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Skin Care Products > Articles > Do You Know How To Read Labels On Skin Care Products?

Do You Know How To Read Labels On Skin Care Products?

Posted On: - 2009-09-02 03:26:00

Have you ever turned around your skin care products and found some incomprehensible list and label, and then given up altogether? Not anymore! If you want to get your hands on the best product for you, you need to make a conscious decision and not merely believe the fancy marketing language. A quick glance at the product label can tell you if it will be good for you or not.

Here is what you need to know...

Types of Ingredients

Binding Agents
These are the ingredients that bind or hold the ingredients (that have a tendency to get separated) of the product together. Like for instance oil and water in glycerin.


These ingredients lie on the surface of the skin and prevent any loss of moisture (water) through the skin pores. Emollients fill in the gaps of dry and dehydrated skin and help to diminish the appearance of fine lines on the face. Some of the common emollients are aloe vera, urea, shea butter and so on.

They attract moisture from the air to the skin surface in order to keep it hydrated. Because of its moisture-drawing capabilities, it makes the skin soft and supple and reduces wrinkles and fine lines that are caused by dryness.

These ingredients help to dissolve the other ingredients in the skin care product so that they are better absorbed through the skin surface. Water, oil and alcohol are most common solvents used in products. While water and oil are suited for drier skin types, alcohols can be safely used in products for oily skin.

These ingredients are added in skin care products to prevent the growth and infestation of bacteria and other microorganisms. They eliminate the bacteria and extend the shelf life of products. They are popularly called Parabens. Remember, high quantities of parabens in skin care products can also harm the skin.

They coat the skin thereby reducing the friction. This allows skin care products to easily glide on the skin surface.

They are included in skin care products in order to neutralize the damage caused by free radicals and maintain the freshness of the product.

These ingredients help the skin care products to lather up and are extensively used in cleansers, soaps and shampoos. Common surfactants include Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and others.

Label Regulations

Here are some tips to understand the labels of skin care products.

Ingredients with the highest concentrations are listed first in the ingredients list. Often water is listed first because it’s what is used the most.

Active ingredients, i.e. ingredients that are specifically targeted to correct a skin problem are often listed first irrespective of their concentration. Salicylic acid is often listed as the first ingredient in acne care products even if its concentration is just 2%.

The chemical names or Latin names of ingredients are followed by their English names.

Ingredients to Avoid

While purchasing skin care products, beware of these commonly used ingredients. Companies often use bad components because they are cheaper to obtain. But you need to be cautious and avoid using any products that contain these ingredients.

Mineral Oil
This comedogenic ingredient ( i.e. it can clog pores and cause breakouts) is often used in cleansers and make-up removers. It is also known to cause small white bumps on the skin especially around the eyes.

This is actually sheep skin oil that is extracted from the wool. Lanolin is known to cause severe reactions on the skin

Companies often add artificial fragrances to skin care products to make them smell good. However, these fragrances are comprised of artificial ingredients that can cause allergic reactions on the skin

SD Alcohol
Though all alcohols are not bad, SD alcohol is very harmful for the skin. They cause extreme skin dryness, irritations and also hyperpigmentation. In addition, it promotes premature aging of the skin and strips off the natural protective barrier.

This is extensively used in skin lightening products but is a very strong ingredient and sometimes causes skin irritations. You should talk with your skin care professional before using and women who are preganant, nursing or considering pregnancy should avoid altogether.
Dr. Marilyn Syrett is a professional physician. She offers skin care advices and reviews various skin care products belonging to brands like Obagi skin care lines, iS Clinical, La-Roche Posay.