Five-free nail polish, clean beauty, cruelty-free ingredients—there seems to be a lot of definitions out there when it comes to greener beauty brands and routines. To make sure you understand what you’re buying into, here is a list of definitions often used to describe ethical standards and sustainability in the cosmetics world.
All-natural or Green Beauty
A synonym or organic beauty, anything green or all-natural simply means the product is sourced from natural ingredients. Think of the ingredients as nature derivatives in their purest and most effective forms. Though a label can say “all natural,” it still might contain a small percentage of healthy and safe synthetic ingredients.
Clean beauty is a broader term that usually refer to ingredients being non-toxic and not harmful for the betterment of one’s health. The ingredients can be natural or synthetic.
A clean beauty brand must be verified by a third party.
A cruelty-free product means that it has not been tested on animals on all stages of production. Although there are a lot of questions with this term considering cruelty-free does not necessarily mean harm-free. It merely pertains to the fact that there hasn’t been any animal testing in the entire process. So unless it also specifies that it’s vegan, there’s a possibility that a cruelty-free product still has animal products obtained inhumanely. It may also contain palm oil.
Organic and Certified Organic
An organic beauty product is free from chemicals, preservatives, artificial or synthetic colors, artificial fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and manufactured herbicides.
In order for a product to be considered organic, at least 70% of ingredients have to be organic. To be a certified organic products, at least 95% percent of the ingredients must be organic, which has to be confirmed by a third party who will then provide the certified organic seal.
Both organic and certified organic products may contain non-toxic synthetic ingredients, with the former making up to 30% and latter up to 5% of ingredients.
Palm Oil Free
A less common term used in cosmetics is “palm oil free.” Evidently, it means that a product doesn’t contain palm oil or any of its derivatives. Why that’s important is because of how destructive the production process is on the rainforest, as it destroys the whole ecosystem, affecting the home of many a specie, essentially rendering them homeless and left for dead. But like the rest of the terms, something that it palm oil free doesn’t necessarily mean it’s organic or completely environmentally friendly.
A vegan product is one without animal products, but the term vegan on its own doesn’t necessarily mean it is organic or palm oil free. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that it’s cruelty free, so it’s important that people understand that “vegan” is not an all encompassing term
3-, 5-, 7- and 9-free Nail Polish
When you see a number followed by “free” for nail polish, that means the formula doesn’t contain that certain number of toxic chemicals common in polishes. The ethical standard these days is 5-free, but many brands are still struggling to remove the toxic trio out of their products, because the three chemicals are normally included to reduce cracking and improve flexibility.
Here is the list of the chemicals in reference:
Toxic Trio (3-free)
- Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)
- Formaldehyde resin
- Ethyl tosylamide
For a product or a brand to be completely ethical and sustainable, beauty companies have to look beyond the formula. They have to consider the entire process, such as production, business practices, delivery, and what they do with the profits. If a beauty brand wants to be sustainable, they should adopt the following:
- Packaging that is either recyclable, reusable (like bottles that can be refilled at the store), compostable, or made from recycled materials.
- Business practices where they pay their workers good wages and pay suppliers fare prices for raw goods and materials, as well as working with suppliers that are committed to safe working conditions and positive environmental and social impact.
- Business practices that minimize their carbon footprint and efficient water and energy management
- Sending a portion of the proceeds to charity
Do you have a favorite ethical beauty brand that you’d like to share with us? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
Sheena is the lead fashion writer here at Pretty Me Philippines and has contributed articles for numerous lifestyle blogs and online publications. Other than keeping up with the latest trends, she loves baking and home DIY projects.