Beauty copywriting clichés we can move on from now.
When it comes to brand copywriting, there’s a pitfall that even the most skilled among us must fight to avoid: the urge to write a certain way because it’s how you’ve seen it done before. If I’m doing copywriting, I want to sound like a copywriter, right? No, you don’t. You want to sound like your brand having a natural conversation with your customer. Of course it’s important to present as current and clued-in. You need to be a part of the conversation and culture of your industry, but if your brand is at all interesting, it shouldn’t sound like everyone else.
Certain industries are more susceptible to cliché because they are trend-based. Last year, we identified a list of overused words in fashion eCommerce, and now we’re pointing out the language we’d love to not see anymore in beauty content. We’re pretty sure we’re not alone when we say the following words and phrases are on our nerves. Let’s try to start talking about hair, skin and makeup without them.
DEWY… This has become a legitimate finish descriptor along the lines of “matte” or “luminous.” But, outside of immediate product copy, we can definitely put to rest the image of a maiden who feel asleep in a field of lilies at mid-spring. Moisture and radiance are strong indicators of youth and health, and absolutely to be desired, but it would behoove all of us to move on and find a fresh (no pun intended) way of expressing the effect.
FRENCH-GIRL… It is almost always good advice to do as the French do: have well-behaved children, live in an apartment with crown molding, be sexier than ever at 45, spend 50 percent of your income on skin care products and sleep with whomever you want. However, calling classically chic looks “French-girl” is so over it needs a new word for over. C’est fini.
COOL-GIRL… The ubiquity of this one is pure dramatic irony, because whenever you say “cool-girl,” you immediately sound like you’re not one, and why would we take makeup tips from a huge dork? Coolness is like fanciness. As soon as you make the declaration, it ceases to be so. A better way to look at it is that good = cool. Cool is automatically codified into anything interesting and effective. So don’t say this is the eyeliner the cool girls are wearing. Just tell us why we need it.
SWEARS BY… No one puts her right hand on a retinol product and promises to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Not even Kim Kardashian West. Of course we want to know what her go-to nude lipstick is (try the one Charlotte Tilbury created in her name), but framing it in this dramatic way, like makeup is a goddamned religion? It’s been done. A lot. Like, every day.
YOUR SKIN WILL THANK YOU… In the fluorescent-lit Manhattan office of a mainstream women’s magazine, circa 1965, a Peggy Olson-esque career girl sat at her IBM Selectric and typed out this phrase for the first time. Maybe it was for an article about how many glasses of water a lady should drink per day to achieve that magical, husband-finding glow. It’s actually a clever personification of a human organ, conjuring the image of a happy, grateful, content dermis. Except now it’s tired, aging, wrinkling, drying up. Let it die with dignity.
TRESSES… Perhaps the most difficult thing about copywriting is the constant challenge to express common concepts in fresh ways. If you’re a beauty blogger, that goes double, because there is a finite number of topics here: skin, nails, eyes, lips, body, hair, maybe diet and fitness. Plus, you have to write headlines and deks that read rhythmically and don’t repeat the same words too many times. But when you choose a weird synonym for a body part, one that nobody uses in everyday speech, you just look like you clicked over to Thesaurus.com. Anyone can do that.
BASIC… Since about 2012, it’s been a flood of pity for old people who green light the use of this word to describe products or collections. It’s been overused so much, it’s not only lost its meaning, it’s actually changed meaning. At least for the time being, it connotes something millennials will avoid like their parents on Facebook — being super obvious and culturally unaware. This word is now covered with warts. Don’t touch it.
A RED LIP… This is one of those phrases that originally signified “insider” quite effectively. It was the beauty industry equivalent of fashionistas calling pants “a pant” or music nerds calling a song a “track.” You sounded cool and knowledgeable referring to a classic look in this clipped, backstage-at-fashion-week way. But the ubiquity of the look itself during the current decade has definitely forced this phrase into trite territory. Now, you sound basic AF if you say this, especially with the word “perfect” inserted. Just say “red lipstick” or “red lips.”