Don’t eat an ingredient you can’t pronounce… should the same be true for beauty?

We’ve all heard it a thousand times: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it! Should the same be true for cosmetics and skin care products? In a word: no. Here’s why.

Would turmeric by any other name be as sweet?

You might happily accept a cup of turmeric tea with milk and honey (if it’s your taste), but would you think twice about drinking a cup of curcuma longa? You shouldn’t; it would be the same thing. Curcuma longa is just the scientific name for turmeric.

The same goes for beauty. You don’t want to turn down a product just because it contains simmondsia chinensis, because that’s nourishing jojoba. And don’t throw away your lotion that contains ascorbyl palmitate, because that’s a key vitamin and anti-oxidant — vitamin C. Scientific names are long, clunky, and oftentimes impossible to pronounce. But just because a certain ingredient hasn’t hit the mainstream enough to be known by a more casual name doesn’t mean it should be labeled as “bad.”

The Bridge Between “Clean” and “Safe”: Safety Testing

Consumers often turn to products labeled “clean” and “natural” when what they are really looking for is “safe.” But just as it’s not right to assume that tea containing curcuma longa is unsafe to drink, it’s also not right to assume that an ingredient that’s easy to pronounce is safe. Think of a beauty product made only from avocados: it might sound nice at first-glance, but it’s likely not shelf-stable, and it might clog your pores. The only way to know if a product is safe is through testing.

Beauty product regulation differs from region to region, and even from one product to another, depending on the claims it makes. So it’s important that skin care product manufacturers test products for both safety and efficacy, like using a Repeat Insult Patch Test (RIPT) to assess possible skin sensitization, a phototoxicity test to see how a product will react once it is exposed to sunlight, and a UV broad spectrum test to determine how a product protects against photo-damaging UVA rays. That is one way brands can ensure a product is safe before putting it out on the market, and over time, they can build trust with their customer base. Keep in mind that in most cases, this type of safety, efficacy, and stability testing goes beyond basic regulatory requirements.

Getting To Know You

Knowing what’s in your beauty products is important — but sometimes it takes a little (or a lot) of research to find out what an ingredient is, what it does, and why it is either an unnecessary additive or a quite-necessary addition to your favorite CC cream. Keep in mind that ingredients work together synergistically, so an ingredient may add even more benefit than it appears at first Google.

Clean beauty is complicated. Once your brand establishes itself as a trustworthy destination for healthy skin products, consumers will get comfortable and stop the constant guesswork around whether a certain product offering or a specific ingredient is “clean.” In the meantime, don’t judge an ingredient by its syllables, and encourage your customers to do the same.