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File under “phew”: Beauty brands are making it easier to read labels


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When it comes to reading food labels, the whole “if you can’t pronounce it, skip it” approach to ingredients can be a pretty effective, time-saving shorthand for filling your cart with only healthy items. But sadly the same is not necessarily true when it comes to your beauty buys.

Beauty industry standards require ingredients to be listed by their International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI)—AKA scientific or Latin—names, and that means even the simplest labels can be difficult to decipher. This is clearly a challenge for people, a fact that was reflected in a 2017 survey that showed 51 percent of consumers would switch to a new personal-care product if they were better able to understand what was in it. To help with that transition, some brands have begun taking innovative steps toward providing greater clarity in their labeling.

Keep scrolling for a handful of ways beauty brands are becoming clearer on their labels.

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Utilizing the EWG

Knours, a new company selling skincare designed to address the specific phases of your hormonal cycle, for example, displays the research organization Environmental Working Group‘s (EWG) ratings directly on its packaging. “The addition of the symbol avoids any confusion and helps the consumer clearly discern what has been vetted and approved as a clean product,” explains Jeana Chung, VP of Marketing for Knours.

Chung says obtaining the ratings was an arduous process. “The EWG goes over every single ingredient to make sure it is up to its standards,” she says. “It forces a brand to be completely transparent, which is a good thing because the EWG rating should mean something.” (Not all ratings do.) And the EWG also has a seal that helps to verify products that are clean, which you’ll find across products of all kinds on beauty shelves these days.

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Getting graphic on the label

A company called LOLI Beauty, meanwhile, is trying another type of transparency. Their labels include a unique graph feature that lists exact ingredient percentages within the product. “We don’t bury the ingredients in small print, and we never water down what is real,” says LOLI founder Tina Hedges.

Hedges says more detail can be found on the LOLI website. “You can find out whether the ingredient is food grade, non-GMO, vegan, cold-pressed, steam-distilled, or even up-cycled from food supply for zero waste,” she says. This move points to a sub-trend towards transparency specifically around ingredient sourcing.

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Making transparency an art

Brian Oh, founder and CEO of VENN Skincare, says he actually wants consumers to question his company’s ingredients. To that end, VENN highlighted nine key components in gold foil on the product’s packaging. “This is a way to cause consumers to take a closer look at the ingredients in VENN’s formula and to make VENN users feel empowered by the safe ingredients,” he says.

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Delivering at the drugstore

And these indie brands aren’t the only ones making changes. Industry giant Procter & Gamble (parent company to Olay, Pantene, and many others) recently announced it will begin to disclose the ingredients in its fragrances—which no brands are currently required to do—by the end of 2019. Garnier recently made a similarly bold move: Its SkinActive Naturals line now includes labeling that identifies natural ingredient sources, listed in plain English and making it *way* easier to know what you’re putting on your skin.

As more brands embrace organic ingredients, some are taking it a step further; here’s what you need to know about biodynamic beauty. Plus, as you make the switch to natural products, these are the most important items to replace, stat.

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