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10 Weird Things I Learned as a Beauty Copywriter

Like the secret smell of Play-Doh and what all those symbols on your skin care bottles mean.

Copywriting is boring. I mean, to me it’s fascinating because it’s my job: I’ve spent the last few years writing everything from snack food billboard ads to high fashion product copy for agencies and brands here in New York City. But to anyone who doesn’t work in marketing or advertising, it’s boring. No one wants to hear about “email blasts” at a party – that is the least exciting kind of “blast.”

Beauty copywriting is an exception. When you say your job is naming lip glosses or body lotion – which at times, I’ve been lucky enough to do – people actually want to hear more about it. And in the process, I’ve picked up as many as TEN non-boring facts about beauty products, which I will now share with you:

Look for the “-ing”

Generally, products with “-ing” claims have to undergo more testing. So a lotion that says it’s “moisturizing” has been tested for that claim; a lotion “with moisture orbs!” hasn’t. “-ing” products actually have to do stuff.

Why no SPF?

Have you ever wondered why more skincare doesn’t have SPF? It’s because testing SPF products takes a looooong time. SPF products also have to be sold in the exact same containers they were tested in – so if a beauty company decides they want to change the color of the pump on an SPF moisturizer, they have to test it all over again.

This is the "What all those little symbols mean" section:

That thing that looks like a hatbox with “6M,” “12M” or “24M” stamped on it

This product will expire in six months (or 12 months, or 24 months) after you open it. All eye products supposedly expire six months after you open them, but the eyeliner at the bottom of my purse says differently.

The fancy “e”

It goes next to weight claims over 5ml, letting you know you’re really getting as much product as the label says. “This is totally 125ml! You can trust me.” – Fancy E

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Book with hand

You’ve purchased something tiny and adorable, like a lip gloss, so they couldn’t fit all the required information on the product. It’s somewhere else on the packaging – maybe in a leaflet?


This product is flammable, so don’t chain smoke and hairspray your bouffant at the same time, Betty Draper.

Eau de Doh

“Play-Doh smell” is heliotrope, which is why scents with heliotrope may remind you of third grade. (Editor's note: We finally figured you out, Demeter Play-Doh fragrance!)

Your nostrils disagree

You smell scents slightly differently in each nostril. According to science, it’s because you have differing airflow rates on each side. Read the fascinating Stanford nose study here.

Note vs. accord

If you’ve ever read a description of a perfume’s scent, you may wonder what the difference is between a “note” and an “accord.” A note is a single scent, like “cinnamon.” An accord is a blend of several notes – cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg could be a “pumpkin pie accord.”

Doe, not a deer

There are lots of weird beauty industry terms, but this is my favorite: the classic lip gloss wand is called a “doe foot.” 

Want more fascinating insights on the world of beauty copywriting? You can follow me on Twitter here.