Deciphering ingredients on a label of skincare product

We are more conscious regarding products we apply onto our skin and choose to avoid harmful ingredients, just as we are with the foods that we are eating. To educate yourself about ingredients in the product we refer to ingredients list. However, understanding ingredients list can get tricky when faced with a list of uber-long words that sound like they are from a foreign language. Somewhat it is true😉.

According to FDA and Health Canada, ingredients must appear with their INCI name. INCI stands for “International nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients” and is a naming system for ingredients based on scientific nomenclature. This system was first developed in the 1970s and has since been adopted for use in the European Union, Japan, and many other countries. With few exceptions, INCI labeling names are the same in every country. Plant ingredients are easy to spot because they are listed with their latin names (always two words) and a common name in brackets, e.g. rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) oil, which is rosemary essential oil.

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. You can always google ingredient.

The order the ingredients are listed on the label is important. 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).

If product contains water, you will find preservative towards the end of the list.

At the end of the ingredients list you will find allergens listed, if they are present in the product. These allergens are constituents of natural essential oils or synthetic fragrances. Label reading is not a mystery. Even though it takes some time to learn how to decipher everything that is there, that is the only way to make sure that the formula does not have nasties that you do not want on your skin.


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