8 Beauty Industry Buzzwords and Phrases to Watch Out For

Why you shouldn't believe the words "anti-aging" on a bottle & other tips

Luxury Beauty
Plume Creative / Getty Images

When it comes to the beauty industry, there are a few buzzwords to watch out for. Here are 10 of the most common product promises and how to decode them.

But First, What are Industry Buzzwords?

The cosmetics industry spends more on advertising than any other trade in America. So it's no wonder we're inundated with commercials and advertisements touting the amazing benefits of "insert product here."

What's interesting is the shared, almost universal language in cosmetics advertising.

It's almost as if all cosmetic marketers went to the same college, which I like to refer to as "The University of Bullshit." The most popular class at this school was advertising and to graduate you had to be able to name the most common tag lines used in the industry to sell people on your product.

Nevermind that most of these claims are complete nonsense, make no scientific sense and never have any data or research to back them up. What matters to the marketer is that they sell. But you, as the consumer, don't have to fall for marketing hype.

I didn't go to the University of Bullshit, but after writing about beauty for many years, I'm an expert on advertising claims. Let's start with....

"Dramatically Diminishes the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles"

If you do a search for "dramatically diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles" you will find 100s of skincare products that promise to do this.

They make it sound like an 80-year-old could slather on this miracle product and moments later will look like a 60-year-old.

The fact is most moisturizing products from moisturizers, to oils and serums will plump up skin. This can temporarily diminish the signs of fine lines, but they won't touch deep wrinkles.

You don't need to pay $60 for these effects, however. A nice bottle of cheap  Lubriderm will do this trick.

What will work: If you really want to diminish those fine lines, look into a Vitamin A product, such as Retin-A or Renova or chemical peels and lasers. And if you want to dramatically diminish the appearance of wrinkles, which are much more deep-set and could never be fixed with a topical product, you can have them filled at a dermatologist's office with fillers. The effects will last several months but come at a hefty price. A permanent solution would be to get a face-lift.

More on:

  • The 14 Best Moisturizers for the Face
  • Is Retin-A the Secret to Youthful Skin?

"Anti-aging"

This claim is tied to the one above it. There's an entire cosmetic industry devoted to anti-aging products. Even top dermatologists are jumping on the product bandwagon, creating lotions and potions with ingredients "specially formulated" to make your skin smoother, tauter and dewier, "erasing years off your face."

See? Tagline city. What's odd about this is that if their lotions and potions were truly miracle workers, the doctors would be put out of their main business of zapping us, filling us and Botoxing us.

Skin naturally ages.

As we grow older, gravity naturally takes hold, we lose fat in our faces and as a result, and wrinkles develop and the skin under the chin falls. No lotion or potion can stop that from happening. It can plump up the skin for a bit, but that's about it.

If you really want to slow down the aging process? Stay out of the sun.

More on:

  • 7 Anti-Aging Products Dermatologists Swear By
  • 10 Dos & Don'ts to Help Slow the Aging Skin Process

"Makes Dark Circles Disappear"

Be wary of this promise. While there are creams containing products, such as kojic acid and hydroquinone, that can help lighten the dark skin around the eyes, no product will be a complete miracle worker. Even lasers won't fix all cases of dark circles.

What will camouflage your dark circles are the right types of concealers and correctors. Used correctly, they will hide discoloration beautifully.

Use incorrectly, they can actually highlight them. More on:

  • What Causes Undereye Circles?
  • I have dark under-eye circles. Is there any way to get rid of them?
  • How to Pick the Right Shade of Concealer

"Our Studies Show That..." or "Dermatologist Tested"

When we hear the word, "study," we likely conjure up in our heads an image of a bunch of scientists in lab coats diligently testing and retesting a product to ensure it's good for a person. Of course, these scientists are unbiased. The only bad thing about these studies are they probably involve horrible things done to bunnies, but I digress.

When you see the words, "our studies" and "dermatologist tested," keep in mind that the scientists and dermatologists are on the company payroll and you can bet they are going to give that company the results they want. And the Federal Drug Administration (the FDA) famously is hands off when it comes to the cosmetics industry. There are quite a few ingredients commonly used in American beauty products that are not allowed in European countries.

Even outside of beauty, when you see a study or research paper released, you should ask yourself, "Who paid for this?" For example, years ago a report came out that chocolate milk was beneficial to muscle recovery after hardcore workouts. This news prompted of flurry of excitement from my Facebook friends and I was immediately suspicious. Who paid for this study? The National Dairy Association and Hershey's Chocolate? Sure enough, if you look at the research paper released, you will see in very fine print this:

This project was supported by a research grant from the National Dairy Council and National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board.

"When Used Together, Our Products..."

I can't tell you how many times I've spent hundreds of dollars on a line of products from a department store, spa or famous dermatologist. What usually happens is this: someone examines my skin, marks down on a checklist of my problem spots and then they whisk out the products meant to fix all those problem spots.

The products almost always include a couple different cleansers: one for day, one for night, a scrub, a couple different moisturizers: one for day, one for night, a toner a mask and some sort of eye cream.

These marketers want you to believe all these products are specially formulated to work together. Bullshit. They want you to believe if you skip a step in their 5-product process, your rosacea will never go away, your skin will not be PH-balanced and those wrinkles will be yours forever.

It's a business and if you remember that you won't fall for it. The department store salesgirl works on a commission, your dermatologist makes half his money off product sales and that spa you love does, too. The truth is you absolutely don't need to use products from the same line. And you probably don't need that many products, either.

"Cruelty-free" or "No Animal Testing"

There are many legitimate, cruelty-free companies out there who do not allow the ingredients they use to be tested on animals. But surprise, surprise, it is not illegal to make this claim and there is no independent agency to verify if every product marketed today as cruelty-free is truly cruelty-free.

Some companies will claim that they don't test their products on animals, but some of these companies actually buy ingredients from labs that actually do test on animals.

If you are truly concerned about buying only products that are not tested on animals at any stage of the process, you can check the Leaping Bunny Website to research your favorite brands and products.

"Celebrity-endorsed"

Do you really think Reese Witherspoon only uses Avon products? And Jennifer Garner with her millions in her and Ben Affleck's bank account slathers herself only in Neutrogena products? Of course not.

Just because a celebrity is "the face" of a product or endorses a product, it doesn't mean they actually use them. Celebrity endorsements are usually something dreamed up between a celebrity's manager and the PR department of a cosmetics company. There is likely money involved, or if it's a famous dermatologist, at least some free fillers and Botox treatments.

"Natural, Organic Ingredients"

One should be careful with the "natural, organic ingredients" claim. Unless said product is 100% a type of oil (almond, coconut, Vitamin E, olive) or of one ingredient like shea butter, it likely contains some synthetic ingredients. While there are many amazing natural, organic ingredients that are great for skin (avocados, egg whites, lemons, strawberries for example), these ingredients would spoil very fast if used without synthetic preservatives and ingredients. Synthetic ingredients such as petrolatums can be very good for your skin, they just aren't 100 percent natural.

Want 100 percent organic, natural ingredients in your skincare? Make your own using products found in your refrigerator and cabinets.

More on:

  • 10 Best Organic Products for Your Skin
  • 15 Eyeshadows That Are Good for You & the Environment