In the cosmetics business, translation is priceless

You’ve given careful thought to how to market your product: the colour scheme, slogan, fonts… Nothing’s been left to chance. Now, you want to venture into new markets. Once again, you need your message to get across seamlessly. You want potential customers to feel that your product is for them, but that may be a problem if they can’t understand what’s on the packaging! Fortunately, there are professional translators who specialize in the cosmetics sector to help you make your mark on shoppers.


Using the reader’s language: a sign of respect

A population’s identity is defined by its language. For consumers to buy in to your brand, you need to speak to them directly, in their native tongue. A French-Canadian, for instance, will be less enticed to buy a product if the label is in English only.

If a business cares about its customers, it will make the effort to use flawless grammar and style to get through to them. Simply put, if packaging has to be translated, it has to be well translated. French-Canadians care a great deal about their language. Mistakes in ads and packaging can tarnish a brand’s reputation, as consumers immediately—and often subconsciously—equate sub-par French with a sub-par product.

Let’s not forget that, now that the beauty industry has decidedly joined the digital age, cosmetics companies are faced with new challenges. Anything posted on social media is now picked apart by thousands of readers, so companies have everything to gain by using impeccable French on web platforms to set themselves apart.


French as a matter of law

In Quebec, French is protected under the Charter of the French Language, so translating information about cosmetics is not just a matter of respecting consumers – it is required by law. To sell your products in Quebec, the following content has to be in French:

  • Packaging: the product’s common name, net quantity, warnings and directions for use. In addition, the list of ingredients has to feature the correct INCI names. Although you aren’t required by law to translate trademarks, it will give you a significant edge with your target market. French and English can appear either together or separately on your packaging.
  • Commercial documents: The documents included with the product, such as the instructions inside the package, obviously have to be translated.
  • Promotional materials: All signage has to at least be bilingual if not exclusively in French. If you’ve gone the bilingual route, the French has to be more prominent, for instance with a more noticeable font colour or larger font.


Adapting to the market

Each market is unique. Using professionally trained translators who are in tune with the local culture and experienced in adaptation and localization is a wise move.

Take eyeliner, for example. In France, no one would bat an eyelash if they saw the words eyeliner or waterproof on a French label, but in Quebec it would be considered a carry‑over from English. Same goes for blush, which is accepted in France, whereas fard à joues would (and should!) be used in Quebec.

Cosmetics usually have catchy or cute slogans, but beware of familiar traps:

  • A badly translated punchline can really flop.
  • Puns or wordplay translated literally will garner raised eyebrows rather than laughs.
  • An image that’s harmless in one culture may be provocative or outright vulgar in another.

Luckily, competent translators can find pretty ingenious ways to render your message to make you look good; this is called adaptation. Your translation company of choice should be able to provide you with advice on these kinds of considerations.


In a globalized world, translation has become a necessity for any cosmetics company looking to expand their reach overseas. If your sights are set on Canada, look into the regulations governing the use of French and have a firm that specializes in your sector translate for you. Your brand’s image depends on it, and it will definitely pay off.