If anything good brought us the month of February, apart from Valentine’s Day (for some, of course), it is that it took away the post-holiday depression that Christmas left us with the arrival of the long-awaited and colorful carnival. As we have seen recently, the streets have been stained with color, and so have the faces and attire of all those who challenged the cold by going out into the streets in their best clothes, dances and decorations. In carnival it is almost impossible to meet a person in disguise who has not used some cosmetic to characterize his disguise, and the truth is that these products have a magical elixir that makes them not only used in carnivals, but also thousands of people use them during the rest of the year.
What do we mean by cosmetic products?
The word “cosmetic” is used to define one of the disciplines of the health sciences, which arose with the aim of creating products that maintain the skin in good condition, beautify it, improve body contours or preserve the hair. The etymological origin of this concept is found in the Greek, where the union of the word cosmos (beauty and order) and the suffix ico (relative to) form the noun. Although more and more brands are now joining in the manufacture of this type of product, the truth is that this discipline has existed for many years. In fact, the science of archaeology has shown that in ancient Egypt (around 4,000 B.C.), the first cosmetics appeared in the form of moisturizing oil, which were used as a protector against the sun’s rays.
Of all the types of cosmetics that we can find, the best known are the following: hygiene, conditioning, decoration and treatment cosmetics. In addition, in its use we also find subcategories: cosmetics for domestic use and cosmetics for professional use. With regard to possible textures, we are also faced with a wide range of possibilities: emulsions, suspensions, gels, foams, aerosols, sprays, solids in bars, pencils or tablets, powders, and a long list of others. Therefore, we are dealing with a branch whose product ranges include an infinite number of varieties.
The label of a cosmetic: suggestive names and small print
Although the components of a cosmetic product may vary, the fact is that there are a number of sections on the product packaging that must be inserted and, therefore, that we will find on all the copies, whatever the brand may be. We have looked at the kind of information we can find on such a common product as body milk, and this has been the result:
As shown in the image, the packaging is made up of a series of graphic elements that belong to the product’s packaging, icons whose information is the same for all the packaging and a part of the text in which we find, on the one hand, the description of the product and, on the other, the ingredients that make it up. The insertion of the latter (INCI description – International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) is more than mandatory, as we all have the right to know the integrity of the elements that make up a cosmetic product in case, in front of any of them, we may have some allergy. As we can see, since most of these terms are chemical products, understanding them can be difficult for any consumer with basic notions of chemistry (and that, if he or she has them). However, this does not mean that a cosmetics company should not be responsible for the correct translation of the elements that make up the product. In addition to finding this information on labels, we may also come across more commercial expressions that describe some of the properties of the product or are intended to attract attention, as we see in the side image. Obviously, these expressions must also be correctly translated, respecting the connotation of the message as much as possible.
Cosmetic translation: making up the words, but with scientific rigor
In the face of such complex terminology as that of the chemical industry, translation agencies have no choice but to look for the best resources to provide the most reliable translation possible. To this end, what we do at YBD is to incorporate translators who are specialized in specific areas into the corresponding project. That is to say, if a company knocks on our door requesting the translation of a facial cream package into English, French and German, the main thing for us is not going to be to translate it into these languages (which also) but to find the translator who, in addition to being fluent in these languages, knows for sure what terminology to use. Therefore, before collaborating with our translators, we take care of categorizing them to find the key in the shortest time possible and with maximum effectiveness.
Another aspect that we also do not want to forget to mention in the cosmetic translation is the treatment of the packaging (product packaging). We are talking about products that, at the end of the day, sell beauty and physical and emotional well-being. Therefore, we know first-hand that cosmetic products take care of even the smallest detail in their packaging: ergonomic packaging, sophisticated designs and typographies that reflect the brand’s corporate identity. At this point, it must be said that in the translation of cosmetics we respect the distribution of graphic elements as much as possible. To do this, we use computer systems that insert the translation into the original layout, respecting the design and visual composition of the product.
On the other hand, thanks to the translation memory system, it is possible to translate a line of products repeatedly over time and retrieve not only texts already translated, but also the terminology used in a matter of seconds. This system works as a database that stores the texts of all the translations ordered by a client, and offers the possibility of obtaining future translations with a saving of time and money. In addition, it contributes to a corporate image that is not only visual, but also linguistic.
Cosmetics translation…Only in the packaging?
We don’t want to finish the article without tiptoeing through the advertising translation of cosmetic products. Of all the ads that can be seen in a TV commercial break, most of them belong to cosmetic products. This is closely related to what we were saying just now: they are products that seek to convey beauty, safety and well-being, and what better way to do this than through advertising and its great persuasive power? Beauty companies have noticed this and, especially large brands, invest large amounts of money in advertising campaigns.
The advertising translation of a cosmetic product is a double challenge for translation companies: on the one hand, we must take into account the appropriate terminology and, on the other hand, respect the connotation of the advertising message regardless of the target language. The latter is a challenge when you consider that translating words can be relatively easy, but what about meanings? Polysemy has always been the enemy of advertising messages, and it is also the enemy of those of us who work in translation.
So, after having assimilated all this information, we invite you to take a look at the packaging of the cosmetic products you are going to use and ask yourself the following question: is the brand making it easy for me to understand their components?