Do you read the ingredients of your skincare products? I love it, but I’m probably in the minority here. I want to share what I know so you can be better equipped to assess whether or not a product will do what it promises to do.
What you can tell from an ingredient list
If the product contains Ingredients famous for to safeguard his claims: I will often scan for active ingredients when investigating a product. For example, if a product claims to “lighten” skin, I might expect to see vitamin C or niacinamide. If it’s for sensitive and fragile skin, I don’t like to see a lot of fragrant vegetable oils like lavender or geranium. They’re not bad for all sensitive skin, but they make me itchy.
The approximate amount of a specific ingredient: The dose makes the poison. Some ingredients, like alcohol, have a bad reputation but have their uses. Alcohol is an excellent penetration enhancer and largely evaporates before penetrating your skin. It can dry out in high concentrations, so you wouldn’t want a hydrating product like moisturizer to be 50% alcohol, but 1%, for example, would be fine to help dissolve another ingredient. Use your common sense and best judgment.
The inclusion of allergens or ingredients you don’t like: Check them, much like you would on a list of ingredients for food.
There are guidelines for how ingredients are listed on personal care products.
They must all be named according to the Inci (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients), an international standard that guarantees that ingredients have the same name all over the world. For example, the Inci name for green tea is Camellia sinensis leaf extract.
Everything must be listed in order of quantity. If it’s first on the ingredient list, it’s the most abundant ingredient. However, this is not true for South Korean products.
The five main ingredients make up the bulk of the mix, so sometimes you can get an idea of the texture of the product with just that information.
Many ingredients are effective at very low concentrations, so more doesn’t always mean better. Peptides, for example, are effective at very small concentrations – small parts per million!
Once you get down to 1% or less, the ingredients can be listed in any order, so brands sometimes list the most exciting ingredients first.
Fragrances are exempt from the full ingredient list as they are considered a trade secret; however, known irritants should be listed.
Once you find this information, it’s all about recognizing which ingredients do what – and that takes time and practice. Use Inci Decoder to search for products or copy and paste ingredient lists to get a breakdown of each ingredient.
Common Ingredient Categories
Conservatives help prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Some commonly used safe and effective preservatives include phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, potassium sorbate, benzoic acid, chlorphenesin, and caprylhydroxamic acid. Some products use sterile packaging instead of preservatives.
Solvents are ingredients that dissolve other ingredients. Water is a solvent for sugar or salt. Alcohol is another example of a solvent, as well as propylene glycol which is used in many applications for its moisturizing action.
Chelating agents react with metal ions and prevent them from reacting with our skin or products, to maintain stability. There are metal ions in the water (especially hard water, which makes it hard on skin and hair) and other skin care ingredients such as iron oxide pigments. Metal ions can sometimes help bacteria grow, so chelating agents can improve the effectiveness of preservatives.
Buffers are used to adjust the pH of skincare products. For example, it can ensure that a moisturizer is not too acidic.
Surfactants break the surface tension. They allow oil and water to mix in order to cleanse oil from the skin, create lather, make lipids and water soluble ingredients blend well in a cream moisturizing without separating and help deliver ingredients into your skin. Some are kinder to the skin than others.
Emulsifiers are a type of surfactant that helps mix things together that wouldn’t otherwise mix. Its job in personal care products is to stabilize the oil and water phases so that the product does not separate. It is very important that oil and water do not separate, especially in sunscreens, which must form an even film of UV filter to adequately protect the skin.
If you’re having trouble with a skincare product, write down what’s on the ingredient list in case you run into the same problem with another product later. Knowledge is power.