The Basics

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How to Read a "Clean" Beauty Label: The Basics

It’s what’s on the inside that counts, so the longstanding saying goes. But what happens when what’s on the outside tells you all about the inside? Beauty labels are intended to do just that, but thanks to an abundance of buzzwords, a dizzying litany of lingo often infiltrating our beauty vernacular, labels can leave us mystified or even worse, feeling misled. When it comes to our own science-backed skincare brand, the truth is every word we have on our label is there for a good reason, as strategic as the mindful ingredients in our formulas. 

With that, we present to you the words in our clean beauty vocabulary and exactly what they mean, plain and simple. Or should we say clean? Consider this your go-to glossary, for your next bottle of Resurfacing Compound and beyond. 

Meet the basics of clean beauty (and look out for part two, the new guard of your beauty labels, next week): 

Clean: Clean is one of those vague words more subjective than generic in use. In the world of cosmetics, there’s no official definition for clean, just like there’s no official definition for organic and natural. It’s up to the brand to define what these terms mean to them. So we can only speak on our own behalf: Not to brag, but U Beauty lives by the highest safety standards in the industry. 

For us, safe, ethical and clean go hand-in-freshly sanitized-hand. We look to science and hard evidence to ensure safety, and we purchase raw materials from reliable, reputable companies with elite safety standards. We choose to work with professional, PHD-trained formulating chemists who understand how to create complex chemical (more on that particularly fraught word later) formulations that are both safe and effective. 

What’s not in an ingredient list is just as important as what is. With formulas developed and produced in Italy, we abide by European safety standard guidelines, with the strict exclusion of over 1,600 ingredients. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. We use fully traceable ingredients tested and proven to be safe and always test final formulas, avoiding use of any prohibited ingredient.

Side note: Everything in the world is made of chemicals, including humans, air and water. Chemical isn’t a dirty word, even though it often, even usually, has a negative connotation. Similarly, purity of an ingredient isn’t a measure of its safety or efficacy.

Cruelty-Free: We never test on animals and never will. (Unless you count humans.) That’s why our labels will always read “cruelty-free,” plain and simple. 

Clinically Tested: Not to overstate the obvious, but this term refers to a product which has undergone a scientific study, as in clinical tests on humans. 

Dermatologically Tested: This means for sensitivity. In our case, the Compound was both in-vitro eye tested and patch-tested on 30 volunteers and no irritation was shown. Which is why there's little likelihood of irritation when you use the Compound.

Certified Organic: Certified organic describes an ingredient grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers and when tested, it's free of any synthetic chemical residue. To make this claim, you’ve got to have documentation tracing the raw material and manufacturing process from farm all the way to finished product, verifying that all the ingredients complied with certified organic farming guidelines and underwent only approved physical processing. In short, being certified organic is no joke. 

Natural Ingredients:  As it goes with the phrase, “I’m not wearing any makeup,” the word natural has been subjected to a whole lot of subjectivity, especially in recent years. “Going natural” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, which is fine for a #nomakeup Instagram post but not so much for a beauty label. To start, a natural ingredient means one that comes from a natural origin and undergoes approved physical processing, like cold-pressing or steam distillation. It can not contain any synthetic materials or undergo any chemical processing…naturally. A natural ingredient isn’t certified organic because the starting materials are not certified organic.

Derived from Nature: Just because something is derived from nature doesn’t mean it stays that way. This is code for natural ingredients processed with minimal processing (for example, to remove impurities) or synthetic chemicals. They might come from nature, but they have been altered. If altered with approved minimal processing (not synthetic chemicals), they are “naturally derived.” Similarly, if these same ingredients are processed with synthetic chemicals, they are now no longer natural.

While we’re on the topic, synthetic ingredients are made in a lab, entirely of synthetic material and processing. 

Naturally Identical: Sometimes the sequel is better than the original. Enter naturally identical, aka one of those rare cases: This translates to a synthetic ingredient identical to its natural equivalent. It’s made in a lab and it’s great for sustainability (more on that next time!). Even better? These ingredients are typically lower in impurities than their natural counterparts.

Hypoallergenic: A word first used in a 1953 cosmetics campaign, it originally was summarized as “below normal” or “slightly allergenic,” as in products that cause fewer allergic reactions than others. Now nearly 70 years later, hypoallergenic boils down to not containing sensitizing ingredients.


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