How To Read Your Skincare Label Without Having A Melt Down
We don’t expect you to know every skincare term under the sun, but it’s important to know the basics when reading your product labels. So, for the love of your skin, let’s do this…
Tricky skincare lingo is never more apparent than when you get a brand new product and look at all the information on the packaging. From unpronounceable ingredients to logos you’ve never even seen before, it’s no wonder most of you glance at the label… then swiftly give zero damns about attempting to decode the directions, ingredients and whatever else is on there.
But the thing is, all this information is there for a reason: because it’s important. The directions, for example are there to help you make the most out of your new product. And what would you do if you knew your sensitive skin had an aversion to a certain ingredient, yet you couldn’t check the ingredients list because, well, we decided not to bother with it?
This is why we’ve put together a basic, four-step guide to knowing your way around your skincare label. Don’t worry, we’re not going to blind you with science, just the essential stuff you need to know…
Read ALL Directions Carefully
You might think a product's directions are surplus to requirements when, c’mon, you’ve been cleansing, toning and moisturizing your skin for decades. However, skincare products are unique and they often work quite differently. The correct amount needed might be poles apart from what you’ve been used to, for example, or a new treatment serum might be best applied just two or three times a week rather than every day.
Always read these instructions – the fate of your skin relies on them.
On that note, you’ll be pleased to hear we make our directions extremely simple to follow, meaning there’s no excuse not to read them and follow them to the letter. This includes how much product you should need, when to include it in your regime, how to apply it and of course, how often. We also remind you how to patch test your new product before slathering it all over your face for the first time. Again, important stuff.
Learn How To Decipher The Ingredients List
An important thing to remember is that skincare ingredients are always listed in descending order of concentration. This means any ingredient near the top of the list is going to be a major player in that product – and don’t worry that water is often the first, this is standard across most skincare formulations.
According to the FDA, however, once an ingredient is at a concentration of 1 percent or less, it may be listed in any order at the bottom of the list. Things can get a little more complicated when color additives are included, but this is the basic info you should really be aware of.
Oh, and if you see something like vitamin C hovering in the middle of an ingredients list of a product that claims to be a ‘highly concentrated vitamin C serum,’ don’t be alarmed. Many active ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, peptides and exfoliating acids are extremely potent, so even a small amount can deliver a powerful dose.
OK, so what about all those scary-sounding ingredient names you’ve never heard of? Yeah, they can be confusing. This is why we use simple terms as often as possible and list an ingredient’s household name (eg. vitamin E) as well as its more scientific term (tocopherol). We’re kind like that and know how much of a ball-ache it is decoding ingredients by having to Google them. You’re welcome.
Of course, some ingredients such as pheoxyethanol and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) don’t have household names, but hey, we try our best as much as we can.
Look Out For The Bad Guys
While scouring your ingredients list for things you know your skin loves, make sure you stay on the lookout for the stuff skin hates. Here are four of our least favorite nasties you can be sure you’ll never find in a TruSkin product…
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) parabens simply don’t belong in any beauty product. And we tend to agree. Parabens have been used in cosmetics since the 1920s to help prevent harmful things like bacteria, mold and fungi from having a field day in your products. However, their downfalls totally outweigh their preservative powers.
Certain studies suggest that parabens are not only irritants, but can upset your hormones, damage your reproductive organs and increase your risk of developing cancer. The FDA continues to review these claims but in our opinion, any ‘risk,’ no matter how small, is so not worth it.
Sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate are foaming detergents used in products like facial wash, soap, shower gel and shampoo to cleanse your skin or hair. And give them their dues, they work really well, creating a lovely, foamy lather that cleans super efficiently. The problem is, they can be too efficient, making them extremely irritating, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Don’t worry, you won’t find nasty sulfates in our Vitamin C Brightening Cleanser – instead we use a much gentler surfactant called disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate that's way kinder to your skin.
The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics lists phthalates (pronounded thal-ates) such as DEP, DBP and DEHP as big no-nos. Same here. With links to endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, fertility and other health issues they make us nervous. Very nervous indeed. They’re particularly bad news for pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers which is why we say a big ‘no’ to phthalates in all of our products.
Otherwise known as polyethylene glycols, PEGS are synthetic, petroleum-based compounds used widely in cleansers and moisturizers to help enhance the absorption of ingredients into the skin. One problem: PEGs contain known carcinogens and respiratory irritants that have the potential to cause serious health issues.
We say why bother when there are much better alternatives? Answer: don't.
Finally, Know Some Important Symbols
Ever wondered what all those little symbols were at the bottom of your product’s label? Wonder no more, herein two important ones you need to be aware of…
This little triangle of three arrows is known as the Mobius Loop and shows that something is capable of being recycled. You’ll find this on all of our facial serums, moisturizers and eye products. High-fives.
If your product displays the Leaping Bunny logo as seen here, this is your guarantee that no new animal tests were performed in its development. We’re thrilled to let you know ALL of our products are Leaping Bunny approved. More high-fives!
Now, run along and be a skin product know-it-all. With all that knowledge under your belt, it would be rude not to.
About Georgia Gould
Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.