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Three Important Facts About Cosmetic Labels

Reading Cosmetic Labels

Have you ever tried reading the labels on the cosmetics in your make-up bag or on the pampering products in your bathroom cabinet?

Did it leave you feeling dazed and confused like you were trying to translate a foreign language without the aid of a dictionary or phrase book?

Fear not. You are not alone!  

Reading the list of ingredients on your cosmetics can be a challenge even if you are familiar with some of them. It might even appear that the listing format is designed to conceal undesirable ingredients to mislead consumers.

There are three important facts about cosmetic labels that you should know.

  1. The ingredients on cosmetic labels are listed in descending order of weight. The largest quantities are listed first and the smallest quantities will appear last. If you are buying a product for a specific function with an active ingredient such as argan oil you will want to see the active ingredient right near the start of the ingredients list. If it appears towards the end of the list, then the amount in the product is probably around 1%. If this is the case, then the active properties of the ingredient are not going to have much effect if any.  

  2. The ingredients are listed in the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) format. The INCI is a system of names for ingredients that is based on scientific names and other Latin and English words. The purpose of the INCI system is to ensure that all cosmetic products are labelled in a uniform way. This means if you purchase a cosmetic product when you are on holiday it will be labelled in the same way as a cosmetic product that is on the market in your home country. Some companies provide the common names of ingredients in brackets after the INCI names on the label in the spirit of transparency.   

  3. Some of the ingredients in your products might not even appear on your label. If any of your products contain a fragrance the ingredients that make up a fragrance are not disclosed because they are considered trade secrets. Instead you might notice the words fragrance or parfum on the label which may contain a cocktail of parabens, petrochemicals and phthalates. Bear in mind that some companies use the word fragrance even if they are using natural essential oils because they may wish to keep the aromatherapy blend a secret. If this is the case they will usually disclose it on the label.

Next time you are applying your favourite moisturiser have a look at the label to see where your active ingredients appear in the list. You might be surprised!

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