposite of what they claim, but that's not the result they're putting on the bottle. It basically means zilch. As for the second one, man, where do I even start?! There's no other tool like statistics to fool the general public who don't understand what a statistic truly represents or means. There are so many loopholes in any given reported statistical result that I never take these claims seriously. Sample size, sample demography, age, trial scenarios, the list goes on and on. But anyhow, a fantastic read (and hilarious, of course) as usual, Caroline. Some real food for thought, especially for the newbie starting to navigate the bullshit of the beauty industry. =)

  23. so we should not use moisturizer that absorb quickly like gel moisturizer?