Beauty products are required to have a list of ingredients printed somewhere on the packaging. Finding this list is not always easy. While it is usually printed on the box or the packaging, it can also be found underneath the product label or barcode. If this is the case, you will see a small arrow, just follow it. If a product comes with a leaflet, this can include the list of ingredients as well.
But the ingredients can have long and difficult names and not everyone knows what any of them are and do. So, how do you read it? And why should you learn to do it?
Why is it important to read an ingredient list?
Being able to read these lists is very important for several reasons. By knowing which ingredients are used in a product you can make sure to avoid those that could cause you allergies or irritations. You can also decide for yourself which ingredients you prefer to use on your skin.
In addition, you’ll be able to know if a product does what it claims and if you can find a cheaper alternative. Very often, in fact, the active ingredients of drugstore and high-end products are the same.
Also, lots of products claim to contain Vitamins and other natural ingredients that are beneficial for the skin. And are more expensive because of it. But if you look at the ingredient list, more often than not, you realise that these ingredients are present in such low concentrations that don’t provide any benefits at all.
Names of ingredients
According to the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) system, ingredients must be named using their scientific and, for plants, Latin names. But to make things easier, the English names are often put in parenthesis. For instance Shea Butter is often listed as Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter).
Order of ingredients
The Federal Trade Commission orders that the ingredients have to be listed in order of concentration. Ingredients that are present in higher amounts in the formula go on the top of the list. The active ingredients can also be listed in a separate list.
Like every rule, this one has its exceptions too. Ingredients that are present at a concentration below 1% can be listed in any order. Color additives, no matter what their concentrations are, can be listed in any order, after all the other non color additive ingredients. But usually, they’re listed last, just like fragrances and preservatives. In addition, some cosmetics are also drugs. In this case, the drugs ingredients are listed before the cosmetic ingredients.
But how do you know when the concentrations start to be low? Usually, the first ingredients in the lists are synthetic and when you start seeing natural ingredients it means the concentrations are under 1%. That’s because natural ingredients are generally more expensive and less effective than synthetic ones and hence, companies only put small amounts of them in a product. However, that’s not always true as sometimes natural ingredients can be present in high amounts in a product, in which case it’ll be listed towards the top. In addition, not all ingredients present in small concentrations are totally ineffective. Some of them still provide some benefits but as a general rule, the more there is the better it works.
What does “and other ingredients” mean?
Some labels also use the phrase “and other ingredients”. What does that mean? Simply put, certain ingredients are considered as “trade secrets” and because of that, the FDA doesn’t require the name to be revealed on the list.