Label Meaning

Claims on a label or in an advertising for what a cosmetic can do must be accurate so they do not mislead people. Since certain claims, like increased attractiveness or increased masculinity, can only be judged subjectively, some puffery (exaggeration that does not mislead the public) is tolerated.


Cosmetic terms on labels

Manufacturers may advertise cosmetic terms on labels on their product packaging, or in their radio, television or print ads. Although the terms below are not defined in the Cosmetic Regulations, here are some explanations of commonly used cosmetic terms:










This German certification body’s standard is showing up as more European natural brands pop up in US stores. BDIH‘s rules are myriad, but its general guidelines include:

  • No animal testing.
  • No synthetic dyes, fragrances, silicones, or paraffins.
  • Only nature-identical preservatives.
  • No genetic engineering, and optimum biodegradability.
  • Fair trade and responsible sourcing are strongly encouraged.




Cosmebio is a relatively new standard, created in 2002 with collaboration from European cosmetic laboratories. Its guidelines are very similar to Ecocert’s, and you’ll often see both logos on products.
Cosmebio requires that products contain at least 95 percent natural ingredients, be without synthetic fragrances or colors, have no synthetic preservatives or petrochemical products, and be without genetically modified ingredients







Ecocert, like the USDA Organic designation, is primarily for food, but it is also useful for cosmetic and personal care products. Ecocert designates products as organic in the traditional sense — 95 percent of the ingredients must be of “natural origins,” and fewer than five percent may be synthetic.



Fragrance Free or Unscented

This means that no fragrances have been added to the cosmetic product, or that a masking agent has been added to hide the scents from the other ingredients in the cosmetic. Some products labelled fragrance-free may actually contain “fragrance” or “parfum” on the list of ingredients.

Fair Trade

This means that a community gets paid a fair market price for the commodity or product that they produce and are not subjected to exploitation by intermediaries







“Hypoallergenic” is neither a legal nor a scientific term. It simply means that the manufacturer has chosen ingredients to produce a finished product with minimum potential for causing allergy. This does not guarantee that the product will not cause an allergic reaction in some individuals, since people are allergic to a wide range of substances. There are no non-allergenic cosmetics. If you experience an allergic reaction to a cosmetic, try switching to a different brand.



INCI Names

The International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients, abbreviated INCI, is a system of names for waxes, oils, pigments, chemicals, and other ingredients of soaps, cosmetics, and the like, based on scientific names and other Latin and English words.  This has been put into place so that when a person reads a cosmetic label from anywhere in the world, the same language is used and understood.














NSF Made With Organic

NSF’s Made With Organic standard is less than two years old, but it’s the cosmetics industry’s favored certification. “Made With Organic” and “Organic” aren’t quite the same thing, though. To meet the NSF standard, products must have at least 70 percent organic content, but they don’t have to be all the way natural.



Ophthalmologist Tested / Dermatologist Tested

These terms usually mean that a test on the product was conducted to make sure that the product is not (or is less) irritating to eyes or skin, and that this test involved a skin or eye doctor at some point during the study. It is the safety of the product that has been tested, not how effective the product is. There are no regulations that standardize the type or number of tests needed to use this claim on labels.


“Organic” is a term that means that a plant or other natural material is certified to be produced without pesticides. Organic standards and certification vary from province to province, but generally, when a product is labelled as “organic”, this means that the entire product is made from greater than 95% organic ingredients. Individual ingredients can also be labelled as “organic” if they meet the standards.




This term means that preservatives have not been added as an ingredient to the product. Natural or synthetic preservatives are essential for all cosmetics. The warm and damp area of your bathroom, where people use and store many cosmetic products, can be an ideal environment for microorganisms to grow in your cosmetics. Microorganisms can also find their way into cosmetics through cross-contamination when a cosmetic or its applicator touches your skin or hair and then touches the cosmetic again. Fortunately, most cosmetics contain preservatives to keep harmful bacteria, mold and yeast from finding its way in and growing on your cosmetics.












The NaTrue

The NaTrue label means that a product has been certified to contain only water, natural ingredients, and nature-derived ingredients.
The label has three grades: Natural Cosmetics, Natural Cosmetics with Organic Ingredients, and Organic Cosmetics.

The Leaping Bunny

Created by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, the leaping bunny symbol shows that a product is made without animal testing at any stage of its development. It stands out from other “no animal testing” seals because all companies are independently audited to ensure adherence to the strict guidelines. If the audit fails, the company is no longer able to use the symbol.



USDA Organic

In the US, The USDA’s (United States Department of Agriculture) National Organic Program (NOP) regulates organic ingredients used for personal care products. There are four levels of USDA Organic certification:

  1. “100% Certified Organic” – Product certified by the USDA and can bear the USDA Organic Seal.
  2. “Certified Organic” – 95% or higher Certified Organic Ingredients (with strict restrictions on the remaining 5%). Product certified by the USDA and can bear the USDA Organic Seal.
  3. “Made with Organic Ingredients” – 70-94% Certified Organic Ingredients (with strict restrictions on the remaining 30%). Product certified by the USDA but CANNOT bear the USDA Seal.
  4. Less than 70% Organic Ingredients — Organic ingredients can be denoted with an asterisk. Only ingredients are certified by the USDA (NOT the finished product), and the product CANNOT bear the USDA Seal. Product CANNOT call itself organic and the word “organic” may appear on the side or back of the package only.



Vegan Certification

This label means just what you’d think it does: no animal testing, no animal products. It doesn’t take a stance on parabens and other controversial ingredients.

The Natural Products Association certification means:

  • Any product labeled “natural” must be made with at least 95 percent natural ingredients — that is, from renewable resources found in nature. No petrochemicals are allowed.
  • No parabens, SLS, chemical sunscreens, or phthalates.
  • No animal testing.
  • The packaging must be environmentally conscious and sustainable.