How to read skincare product ingredient labels

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I am often asked how can you tell if a skincare product is really worth the money that you spend on it? Well, the key is in reviewing the ingredients.

First, all cosmetic products in the US are required to have full ingredient listings on the package. So, if they don’t list the ingredients, don’t buy it. This just causes me to have images in my head of someone making it in their kitchen. And not wearing gloves. Yuck.

Second, be aware of the fancy techno-babble made up words like “contains nano-xelix complex #9”. That “new complex” is likely just some clever marketing person who made up a name. Usually it is just a combination of ingredients that are already used in other cosmetics, so just stick to the listing —and you will probably notice that the fancy complex name is not listed there.

Now, when reviewing the listing—this can seem quite daunting. It is at this point that most people regret dropping chemistry after grade 10. Not to worry, even without fluency in Latin, you can figure some things out. Just like on food labels, ingredients are listed with highest to lowest concentration in formula. So all the good “active” ingredients like your vitamins, minerals, plant extracts—you want them as high up on the list as possible. Heavy waxes and oils like carbomers, carnauba wax and mineral oil are really used as thickening agents that bulk up the formula but do not really impart any key ingredients used by the skin— these should be lower on the list. And finally, you want to see fragrance/parfum to be on the bottom of the list. If a product is highly fragranced, it can mean that some of the other ingredients are of lower quality and have a base odor that needs to be masked. Other than that, try to ask for samples before you buy that way you truly know if it is going to work for you and be worth the investment.