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Why Words are So Important When Shopping Natural Beauty

Why Words are So Important When Shopping Natural Beauty

Natural beauty is all about being good to your skin and body. Using the best, healthiest ingredients. Getting a glow that’s as naturally gorgeous as your products are good for you. Right?

Of course, using natural beauty IS healthy, and better for you and the enviro. And yes, it IS all about the highest quality, natural and organic ingredients. So what the living heck do words have to do with all of this?


Words are the first tip off to who you can trust, and who you can’t.


If you’ve even tip toed around the natural beauty world, you know that not all brands are as pure as they’d like you to believe. Yep, greenwashers have always been (and still are!) a big ugly zit on the face of healthy beauty products.

Why? Money, honey. The natural beauty biz is a-boomin’ and folks want in. For a more in depth look at how this looks in today’s natural beauty climate, check out an article I wrote for Organic Authority with the help of some of the most authentic natch beauty brand founders around.

Back to those faux naturals. It’s all about marketing and most greenwashers are good at it. They use words that make them seem super natural and nontoxic and hot button phrases that catch consumer attention. Once you get the hang of how these posers work, you’ll be on your way to identifying fakes in a flash and stick with supporting the authentic brands who make the planet a better place for all of us.

Think words can’t possibly sway your view of a product so easily? Think of it this way. You meet up with a new acquaintance for coffee. She seems super nice, smiles a ton, and makes appropriate eye contact. But once you are seated and sipping your coconut milk latte, she can’t quit complaining. She looks sweet, her expression is happy, but she’s bitching and bashing to no end. Would you overlook her words and set up another coffee date simply because she looks good on the outside? Please tell me you would not.

You choose friends based on what’s on the inside. You should do the same with your beauty products. That cool label means nothing compared to what a product is truly made of, and hopefully that’s healthy ingredients.

Words to Look Out for on Natural Beauty Product Labels

Natural — I know, I know. We ARE talking about natural beauty products here. Is it really so weird that the word would appear in product marketing? The problem with the word natural is that it has no legal definition, and is flung far and wide on beauty product labels. Don’t put stock in a product that is merely labeled as “natural”.

Organic — This one seems like a no brainer, right? Organic is good, but it’s the other ingredients comingling with the organic ingredients you need to be concerned with. If a product is labeled “100% Organic” you can trust it is made entirely with organic ingredients. Otherwise, more investigating is required to ensure a product is toxin free.

Pure — Again, no legal definition. This one can be spotted on authentically healthy products and those who simply want to appear that way.

Paraben Free (or Phthalate Free, Petroleum Free…(you get the picture) — A decent marketer knows which ingredients have made the most headlines and will grab consumer attention. A product can be free from parabens or phthalates or petrolatum or any other nasty ingredient and still contain other toxins.

The moral of this story? Read ingredients listings. Check out a brand’s story and commitment. Follow and support brands who back up their labeling with clear information, and have values that align with your own.

Best Places to Find (and Ways to Use) Stock Photos for Your Beauty Site

Does the phrase “stock photos” turn you off? Not all that long ago, stock phots were basically those Shutterstock-y, unnatural, fake poses of overly perfect looking people doing ordinary things with a much too happy disposition.

Not only is it hard to keep things real when using those types of photos, but who wants their blog to look like the next person’s? Not me and not you!

Good thing for us, stock photos are not what they used to be. You can get beautiful images that match your brand aesthetic, and that are totally customizable too.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Well, not so much a secret if you scroll back through to some of my older posts, but … I used to try to take my own pics. Not gonna lie, it was cringey then and still is.

See, I once thought that in order to be good at running a website, you had to know how to do it all. And this included creating graphics and making your own images. Thankfully, today we solopreneurs are embracing our best attributes and hiring out the rest.

You wouldn’t fix your own car if you knew nothing about mechanics, right? Well, why wouldn’t that same level of professionalism go for the images you use with your business? There are people who are beyond great at creating gorgeous photos. Let them do what they do best. It not only makes your site, blog, social media, and emails look hella better, but keep things simple so you can do what you do.

My 4 Favorite Stock Photos Sites for Beauty and Lifestyle Brands

As you may have guessed, I like images that fit in with the beauty theme. Of course, they also have to match my site design and brand aesthetic. Most often I like images that speak for themselves, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to add text too.

There are three sites that are my go-tos for choosing images. They can be found here on the pages of OBS, at the top of most of my blog posts, in my emails, and even on my Instagram account. These gals make it super easy and their skills are over-the-top awesome.

1.Social Squares: Created by Shay Cochrane of The SC Stockshop, this vast (and growing all the time) collection of easily searchable images are tailor made for your social media, but can be used anywhere you like. They are simple and versatile. When I hop over to SS, I usually search by color or item, like “gold”, “glasses”, or “green leaves”. And you can’t go wrong at $6 an image.

2. TwigyPosts: These classic, natural images are soft and neutral with a bit of warmth. Also totally modern and a bit romantic. Shop by individual image or super affordable photo bundles.

3. Haute Stock: Clean, crisp images that are perfect for modern biz woman office vibe. This membership site offers a YouTube tutorial library that shows you how to do pretty much anything you can think of with stock images, from creating a pop-up graphic to customizing photos in Canva.

4. Styled Stock Society: Beautiful and bright images that work for beauty, lifestyle, wedding, and female business owner brands. I discovered this brand through the creators of my website theme Bluchic, also a fabulous resource for solopreneurs who love gorgeous stuff. Shop bundles and great sale prices, or grab yourself a membership.

No matter where you get your stock images, be sure to read the company license agreement to ensure you stay within the boundaries of proper use. The four I’ve listed above can be used pretty much however you see fit, other than on items you intend to sell or give your customers, like in a digital download or something. ALSO, all three offer free images monthly and they are always gooood!

Now go get yourself some pretty new pics!

Image :: Styled Stock Society

How to Write Copy That Meets FTC Compliance

How to Write Copy That is FTC Compliant

One thing that is universal in the beauty industry right now? Concern over Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. Big name companies like Goop coming under fire for misleading advertising has been a wake up call for small businesses and large retailers. Do you know how to write your own copy and make sure it meets FTC compliance?

Even if you hire most of your copywriting work done for you, there will still be times when you need to come up with some brand words on your own. And when you do, it’s handy to know how to write in a way that is FTC compliant.

The problem with FTC compliance is that all of this is pretty ambiguous. I called both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the FTC to get the down and dirty on writing copy for natural beauty brands and retailers (that is my bread + butter, after all), and after being rerouted several times and turned down for comment once (!) I did get some decent info and have since compiled my own guide to writing for FTC compliance.

So, today I am sharing with you my guidelines on staying out of trouble with the FTC when writing for your website, email campaign, or social media, while still sounding like a real human being.

How to Write Your Own Copy That is FTC Compliant (A Guide to Keeping You Out of Trouble)

I’ll shoot it to you straight — this subject gets pretty in depth. In other words, there’s a legit learning curve here. I’ve spelled it out below as concisely as possible. Believe me, it is worth it to learn the ins and outs of this stuff.

What is FTC compliance? First of all, it’s helpful to understand what’s behind these regulations. The FDA regulates cosmetic product labeling. The FTC regulates cosmetic marketing and advertising, which includes product description and sales pages, blog posts, printed materials, social media, and how product ingredient, products, and uses are described. Yes, you read that right, social media posts count too. (that’s one tidbit I did get out of a representative at the FDA)


The FTC pays closest attention to ads that make claims about health and safety, like “this sunscreen will reduce the risk of skin cancer”.


Many brands run into trouble with misleading claims. Remember, according to the FDA definition of a cosmetic product, it cannot claim to treat or prevent disease, or affect or alter the structure or functions of the human body in any way. The FTC pays closest attention to ads that make claims about health and safety, like “this sunscreen will reduce the risk of skin cancer”.

Another hot button area for the FTC is with essential oils and aromatherapy claims. Steer clear of saying that EOs will help your customer sleep, get rid of anxiety, quit smoking, get rid of headaches … you get the picture.

Even if you aren’t making anti-cancer claims, it is still important to stick with FTC regulations when writing about cosmetics. Claims that a product will eliminate wrinkles, prevent acne, cure rosacea, or anything else that does more than affect the appearance or feel of skin or hair is considered misleading advertising.

What you can say: Under FDA rule, cosmetics can beautify, cleanse, promote attractiveness, and alter the appearance. In order to stay within FTC guidelines, it’s important to tell the story of the product in terms of how it makes the skin, hair, and body look, feel, and smell.

How do you keep from writing copy that sounds awkward or boring? This is a good question and one I’ve been asked by clients before taking on a project. Remember, tell the story. If you were to use a facial serum, how does it feel in your hands when you apply it to your skin, how does it make your skin feel, how does it smell, how does your skin look right after you apply the product, how does your skin look after using the product for a couple of weeks?

The bottom line is consumer perception. After reading your product description, will the consumer feel the product is intended to make their skin look radiant and youthful, or that it’s going to eliminate wrinkles and reverse aging? There’s a big difference when it comes to FTC compliance.

How natural is it? The terms “100% natural” and “all natural” are also no-nos when writing for FTC compliance. You can say that organic ingredients are organic, or that organic or natural ingredients are used to make the product. But because the term “natural” has no legal definition, all natural and 100% natural should be avoided.

A Snapshot of Dos and Don’ts to Use In Your Copy

Don’t Say These:

Eases pain/disease/skin issue
Prevents pain/disease/skin issue
Heals pain/disease/skin issue
Treats pain/disease/skin issue
Helps sleep/stop smoking/lose weight
Kills bacteria
Controls oil production

Do Say These:

Cleanses skin/hair
Conditions skin/hair
Moisturizes skin/hair
Lessens/diminishes the feeling of…
Lessens/diminishes the look/appearance of…
Improves the look/appearance of…
Makes skin look better
Reduces signs of …
Makes skin feel better
Beautifies

Yes, it’s a lot to take in and it’s a lot of work, not gonna lie. But since you can get your fanny in a jam by not taking time to figure this out, it’s the only way to go when writing any ad copy for your business.

Have questions? Get in touch and I will help guide you on your path to writing for FTC compliance.

How to Write Copy for Your Brand (The Formula I Use for My Clients)

How to Write Copy for Your Brand

Branding. It’s all about creating a cohesive and memorable experience for your followers. Know what is one of the most important elements in any brand? Your words. Yep, they should be as consistent as your brand colors, fonts, and images. Today I’m sharing my formula to teach you how to write copy for your brand that is 100% YOU!

Writing in your own voice seems like it should be easy, right? Then you imagine it going out to your followers and you think twice about that snarky line or slang term. Or maybe your voice is inconsistent. As in, sometimes you write in a casual, creative way, and other times you tend to sound more by the book.

The best way to keep you on the same track when writing your own copy is to have a formula. A guide that you can refer to that keeps your words sounding like your brand.

How to Write Copy for Your Brand

My Formula for Creating Cohesive Brand Copy

 

  • When I take on a new client, the first thing I do is have them give me a few words or phrases that they feel best describes their brand. I may or may not use the actual words in their copy, but they definitely give me a vibe to base things on.
  • Next up, I ask them for any keyword terms or tags that they would like included in the copy I write for them. These are usually well researched and highly important to the brand.
  • Third, I work up a voice and tone. Most often brands will have an idea on this already. If not, I give them an idea on voice and tone for their copy based on the description they give of their brand.
  • I also like to know the main demographic a brand works with. Who reads their blog, follows them on social media, and subscribes to their list? Are they thirty to forty year old mothers who are strapped for time? Are they twenty-somethings with less disposable income? Are they 50-ish and looking for high-end items that make them feel fabulous? It’s important to dial in on your target audience before you start writing.

If you are wondering how the heck you are supposed to make all of that happen, let me break it down for you. Fill in the blanks below and you are on your way to creating your own brand copy formula.

4 Key Elements to Creating Your Brand Copy (Fill In the Blank)

1. Your Brand Terms and Phrases: Which three words or phrases best describe your brand? Do you feel your brand is authentic? Luxe? A catalyst for change? A mother’s best friend? Try to think of how you want the user of your products, services, or site to feel.

 


2. Your Brand Keywords and Tags: You probably know which keywords and tags are most important to your brand for use on your site, blog, and social media. If not, head on over to Google Analytics keyword analyzer and get busy.

 


3. Your Brand Voice and Tone: These two terms are thrown around a lot in terms of copywriting. But what are they, really? Voice is your brand’s overall personality, while tone is the feel of your brand. For instance, my brand voice is straightforward and knowledgeable. My brand tone is casual and fun. I like to communicate my message in clear terms that are backed up with experience and know how, but in a way that is relatable with a bit of slang thrown in. Make sense?

 


4. Your Brand Demographic: You know who you are dealing with. Jot down the demo!

 


Now, follow these guidelines whenever you write any copy for your brand. From product descriptions, to emails, to that new downloadable guide you are wanting to write. This way you will have a professional brand that conveys your important message, and your followers will recognize you in a heartbeat.

There you have it. My formula for writing cohesive brand copy. Not feeling the DIY method? Get in touch so we can talk how to create your brand copy!

Is Fresh Copy On Your New Year’s Resolution List?


Is Fresh Copy On Your New Year's Resolution List?

I’ve had my nose so buried in client work lately and getting things tied up for the end of the year, that I almost forgot I have a blog of my own! I didn’t really forget about it but, as you online biz owners can probably relate, my own blog often gets the least of my attention.

It’s still here, I promise, and I am currently booking for next year. If you are a natural beauty brand or retailer and fresh copy for your site is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, let’s get you penciled in and start setting up a plan for your project.

Not sure exactly what your project looks like or if you need help at all? We can set up a Free Discovery Session for your site and see what may need to be brushed up.

Some things that you may need help with in the copy department:

FTC compliance — Did you know FTC advertising regulations apply to your product descriptions, information pages, ebooks, etc? You can learn more about FTC regulations and how to comply here, or feel free to shoot me a message for more info.

Product descriptions — You retailers aren’t using the brand description on your site, are you? And you product creators, do your descriptions share the full experience? If not, it’s time to get some super juicy product descriptions rolling on your site.

Standard Pages — Did you know this is one of the first places your visitors go when they get to your site? Whether you have decent About and Commitment pages that need a brush up, or haven’t gotten around to those yet, I can help. For now, feel free to use my Ingredients to Avoid page. All I ask is that you give me credit with a link back to my site.

Let’s get one thing checked off your to do list for next year and set up a time to talk more about your copy needs. Send me a message to get things started.

 

Image via Haute Stock Photography

How To Avoid the Writing Errors That Put Gwyneth Paltrow Under Investigation

How To Avoid the Writing Errors That Put Gwyneth Paltrow Under Investigation

Uh-oh. Looks like Gwyneth Paltrow is getting some public flogging over her health and wellness website, Goop, once again. She’s taken flack over the sometimes silly-seeming products she promotes, but this time it’s not coming from consumers and bloggers. Or even Martha Stewart.

It looks like Goop may be in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Those of us who are beauty bloggers recognize these guys as the ones who make us put up those disclaimers telling our audience things like “this post is sponsored by …” or “there are affiliate links in this post from which I receive a small compensation”. Yep, if you’ve ever wondered why we bother with those obtrusive disclaimers, it’s the FTC.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) governs cosmetic labeling, the FTC regulates advertising claims. This includes product descriptions on brand websites.

As a beauty copywriter I am very familiar with FTC regulations. Basically, when marketing a cosmetic product for sale you cannot describe the product as altering or affecting the structure or function of a human body, or curing or preventing disease or health issues. In the eyes of the FDA, drugs do those things, cosmetics do not.

Even if I absolutely swear a client product has done something amazing to my skin, like made it firmer or erased a wrinkle, I can’t say that in the product description I write for them. It has to be all about making the skin look and feel more attractive. That’s the law.

But it looks like the copywriting team at Goop missed the memo. I love to read the health articles at Goop and Jean Godfrey-June has long been my beauty editor idol. The problem isn’t with the articles recommending products or remedies, it’s when health claims are used to market the products, as in product descriptions on sales pages.

For example, one of the products in question is a flower essence blend that can be used on the skin for “trauma repair”. The trouble spot is “this formula helps clear, stabilize and soothe emotional trauma.” They could have said “this formula lends a feeling of clarity, stability, and soothing to emotional trauma.” (I’m also a fan of the Oxford comma 😉) or “designed to offer a clear, stabilized, and soothing feeling to mind and body.” Either of those would have worked with FTC law but making health claims is the no-no.

Another example is a moisturizer on the site that is said to “work throughout the day to firm and rejuvenate the skin.” It can “give the feeling of firmer, rejuvenated skin” or “increase the appearance of firmer, rejuvenated skin” under FTC law, but it cannot claim to physically alter the skin.

If all of this is a bit too word nerd for you, the main issue is this. If you read any cosmetic product advertising that claims to improve your health or the actual structure of your skin, it is in violation of FTC laws. Authentic natural beauty brands know this and product descriptions that follow FTC regulations are proof you are dealing with a pro.

If you are a natural beauty brand or shop owner who would like help coming up with product descriptions that won’t get you in trouble with the FTC, contact me. It can be tricky to work within these guidelines and not repeat the same words and phrases over and over. I’m well versed in FTC laws and would love to help you put together fresh product descriptions that are as creative as they are legal. Let’s talk!

Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

Shop Talk :: Product Descriptions That Make Shoppers Want to BUY

Product Descriptions That Make Shoppers Want to BUY

Shop Talk is a series on helping organic beauty professionals get their products into the hands of people who will love them and share their message with the world.

I look at organic beauty websites. Like, a lot.

Not only because I am way into organic beauty, which I am, but because I write about organic beauty five days a week. Ok, sometimes six.

There are certain sites I go to constantly. Others I check in with once in a while. And then those that I want to like, but…don’t.

Why? It’s not the products they sell or the way the site looks (pretty beauty sites are a must!). It’s the words. Or lack of.

When you are looking at beauty products online, the experience is dramatically different than when you are shopping in real life. Duh, right? Hear me out here.

Beauty products are used on your face, your body, your hair…You want to know what it feels like, what it smells like, how it makes your skin (hair, nails…) look. Who doesn’t open up a sealed bottle in store if there is no tester? I’ll totally cop to that on the reg.

So, the only way you can know what the product is like, how it feels, looks, and smells IRL, is through the words that are on the website. No words? Disappointment to the max.

And sometimes the words themselves are disappointing. A too generic or just plain blah product description is not, well, descriptive. C’mon, we want the deets, here.

So, what I am urging you shop owners and product creators to do is get some super ripe and juicy product descriptions on your site, pronto. Customers want to know if a product is floral or herbal, or citrusy, or even unscented. Is it lightweight or ultra rich? Does it feel velvety or quenching? Does it smell like a single crisp, chilled rose or like a walk through the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden on a freakin’ 90 degree day in June?? They want to know. And, most often, they want to know before they’ll buy.

When I write product descriptions for brands or shop owners, I request samples of select products. Not the entire product line-up but certain items to get the feel of the range, so I can tell visitors what the product is all about. Not just what it will do for their skin or hair, but what the experience is like.

So, do your customers and yourself a favor. Can the standard (read: boring) product descriptions and get to know the products you sell, then tell the world about them. And, I promise, I’ll visit your site.

Have trouble putting those mouth watering words together? Have the words but no time to get them down? Lucky for you, words are my thang and I’d absolutely love to help you with some fresh, juicy, super shop-able product descriptions. Get in touch!

Image :: William Iven at Unsplash.com

Shop Talk: Why It’s Important for Online Beauty Stores to Be Pretty

Why It's Important for Online Beauty Stores to Be Pretty

Shop Talk is a series on helping organic beauty professionals get their products into the hands of people who will love them, and share their message with the world.

Know why it’s important for online beauty store to be pretty? Other than the obvi, which is that a pretty shop is more fun to look at than a less attractive site.

Shows effort, yes. But what else?

The experience!

Ah yeah, we gals and guys who are into beauty love the feel of walking into a pretty little beauty shop. It is not just about the products stocked (thought that is why customers keep coming back!) it’s about the energy, the vibe, the whole package.

I recently wrote a story for EcoSalon on shopping organic brick + mortars in NYC. And most of the comments I received were centered around the gorgeousness of the shops.

Remember, when people shop online there are certain elements they miss out on. They can’t touch, apply, or smell the products. That’s where great descriptions and messaging come in, more on that in a minute. They also don’t get to experience the overall fun factor of physically being in a super cute shop.

The great news? This is so totally fixable. There’s no shortage of web designers out there creating beautiful sites. There are even templates designed just for women biz owners.

Like what you see here? I use Bluchic template Isabelle on OBS and had my header designed by How Sweet Designs. Very affordable and the look conveys exactly what I was going for…fresh + clean with a bit of glitz. If OBS were a store IRL, it would be all white with touches of gold and blushy pink, packed with the best organic beauty and tons of vivid information to help shoppers make their decisions. For reals, it might be a library or book shop since I’m more into the writing aspect, but for the sake of the theme here…

Now back to that messaging we touched on earlier. Sharing your products and message with people who come to your site is key. And it has to be done right. No clue where to begin? Check out these 3 things to keep in mind when crafting product descriptions.

Now you see why a pretty online shop is pretty important. Let me know if I can help. xxoo

Chemical Free Cosmetics :: Not All Bad

Chemical Free Cosmetics :: Not All Bad

I’ve seen a few articles lately and fielded some questions on the  whole chemical free cosmetics labeling issue. Following is my opinion on the subject. Feel free to love or hate.

Some green beauty experts feel labeling a cosmetic as “chemical free” is misleading because all ingredients, natural or synthetic, are chemicals.

Oh gosh. This reminds me of the kid in class who always (always!) had to pipe up when someone called white or black a color, and expound at length on why these two are not technically colors. We all already knew that, had heard it plenty of times, but still called white and black colors. Why? Because who says My new black dress is the perfect absence of light to go with my new shoes or I’m having trouble choosing the best shade of light for my bathroom.

Answer? No one.

Here’s the deal. We have to call them something. While I prefer the term “toxic” over “chemical” as a means to relay the harmfulness of certain cosmetic ingredients, I also get that people relate to the term “chemical”, so I use it often when I write about harmful ingredients. And toxic can be just as questionable. What constitutes a toxic cosmetic ingredient? Are all cosmetic ingredients on the avoid list toxic? … you get the picture.

Same with the term “natural.” Does it carry any true weight in terms of a safe product? Not really, but it is a term we use in the green (there’s another one) beauty industry. Natural Perfumes for Summer or Natural Makeup for Summer are better headlines than Synthetic Free Makeup for Summer. That last one is not going to get many hits and this means less good synthetic free beauty advice in front of eyes looking for healthy information.

We organic beauty experts have been making lists for over a decade now titled “Chemical Ingredients to Avoid”. Yes, we could easily begin calling them “Toxic Ingredients to Avoid” or “Toxins to Avoid in Cosmetics” or even “Unhealthy Cosmetic Ingredients.” That’d be fine with me.

But the real problem here is under regulation of cosmetics and personal care. We are on our own here, as consumers, and doing our best to protect ourselves from unhealthy junk, and purchase what’s best for us and our families.

Shooing shoppers away from products labeled “chemical free” entirely? I get the good behind this strategy and the desire to educate, but it is too soon for this. There are good, safe, high quality brands creating products they choose to call chemical free because it speaks to consumers. Is it sometimes misleading labeling used by less than safe companies? Yes. Always? No!

The best way to protect yourself from ingredients you wish to avoid is to familiarize yourself with potentially harmful ingredients and read ingredient listings.

Awareness surrounding toxic ingredients in cosmetics is much huger than it was a decade ago. This is good stuff. But, at least for now, I feel that shunning all cosmetics labeled “chemical free” is not only misleading to shoppers in general, but sort of like throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Yes, right now words like chemical, green, natural, and even organic are tossed around without a whole lot of street cred. This not only makes it harder for shoppers to know they are getting a safe product (remember: never trust the front label!), but difficult for truly safe brands to market their healthy products.

We are on the right path. Read labels, follow brands you trust, and ask questions.

Image :: Neill Kumar at Unsplash