No doubt you have seen words like “all natural,” “hypoallergenic” and “patented” on your beauty products. But have you ever stopped to ask what they mean?
Brands love terms like these because they suggest concrete benefits. However, as long as they don’t claim to change the body’s structure or function, companies don’t need FDA approval to market new products to the public and are not required to provide any research to prove their claims. These days, it feels like you would need a degree in chemistry to understand some of the catch phrases on skincare products. David Petrillo is an LA-based beauty chemist and founder of skincare company Perfect Image who wants to help consumers understand what this frequently used language means.
Gone are the days when simple statements such as “oil-free” would suffice. Perhaps the most common phrase is clinical formula. As David Petrillo explains, “This has no real meaning. It does not necessarily indicate that the formula was produced in a medical clinic as the manufacturers would have people believe. Clinically tested could very well indicate that the product was tested, but what was it tested for? What were the results? Essentially, this claim can be meaningless.”
Here are 10 more commonly misunderstood terms to watch for:
It doesn’t mean the product is organic or chemical-free. After all, chemicals are “natural,” too.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture certifies organic food ingredients found in cosmetics, but not essential oils or plants used for cosmetic purposes. To carry the USDA Organic seal, a product must contain at least 95% organic food. Other countries have their own organic certification labels, such as COSMOS and NaTrue in the European Union and NASAA in Australia.
Think this guarantees you won’t have a reaction? Think again. These products can still contain ingredients some people are allergic to, including preservatives and fragrance.
These products may not have a noticeable smell, but can still contain “masking” scents to cover up ingredients with unpleasant odors. Look for the words “no fragrance added” instead.
While non-comedogenic products are usually oil-free and therefore less likely to cause breakouts, there’s no guarantee they won’t. In fact, many contain dimethicone, a known acne aggravator.
Helps pre-mature aging
Perhaps the most appealing of all claims from a consumer standpoint is this statement. If a product truly prevented premature aging by affecting the structure of the skin, it would be classified as a drug and therefore would require FDA approval. Manufactures circumvent this by utilizing the fact that sunscreens prevent premature aging by decreasing the damaging effects of ultraviolet light on the skin. Therefore, if a product contains sunscreen, it may state “prevents premature aging’ on the label.”
This is a marketing term used to provide a sense that the consumer is buying something that is highly innovative. But patents aren’t necessarily a surefire sign that something is groundbreaking. Patents are sometimes authorized based on a technical change rather than a scientific breakthrough meaning new combinations of ingredients or methods of production can be promoted as being “patented technology.” What consumers really want to do is identify what their skin needs and buy products with ingredients that are proven to effectively improve the skin in that area.
This is a term used often by skin cleansers and moisturizers. But this is a relative term, and consumers don’t exactly know what the maximum strength entails or how the product benefits their skin more than the competition.
Products and consumers often use hydrating and moisturizing interchangeably, but this is inaccurate. If you want to hydrate your skin, this means you have skin that has become dull and possibly dry – you need a humectant such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin to draw water to the cells. If you need to moisturize your skin, you need a moisturizer that seals water in to prevent water loss. Today there are a variety of moisturizers, especially gel moisturizers, that have components that are both moisturizing and hydrating. These are good, but your choice of product depends on the individual condition of your skin. If you have extremely dry or dull skin, you may need one product that performs one function very well, rather than a jack of all trades.
The FDA has different protocols for skincare products that make cosmetic claims as opposed to those that make more medical claims, such as promising to increase the production of collagen in the skin. Since that is a body function, the FDA treats those differently than normal skincare products. However, the FDA just stipulates that the product being sold is safe to use in the manner in which it is directed to be used. FDA approval is not a credential that shows the superiority of results.
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