Clean Beauty Glossary

Clean Beauty Glossary

Take a stroll down a beauty aisle and you’ll likely be met with rows of products boasting beautiful packaging. Take a closer look, and most of these products may read “cruelty-free,” “vegan,” and “non-toxic.” As beauty evolves these days and more people grow invested in their personal health and the health of the environment, the adoption of clean beauty practices is sought after more and more. But what does it really mean to be clean? If you’re expecting an approved industry-wide definition, the FDA has yet to establish one.

Simply put, clean beauty is composed of personal care and beauty products that are free from any potentially harmful ingredients that could be toxic in any quantity. Simple enough, right? You’re probably wondering how “natural” and “organic” fit into the clean beauty equation. And yes, there’s a difference between “vegan” and “cruelty-free.” The little to no federal regulation in the beauty and cosmetics industry provides brands with no guidelines on how they can use these words. Definitions are subjective and often change across different brands and packaging, making it nearly impossible to decipher. Turns out, the world of clean beauty can be downright confusing. Not to worry. We’ve done the homework so you don’t have to.

Here’s a cheat sheet with the most common buzzwords—a Clean Beauty Glossary of sorts—providing a great place to start as you explore the essence of clean beauty and better understand how to make impactful and intentional shopping decisions. Definition Disclaimer Our definitions are pulled from extensive research, and not from an FDA dictionary “because there are no legal definitions for these terms” by the FDA. Unrestricted use of these phrases by cosmetic companies is possible as a result.

Clean Beauty Vocabulary

Clean /klēn/ Products free of toxins with ingredients collected from the best sources while grown and manufactured in sustainable environments. Cruelty-free /ˈkro͞oəltēˌfrē/ A product and its ingredients weren’t tested on animals. Characterized by a bunny or leaping bunny logo.

Green /ɡrēn/ Products made to be less harmful or more sensitive to the environment. Hypoallergenic /ˌhīpōˌalərˈjenik/ Made without ingredients that are likely to cause allergic reactions in vulnerable people. This label doesn’t guarantee that products are necessarily allergy-proof or gentler on the skin. Inclusive /inˈklo͞osiv/ To encompass all shade ranges and skin types.

Natural /ˈnaCH(ə)rəl/ Made from natural ingredients with natural resources. May contain a percentage of plant-derived ingredients. Learn more about the difference between natural and clean with this post.

Non-toxic /nänˈtäksik/ Formulated without known or suspected toxins. Organic /ôrˈɡanik/ Having little to no contaminants. Ingredients are grown, harvested, and manufactured without herbicides, pesticides etc.

Sustainable /səˈstānəb(ə)l/ The integration of environmentally healthy practices to create thriving, healthy, diverse and resilient communities for years to come. Check out this post to learn more about sustainability in the beauty industry.

Vegan /ˈvēɡən/ Products made without animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients.


Now that you’re a bit more familiar with common clean beauty terms, take some time to explore brands and products that uphold the clean beauty standard. Here at Pretty Well Beauty we make it our mission to provide you with products that are clean, safe, effective, and (most importantly) help protect this lovely planet we call home. Interested in making the switch to clean beauty? We’re here to help you take the next step. Looking for more definitions? We’ll do the research for you. List the terms you’d like us to define in the comments below.

Written by Juzanne Martin



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