Article by: Perry Romanowski

One of the biggest trends in the cosmetic formulating business is the Naturals or Green product trend.  Terms get thrown around and it is often difficult to know exactly what people mean.  Therefore, we thought it would be useful to create a dictionary list of these terms.  Feel free to suggest any term that we miss in the comments.

Biobased – Formula or ingredient that is created from living material (usually plant based)

Biodegradable -Product will be broken down to more simple compounds by organisms or natural processes.

Botanical – Contains derivatives from plants. Means pretty much the same thing as ‘herbal’

Carbon footprint – Relates to the amount of carbon dioxide produced while making and distributing the product.

Cruelty free – Products are not tested on animals

Fair trade – The source of the raw materials comes from places that do not exploit workers

Free from – This is a type of claim which is true but misleading designed to imply unwarranted additional safety. (e.g. free from parabens, free from sulfates)

Green – Environmentally friendly products

Herbal – Containing some kind of plant extract. Used interchangeably with the term ‘botanical’

LOHAS – Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. Refers to a type of consumer that is interested in green or natural products.

Natural – Created from non-synthetic ingredients. The term is so broad it can be used to pretty much mean anything.

Non-toxic – Product will not poison the user. Sometimes used to mean that the product is safe enough to eat

Not tested on animals – The final formula was not tested on animals. Of course, each of the raw materials may have been.

Organic – Some people mean that it achieves the organic labeling standards as directed by the USDA. But it could pretty much mean anything.

Plant derived – Ingredients that are made from plant materials. May be synthetically modified or not.

Renewable – Raw materials that come from a renewable source (typically plants)

Sustainable – A method of producing cosmetics that does not use up resources or produce permanent pollution

Synthetic – Ingredients that are produced through non-naturally occurring chemical processes.

Vitamin enriched – Formulas that have vitamins added to them.

See our previous post for a list of organic and natural standards for cosmetics.

This is a working list so if you have terms to add, feel free to comment below.

4 comments

  1. aram

    Exotic Ingredients- means material which has been extracted of animals or plants but mostly used for plants extractions.

  2. Judi

    Cosmeticals – products that some cosmetic makers report to have drug like effects. Not a term the FDA reconizes. An example is
    moisturizers and make-up that provide sun protection
    These products must meet the standards for both cosmetics (color additives) and drugs, while moisturizer alone is a cosmetic.

  3. sara

    arecife safe, coral safe, means you can swim inthe ocean without contamination

  4. Liliana

    Hi Perry,
    I would eventually add “eco-friendly” and “chemical” 🙂

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