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Green beauty brands in English: Five common mistakes that make an ugly impression

blog / October 19, 2017

Green beauty products have never been more popular. According to the organic skincare school Formula Botanica, the global market for natural and organic beauty products is expected to double between 2016 and 2024. So it makes sense for green beauty brands to have their packaging, websites and other marketing materials in English.

But mistakes in English can make a great brand seem incompetent or unreliable. Here are five English mistakes I keep noticing when I’m shopping for green beauty products from German-speaking countries.

1 Bio / biological It’s surprising how often the German term biologisch is mistranslated. It should be ‘organic’ in English. ‘Biological’ and ‘bio’ relate to biology or living organisms, or to cleaning products such as detergents that use enzymes.

2 Without silicons Many brands make this claim, including one of Germany’s biggest organic cosmetics companies. The German Silizium is ‘silicon’, and Silikon is ‘silicone’. It’s easy to confuse the two terms in English. But it’s really important to get it right.

3 Peeling ‘Peelings’ don’t exist in the English-speaking world. The correct English term depends on what’s in the product, so the translator should check first. It could be an exfoliator, scrub, exfoliating cream, liquid exfoliant or peel (without the ‘–ing’).

4 Caring Pflegend is a lovely way to describe a cream that nourishes the skin. But the adjective ‘caring’ means ‘displaying kindness and concern for others’. I’m guessing that your cream doesn’t have human emotions (!), so it’s better to use words such as ‘nourishing’ or ‘hydrating’. Or you could change the sentence structure to something like ‘This night cream nourishes your skin…’

5 Day care This is a mistranslation of Tagespflege that sounds odd when used for a personal care product. In English: ‘day care’ or ‘daycare’ only refers to daytime care, usually for children. You can call Tagespflege ‘moisturiser’. You can go more general and use ‘skincare’. Or you can go more specific: is it a day cream? A lotion? A serum?

Do a few small errors really matter?

Absolutely. If you want international customers to choose your brand over your competitors, you must make it easy for them to understand what they’re buying and how to use the products. This means your English copy should be clear and accurate, whether it’s on your website, in your brochures or on your packaging.

Otherwise, potential customers will notice that you’ve skimped on translation and copywriting, and they might wonder where else you’ve cut corners. If you want people to trust your products enough to put them on their skin, you must make it clear that you’re responsible and reliable.

What’s more, green beauty products are aspirational products for many people, so customers want to have a pleasant experience. Make them feel welcome and valued by using lovely, natural, easy-to-understand language – and make it easy for customers to love your brand.

How can you avoid mistakes in your English copy?

Simple: work with an expert. For your marketing materials, it’s best to find someone who specialises in marketing translation or copywriting and is familiar with the kind of products you sell. And you’ll need a chemistry expert for ingredients lists and technical content. If you decide to work with a translation agency, ask for confirmation that the person who’ll be working on your texts really understands marketing and beauty products and is able to write for your target audience.

Any questions? Contact me.

© 2017, Eleanor Toal


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