Skincare products are everywhere, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. It's important to know what you're putting on your skin because your skin is the largest organ in your body. If you're not sure how to read the ingredients of the products you use, this post will help!
Know what the buzzwords mean.
Preservatives: These are ingredients that prevent spoilage.
Emulsifiers: These help bind water and oil, which are naturally incompatible.
Natural ingredients: Usually, they refer to plant-based products that have been processed in some way but still contain their original molecules intact. They may also refer to products derived from animals or microbes (such as honey or beeswax).
Synthetic ingredients: They're created in a lab, usually by combining smaller molecules into larger ones and then isolating them for use in cosmetics and personal care products. Examples include polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), both of which are used as solvents in skincare formulas.
Fragrance: This refers to any synthetic or natural substance added solely for its smell; it's often used by companies looking to create scents without disclosing their specific composition (which isn't required on the label). If a product contains no fragrance at all, you'll see "fragrance free" on the label instead—but this may not always mean what you think it does! Sometimes ingredients can be added to neutralise the fragrance of a product - as a rule, most things smell of something right!?!? To avoid confusion about whether your favorite perfumes fall under this category of labeling loopholes, look out for these words instead: essential oils; aromatherapy; botanical extracts; pure essential oils
Ingredients are listed in order of concentration
The ingredients are listed in order of concentration, which is usually expressed as a percentage. For example, if the first ingredient is water and it makes up the majority of the product, then you can be sure it's going to be light and gentle on your skin. You can also see that if there are multiple types of an ingredient within one product (for example, glycolic acid), then all those types will be listed together in order of concentration, from highest to lowest.
I've seen a lot of articles that recommend you start at the bottom of the label and read upward, but I disagree. Ingredients are listed in order of concentration, so if you're looking for something very specific like parabens (a controversial preservative) or vitamin C, it's helpful to know where to look first.
It's also easy to get overwhelmed by ingredients lists that span multiple pages and include dozens or even hundreds of items per page. To make things easier on yourself, try focusing on ingredients located near the middle first—they'll most likely be those with relatively neutral benefits or side effects (like glycerin). If you want to avoid certain ingredients altogether (like fragrance), look up those at the top because they'll be there regardless of what brand you buy.
The first ingredient is almost always water.
The first ingredient in a skincare product is almost always water. Water is the most common ingredient used in beauty products, and for good reason: it's the best skin hydrator. It's also a solvent and can help to dissolve other ingredients better than other kinds of liquids (making it more effective overall). Additionally, water is often added to products as an emollient (it helps your skin feel soft), giving you hydrated skin from head-to-toe without friction or irritation.
Ingredients can be listed in different languages.
If you see the ingredients listed in a different order, it’s probably because the product is from another country. Many countries use an international standard for listing ingredients: INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). This means that every ingredient will be listed in the same place on a product no matter which country made it.
You may also find that some ingredients are listed using their chemical name and others using their common name. For instance, if you see “glycerin” instead of “glycerol” or “carnauba wax” rather than “copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax.” This is normal and nothing to worry about!
The skin is our biggest organ so are we absorbing everything?
What we also need to bear in mind is that although our skin can absorb a lot of what we apply to it, we also need to trust that our body knows what it's doing. There is a huge fear at the moment that everything we apply to our skin will be absorbed, but we also need to remember that our skin is designed to keep things out and so it can be quite difficult for all things to penetrate. For example, if you spill a glass of wine on yourself, it's not going to make you drunk! We also need to remember that products contain ingredients with different size molecules and so they can't all be absorbed into the skin (the space between skin cells is incredibly small). Hence companies spend thousands (if not millions) working on formulations with delivery systems to get products into the skin. It's actually a lot harder than you think to just 'absorb' everything!
Your skin will thank you for paying attention to skincare ingredients.
I don't need to tell you that your skin will thank you for paying attention to skincare ingredients. In fact, it's probably a good idea to look at the ingredient list on any product you're thinking about buying—not just skincare. Look for ones made with plant extracts and natural oils where possible.
If an ingredient has been proven safe by scientific research and testing, then there's little risk of irritation or damage when using it on your face—but even if something might be fine for some people, every person's skin is different so it may not be safe for everyone!
That's why we're always careful to avoid ingredients with a high risk of irritation: parabens (these are used as preservatives), fragrances (they can irritate sensitive skin), and alcohols (the drying effects can cause redness).
Remember though, it's not just about using all natural products (although this is great where possible). What we need to focus on is well formulated products with high quality ingredients more than just 'natural' as sometimes these can be worse!
I hope this article has helped you understand the importance of skincare ingredients. It's easy to get lost in the marketing buzzwords and flashy packaging, but if you take a few minutes to really read those labels, you'll find out what's really going on with your skin—and hopefully make better choices for it!
Thank you so much for reading,