As the demand on the beauty market for products labeled clean, organic and naturally increases, a large number of companies are opting to assign one of these tempting labels to their products. However, almost none of these labels is legally regulated and there is substantially no way of proving whether companies and how much they adhere to these labels, as their meaning is not fully defined. In other words, anyone can use these phrases on their product labels.
The following list explains the most common labels on cosmetic products and what they supposed to mean.
Cosmetics can be described as natural even if it has just 1% naturally-sourced ingredients. In fact, the label natural does not have to mean that 100% of the ingredients are natural, moreover, there are almost always just a few percent of the natural ingredients.
The Economist declared year 2019 as the year of the vegan, claiming that more and more people are switching to a complete plant-based diet, for which celebrities are also responsible. This fact also affected the beauty industry, so companies went massively to label their cosmetics as vegan. However, this does not mean that all the ingredients are good, nor does it indicate that all the ingredients of animal origin are bad, since the ingredients of animal origin include honey, beeswax, lanolin, collagen, retinol.
A product that is vegan does not contain any animal ingredients or animal by-products. The label vegan also means that the product has not been tested on animals.
Fair trade indicates that ingredients (most often cocoa, coconut, argan, brazil nut, shea butter) were purchased at fair prices, meaning that the companies support local farmers engaged in this activity in less developed countries such as Burkina faso, Madagascar, Ghana, Dominican republic and others.
In the cosmetic industry the label organic is not defined by any law, but it should mean that no ingredient in the product has been in contact with pesticides, fertilizers, additives and antibiotics. However, it does not mean that all the ingredients are of organic origin, but a certain percentage. To ensure that the product contains a minimum of 95% organic raw materials, seek ECOCERT certification on the cosmetic product.
Clean cosmetics should not contain ingredients that are (potentially) harmful, including sulfates, parabens, pesticides, artificial colouring, and anything classified as potential allergens. But the word clean is additionally tricky because, since there is absolutely no regulation that contains an explanation for that word, the companies themselves establish their own rules and decide what is potentially a bad ingredient that needs to be replaced with a better one.
With the label cruelty free, the company want to signal that not only the product has not been tested on animals, but that it opposes such practices. However, there is no law to control this claim, especially since companies rely on information from suppliers, from which they source raw materials, but also that certain ingredients have been tested on animals long time ago, so now it does not have to be done again.