A to Z list of words a beauty copywriter avoids

There’s no secret formula for making your beauty copywriting appealing to absolutely everyone. However, there are plenty of words that should be used with caution – or not at all – to make your copywriting for beauty products as powerful as possible. Below is a list of words and phrases that a beauty copywriter opts not to use, and why they’re not effective for marketing beauty products. (Yes, we even have one for X… sort of.)

A – Anti-aging

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look lovely for as long as possible, however, it’s important not to create a sense of shame around fine-lined, forty-plus skin. While there is still an emphasis on reducing the look of age-related skin concerns, brands are now embracing phrases about ‘aging gracefully’ instead of ‘turning back the clock’. Is it a meaningful change? Not really, but it’s a step in the right direction towards accepting that our skin won’t be smooth and plump forever.

B – Boosts [collagen/elastin/fibroblast production, or other bodily function]

When used to describe visual or sensory elements, such as ‘boosts radiance’ or ‘boosts smoothness’, it can be helpful. But claiming that a non-therapeutic or regulatory-approved product can boost a bodily process, like collagen production or blood circulation, isn’t wise.

C – Chemical-free

Everything is made from chemicals, so this is not correct under any circumstance. The end.

D – Dupe

Short for ‘duplicate’, this term is common among thrifty beauty consumers. A beauty dupe is a cheaper version of a more expensive product. Since there is controversy around the ethics of copycat products, it’s not recommended for brands to self-identify their products as dupes.

E – Energy

When used in the context of skincare products, ‘energy’ or ‘energising’ teeters close to the edge of pseudoscience. But an energetic red lipstick or a luscious fragrance with fresh, floral energy? Go for it!   

F – Free from

These kinds of claims can come across as unfair blanket bans around certain ingredients. You can read more about it here.

G – Green

Unless you’re describing the colour, saying that your product or brand is ‘green’ isn’t a strong environment-related claim. When addressing sustainability and the environment, it should be done with context, supporting evidence, and a thorough explanation of your environmental footprint.

H – Heals

‘Heals’, ‘treats’, ‘relieves’, ‘repairs’, and similar words are considered therapeutic, and not allowed to be used for cosmetic claims. If you don’t want to run the risk of dealing with regulators, don’t use these kinds of words in your cosmetic marketing unless you’re approved to do so.

I – Irritation

What irritates one person’s skin might do nothing to another. Depending on the wording, irritation-related statements could be seen as a therapeutic claim by regulators, which is another reason to leave it out. It’s best to avoid making statements about irritation in the context of cosmetics, unless it’s about reducing the look or appearance of irritation.

J – Just

In almost every circumstance, you can take out ‘just’. Sometimes it’s helpful to sound conversational and casual, but it runs the risk of dulling your message. Next time you go to write this word, take it out and see what happens. (That sentence could have been, “Next time you go to write this word, just take it out and see what happens.” It’s punchier without it.)

K – Kind

Whether something is ‘kind’ to your skin, wallet, or the environment, this is a word to consider replacing in your beauty copywriting. It has a nice sentiment and can be suitable in some instances, but it feels wishy-washy or vague when used in lieu of actual information.

L – Lab or laboratory

Chucking in a mention of a ‘lab’ builds a sense of authority and scientific credibility. However, this type of language can be used to ‘science-wash’ consumers into believing a brand’s opinion on topics like ingredients and formulation. Take care when using technical or scientific words, to avoid misleading or misinforming consumers.

M – Medicine or medical

Referring to medicine (traditional or modern) or anything medical is not recommended, unless your brand or product is approved by regulators to do so.

N – Nasties

It’s frequently used as an umbrella term when a brand excludes an ingredient, for whatever reason they decide to. This term is often said without supplying context or supporting evidence, which can mislead consumers about certain ingredients. There are so many other ways to discuss ingredients, so let’s retire this phrase.

O – Organic

There are strict regulations around making ‘organic’ product claims. Brands should be certain they are allowed to use this word in their marketing by consulting with their product manufacturer or relevant certifier.

P – Perfecting

Phrases about ‘perfecting’ a consumer’s appearance come with a negative connotation: the consumer doesn’t look good enough as they are. Of course, people buy cosmetics to look and feel great, but it’s not helpful to point out the obvious.

Q – Quality

The advertising, marketing, and copywriting adage of ‘show not tell’ applies to this word. The entire point of your product’s marketing is to convince customers that your product is of decent quality and worth purchasing. Simply saying it’s made from high-quality ingredients or materials does little to explain how or why that’s the case.

R – Revolutionary

Call us literal, but we’re yet to see a cosmetic product inspire an uprising, radically change society, or overthrow a government. Let’s save this adjective for historical moments, rather than beauty copywriting.

S – Safe

We wouldn’t completely avoid this word, but it should be used with discretion and caution. Nothing can be totally safe – accidents happen and people do weird things. Things aren’t safe just because you or someone says it is. ‘Safe’ is generally best left out, unless you hold a relevant certification or supporting evidence to support your safety claims.

T – Toxin or toxic

The dose is the poison: important to know, but often forgotten by brands making ‘toxin-free’ claims. It’s best to avoid this word, as it rarely reflects a nuanced and scientifically accurate understanding of toxicity.

U – Unique

When descriptive words are used too frequently, they can sometimes lose their impact. Adjectives like ‘unique’, ‘amazing’, and ‘stunning’ appear so often in beauty copywriting that they tend to feel a bit lazy and add little to the overall message. Before you use a word like ‘unique’, consider if you could use a snappy or surprising word instead.

V – Viral

Even if your product or brand is the single-most seen thing on the internet, it can come off as a touch self-congratulatory to say so. Let your loyal following say it for you instead!

W – Waste-free or wasteless

The only way to not create waste is not to create more stuff, so consider rephrasing this word.

X – X or x

If you have a numerical claim to make, it can be difficult to work out how to format it. Generally, we prefer to use ‘times’ instead of ‘X’ or ‘x’. For example, “three times longer lashes” is most suitable for copy that includes full sentences – product descriptions, press releases, and other marketing materials. “3x longer lashes” should be reserved for times where space is very limited, like product packaging. This borrows some logic from the rule of spelling out zero to nine and using numerals for anything over 10. It’s about readability and to a degree, formality.

Y – Youthful

Like anti-aging, marketing related to youthfulness or skin maturity targets older consumers, or those looking to prevent the impacts of aging on their appearance. Try to phrase such statements in a way that doesn’t dismiss the fact that looking older is a normal part of being alive.

Z – Zoom filter

Shortly after Zoom video calls became popular, beauty marketing and media took advantage of this moment. Every primer, foundation, and highlighter claimed to offer a blurring, smoothing, ‘Zoom filter’ effect. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but claims that are so reflective of a particular time can very quickly become outdated. Unless your product is going to be briefly available, it’s better to use non-era-specific claims so your marketing remains relevant for longer.

Amy Hadley

Amy Hadley is a beauty copywriter with a background in print journalism, digital media, public relations, and eCommerce. As someone contributing to the beauty industry, she encourages her clients to use words creatively, sincerely, and responsibly. This is to promote more honest and thoughtful communication in the beauty industry, and better serve its consumers.

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