Clean Beauty Buzzwords, Explained

clean beauty buzzwords

We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the old adage really applies to beauty products, too — especially when it comes to trying to find formulas that are good for you and the planet. That’s because while great sounding words like “natural” and “organic” are oftentimes plastered front and center on a bottle, there’s not much regulation around what they actually mean. Shop smart: Here’s the dirt on these popular clean beauty terms.

Natural

Let’s start with the biggest green beauty word of them all: Natural. The FDA has not defined the term “natural” and doesn’t regulate its use on a cosmetic label. Because of that, a company can include just one ingredient sourced from nature and then call the whole shebang a natural product. Obviously, when you scan the ingredient label and recognize the words on the list to be natural, then it’s pretty safe to say it’s legit. But remember: Just because something is natural doesn’t mean putting it in a beauty product is good for you or the earth. You’ve likely heard this before, but it bears repeating — arsenic is natural. So is talc, which is still common in beauty products despite the fact that it poses a threat to human health. 

Our Stance

True Botanicals balances the most potent actives from nature (like super-antioxidant astaxanthin in the Renew Pure Radiance Oil, Renew Repair Serum, and Resurfacing Moisture Mask) with certified-nontoxic synthetic ingredients (the vitamin C in the Vitamin C Booster) in order to make products that are safe and effective in equal measure. 

Organic

This is the only word on this hot list that’s actually regulated — but not by the FDA. The US Department of Agriculture is the government body that monitors the use of the word “organic” on cosmetic products just like they do with our food. They hold strict standards for organic production: absolutely no GMOs; pesticides and fertilizers must be from an approved list; and there’s an agent that certifies the company is telling the truth. If a product contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients, the label can say “made with organic…”, but it won’t sport the UDSA ORGANIC seal — it has to contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients for that. In both cases, the organic ingredients should be noted on the ingredient list. The issue? The label doesn’t convey where the other 30 percent or 5 percent comes from, so it’s imperative you read the full ingredient label to check for potentially harmful ingredients. (Our Toxic 10 list can help.)

Our Stance

True Botanicals uses organic whenever possible, although it can get tricky since certain naturals aren’t even available in organic form. Take the seaweed that’s featured across all of our collections — because this ingredient is wildcrafted (more on that below), it can’t be certified organic. Another example? CBD oil, used in our Small-Batch CBD Collection. Due to legislation limbo, CBD oil couldn’t be claimed as organic (even if it was grown organically) up until very recently. 

Wildcrafted

Wildcrafted takes the idea of organic farming one step further and refers to ingredients that are harvested completely in the wild — as in, nobody planted them or cultivated them, they just exist there naturally. What makes that any different from ingredients grown on a farm? One study suggests that wild ingredients grown without the help of human support might contain more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties because they had to survive adverse weather conditions on their own. It’s not a regulated practice, but the USDA has established guidelines to ensure that naturally occurring crops continue to flourish.  

Our Stance

Wildcrafted ingredients are a beautiful display of nature’s inherent wisdom, and you’ll find them throughout the True Botanicals product range, including the seaweed mentioned above and the carrot seed oil in the Deep Repair Eye Serum.

It’s critical to look for a seal from a third-party group that verifies product safety. Because, believe it not, the FDA is not doing this. 

Nontoxic

People hear nontoxic and think that means the product is safe because it’s free from dangerous chemicals, but that’s just the start. It should mean that the product is safe, period — as we mentioned above, naturals can be dangerous, too. Because this term isn’t regulated, it’s critical to look for a seal from a third-party group that verifies product safety. Because, believe it not, the FDA is not doing this. 

Our Stance

True Botanicals is the first skincare company to have its entire line certified nontoxic by MADE SAFE, a non-profit that ensures products are safe for both people and the planet. Using the most up-to-date scientific research, they rigorously vet a formula’s ingredients and sub-ingredients. 

Cruelty-Free

Companies generally use the term “cruelty-free” to mean the product hasn’t been tested on animals — however, many ingredients used in a product could still have been tested on animals at some point. Again, this is an area where third-party certification provides more clarity, not to mention peace of mind. If your heart is set on a product that keeps animals out of the entire chain of manufacturing, you can look for PETA’s “Cruelty-Free” list (it lists companies that have pledged to PETA that they nor their ingredient suppliers conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products.) Or simply look for the Leaping Bunny icon on a product’s label — this verifies that a company and their various suppliers do not test on animals. 

Our Stance

Our love of nature extends to all living things, including animals, which is why True Botanicals is proud to be cruelty-free. None of our ingredients have been tested on animals, and none of our products have been tested on animals (only humans!) And everything we make is Leaping Bunny certified. 

Vegan

Just like with following a vegan diet, a product is considered vegan if it does not contain any animal-derived ingredients (PETA has a handy list of what those are, including beeswax, honey, keratin, and hydrolyzed silk). But that has nothing to do with whether a product or ingredient is tested on animals. Just because something passes the test for vegan doesn’t mean it’s cruelty-free, and vice versa. 

Our Stance

As of 2019, True Botanicals is an entirely vegan brand. To achieve this, we relaunched our Moisture Lock Lip Balm, replacing beeswax with sustainable palm wax from Palm Done Right. We’re committed to keeping any and all future products free of animal-derived ingredients. 

Sustainable

Everything about a product, from what’s in the bottle to the bottle itself …to the place the bottle even came from, can contribute to its level of sustainability. So, it’s not as black and white as a term like vegan. The leading definition of sustainable, coined by the UN, is that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. If you’re trying to assess the sustainable practices of a company, ask them: Where are you sourcing ingredients from, and do you take care of the land and the people there to ensure a healthy crop for the following year? Are your bottles made of glass or plastic? How are they shipped? Are they in a box? What’s it made of—and what is the ink on the box derived from? 

Our Stance

True Botanicals prioritizes sustainability at every step in the supply chain. Our MADE SAFE certification means we only use ingredients that are safe (and will not bioaccumulate or persist) for humans and the earth. Further, we choose to work with environmentally progressive farms that support the well-being of the local community and ecosystem, bottle our formulas in glass and aluminum (never plastic), use vegetable inks, and ship our products using entirely recyclable materials. 

Shop the Story