Exactly What Those Words On Your Beauty Products Mean

The beauty world can be a bit of a minefield. New products are launched daily, and along with them comes a whole new vocabulary. Words like hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, natural, and organic are some of the most frequently used terms to describe the ingredients in products. But do we know what they actually mean?

Dr. Anita Sturnham, GP, put it this way: “You wouldn’t eat a plate of food without checking what was on your plate, so you should have that same mentality with your skin care.” Read on for a no-nonsense breakdown of what some of the most common beauty jargon out there really means.

Hypoallergenic is a broad term that means a product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. But it’s in no way a guarantee.

Tracey Wilmot, the training and education director for Murad, explains: “Allergies and irritations are a complex response, which is unfortunate but can be anything from natural or synthetic ingredients, preservatives, fragrances, and a multitude of other reasons according to our unique and individual makeup and lifestyle. No company can claim that a product will not cause a reaction and there are no allergy-proof products.”

There is also no industry or legal standard governing the use of the term hypoallergenic, so if you see a product labeled this way, take it as a guide, not a guarantee.

You’ve probably seen this term on products meant for blemishes, acne, and oily skin. Wilmot says, “Comedo/comedones is the word for blackheads, so non-comedogenic means that the formula is designed not to clog pores, but it does not guarantee the product won’t cause breakouts.”

However, there are no guidelines in place for regulating a product’s claim to be non-comedogenic. If blackheads and blocked pores are a concern for you, make sure you are cleansing thoroughly day and night. Avoid heavy, long-wear foundations if possible and look for gels or water-based skin products rather than rich or oily creams.

“It’s a research study conducted in order to see if a product is safe and effective under strict scientific standards,” says Andrea Pfeffer, the founder of the Pfeffer Sal clinic in London.

In regard to just how meticulously participants are monitored during a trial, Pfeffer says, “The product will be tested rigorously under exact industry standards to prove that it performs as it promises to. Be that reducing the appearance of fine lines, or boosting hydration, these trials are where that data is received and recorded. These trials are done to prove the results of the products. They’re focused on data, efficacy and safety.”

Ever seen a brand make a claim like: “94% of women said their skin looked healthier after using [insert product name]”? Well, that probably means the brand has carried a consumer trial.

How do clinical and consumer trials differ? Pfeffer explains: “Consumer trials are the introduction of a product to a chosen group of consumers and are a way for them to try a new product before they decide to purchase it. It also allows the business to gauge the potential success of products before committing to a full launch. They are not done for data and proof but more for spreading the word about the new product.”

A consumer trial isn’t based on the scientific evidence of results but rather on the response from potential customers. The pool of people tested varies, too. “Some companies test nationwide or just a selected group of 50, making it hard to determine the scope of skin conditions who will try the product,” adds Pfeffer. “The easiest way to remember this is that clinical trials are fact. Consumer trials are opinion.”

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a rise in demand for natural beauty. Dr. Sturnham defines the term: “A product is considered ‘natural’ when it contains ingredients that are sourced from nature, rather than created synthetically in a lab.” However it’s a notoriously grey area of the industry, as there’s no hard or agreed-upon definition or single governing body.

For a product to be advertised as natural, a brand needs to provide evidence that just 5% of its ingredients are natural. This doesn’t account for the rest of the formulation and as Sturnham explains, it often tells us very little about the ingredients we’re buying into: “Generally, if a product lasts more than three weeks after the date of opening, it is unlikely to be 100% natural, as it will require chemical preservatives to maintain its stability.”

With no regulatory body to govern the use of terms like organic and natural, Dr. Sturnham details how confusing such words can be to consumers: “This category of skin care is poorly monitored and even products which are labeled as such, are often only containing a small percentage of organic ingredients. We are not advised if pesticides or herbicides are used in the cultivation process, if the ingredients are sourced from the environment or cultivated in a lab and if the ingredient is a synthetic version of the natural ingredient.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides the “USDA Organic ” seal of approval. That seal looks exactly the same when placed on a product’s label, even though it can mean three different things: 100% organic, which is only organically produced ingredients other than water and salt; organic, which is 95%; and “made with organic ingredients,” which is 70% approved ingredients, and can be marketed like “body lotion made with organic lavender, rosemary, and chamomile.”

Alcohol in skin care falls into one of three categories: simple, fatty, or aromatic.

Fatty alcohol, such as cetyl alcohol or caprylic alcohol, works to prevent skin’s moisture loss and acts as a thickening agent, whereas aromatic alcohol, typically known as benzyl alcohol, is used in very small doses in fragrance as a solvent.

Simple alcohol is where the problems lie. Used under names such as isopropyl alcohol and denatured alcohol (alcohol denat), Mirela Mitan, CEO and founder of MMXV INFINITUDE, details the adverse effects it can have: “If used in a high concentration, this alcohol may weaken the skin barrier function and increase skin dryness.” If dry skin is a concern, look for products free from simple alcohol.

Succinctly summed up by Pamela Marshall, a clinical aesthetician and cofounder of Mortar & Milk, an active ingredient is one that is “biologically active – able to biologically affect the skin.” Usually, these are at the top of the ingredients list and will often have a percentage listed on the packaging. (For example: 10% glycolic acid.) AHAs, PHAs, retinol, and vitamin C are all active ingredients.

The efficacy of an active ingredient is greatly dependent on the pH levels in the acids, as Marshall clarifies. “The lower the pH, the more ‘active’ a product will be, but that can also mean that it can be more irritating to some skins.”

A tip – don’t mistake a high percentage in ingredients like glycolic acid for a sign of increased effectiveness. Marshall says: “Percentages are a misnomer. A serum that claims to be 50% glycolic acid is far less effective than a serum that has 10% glycolic acid, simply due to the pH levels.”

“Essential oils are simply distilled oils derived from a plant that have the ‘essence’ of that plant. They have been used for healing for thousands of years and are currently being used in many skin-care products for their healing ability,” Marshall explains. They’re common ingredients prevalent in natural skin-care brands – frequently used examples include lavender oil, ylang ylang and rosehip oil. But just because they’re derived from a plant doesn’t mean they’re harmless; they can be irritating to some, so it’s important to spot test them first.

But where there’s an essential oil, there’s a carrier oil working alongside it, which determines how it penetrates the skin. “Not all essential oils are created equal,” she adds. “Their carrier oil is very important to their absorption, so if the carrier oil is too heavy, the essential oil will not penetrate properly.”

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This Is The Most Important New Black Mirror Episode Right Now

Welcome to Role Call , where we call up TV’s leading ladies to talk about their most vital, memorable, and feminist episodes.

Warning: Spoilers ahead forBlack Mirror season 4’s “USS Callister.”

It’s rare to feel a sense of pure euphoria and triumph after an episode of Netflix’s dark sci-fi anthology Black Mirror, a series created specifically to make you question the technology sitting in your pocket and the world around you. But, then season 4’s Star Trek riff “USS Callister” comes along and leaves you with a small glimmer of hope. We can thank Nanette Cole (Cristin Milioti) for that flicker, as she serves as Mirror’s modern-day Princess Leia — sorry to use mixed Star Wars / Star Trek metaphors — who takes her figurative chains and strangles the misogynistic bad guy with them.

But, this villain here isn’t an obvious evildoer or a massive, slimy space slug crime boss like Jabba The Hutt. No, “Callister’s” villain is much more sinister: Robert Daley (Jesse Plemons), a sadist and sex creep who is hiding in plain sight as a bullied Nice Guy. In the world of the #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein, and Matt Lauer, we know Robert is the kind of person we truly need to fear. Watching Nanette destroy her bad guy from the inside of his self-created house of digital horrors is exactly what you need as we exit the existential crisis-inducing garbage fire of 2017 for the blank slate of 2018.

Nanette’s portrayer, Cristin Milioti, sums up best as to what, exactly, gives “Callister” its spark. “To see a story about a woman who conquers a small-minded misogynistic bully — it’s incredible,” the actress told Refinery29 over the phone.

And conquer Annette does. She finds herself transported to Robert’s virtual reality playground, which is based on his favorite retro show Space Fleet, as a copy of her real-world self after unwittingly displeasing her megalomanic boss. Her crime is admitting she isn’t attracted to him. Robert uses the digital, Star Trek -y expanse to take out his frustrations on Nanette and her fellow copied coworkers, killing their children in front of them and forcing women to kiss him, lest they too want to be brutally murdered or turned into a many-legged space creature. Annette uses Robert’s weaknesses and her coding brilliance to help everyone escape their digital overlord.

I wanted to see the reality of a woman sitting in the captain’s chair. I believed in that reality…I still believe, very strongly, that it will happen.

If you see a little extra spark in Milioti’s performance, there’s a reason for that. “We shot it right after [Donald] Trump was elected,” she explains. To cope while filming in London during the inauguration, Milioti headed to the city’s Women’s March, which “was incredibly inspiring,” she says.

“I definitely took that with me,” Milioti says of the event. “I wanted to see the reality of a woman sitting in the captain’s chair. I believed in that reality…I still believe, very strongly, that it will happen. That was definitely with me throughout the shoot and maybe made it a little more fiery.”

While the Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump tones of “USS Callister” are obvious, it’s the smaller, more specific details that make it sing. It is also an episode that deals with sexual harassment and revenge porn, both of which couldn’t feel more salient.

“You know Jimmi Simpson’s boss character [James Walton] places his hands on her lower back at one point, he’s flirting with her. She’s overly meek, trying not to ruffle any feathers,” Milioti says of her character, echoing the sentiments of countless women who have recently come out as victims of workplace harassment and abuse. Yet, as Milioti continues, “Then you see, when push comes to shove and [Nanette] is pushed to her limits, she fights back with a vengeance.”

That same fight bubbles up again for the coder when she threatened with the release of her nudes to her friends, family, and PornHub. While the threat is part of the Callister captives’ complex escape plan, and therefore an empty threat from a trapped Annette, the real Annette believes this is a “Fappening”-type fiasco. So, she complies with James’ demands, committing a series of felonies against the real Robert, including breaking and entering into her own boss’ home.

But, Annette didn’t go on her crime spree because she felt shame for taking sexy photos. Rather, she was protecting the impossible-to-attain career she had built. “I did a lot of research before filming the episode about being a female coder and what a boys’ club that is. These women have to work three times as hard as men to prove their worth,” Milioti said. “Thinking about that, of how hard she must have worked, and if this is going to in some way compromise that, she’s going to do anything [to stop it].”

That’s why it’s so exciting to see both Annettes save themselves in the end. The real one finds a strength she never knew she possessed, while a Callister-bound Annette leaves Robert to be deleted in his own universe due to a system upgrade. Yes, there still are creeps (playfully voiced by Aaron Paul!) in the new galaxy Annette finds herself in, but now the newly-minted Captain Cole can hyper-warp away.

That optimism is what Milioti hopes viewers will take away from her Black Mirror showing. “You see these things [in the news] and you’re like, ‘How are we ever going to change this? How are we ever going to shift things? How are we ever going to get out from under this wet blanket?’ But we will,” the actress promised.

“We are all capable of adding things that will lead to a bigger change. That’s what this story is about on some level…you meet this woman who doesn’t seem like she would be capable of that and she is the most capable.”

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21 Chrissy Teigen Tweets That Shook Twitter To Its Core

Truly Twitter’s G.O.A.T.

When she owned her truth:

When she owned her truth:

Twitter: @chrissyteigen

When she still wanted pizza:

When she still wanted pizza:

Twitter: @chrissyteigen

When she had the perfect clapback:

When she had the perfect clapback:

Twitter: @chrissyteigen

When she gave Ivanka Trump a quick vocabulary lesson:

When she gave Ivanka Trump a quick vocabulary lesson:

Twitter: @chrissyteigen

When she roasted a robot:

When she roasted a robot:

Twitter: @chrissyteigen

When she gave absolutely zero fucks:

When she gave absolutely zero fucks:

Twitter: @chrissyteigen

When she called out Miss Teen USA:

When she called out Miss Teen USA:

Twitter: @chrissyteigen

When she had no time for fancy rose-shaped ice cream:

When she had no time for fancy rose-shaped ice cream:

Twitter: @chrissyteigen

When she clapped back at someone who said she doesn’t “live in the real world”:

When she clapped back at someone who said she doesn't "live in the real world":

Twitter: @chrissyteigen

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Behold! Refinery29's Best Photos Of The Year — All In One, Gorgeous Story

At Refinery29, we will remember 2017 for myriad reasons, many of them painful and unpleasant because of what was happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But there were also moments that will stick with us in a good way, because they revealed how powerful art and culture can be in difficult times.

As women across the country resisted in their own ways, R29’s creative team decided to make 2017 the year of imagination and to showcase the ability art has to spark ideas and action, and to bring positivity and inspiration to people’s lives. In a year when the needs and rights of so many were being ignored and dismantled, we wanted you to feel seen and respected when you came here. This meant pushing for even more diversity and inclusivity in our coverage, as well as a commitment to putting more female photographers behind the lens. We’re happy to report that in 2017, nearly 4 out of 5 R29 shoots were executed by women.

Looking ahead to 2018, it’s unclear what we can expect. A trade war with China? A real war with North Korea? If we’re being completely honest, it’s a frightening time to be a young woman in America. And yet, there’s arguably never been a more important time to be a young woman in America. We hope that the photos and stories ahead inspire and delight you. Maybe they make you feel more powerful or motivate you to try something new. Maybe they allow you to see something in a way you’ve never seen it before. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished this year and we believe that we’re capable of dreaming even bigger in 2018 — and we know that you are, too.

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