Learn how to decode your beauty product label to make an informed buy

Bazaar India speaks to industry experts to define and demystify the terminology often seen on the packaging of clean beauty products to help you understand what these earth-friendly formulas stand for.

Harper's Bazaar India

You're just a click away from purchasing that beauty product that you've been eyeing for a very long time. While you're hoping for the best and looking forward to your skin witnessing a drastic improvement, it's important to know what certain words on the packaging stand for (we'd hate for you to buy something wrong). Who better than the experts at Bazaar India to tell you right from wrong and tell you what certain words in the beauty world stand for. 


“In essence, a natural product doesn’t contain any artifical ingredients, preservatives, or chemicals. However, there is no strict definition of ‘natural’, which has led to a lot of ambiguity in the beauty industry. While there are some incredible natural ingredients that can do wonders for you skin, it is important to note that ‘all-natural’ products are not necessarily the ‘best’ in addressing various skincare needs.” 

Surbhee Grover Founder, Love, Indus


“Ingredients grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or other synthetic fertilisers are labelled as organic. Natural and organic aren’t interchangeable terms, and products that state ‘made with organic’ could mean that as little as 10 percent of the formula is organic.”

Dr Geeta Mehra Fazalbhoy, Dermatologist


“Learning how to recycle is crucial to the environment. Any form of packaging that can be cleaned and re-used comes under this category. Along with that, recyclable packaging refers to product cartons made of materials that can be used again, usually after processing. For instance, most of Bare Necessities’ products come in reusable and recyclable glass jars.”

Sahar Mansoor Founder and CEO, Bare Necessities


“Vegan formulations do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. However, a vegan formula doesn’t necessarily mean that the product has not been tested on animals. Check for additional certifications to ensure the product you are using is kind to animals, too.” 

Dr Rashmi Shetty, Dermatologist and Founder of Ra Skin And Aesthetics


“Ethical products are ‘cruelty-free’ formulations, which means that they have not been tested on animals, and nor does their production involve child labour or dangerous conditions for workers. At Earth Rhythm, we strongly believe that nothing should go through animal testing, or be derived from animals, making the brand 100 percent cruelty-free and also PETA certified.”

Harini Sivakumar, Cosmetic Chemist and CEO at Earth Rhythm


“A sustainable product is formulated with ethically-sourced ingredients (vegan, organic, and fairly-traded), and is housed in recyclable packaging. For us, sustainability has a well-rounded definition, focused not only on our impact on the environment, but also the people, communities, and society at large. Our sustainability efforts start at sourcing natural ingredients from local farmers to our green manufacturing facility design, and small batch-making, and eco-friendly containers. We have continuously given thought to the entire product cycle, pioneering the concept of ‘farm-to-bottle’.”

Dr Taruna Yadav, Author, Ayurvedic Doctor, and Skincare Expert at Forest Essentials India


“GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. A GMO-free cosmetic or personal care product is considered to be as safe as these are produced through conventional means ensuring no alteration of the original genetic material of ingredient.”

Dr Madhuri Agarwal, Dermatologist, Yavana Aesthetic Clinic


“An astounding number of beauty ingredients are still produced under inhumane working conditions, and often with the use of child labour. The fair-trade certification was created to protect workers in developing countries and offer them a good trade deal to help improve their futures.”

Dr Jaishree Sharad, Board Certified Dermatologist

This piece originally appeared in the October 2021 print edition of Harper's Bazaar India