Breaking Down the Natural Beauty Buzzwords: 6 Important Terms to Know

Understanding the Labels of your favorite products
Filed Under > Beauty & Tutorials

Natural Beauty Buzzwords to Know, Waiting on Martha

If you’ve been wading into the waters of clean beauty, you’ve certainly come across some natural beauty buzzwords.  And if they’ve seemed a bit confusing to you, it’s because they are.  There are currently more than a dozen keywords and phrases being used to describe the ethos, ingredients, packaging, production and so much more that goes into your favorite beauty and personal care products. 

In order to go into the trending natural beauty buzzwords below, we first need to start at the basics.  If anything on an ingredient list includes the words “sulfates” and “parabens”, you’re going to want to stay away.  These are used as artificial preservatives in cosmetics, and they have possible links to cancer and reproductive issues.  

And the next important point is one we’ve mentioned several times here on and with The Well Code.  “Fragrance” is a blanket term to watch out for; it’s used to mask a collection of harmful ingredients without listing them all out on the label.  Read more about this deceiving term here

Okay…kind of a downer with all of this talk, but good news is that consumers are recognizing all of these clean, natural, organic standards as important, and they’re encouraging popular beauty sites like Sephora, ULTA, Anthropologie and Nordstrom to include important keywords within product descriptions, and helpful natural beauty buzzwords when applicable.  Find the list of included terms below, and join us in a conversation about clean beauty and natural beauty buzzwords!  Are you looking for specific keywords on your favorite products’ labels?  I’d love to hear in the comments below as I personally am striving to keep my beauty and personal care routine as natural and toxin-free as possible…and I’m still learning!  Cheers, Kat



goop by Juice Beauty Perfecting Eye Cream

Nordstrom, $90

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“Certified Organic” Items
In order for a product to earn the official USDA seal, it has to have 95% or greater organic ingredients.  And the remaining 5% has to include ingredients that aren’t banned from the National Organic Program. 

But a good thing to know: “certified organic” and “organic” are not the same thing.  A label touting that it’s “made of organic ingredients” only has to hit 70% of its contents as organic, though it is still part of the National Organic Program. goop by Juice Beauty products, on average, range in the 80’s for percentage of organic ingredients. 

Kjaer Weis is my personal favorite when it comes to certified organic makeup.  Ever product I’ve purchased has made my skin look and feel amazing. 

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Defense SPF 30

Sephora, $34

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“All Natural Beauty”
The term “natural” in beauty means the complete formula is 100% synthetic free. But unfortunately, there isn’t a regulating body for all “natural” products.  Be sure to see if your product in question passes the standards by Ecocert, an organization that works to specifically certify ingredients as natural. 

Some brands like Drunk Elephant not only take into account the zero-synthetic quality of ingredients, they also judge based on sustainability and bio-availability. See more below. 

RMS Beauty Living Luminizer

Nordstrom, $38

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“Sustainable/Eco-Friendly” Products
Sustainability in the beauty industry is a popular subject due to environmental awareness, new global standards, its profitability and consumer demand.  Best practices include reduction of energy and waste usage, recycle-able and low-waste packaging, community and social outreach involvement, green building design and more. 

Like Drunk Elephant, RMS Beauty is a brand to watch in regards to sustainability (among everything else!).  I absolutely adore all of RMS Beauty’s products.  They’re formulated with raw and food grade ingredients in their natural state, which means they’re free from harmful chemicals, synthetics preservatives and vitamins. 

TARTE Double Duty Beauty Shape Tape Contour Concealer

Ulta, $25

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“Vegan/Cruelty-Free” Brands
These terms are widely used when brands do not test their products on animals, and when the products do not include animal-derived ingredients. 

However, this term has a lot of grey areas.  There is no “official” or government-sanctioned cruelty-free label, and a simple line as “not tested on animals” can refer to the ingredients, as opposed to the final product.  And the testing may even have taken place in a foreign country where standards and laws are less strict than here in the U.S.

It is also important to note any parent companies for smaller cosmetic brands when looking for completely cruelty-free products.  For example, TARTE is 100% cruelty-free, but it is owned by Kose, which is not.  It will be your personal decision on where to stand on instances like these…and it’s worth the research if you’re making this conscientious choice when buying your products. 

Brands such as Charlotte Tilbury, Glossier, Josie Maran, PUR Cosmetics, Sonia Kashuk, W3LL People and Vapour are completely cruelty-free. 

Read more on cruelty-free labeling here.

One Love Organics Oh Mega Calming Chia Oil

Waiting on Martha Home, $49

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“Superfood Skincare”
It’s not really a surprise that our obsession with superfoods now extends to skincare.  These ingredients are apparently are working double-time; look for algae, chia seeds, black tea, green tea, kale, raw cacao and spirulina in trending skincare products now.

Brands to watch: Youth to the People, Elemis, One Love Organics and Fresh Skincare

Vita Liberata Ten Minute Tan

Sephora, $39

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“Clean Beauty”
Like natural beauty products, for “clean” products, there is no official body by the government to regulate what’s what. “Clean” should mean safe and non-toxic.  It’s definitely on the more vague side of terminology use for products.  

I think of it mostly as the products’ effect on people and the world that’s affected by it.  I use the free ThinkDirty app to see how products range on the “dirty scale” to see if they’re considered “clean”.  That’s how I found the brand Vita Liberata for a cleaner alternative for sunless tanning products. 


Featured image, Kathryn McCrary for Waiting on Martha

Leave a Comment


  • I’ve been wanting to try out RMS Beauty for years. I need to order some products from them. Have you tried out Glossier? I’ve also been wanting to try them out. Glossier’s branding is amazing.

  • Kat Neunaber / 06.09.2017

    I’ve been wanting to try Glossier too! That’s the next brand I’ll be hitting up…people are obsessed with those products.

  • I love RMS and One Love Organics. Also, the W3ll People mascara is great!

  • j.hall / 06.10.2017

    I’ve been somewhat confused by all of the new beauty buzzwords. I have quite sensitive skin and in the past year have ordered some products both skincare and makeup which have claimed to be “certified organic” or “all natural”. Some of those products I’ve found to be irritating, others not. I’ve cross checked ingredients trying to find common denominators that might allow me to find a “trigger” ingredient. So far, no luck. Searching products seems to be an enormous, never ending task. Of all the new buzzword products, which category do you think I would be the most pure?

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