Tag Archives: cosmetic copy translation

Translating the concept of empowerment in beauty

Empowerment marketing took the world of advertising by storm when, instead of simply pointing out inadequacy to create a need for a product, it showed that we can sell that same product in ways that make us better people and the world a better place.

Most areas of business quickly joined the growing movement and beauty is no exception.  Empowerment-related vocabulary has seeped into the brand communications of many cosmetic companies, at least in English.

Just in the last few months, we’ve had to translate copy for products such as:

  • eye shadows with “empowering shades”, created by makeup artists inspired by a “new generation of empowered women”;
  • hair dryers “packed with hair-empowering design duality”;
  • skincare touting its radical new approach to help “empower the skin”;
  • lip color that promises its wearer to “reveal who she truly is – an empowered girlfriend living a life full of happiness, love & success on her own terms”;
  • and brow enhancers that “empower her to become the woman she was meant to be” …

These are just a few examples of how decisively “empowerment” has become part of the beauty landscape.

Culturally, most languages have yet to adopt a single term for so many different contexts, a single term serving as a beacon of hope, a call to action to take control and surpass one’s own expectations – a push button of sorts that can be used to elicit a sense of feel-good transcendence.

In French, for example, there truly is no easy way to translate the above messages with a single term that would carry the same weight as “empowerment” in English.  Mademoizelle online may be promoting the use of “empouvoirement” but, for now, the term does not have the same rooted presence in the French language.  It is also nearly impossible to apply without raising eyebrows…

What translators are forced to do is resort to paraphrasing, which in and of itself is exactly what they must do.  The one thing they should not do, however, is ignore the importance that this term and this concept hold for American brands.

It can be argued that translating / transcreating beauty copy also requires an equal measure of localization to the target audience, which may or may not harbor the same level of concern for underscoring the possibility for human growth, for a woman’s right to live her life to the fullest and to feel strong and independent.

But as a translator you cannot skip over, blithely ignore or wish this part of the message away – especially when it reflects brand values and identity.  We must remember that exposure to foreign values and new ideas can be enriching and mind-opening even when buying hair gel (and why not?)!


#beauty20 Awards

We are pleased to share with everyone that one of our clients was named BEST BEAUTY STARTUP online 2018 by #beauty20 Awards.  Congratulations COTARDE!

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The #beauty 2.0 Awards was initiated in 2013 in Paris, followed by events in 2014 & 2015 in New York, London and Los Angeles. The awards are brought to you by INNOCOS events and praising the most ground-breaking innovation in digital marketing by beauty brands.

Mark your calendars for the next INNOCOS event: June 14-15, 2018, INNOCOS World, Grand Hotel Mediterraneo, Florence, Italy!


Saks Fifth Avenue and Japanese skincare leader Kosé Corporation team up to launch a new line of luxury skin care and color products under an exclusive distribution agreement.

Decorté is considered to be one of Asia’s best-kept skin care secrets. The brand combines ancient practices of Eastern medicine and technological innovation to produce revolutionary products based on nature, wisdom and advanced science.

Decorté will be available in Saks locations throughout the US and Canada, as well as on its website, starting in the spring of 2016. Supermodel Kate Moss will be a brand ambassador and the face of Decorté under a long-term partnership.

Kate Moss for Decorte


IXXI Laboratoires make skincare products featuring OPC PIN, an extraordinarily powerful anti-aging active ingredient derived from Landes Pine. Extracted from pine bark, this polyphenol-rich principle acts like a shield against external stress factors causing skin aging,

Patented OPC PIN used in IXXI skincare is derived exclusively from the Pine trees growing in the Gascony Landes forest, managed and renewed in the spirit of preserving natural resources.



MEET OUR CLIENT: Opale Laboratoires Monaco

Visuel-opale-labo copie

Opale Laboratoires Monaco offers unique secrets of nature in an exquisite range of skincare products. Designed to promote the lifestyle of Monaco throughout the world and to celebrate women who strive for excellence and authenticity, the Opale collection consists entirely of natural and organic ingredients.

Founders Pierre and Gregory Dewerpe achieved their vision in a purely natural way that brings together beauty, excellence and innovation – with absolutely no synthetic additives, silicone, mineral oils or parabens!


The stirring atmosphere at the International Esthetics, Cosmetics & Spa Conference (IECSC) New York 2012

IECSC 2012 Collage 2Back from Javits Center in NY, where beautyterm visited IECSC NY 2012.  On day two, the trade show was bustling with visitors and exhibitors alike.  One of the leading spa events in the United States, celebrating this year its 10th anniversary, the exhibit presented a rich tableau of all sorts of activity as we descended the escalators to enter the exhibit hall.

The exhibitor list included a wide variety of companies in the business, but we were most interested in skin care manufacturers.  The first brand that caught our attention, thanks to its massive, brightly lit stand was Repêchage, a US-made line of professional skin care sold in spas and resorts worldwide.  Sanitas Skincare is another American brand that immediately stood out in the crowd as we entered, probably owing to its very stylish and elegant look.

We had, of course, come to look specifically for our Parisian favorites Decléor and Carita.  Both stands were very busy, practically overrun by visitors, clamoring to find out about products and to benefit from discounts and special offers.  Carita representatives were especially gracious and took extra time to chat with us in the midst of all the flurry and rush.  They were also particularly photogenic as you can judge for yourselves (no photoshopping in the picture!)!

After our friendly chat at Carita, we continued our exploration up and down the exhibit hall, surrounded by throngs of men and women (mostly women) scurrying around in great excitement.  Some stands had salon, spa, massage and even teeth whitening equipment on display and were running demos.  Others showcased beautiful multi-colored makeup and nail accessories.

Many visitors walked away happy with a free facial or makeover, including our very own Head of Human Resources, who is a big fan of Sonya Dakar.  An American-made brand from Beverly Hills, Sonya Dakar is a recognized Hollywood staple among popular celebrities, including Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas, James Franco, Gwyneth Paltraw, Drew Barrymore, and many others.  Sonya Dakar introduced MicroVenom Daily Defense and Sun-Kissed Facial at the IECSC NY 2012.  Nate Dakar, co-founder and president of Sonya Dakar Skincare, was there on Monday, explaining the benefits of his famously luxurious, celebrity coveted line, and shaking hands with star-struck admirers like ourselves.

All in all, the conference provided a wonderful experience, infused with the inimitable vibrancy, vitality and energy of New York City you will find nowhere else in the world.  There were so many brands; we could not possibly name them all, but we would like to thank everyone who was kind enough to talk to us for their time and for their professionalism!  Special thanks go to Agnes at Aquafolia, the ladies at DermaSwiss, B.Kamins, Nelly Devuyst, dermalogica, glo professional, Physiodermie and to the entire family at VMV Ltd.

Congrès International d’Esthétique Appliquée 2012

BANNERFounded in 1957 and organized by Les Nouvelles Esthétiques Magazine, this professional trade show with a rich history is held in Paris on a yearly basis.  It brings in 250 exhibitors and showcases 650 brands of cosmetics, nail and hair care products, salon and spa equipment, and more.

Attendees to the show include professional beauticians, makeup artists, hair and nail salon as well as spa service providers, hairstylists, pharmacists and beauty and health store owners, physical therapists and body treatment experts.  In 2011, the event drew 23,000 visitors and this year the program offered 50 topical workshops and conferences.

Les Nouvelles Esthétiques & Spa sponsors four International Congress of Esthetics and Spa educational conferences in the US (in Miami Beach, Dallas, Long Beach and Philadelphia).

BeFunky Collage 1

The Invisible Glamour Superstar

I am always amused when people express star-struck admiration for what I do.  Translating cosmetic copy must sound a lot more appealing, especially to women, than it really is.  To non-translators, the concept has to play into their fantasies of the glamorous world of high fashions, fast cars, luxury goods, top models on glossy magazine covers and overpriced holidays.  Exclamations the likes of “How fun!  Do you get a lot samples?”and “You must be so excited to see your translations in print” are not uncommon.

sexy woman with typewriter

In reality, however, most of the marketing documents I receive for translation are “works in progress” that undergo numerous revisions, even after they have been translated.  According to the Canadian Institute of Marketing (http://www.cinstmarketing.ca) “Marketers are creative people, who push the edge of societal, industry and government acceptance of norms.”  More often than not, their methods are unconventional with tight deadlines part of the overall working environment.  This spills into the demands placed on the translator: deadlines are even tighter and flexibility a must.

So the translations I churn out invariably undergo changes, possibly passing through the hands of first the translation agency acting as the middleman and then the end client’s editors.  The editing may be done either by the copy writers themselves, their editors in charge of proofreading, or other employees.  The ultimate target recipients working in the company’s subsidiary are also often consulted for input.  There may or may not be an established communication pipeline between all those involved and the translator.

The act of translation is a creative process; changes based on personal style and preference are not uncommon.  Ultimately the client is king and we, the translators, have no control over OUR creative output.  To be fair, changes made by skillful writers working within a company and, most importantly, familiar with its in-house jargon may produce better results than the translation proper.  Or, the outcome can be quite the contrary.  Sometimes, editors simply feel like they have to make changes to justify being paid, replacing the translator’s carefully chosen terms with nothing more than synonyms.

In the worst case scenario, the translation will be proofread by a non-native speaker believing in good faith in his or her superior knowledge of the foreign language.  In a case like this, errors are bound to abound.

The documents may also be adapted in form or format (Word document to a PowerPoint presentation), laid out for printing using DTP software (with all the restrictions of space this entails) or rewritten for a different target audience (changes made from British to US English, adaptation to the Asian markets).

sexy old star inspiration

So why am I so disappointed when I hear people gushing over how much fun I must be having at work, basically going into raptures about what they consider a glamour job?  Well, knowing what happens and understanding it is only one part of the equation.  Loving to see something I translated intact, unchanged, unspoiled and just the way I penned it after hours of hard work is another!