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There is a trend these days for skincare brands to tell us what ingredients are not in a product.

We’re bombarded with warnings to avoid ingredients like paraben, aluminium, and sulfates. With the latter, there is no lack of products on the shelves that boldly tout their “sulfate-free” or “SLS-free” status. The fact is, sulfates are still widely used. You will find them in over 60% of toothpaste, and over 70% of shampoos, body wash, and hand soaps. We need to pay more attention to the skincare ingredient labels on the products we buy.

My advice is to look more closely at the ingredient lists on your skin and hair care products. Unfortunately, there’s only so much we can learn from a label. But this is better than being led astray by smart marketing or sales talk. What I want to do here is break down specifically what you can and can’t learn about a product by reading its ingredient list.

What follows is what you can learn from reading skin care ingredient labels.

Identify products that contain ingredients you’re allergic or sensitive to.

If you have an allergy to an ingredient, you can easily tell if it is in a skincare product. For example, if you have an allergy to nuts, look out for sweet almond oil. It will appear as “Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil” on the ingredients list

Identify the beneficial ingredients in a product

Brands must use the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) when listing ingredients on their skincare ingredient labels. This is a system of names for waxes, oils, pigments, chemicals, and other ingredients of skin care products, based on scientific names and other Latin and English words. You can Google the ingredient names and learn more about their benefits.

Estimate the general percentages of ingredients

Ingredients lists are in descending order of concentration. Therefore, the first ingredient on the list has the highest percentage. The first four or five ingredients usually are over 1%. After that, ingredients under 1% can go in any order. Most preservatives are not allowed above 1%. You can use this to figure out where that 1% marker starts.

Identify if the company is following labelling regulations

Companies must follow the INCI ingredient listing guidelines on their skincare ingredient labels. If a company isn’t following these guidelines, then perhaps the product is not registered with the cosmetics authorities. Things to look for:

  • Plant-based ingredients aren’t listed with their official Latin name (for example, just “Sweet Almond Oil” instead of “Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil”)
  • The word “organic” appears in the ingredients list itself, like “Organic coconut oil. ” Instead, organic ingredients should be identified with an asterisk.
  • Alphabetical ingredient lists (which means they’re not listing ingredients from most to least as required by INCI)

What you can’t tell from the ingredients list

While being useful, there are things that you can’t tell from an ingredients list. These include:

·       Which ingredient is causing a skin reaction.

·       Decide how effective an ingredient is in a particular product.

·       Tell how well a product will work on your skin or hair.

If you wanted to learn more about making wise consumer decisions, check out my free downloads.

As always, I am here to assist. If you have specific questions, please get in contact.

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Kind regards,

Dr Mike Thair

Master Formulator

Indochine Natural Sdn Bhd.



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