The Simple Guide to Reading a Product Label

The Simple Guide to Reading a Product Label

Skincare product labels

Don’t be fooled by a product name or description – get to know and understand your cosmetic labels! That’s the only way to truly know what is in the products you are using, and how safe they really are.

Label reading isn’t so bad once you get the hang of it. Here’s a little cheat sheet for label reading made easy:

  • Ingredients are listed in descending order from greatest amount to least amount present in the product (except ingredients present at a concentration of less than 1%; those can be listed in any order).
  • Watch out for abbreviated ingredient lists. Sometimes, especially on online shops or brand websites, companies do not list all of the ingredients, instead providing just the ‘key ingredients’ or ‘active ingredients’, and leaving the rest out. This makes the ingredient list quite short and very appealing too – it usually contains natural plant-based ingredients. To find out the full list of ingredients you would need to consult the label on the product itself, where a brand is required to list everything.
  • While getting familiar with all nasty ingredients in cosmetics is a good idea, it’s a lot to remember. You can find a handy list of ingredients to avoid here. We definitely recommend that you create your own personal list of ingredients you feel are important to avoid.
  • Check the first five and the last five. The first five ingredients make up the majority of the product. This is where you will find synthetic emollients and harsh foaming agents. The last five ingredients are often preservatives and fragrance ingredients.
  • Fragrance ingredients do not need to be listed so that brands can protect their trade secret recipe. If “fragrance” is on the list, check for a notation to see if those ingredients are naturally sourced.
  • Many brands follow the European INCI ingredient listings, using Latin names for ingredients. INCI stands for “International nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients” and is a naming system for ingredients based on scientific nomenclature.Plant ingredients are easy to spot because they are listed with their Latin names (always two words) and a common name in brackets.Some ingredients on the list sound very ‘chemical-like’ and many people believe that ‘if you can’t pronounce the ingredient name, it must be bad for you’. That is not always true. There are plenty of common or naturally derived ingredients that have complicated names, but are safe to use and even have an important function in the product. From Nature With Love has a great list of these so if you don’t recognize a listed ingredient you can check it’s Latin name here.
  • Get to know your organics. “100% Organic” means the product contains only organically produced ingredients, “Certified Organic” must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients, and “Made with Organic Ingredients” means the product contains at least 70% organically produced ingredients.
  • Check out brand websites and look for their ingredient commitment and information on the ingredients they source. If they are simply putting up flashy terms or using the latest “it” ingredient with nothing to back it up, be cautious.
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