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How to decode your label
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How to decode your label

First of all, don’t be intimidated by the ingredients in your skin care products. With just a little effort, you can learn the basics about skin care ingredients and this will help you make a better decision when purchasing products. Your skin will thank you for it.

Pay attention to the order ingredients are listed in.

Ingredients are listed from the highest to the lowest concentration. The first few are the most important, so look for oils, shea or cocoa butter, or petrolatum. If you have oily or acne prone skin avoid these ingredients, because they can cause breakouts and/or make your skin feel more oily. Instead, look for hyaluronic acid, glycerin or sodium PCA. If the ingredient you’re looking for in a skin care product is listed as one of the last few, generally the concentration is so small it’s not going to be very effective.

Don’t be intimidated or suspicious of an ingredient you can’t pronounce.

Many ingredients are listed by their Latin name or a technical name and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re chemicals. For instance, “tocopherol” means Vitamin E, “aloe barbadensis leaf juice” means aloe vera, “ascorbyl palmitate” means Vitamin C and “citrus nobilis extract” means mandarin orange extract. Many names starting with “PEG” or “poly” are emulsifiers that keep components from separating. Examples of these ingredients include polysorbate 80, PEG-100 stearate.

Anti-aging ingredients are often listed by many names.

Antioxidants that help repair UV damage, such as Vitamin C, can be listed as L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, magnesium ascorbyl palmitate. Vitamin E is commonly listed as tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate. The vitamin A found in many anti-aging skin care products can be listed as retinol, retinyl palmitate, or retinoic acid.

What to look for if you have sensitive skin.

Look for products marked as unscented or fragrance-free, which means they do not contain synthetic fragrance. Also look for products that are free of synthetic colorants. These are usually listed at the end, and include blue 1 (Cl 42090) and green 3 (Cl 42053). Lastly, look for products that are free of parabens and skin-irritating preservatives such as methylparaben and propylparaben, which are usually listed toward the end.