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How to Read Skincare Ingredient Labels?

August 07, 2023
Author: Eve

Reading time: 15 minutes

The modern market offers a great variety of products. Their compositions are rich in ingredients and lure customers, promising incredible benefits for a healthy and immediate effect. Thus, many consumers get lost in such an abundance of choices. Today, we're going to explain how to read labels and what to pay attention to. So, below, you'll find a guide on how to pick effective skincare products, judging by their labels. This manual will simplify and speed up your choice.

Modern labels contain too much information, including illustrations, unclear words, etc. Marketing information is designed to promote products and encourage customers to buy them. Still, many consumers find it confusing.

Different skincare products

Reasons to Read Product Ingredient Labels

Some consumers do not bother themselves reading labels and buy products, judging by packaging appearance. Yet, studying the product content and other related info can speak a lot about its quality and reliability. So, here are the main reasons to read labels when selecting skincare treatments:

  • By studying the content, you can identify non-desirable ingredients. For example, some components may cause allergy or skin sensitivity. There is a list of ingredients that should be avoided in high-quality cosmetics.
  • Cost-efficiency. Some less-famous brands are owned by reputable world leaders in the industry. For instance, Garnier is owned by L'Oréal. It means that products of both brands are produced and packed at the same factory and have pretty similar compositions, while their prices differ drastically. Thus, you can save money without paying for the brand name.
  • By being aware of your skin type and peculiarities, you can pick the best product for your very skin, still even natural components are not guaranteed to match all skin types.
  • Marketers can cheat on clients by calling their products “natural” by adding natural ingredients. However, as a result of precise studying, it can turn out that the share of natural components in a product is tiny since these ingredients are placed at the very end of the list.

Thus, studying product labels helps consumers stay vigilant when choosing appropriate skincare products, save money, and find the best solutions for their cases.


Tips on How to Read Labels Correctly

At first, let us mention two significant points you should analyze at the stage of product selection. These are:

  • the order of ingredients;
  • symbols on labels.

Everyone knows that components are listed in descending order, that is, initially mentioned components have the highest concentration. The closer to the end ingredients are placed, the less amount is included in the content. Some products can be called “natural”, while natural extracts are placed in the very tail of the content, meaning that their amount is very small. Thus, pay attention to the concentration of particular ingredients by studying their order in the list of content.

Natural skincare product

Every bottle or jar of skincare product has a symbol of an open jar. It stands for the specification of the expiration period after the product is resealed. Usually, you find such designations as 6M or 12M, which stands for 6 months or 12 months of being suitable for application.

Other popular symbols include designations of the Leaping Bunny or a tree leaf to mark non-animal-tested or vegan products. Yet, note that not all symbols are governmentally certified and registered. Thus, each company can use its own symbol that represents green or animal-safe products. Möbius is another popular symbol for introducing eco-friendly and recyclable packages.


List of Terminology You'll Likely Find on Skincare Product Packages

Now, let's see some common terms that are present on cosmetic packages, We'll explain their meaning so that they won't confuse you the next time:

  • Dermatologically tested. Obviously, this term means that the product has undergone laboratory tests, and its effectiveness and safety to humans have been approved and certified by professional chemists.
  • Hypoallergenic. This term stands to denote that the product does not cause allergy in most cases. Still, it does not guarantee 100% safety since such products may contain fragrances that may cause irritation.
  • Non-comedogenic. In its general meaning, the term means that the product does not clog pores.
  • Greendot. The symbol is used to indicate that 95% of the product is made using plant-based components.
  • Leaping Bunny. If you see this symbol on a package, it means that the product hasn't been tested on animals.
  • PAO. This abbreviation stands for the “Period after opening” and can be used instead of the symbol of an open jar. Yet, the symbol is more common.
  • Möbius. This symbol denotes that the package is recyclable or made using recycled materials.
  • UVA. This abbreviation means that the product protects from sunlight and radiation poorly since it has a low sunscreen level.

Now, let's proceed to consider some ingredients that are desirable and better-to-avoid in skincare cosmetics.

100% natural skincare product

Favorable Ingredients in Skincare Products

Note that some common components have complicated chemical terms, and they seem unclear to consumers. So, let's list some ingredients that sound unfamiliar but cause a favorable effect on cells.

  • Tocopherol. Although it sounds complicated and unclear, this term stands for vitamin E. It has high protective and antioxidant properties and is used to reinforce the skin barrier and prevent cells from pollution.
  • Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7. Helpful regenerating peptides are hidden behind this complicated term. They stimulate and boost collagen production in cells and suppress inflammation.
  • Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. While it sounds scary and unclear, this term denotes vitamins C, which is a powerful natural antioxidant. Its effect results in evening the skin tone, reducing discoloration, and brightening the face complexion. Besides, it fights free radicals and environmental contaminants effectively.
  • Ferulic acid. It is a powerful antioxidant produced from the seeds of oranges and apples. It is widely used in anti-aging cosmetics. When compared with vitamin C, it provides high resistance to free radicals.
  • Caprylic glycerides. These are fatty acids produced from coconut. It causes a strong smoothing and moisturizing effect.
  • Retinol. That is, vitamin A in all its forms. The ingredient is popular in anti-aging skincare products since it smoothens the face surface, reduces wrinkling, and prevents fine lines.
  • BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid). Simply put, it is salicylic acid. It comes as a natural exfoliator. It penetrates into pores and exfoliates them from the inside. Thus, it prevents clogging, breakouts, and whiteheads.
  • AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid). Lactic and glycolic acids are the brightest examples of AHAs. It is also used as a chemical exfoliator.
  • Hyaluronic acid. This ingredient is the main hydrating weapon for cells. The component attracts and locks water molecules in cells, preventing dehydration and normalizing the hydro-lipid balance.
  • Ascorbic (or L-ascorbic) acid. It is a form of vitamin C. Thus, it has high antioxidant properties and prevents aging signs.

Harmful Ingredients in Skincare Products

Now, let's make a list of ingredients you should avoid if you find them in skincare products. The following components are not favorable for human health:

  • All sorts of alcohol since it causes extra sensitivity and an irritating and stripping effect.
  • Artificial fragrances can cause allergies, asthma symptoms, migraines, and irritation. Thus, if you have sensitive skin, products with artificial fragrances can worsen your skin state.
  • Parabens (with any prefix) affect hormones and the capability for fertility. So, they cause a direct effect on reproductive organs and increase the risk of cancer.
  • Sulphates (any type) wash oil from the skin surface, causing its tightness and over-drying. When applied to sensitive skin, it leads to itching, irritation, and redness.
  • Fragrant essential oils. Although they are known for their positive effect in aromatherapy, they can trigger irritation or allergic reactions when applied to the skin surface. Besides, citrus oils result in a photosensitive reaction when exposed to UV rays or sunlight.

Also, be attentive to products containing vitamin C and acids. When too many acids are paired with vitamin C, it can lead to skin burns. So, too much is not always good.

Different skincare products

TOP Ingredients and Products for Different Skin Types

Finally, let's make our article more precise and list some components and products for each skin type.


Dry & Sensitive Skin

People with dehydrated skin should give preference to products with a high concentration of hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, ceramides, and glycerin. Shea butter and jojoba oil also match well. The following products are good for daily skincare.


These products moisturize cells deeply, normalize the hydro-lipid balance, and calm cells. Gentle ingredients do not cause itching, redness, or irritation.


Oily & Combination Skin

People with oily skin get the maximum benefit from skincare products, containing tea tree oil, BHAs, and hyaluronic acid. Thus, the next products will help keep your skin clean and healthy on a daily basis:


These products normalize the work of sebaceous glands, reduce greasiness, clean pores, and remove oily shine. Blends of ingredients are designed for oily skin to nourish and hydrate it, without causing increased greasiness.


Acne-Prone Skin

If your skin is prone to inflammation, breakouts, and acne, you should approach the issue of choosing proper skincare products properly. Give preference to products with salicylic acid and BHAs. The next products are an ideal option for acne-prone skin:


These products help reduce acne signs and normalize the work of cellular processes. The result of regular application is reduced inflammation, fewer breakouts, hydrated cells, and less greasiness.


TOP-3 Ingredient Checkers

If you want to go deeper into this issue and study ingredient lists in more detail, there are some helpers that explain all the terms and related topics clearly. These are:

  • INCIDecoder is a website, on which customers can find all the most popular components of skincare products and find an unbiased estimation of its quality. Each ingredient has a certain mark that characterizes its effect on the skin. For instance, “goodie” or “icky”.
  • Paula’s Choice Skincare Ingredient Dictionary is a reliable website, where trusted info about skincare components is provided. There, clients can read real research data about ingredient harm or benefit.
  • EWG's Skin Deep is another Web portal for learning the real harm and benefit of chemical products on the skin. The system uses a rating system, with 1 being the highest mark and 10 being the worst one.

To sum up the article, note that modern manufacturers offer a great variety of skincare products. Store shelves are rich in dozens of offers. Yet, in trying to lure more consumers and boost sales, marketers tend to use labels to promote products. Thus, it is important to know how to read labels and understand what to pay attention to. This skill will help stay vigilant and avoid becoming a victim of wise marketing. So, it's better to take more time to read labels and find a guaranteed quality product.

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