Shopping dictionary

Hello everyone! While most of us are familiar with these terms flying around all the time and pasted on the back of so many products on the actual and virtual shelves, from time to time we may forget what they actually stand for. Here’s a quick ready reckoner for the terms that many of our shopping choices contain. Do write in to me if I’ve forgotten to add any of them which you consider are important.

Here we go:

Paraben: according to this resource Parabens are a manmade preservatives, created in a lab and most widely added to the cosmetics and personal care products we use. They help in stopping fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favourite products, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.

It doesn’t stop at just cosmetics, though; these preservatives are also used to enhance the shelf life of various food and drugs, so paraben dangers are also present when eaten or consumed as medicine. Read this article for more information. Common foods that contain parabens include:

  • Dried meats
  • Cereal-based snacks
  • Processed vegetables
  • Pickles
  • Jams and sauces
  • Frozen dairy products
  • Desserts
  • Beer and soft drinks

Sulphates: Sulfates are chemicals used as cleansing agents. They’re found in household cleaners, detergents, and even shampoo. Sulfates are synthetic ingredients partially based on sulfur, which is derived from petrolatum or other sources. Read this article for more details.

The ingredients are most commonly found in personal products and cleaning agents such as:

  • liquid soap
  • shampoos
  • laundry detergents
  • dish detergents
  • toothpaste
  • bath bombs

The amount of sulphates in a product depends on the manufacturer. It can range from small amounts to almost 50% of the product

Cruelty-Free: In the animal rights movement, cruelty-free is a label for products or activities that do not harm or kill animals anywhere in the world.

The fastest and easiest way to spot whether a product is cruelty-free or not is by looking for a certified cruelty-free bunny logo on product packaging. You can oftentimes find it on the back of products or labels, however, make sure you’re looking for one of the 3 official cruelty-free bunny logos 

Cruelty-free” can be used to imply that:

  • Neither the product nor its ingredients have ever been tested on animals. This is highly unlikely however, as almost all ingredients in use today have been tested on animals somewhere, at some time, by someone  and could be tested again.
  • While the ingredients have been tested on animals, the final product has not.
  • The manufacturer itself did not conduct animal tests but instead relied on a supplier to test for them  or relied on another company’s previous animal-test results.
  • The testing was done in a foreign country, where laws protecting animals might be weaker than in the U.S.
  • Either the ingredients or the product have not been tested on animals within the last five, ten, or twenty years (but perhaps were before, and could be again).

Vegan: A product that is vegan does not contain any animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients. This includes, but is not limited to, honey, beeswax, lanolin, collagen, albumen, carmine, cholesterol, gelatin, and many others.

To many, the term “vegan” also means that a product is free from animal testing as well. Because the term is not regulated, it is often used to simply note that a product does not contain animal ingredients. Items that are tested on animals can claim to be “vegan”. This is a very important distinction because a vegan product is not necessarily cruelty-free.

The easiest way to know if a product is vegan is to look for a label that says ‘Suitable For Vegans’ or a ‘Certified Vegan’ logo.

Sustainable: With respect to the cosmetics industry, “green” and “sustainable” cosmeticsare defined as cosmetic products using natural ingredients produced from renewable raw materials.

Many companies use petrochemical ingredients derived from petrol, a non-renewable and economically volatile resource. Read more here.

This is a good way to find out if a product is sustainable or has followed sustainable practices in the manufacturing.

Fair trade: A lot of products have ingredients which have fair trade written next to them. Fair trade is a movement that advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards.

It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.

It also means when producers in developing countries are paid a fair price for their work, by companies in developed countries. It’s when the price we pay for products gives enough to producers for them to afford life’s essentials – like food, education and healthcare. The FAIRTRADE Mark is a registered certification label for products sourced from producers in developing countries. The Mark is used only on productscertified in accordance with Fairtrade Standards and on promotional materials to encourage people to buy Fairtrade products.

These were just a few of the terms which are finding their way into our personal care products and other consumables. Now that you know more about them, let’s try and buy more items which cater to one or more of these and give the real producers their financial due and let’s also try to reduce our carbon footprint in the process.

Happy shopping all!

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