How to be transparent with beauty copywriting and communication

For a few years now, the most zeitgeisty topic in the beauty industry is transparency. Ingredient transparency. Sustainability transparency. Sourcing and production transparency. But what’s often missed in these kinds of conversations is transparency around beauty copywriting and communication.

It’s very easy for brands to over-hype or under-emphasise certain points using clever marketing copy. Whether it’s intended or not, let’s call it what it is: stretching the truth. Of course, it’s important for brands to make their point in an appealing and persuasive way. The trick to authentic communication is balancing promises with reality.

Be careful of claims

The most important thing to know about making cosmetic product claims is that they cannot be ‘therapeutic‘. Verbs like heal, cure, prevent, treat, or relieve can’t be used to market cosmetic products. (There are some exceptions for registered cosmetic and therapeutic products, including sunscreen, acne products, and anti-dandruff products.) Although it’s very common to see claims referring to bodily processes like detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, or collagen-boosting, it’s not allowed. 

Overblowing your product’s benefits into the realm of therapeutic could find you in hot water with regulators. It also sets your customer’s expectations incredibly high, which could lead to dissatisfaction if they don’t see the results they’re anticipating. There are plenty of other ways to make claims – lean more into the sensorial, visible, and textural qualities of your product. You can also highlight elements like why it was developed, which problems it solves, and how it fits into a consumer’s beauty routine. Use it as a chance to make claims that are equally fun and fair.

Take competitors’ claims with a grain of salt

Don’t rely on your competitors to define what claims you should make. Checking out their copy is helpful for understanding how they position a product, but don’t use it as a benchmark. They might not be doing the right thing, so you’re better off doing your own research – or getting a beauty copywriter to do it!

Placing too much emphasis on what other brands are communicating can also hinder your brand’s creative process. You might find yourself adapting their copy to suit your brand, rather than developing your own authentic claims and brand perspective. If you’re writing in a way that’s authentic to your brand and based on your product’s actual qualities, it will be valuable to consumers.

Consider the surrounding information

When you’re communicating your brand or product benefits, think about what additional information your consumer might need to better their understanding of it. Brands often rattle off splashy words, ingredients, and phrases that actually don’t mean much to the average consumer. It could be argued that this is for creating a feeling of prestige, luxury, rarity, uniqueness, or superiority. But without context or supporting information to help the consumer understand what you’re saying, it might come off as confusing or shallow. This might frustrate your consumer, or worse, make them think your brand isn’t being completely open with them.

When writing about something that might be unfamiliar, try to picture your ideal consumer. Would they have heard of this before? If so, where or how? Do they understand it in the same way you do? Or is this totally new to them? If there is any doubt, you should add more information to contextualise it. At the end of the day, if what you’re claiming is truthful (based on strong evidence) and understandable to the average consumer, you’re well on your way to making a genuinely transparent statement.

Adapt with the times

There was a kerfuffle between Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the content marketing industry. The TGA announced changes to its rules around influencer marketing and advertising, stating that Australian influencers cannot provide paid testimonials for therapeutic products such as sunscreens and acne products. This change sent content marketers and influencers into a tailspin. They were concerned it meant that influencers can’t say anything about these kinds of products. Easing the sting a little, the TGA clarified influencers can still endorse or promote these kinds of products for payment – but they can’t refer to their personal experiences. So how does an influencer, whose personal experiences are tantamount to their content, achieve this?

This situation is a great example of how important it is for brands to adapt their beauty copywriting to reflect best practices. It allows content marketers and influencers to think more creatively and strategically. When your peers are faced with the same setback at the same time, how will you do things differently?

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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