When it comes to beauty products like skincare and makeup, figuring out what the labels mean can be a bit of a headache. Even products claiming to be organic can mean different things, depending on the country of origin, place of manufacture, and other details not usually obvious to the everyday consumer.
Even for products that claim to be made with natural ingredients, there’s no way of knowing exactly how much – or how little – of it is truly natural. Has it been blended with a bunch of not-so-natural ingredients? How much of its “naturalness” is left over after the manufacturing process? And of course, natural doesn’t always mean it’s good for the skin – or the environment.
While we wish we could hit the stores with you every time, here’s a cheat sheet on how to read the labels on your beauty product like a real insider.
1.Get familiar with the dirty dozen
You know the dirty dozen when it comes to food, but there’s a dirty dozen for cosmetics and skincare too, which includes ingredients like parabens (a common preservative), sodium laureth sulfate (a detergent that gives you those luxurious foaming suds), triclosan (an anti-bacterial agent and preservative). The ingredients are a little harder to remember than the one for food, but this list here will help you the next time you go shopping for beauty products.
2. Avoid any ingredients that are unpronounceable
If you can’t pronounce it without a bio-chem degree, put the product down and walk away. Bonus tip: The same rule applies when it comes to food labels.
3. But make sure to spot the Latin
International guidelines state that on beauty labels, plant ingredients must go by their Latin names, and they’re usually followed by their English names in parenthesis. This is great for checking if your ingredients actually come from nature, and are not synthetic or artificial.
4. Shop small business
Get acquainted with the small, artisanal beauty brands who are obsessed with sourcing clean ingredients and take the most pride in their products. They’re always happy to wax lyrical about the farm the found their lavender from, or how hard it was to find the right cocoa butter.
5. Read in-between the lines
WYSIWYG? Not always. And definitely not when it comes to beauty products. Fragrance, for example, is a common ingredient in many products but the fragrance itself is often a blend of hundreds of ingredients – and there is no requirement to list them. It’s a throwback from 1966, when regulation was put in place to protect French fashion house Chanel’s iconic No. 5 perfume from copycats. Perfumes were excused from listing their ingredients, and unfortunately, the trade-off for consumers is ignorance.
Also, heads up – ingredients that make up less than 1% of the product’s formula aren’t required to be listed, even if they’re common allergens or carcinogens. So, stay woke when shopping.
ALSO READ: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT VEGAN BEAUTY