11 ‘Clean Beauty’ Terms You Should Know If You Want To Be More Sustainable

August 30, 2021 By Lino Montalvo

Consumers of beauty products are increasingly aware of the ingredients in some of their favorite products, as well as the effects these products and packaging can have on the environment. In recent years, sustainable beauty terms like “zero waste,” “waterless,” “clean,” “vegan,” and “eco-friendly” have been used to describe tons of beauty products. But it can be difficult to understand what each one means.

Now, as experts make greater attempts to stop the spread of misinformation, the world of sustainable beauty has earned a reputation for being quite complicated and difficult to decipher. To make it easier, we have created a glossary of the most used buzzwords and phrases in the world of sustainable beauty. See what they all mean.


Waterless beauty products are exactly what they seem: formulas that do not include water. There are several reasons why a brand may choose to launch a product free of that valuable resource, one of the main ones being that it helps minimize the use of plastic containers (of which there are around 42.1 billion bottles used to ship products, mostly of water).

When a product is not in liquid form, brands can use materials such as recyclable boxes or metal cans, and the product is usually smaller, which reduces the amount of necessary packaging and shipping weight. Expect to see shampoo and conditioner bars that leave hair clean and fresh with less packaging, and toothpaste tablets that whiten, remove plaque and do something good for the environment.

Zero Waste

According to Ashlene Nand from Vaycay Beauty, zero waste can be defined several ways. “In general, what I seek as a beauty consumer and founder are products that do not contribute to our waste crisis.

Most people could think that this would require a complete review of their beauty routine, but even the smallest changes can make a difference.

Upcycled Beauty

Brands are now beginning to reuse potential food waste in skincare products. According to an earlier trend report from Whole Foods, this includes items such as “coffee grounds, discarded apricot kernels, leftover argan peels” and other foods that might otherwise be thrown away after use, but instead are recycled.


Supporting a carbon-free beauty brand means buying products from a brand that is actively working to reduce its carbon footprint or the total amount of greenhouse gases produced by an individual or entity. Being carbon neutral means offsetting the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by contributing to causes around the world that help address climate change.

Post-Consumer Recycled Plastics

Post-consumer recycled plastics (or PCR) are materials made from recycled everyday items. The difference between these types of products and recyclable beauty products is that PCR material cannot be recycled again because it is already made from recycled materials. Several brands are jumping on the PCR bandwagon, as investing in this type of packaging helps reduce a company’s carbon footprint.

B Corp Certification

A company certified by B Corp has balanced its purpose and profits, and constantly takes into account the way its practices can affect their workers, customers, suppliers, the community and the environment.

Any company that wishes to obtain this certification will be assessed with a kind of test in five areas: government, workers, customers, community and environment.

Fair Trade

Fair trade is when workers in developing countries are paid fair prices for their products by those in developed countries, ensuring that sellers can create their products sustainably and also pay fair wages to those who work for them.

Basically, it means paying enough for goods and services so that those who provide them are making enough money to live comfortably in their respective countries. For a company to be fair trade certified, it must also be able to ensure that its employees work in safe and healthy conditions.


In the same way that vegan foods do not contain any animal by-products, vegan beauty products do not contain animal-based ingredients such as beeswax, lanolin, milk, and honey. However, determining if a product is vegan can be a bit tricky, considering that the label on the back will not always indicate whether a specific ingredient is of animal origin.

Blue Beauty

Blue Beauty is a movement that was spearheaded by Beauty Heroes founder Jeannie Jarnot in an effort to preserve the oceans, as wasteful and non-recyclable packaging can eventually end up in the ocean after being discarded, destroying and/or damaging underwater habitats and the animals that live in them.

Organic Beauty

In food terms, organic generally means that a product was grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides, but according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, the “FDA does not define or regulate the term ‘organic’ when applied to cosmetics, and body or personal care products.”

Natural Beauty

Natural products usually contain naturally sourced ingredients, but it is important to remember that a product created with natural ingredients is not always safer than the ones that are not.

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