Skincare Decoded

Page of dictionary, with the word 'truth' highlighted. 

Natural, Organic, Cruelty-Free, Vegan, Green, Botanical, Compliant, Ethical, Sustainable... Have you ever wondered what all those words really mean? You see them plastered over bottles & jars, on adverts & in magazines. But what do they mean, really? With so many skincare products & so many words, we know it can be confusing to know what's genuine & what's just ‘marketing-speak’ or 'greenwashing'. In this 5 minute read, you'll learn what they really mean. So in no particular order, here we go...

Cosmetic Dictionary of Terms - The Reality

We'll start with this term which isn't widely used. We use this term to indicate that our products are formulated from an aromatherapy perspective, by a qualified aromatherapist, who understand the energetic & aromatic properties of essential oils as well as the skin care benefits. We formulate holistically.

This is one of the most widely used & flexible terms out there. We associate natural ingredients with plants & the goodness within which led to the name of our brand, Orchard View naturals, over a decade ago. We wanted to differentiate from the plethora of synthetic skincare products on the mainstream market.

However, 'natural' can be a difficult word to decipher. Many ingredients could come under this heading, such anything that has a natural source, however far away from the finished ingredient that may be. You could call fossil fuels like petroleum ‘natural’ if you think about it. Or you could say that only something raw is truly natural. It's all down to interpretation & there's no legal translation. A product could be called 'natural' but only contain 0.5% natural ingredients. It's confusing for everyone.

Another misconception is that natural isn't chemcial. But natural & chemical aren’t in opposition. Everything in the world is made from chemicals. So we prefer to use the terms natural & synthetic in distinctions between entirely man-made ingredients & those which are from, and close to, nature.

Natural isn’t always a soft fluffy word, either. Think of those natural history programmes! Plants can kill – think hemlock. Even essential oils, in the wrong hands, can be poisonous – just a few ml of Eucalyptus oil can kill you if ingested. Likewise, if you drank too much water (I’m talking way, way, way too much), it could be fatal. Hence why we have Cosmetic Legislation to limit & monitor ingredients in your skincare products.

So the word natural can be problematic – but we love nature & it’s at the heart of everything we do, so we use it anyway.

We source many Soil Association Certified organic ingredients for our facial oils & you'll find organics in other products, too. Organic botanicals are grown without harmful pesticides or other toxins, so the strain on the planet is lessened enormously, wildlife is protected & bio-diversity can thrive.

There are between 84% and 99% Soil Association certified organic ingredients in each facial oil. Supple body oil is also mostly organic. In other Body Oils & Body Polishes, you'll find the ingredients are high quality 100% natural botanicals. 

Everything we make here is 100% natural except for the Eau de Toilette (which contains a denaturant to discourage drinking of the pure ethanol!).

Some natural ingredients cannot be certified for various reasons. For example, sometimes certification can’t be given due to the fact that they are grown in plantations (such as Sandalwood, which can only be grown sustainably in this way). Or maybe there is some kind of chemical or solvent during the manufacturing process to extract or create the ingredient, such as Olive Squalane, Vitamin E & Absolutes. (This wouldn't appear in the final product).

We state on our products that all, (including those made for us), are cruelty-free. Our definition of this is that the ingredients we use & our final products are never tested on animals. From 11 March 2009, testing of cosmetic ingredients was banned in the EU & testing of finished cosmetic products had already been banned. This is something we applaud - but sadly, there are caveats which means this legislation has plenty of loopholes. There are also still laws in certain countries (such as China) that require animal testing for certain products. We don’t & wouldn’t sell in China. 

‘Natural’ is not always equal to 'botanical' so a natural product is not necessarily a vegan product. Many cosmetics companies use animal derivatives in their natural (& synthetic) products. Ingredients in the products we make ourselves are 100% vegan.

The OV naturals organic, unscented Face Cream is the only non-vegan product in the range. This is made for us in the UK & contains a small amount of beeswax. We make this clear on the label & website, as we're conscious that vegans may wish to avoid this.

Used as a synonym for plant-based & natural, green beauty implies cleanliness & purity. Think of green beauty in the same way you might think of a fresh, plant-based diet. Green beauty can get a bad rap, mostly because of objections to marketing through fear, using terms such as “non-toxic” (or the rather cringey “no poo”), the implication being that other products are toxic. There is plenty of evidence to suggest caution regarding certain ingredients, but at the same time, all products on the market have to be scientifically assessed for safety, so here at OV naturals our feeling is that a balanced approach is needed. 

Simply a substance that has been obtained from a plant. We like the word as it’s clear & unambiguous.


Compliant, in relation to a skincare product, means that it is on the market legally, in line with current Cosmetic Legislation. 

All cosmetic products sold to the general public in the UK & the EU are governed by legislation. This is designed to protect you, the consumer, from unsafe products. For example, essential oils are well documented as having beneficial properties & their chemical composition has an affinity with the skin if they are selected & used wisely. But as we all know, there are dos and donts. So every product on the market must be scrutinised by a cosmetic chemist to ensure that it’s safe for everyone to use. If products contain water they must be laboratory tested.

There are also specific labelling requirements in relation to ingredients & weights/measures, use-by dates, packaging & more. Plus GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) & more. 

*Additional note added Jan 2021 Post-Brexit, cosmetics sold in Great Britain must be registered with the SCPN - the "Submit Cosmetic Products Notification Portal" UK. To sell legally, a Responsible Person (RP) must be appointed in Great Britain. To sell legally in Northern Ireland, a RP must be appointed in Northern Ireland & products must be registered on the EU Notification Portal. Likewise, since Brexit, to sell in the EU, the same applies. There is also now VAT to be paid on deliveries to the EU. 

These are just some (but by no means all) of the complexities to be aware of when selling cosmetics. So when you are seeking safe, legally compliant cosmetics, it's useful to be able to recognise what is a professional product & what is not.

Ethical is a subjective word in some ways, as it relates to morals & values, but everyone’s morals & values are different. We use the term to indicate that we adhere to certain moral values. A simple example is that we follow a Code of Ethics laid out by our governing body, when treating clients. We try to be ethical in the sense of being a force for good. Another example would be our policy of sourcing ingredients from small independents in the UK, thereby supporting small business & being able to have a dialogue about how ingredients are produced. We have a page that goes into more detail about our values here.

A word that is used in marketing frequently, but doesn’t always mean the same thing. It indicates that something is produced without depleting natural resources. When we use the word sustainable we mean that we have tried to keep our footprint light & sourced responsibly, for example, we wouldn’t buy an ingredient that was from a threatened species. 

Have Your Say

Did you enjoy the read? Would you like any more words decoded? Please let us know in the comments (:

If you'd like to learn more about ingredients, take a look at our in-depth blog about sunscreen & how to decode the label. 

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own & there are no affiliate links. References are correct at the time of writing to my knowledge. Information provided by this blog is subject to change. We recommend that you do not take any information held within as a definitive guide to the matter being discussed. You are advised to seek legal or professional advice where necessary rather than relying on the content supplied by the author. Lucy Stevens, 2020.

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