Are You Reading Your Cosmetic Labels Wrongly?
How many times have you passed by the beauty aisle, ignored the ingredients on the cosmetic labels and just picked out the products that best advertises itself to your targeted needs or skin issues? The one with the fancier description or most appealing packaging? You’re not alone if you secretly answered: Many! Are you part of the majority of people who settle for attractive packaging, brain enticing words and a beautiful smell? Those who find it overwhelming to read cosmetic labels? If your skin feels a bit sensitive, stretchy and irriated afterwards, well we will blame it on the skin and just try another product next time. Sounds familiar? We have all been there!
Even if you have tried to make a conscious effort to read the cosmetic labels, chances are you got very confused by the chemisty knowledge and latin language requirements (yes, a lot of the ingredients are in Latin). Unless you are a scientist or very familiar with the INCI names (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredients) the ingredient list can a bit frustrating to understand.
To nurture and protect your skin and your well-being, it is paramount to understand your favourite creme’s ingredient list so that you can decide for yourself if it is really what you need. Habiba Raffa, Organic Science Cosmetic Formulator and founder of Ayelli, knows the importance of cosmetic labels and shares the easiest tips on how to read them and see through marketing tricks and scientific acronyms.
With this knowledge, you will know how to identify toxic chemical ingredients and marketing hogwash that are irrelevant. Are you ready to be beauty empowered?
The Truth About Labels
Ingredient Label 101
Ingredients on cosmetic labels are listed in a descending order starting with the largest amount in the product. This is a requirement for all manufacturers. Except for frangrance or flavor. They do not need to be listed out. As well as color addictive, they can be listed at the end in any order. Ingredients present at <1% concentration can be listed in any order after all the ingredients present at >1% concentration.
For example, if a product’s ingredient list has water listed first, followed by many unprononcable ingredients then Argania Spinoza (Argan oil) listed toward the end. Then, the Argan oil in this product has probably little to no effect. Even if the front packaging and marketing is all about Argan oil, because in reality not much of Argan oil is present.
Disguise Of Ingredients
Some ingredients can be disguised as others. A product can be labeled “preservative free” even if it is not. Because there are new preservatives that can be used and listed as a frangrance on the ingredient label. The same frangrance used to mask the smell of other chemical ingredients. Read a more indepth article on chemical ingredients to avoid here.
Marketing Tricks & Green Washing
The term “natural” is not regulated. Unfortunetly, as long as a few ingredients listed are natural, the product can be labelled as natural. Guidelines for claiming products to be natural or botanical are rather blur. In other words, these terms are often used to induce the thought that the product is gentle and effective on the skin.
There is a huge difference between “natural” and “naturally derived”, “organic certified” and “organic ingredients”, “dermatologically tested” and “dermatologically endorsed” and many other terms used on cosmetic labels to make products sound healthier and safer. If you’re looking to properly weapon up against such marketing tricks, we have a checklist for you. You can find out what these different terms mean and what to look for here.
Symbols on Cosmetic Labels: What Do They Really Mean?
- Expiration date or Period After Opening: This symbol tells you that the product is safe to use 12 months after the date you open it. The time period is always written in months. After that, bacteria and germs can develop inside the products and affect your skin leading to bad infections. Remember that damp envionments and habits like putting fingers in the jars or leaving the product open in humid places speed up the expiration process.
- Cruelty free, Not Tested on Animals and The Leaping Bunny: Different symbols but pretty much the same message: The manufacturing company does not perform tests on animals. Just keep an eye on the bunny sign!
- USDA, Ecocert, Agriculture biologique, NFS: These logos on cosmetic labels explain the product’s organic or natural content. Each logo comes from a different certifying organization with its own standards for certifying a product. Check what precisely each logo means here.
Short Ingredient Lists Are Better
100% natural and organic products commonly have a shorter ingredient list. The ingredients are more powerful, concentrated and safer. I don’t agree that a long ingredient list is necessarly bad. However, it has higher chances to contain ingredients that can overwhelm your skin and trigger negative reactions. Keep it short and simple!
What The Cosmetic Label Doesn’t Say
A tricky one! Some brands/manufacturers leave ingredients off the cosmetic label. Either because they don’t fully disclose them or because they aren’t there. If you see ‘ water” as one of the ingredients on a product, always look for a preservative. Water based products are prone to bacteria and germs and need to be well preserved.
SPF number is not everything: Choose sunscreen based on ingredients, not just SPF.
A sunscreen is used primarily to block off harmful UV rays which play a key role in skin cancer. We may think that the higher the SPF, the higher the protection but is not as simple. SPF is not everything! You shouldn’t pick out the sunscreen that has the highest SPF protection and neglect the kind of ingredients you are slathering on your face.
Other than UVB rays, there are UVA rays that you should protect yourself against too. These rays lead to the aging of the skin. Individuals applying high-SPF sunscreens may not have sun burns as UVB is the principal cause of sunburn. However, they can still receive skin damaging radiation without the proper UVA-screening ingredients such as Zinc.
The solution? Seek out a sunscreen that covers both UVA and UVB, with an SPF of 30 minimum and not more than 50. Make sure it has zinc in it and “Broad Spectrum” written on the cosmetic label as a proof that it covers UVA too.
The next time you are about to purchase a beauty product, turn the product around and spend 30 seconds reading the label. Ask yourself :
- Am I allergic to this ingredient? Did I noticed anything when I previously used this products or a similar cosmetic label?
If you ave noticed a patters of negative skin and hair reactions, it is probaly time to stop and review your beauty regiment. Start with a few products then monitor reactions as you add more. If you know that you are allergic or sensitive to a particular ingredients then avoid it completely in any product even if it exists in small doses. Remember that less is more when t comes to skincare.
- What is the end result that I want?
What do you want this product to achive? More moisture, firm skin, hair growth? For example, If you want an Argan oil lotion then you definitely have youth enhancing, glow promoting effects from Argan oil then you want the cosmetic label to back up this claim with “Argania Spinoza” high up on the ingredient list
Finding your perfect personal care regiment can take a lot of time and efforts at first. If you add to that complicated cosmetic labels then you can quickly go from beauty routine to pain routine. With these easy tips you will quickly get a hang of it and only use products that work for you. . Remember however, that products are more than just cosmetic labels and that everyone’s skin is different. Always choosing natural ingredients takes off the pressure and guess work then it’s just a matter of personal preferences.
What is the first tip you think you will remember and continue using? How do you judge your product at the store if you haven’t used it before? Comment below and share this article as a subscriber and you will receive our ultra-hydrating Argan cleansing bar worth $19 for FREE* Sharing is caring! Let’s chat!
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