Browse all

The dictionary of sustainable beauty

Eco-bio, vegan, cruelty-free and more: do you know what these terms really mean?

The dictionary of sustainable beauty Eco-bio, vegan, cruelty-free and more: do you know what these terms really mean?

Being conscious consumers is necessary to be able to orient oneself in an autonomous and judicious way in the beauty world. Cosmetic bottles contain more and more detailed information, INCI, certifications and logos, but how many of us really know what they mean?

This is why nss G-Club has decided to create a simple and intuitive guide to the labels of cosmetics, to better juggle the choice of our beauty products, especially when it comes to clean and natural beauty products. Let's start with the most common terms in terms of sustainability, and those to avoid.





A type of cosmetics that emphasizes the sustainability of the production chain, made from km0 ingredients and cultivated with respect and love for nature.


Sustainable cosmetics

Let's start with the basics. A cosmetic is defined as such when its production is respectful of both the ecosystem and people involved in the production cycle. Sustainability is not an immediate process, but a long and complex path made up of several steps. An essential role is played by the origin of the ingredients, how/where they are grown, as well as the work conditions of local populations. The ultimate goal of a company that has sustainability at heart is to create products that are good for us and have no impact on the environment.



This term has become increasingly common in our daily life and literally means "ecological" and "biocompatible", emphasizing the low impact on the environment. Eco-bio products are formulated with raw materials from the plant world, non-toxic to living organisms, rapidly biodegradable and extracted with non-polluting methods. Another consideration should be made for the term "organic", which indicates the origin of vegetable raw materials from organic farming.

We can therefore state that an eco-bio cosmetic contains ingredients of natural origin, sometimes organic and, to certify their quality, it boasts the presence on the label of specific certifications. The Institute for Ethical and Environmental Certification (ICEA) defines the criteria for the production of eco-sustainable cosmetics. According to the dictates of the Institute, cosmetics that want to be defined as eco-sustainable must:

1. be free of aggressive ingredients such as surfactants, paraffin, silicones, synthetic dyes derived from petroleum, parabens and allergenic substances or contain extremely low percentages.

2. use certified organic agriculture raw materials where available.

3. avoid the use of OGMs.

4. strictly not to be tested on animals.

5. have a packaging made of recycled materials.

An aspect that is important to underline is that it is not possible to create 100% natural products (with the exception of some pure vegetable oils and butter), as consumers mistakenly think. As for the ingredients, it is also important to pay attention to the order in which they are reported in the formulation. According to the provisions of the INCI, the list of ingredients within a cosmetic, the ingredients are reported in descending order based on the percentage in which they are present.

A great ally for knowing all the ingredients precisely is Bio-dictionary (just google it or download the app). By entering the name of the substance that interests us in the search bar, we discover its function and, through the semaphore symbology, the judgment expressed.



This term indicates how much companies are able to produce cosmetics in such a way that the production cycle has the least impact on the environment, from carbon emissions to the production of plastic. It is therefore important that a company gives a lot of importance to the materials it uses, but in the same way uses green energy, produced from renewable sources.



This term focuses on the use of eco-friendly packaging and materials, which can be recycled or recyclable.


Eco-friendly packaging

The use of glass and aluminum bottles to best preserve and protect the product inside. They are recyclable over and over again, unlike plastic. Use of cardboard and paper for packaging and biodegradable corn chips instead of bubble wrap. Or even solid cosmetics, more concentrated, without packaging and therefore with a lower environmental impact and product waste.



Vegan cosmetics are made with completely plant-based natural elements, therefore they do not contain any animal-derived ingredients, such as glycerin, beeswax and honey, replacing animal fats with vegetable oils, such as argan or coconut oil. If a cosmetic is vegan, it will have the veganOK standard logo on the packaging.



A final tip when using a product is to read the PAO (period after opening) well and stick to the indicated duration. It is represented by the image of an open cream and is defined in fact as the time in which the product, once opened, can be used without harmful effects for the consumer. Just like the expiration date of the food. Eco-friendly products, using preservatives of natural origin, will have a lower pao than cosmetics that use chemical preservatives.




Synthetic fragrances

“Fragrance” is a term that can indicate hundreds of substances that companies are not required to specify. The problem? They can be allergenic. Fragrances with IFRA certificate, 100% natural, composed of essential oils and hypoallergenic are preferred.



These are chemical preservatives, their important function is to prevent the formation of fungi, bacteria and other harmful substances. The reason why it is an ingredient preferably to be avoided is the suspected toxicity for the human organism. They are able to penetrate the epidermis and accumulate in the skin tissue, but also to undermine the action of estrogens, the long-term consequences on health are not demonstrated, but not being certain, it is better to avoid them. Reading the INCI of a cosmetic they are easily recognizable because they end with the suffix "paraben".



Petrolates are substances that derive from the refining of oil. These substances act by creating a sort of water-repellent layer on skin and hair, avoiding dehydration. This apparently beneficial action is actually counterbalanced by the impossibility for the skin to "breathe" by absorbing oxygen and eliminating toxins, which instead remain trapped in the patina created by petrolatum. This translates into a strong comedogenic action on the skin since these products contribute to the occlusion of pores and the formation of pimples and blackheads. They are usually used in place of natural oils because they are cheap, easy to process and stable, that is, they do not rancid like vegetable oils.



They are synthetic substances that have the task of making the consistency of the products more fluid and smooth, making it somewhat more pleasant to use. But not only: thanks to their water-repellent and detangling properties, they are able to make our hair appear more shiny and soft while applying a silicone-based cream on the skin of the face or body will make it look immediately more uniform, smooth and compact. In fact, silicones create an occlusive film that prevents skin perspiration and the passage of nourishing and moisturizing substances in the capillary barrels. They can in fact cause skin irritations, blackheads and blackheads, but also split ends and weakening of the hair. In the INCI they are easily identifiable because they end in –one (such as Dimethicone, one of the most used) or in -siloxane.



These are chemical surfactants considered as aggressive for the skin, derived by oil refining. They are substances that have a high impact on the environment and are very irritating to the skin. The most aggressive chemical surfactants are SLES (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulfate). In the long run, these substances damage the hydrolipidic film and can cause dryness, dehydration, redness and other annoying problems such as dandruff or even allergies.