How To Read Labels In Skin Care Effectively

It is critical to understand what is contained in any product before purchasing it. Certain skincare products are only effective if they have the proper ingredients in the right amounts. As a result, it’s critical that you check the labels before using anything on your skin.

Read more: Are your expensive cosmetics in the right bottle?

The product labels convey a lot about what’s inside the bottle. They serve as quick guidelines to help you choose the best product for specific skin types and issues. Aside from the contents, there are also warning indications and usage directions.

Let’s have a look at what information is provided on the labels as well as how to correctly interpret them:

  • INCI or the list of ingredients

A cosmetic tag or label will include elements in the entity or the product along with the name and other fundamental attributes, also known as the ‘INCI list’. INCI stands for “International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients” and is a scientific nomenclature-based naming system for Ingredients.

  1. Order of ingredients

The majority of the active components are listed on the front label, while the remainder is listed on the back.

All components must be stated in decreasing order, with the biggest item appearing first. This indicates that the element with the highest concentration is on top, while the ingredient with the lowest concentration is at the bottom. Ingredients with a lower concentration of 1% or less are exempted from this rule and thus can be stated in any order.

Read more: The Best and Quick Skin Care For Oily Skin

Potential allergens found in fragrances and natural oils are indicated at the end of the INCI list, generally with either an asterisk or in italic character.

Plant components are easily identifiable since they are mentioned with their Latin names and a common title in brackets, such as Rosmarinus officinalis oil, in other words, rosemary essential oil, and helianthus annuus seed oil, in other words, sunflower oil.

There are a few key terms on the tag or label that might help you figure out what it’s comprised of-

Alcohol-Free Hypoallergenic Non-Comedogenic Organic
It solely corresponds to a specific kind of alcohol, ethyl alcohol. However, the product may still include fatty alcohols like Cetearyl, Cetyl, Lanolin, or stearyl, which can dry out the skin. When compared to other items, this word simply signifies that the item has a very low possibility of triggering an allergic response. This term simply indicates that the item does not include any ingredients that might plug your pores and lead to acne. When purchasing skin care or cosmetic items, seek a ‘non-comedogenic’ label if you are dealing with oily or acne-prone skin. Organic items are those that contain carbon, yet some cosmetic and skincare companies label their products as “organic” by using synthetic compounds obtained from petroleum jelly.
  1. Products that may look confusing

It will be an understatement to imply that labels are hard to read and understand. Some words seem extremely foreign to us and we are left wondering about the meaning behind them. However, as a little kick-start, we have compiled a list of some of such mouthful words and their meaning to help you get familiar with them:

Tocopherol: Vitamin E, tocopherol, nourishes and moisturizes your skin. It helps your skin’s lipids stay fresh, and also aids in the preservation of your skin’s protective barrier. This can assist in the sealing of tiny cracks in the skin’s shield, which can cause the skin to feel tight and parched.

As a result, vitamin E promotes long-term moisture retention between skin cells. It can keep you hydrated for up to 16 hours. Vitamin E has antioxidant (fat-soluble) properties that help neutralize damaging free radicals and, as a result, can prevent sebum (oil) oxidation, which results in blackheads.

Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7: These are peptides that promote collagen formation while also suppressing the body’s acute inflammatory response.

Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate: Vitamin C helps illuminates dull skin, evens blemishes, increases collagen formation, and reduces wrinkles when applied topically. It’s also a potent antioxidant, which means it combats with free radicals as well as is a crucial element in many anti-pollution skincare products.

Unstable electrons that damage healthy cells and change their makeup, causing them to no longer perform as well as normal, younger cells, generating aging symptoms are known as Free Radicals. Vitamin C can assist to prevent this from happening.

Ferulic acid: This antioxidant is found in the seeds of oranges and apples that aids in the prevention of aging and is known as Ferulic acid. To combat the aforementioned free-radical damage, it is frequently taken with vitamin C (meant to boost potency and efficacy synergistically).

Caprylic glycerides: These long-lasting fatty acids come from a particular portion of coconut & aid to keep your skin hydrated and smooth.

  1. Products that are somewhat irritable:

Sulfates (including alkyl benzene sulfonate, sodium laureth sulfates, sodium cocoyl sarcosinate): Sulfates are the chemicals in most shampoos that give them their super-sudsy foam. To get down to business, sulfates (a type of surfactant) attract water and oil, allowing shampoos,  soaps, body washes, and cleansers to effectively remove grime and oil from your skin. While there is no proof that sulfates cause cancer, they may irritate delicate skin because they’re designed to remove filth and grease.

Phthalates: This chemical aids in the breakdown of certain skin components. Long-term use of phthalate-containing items causes kidney damage.

Essential oils: These can cause allergic responses in certain people. If your product contains essential oils, first, perform a patch test and watch for indications of discomfort before using it elsewhere.

Artificial dyes and fragrances: Artificial scents and colors can irritate the skin, even in people who don’t usually have sensitive or reddened skin.  Do a trial run if your product contains scent before putting it to bigger portions of your body and/or face.

Hydroquinone: a synthetic molecule that has been utilized in everything from cosmetics to photo development since its discovery in the early 1800s. The chemical interferes with the skin’s melanin-producing cells, reducing pigment synthesis.

While it efficiently (albeit momentarily) reduces dark spots, it also has the potential to lighten the surrounding area. Your skin may develop white patches, or “halo spots”, as a result of this.

Allergen: The allergies are provided at the bottom of an INCI list. Essential oils or manufactured scents contain these allergens. Geraniol, limonene, and linalool are among the 26 potential allergens. Companies frequently indicate which compounds are allergens with an asterisk sign or in italics. It’s important to learn about common allergens since they might appear strange to the inexperienced eye.

  1. How to decipher the INCI names?

It’s understandable to be perplexed by an INCI listing at first. These websites can assist you in interpreting INCI names so that you can learn more about the chemicals and/or what they perform.

Skin Deep: is a website where you may look up single components or an entire product (if included in the database). It will inform you whether there are any issues with the substances, such as toxicity, inflammation, or the likelihood of contamination.

Cosmetics Info: You may look up ingredients to learn more about them and their functionality here.

Paula’s Choice: This is an excellent, straightforward glossary of cosmetic compounds and their roles in products.

The Chemical Maze: Food additives and beauty ingredients are featured in this easy-to-use software.

  • Ingredient sources: where are they from?

On the goods, this is denoted by a ‘red dot’ or a ‘green dot’. If you’re strict about only using plant-based products and don’t want to use anything derived from animals, this is essential.

The ‘Green Dot’ denotes that the product is created from plant-based materials.

The ‘Red Dot’ denotes that the product is derived from animals.

  • Look out for the warning signs

This concentrates mostly on the information regarding the product that you must know right away.

Certain goods, for example, specify where and how they should be used, as well as what areas should be avoided when doing so. This knowledge is critical in order to avoid any negative skin responses.

Note: Many goods are unsafe to use if you are expecting, trying to conceive, or lactating. If you’re pregnant, seek advice from a dermatologist prior to using any skincare product.

  • The Science behind Signs

On a cosmetic label, there might be a plethora of symbols!

Some symbols are official seals or insignia that an external certifying agency, such as COSMOS organic certification, bestows on a product (or a firm).

Other symbols are established by an organization to convey a certain degree of quality.

Expiry Date:

You’ll see a date on the label indicating, by when the product should be used. A ‘best before end’ date (BBE), which is generally symbolized by an hourglass sign, or a ‘period after opening’ duration, which is usually represented by an opened jar symbol, can be used to express this. Check your product for this information to ensure that you utilize it within the time frame specified.


Look for figures like 12M, 6M, 24M, etc. The M denotes months. Use those figures to determine when it’s necessary to replace your item. If it’s past its expiration date, for example, all oil constituents will almost always float to the surface, so if you keep using it, you might be putting a larger concentration of possibly pore-clogging grease to your skin.

And if the product arrives in a container (or any package that needs you to use your fingers to pull the formulation out), bacteria can readily migrate to your skin, increasing the risk of infection. When it comes to skincare and cosmetics, it’s crucial to keep track of expiry dates.


The expiry or expiration date is tagged with the lot or batch number, usually found below the bottle.


Many unofficial ‘cruelty-free’ badges may symbolize the company’s determination not to conduct animal experimentation. However, many of the labels are not regulated by the government or validated by approved third parties. Some groups, such as PETA and Leaping Bunny, have their own logo, which frequently includes their name on the emblem and helps to standardize the company and product auditing process.

You probably have seen the word “cruelty-free” on the back of your latest moisturizer or mascara. Animals have been used in the skincare business to test products, ingredients, and recipes for decades. It’s been the norm for a long time, but it’s no longer the most accurate technique of testing things.

Cruelty-free skincare refers to goods that aren’t tested on any animals and don’t damage them in any way throughout the manufacturing process.  Each year, more businesses become aware of the problem and pledge to establish cruelty-free processes.

Examples of cruelty-free certifications:

(PETA) Beauty Without Bunnies Leaping Bunnies
PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program certifies cruelty-free goods. Their program is well-known and well-liked by both shoppers and businesses throughout the world.  The only internationally recognized organization that recognizes brands as cruelty-free is Leaping Bunny.
PETA requires firms to undertake one of two things in order to register as cruelty-free-

1. Sign PETA’s cruelty-free guarantee statement.
2. Provide a formal declaration stating that they do not test their products on animals at any point during the production process.

Beauty Without Bunnies is a quick way for a company to gain PETA’s approval.
All firms who partner with Leaping Bunny are required to-

1. Not participate in any animal testing.
2. To keep their Leaping Bunny designation, brands must adhere to rigorous rules that apply to all of their goods. Every stage of the product’s development, including the components, must be documented.
3. Maintain an open line of communication with the regulatory authority. They do not collaborate with third-party producers or subsidiaries.
4. Fill out an application for Leaping Bunny Accreditation. A firm cannot just put a Leaping Bunny Seal on their goods; this method assures that companies having the insignia on products are cruelty-free.
5. Allow for ongoing audits to ensure that they are adhering to the required cruelty-free standards. This enables consumers to find cruelty-free items in a secure manner.

Are Vegan and Cruelty-free the same?

Vegan skincare formulations do not include any animal ingredients or byproducts. Collagen, for example, is a popular skin-care component. While it may be obtained without harming animals, vegan goods do not include it or similar components.

Furthermore, many basic substances were animal-tested decades ago, as previously noted. These substances can be used in cruelty-free skincare as long as they don’t experiment on animals. These ingredients are completely prohibited in vegan skincare.

Points to keep in mind
Animal byproducts or derivatives, such as beeswax or sheep lanolin, may still be included in cruelty-free products, prohibiting them from being labeled as vegan.
Vegan organizations do not utilize animal products, whereas cruelty-free businesses do not test their goods on animals.
  • The product’s color: What does it say?

Because certain goods include components that really are sensitive to light, they are packaged in opaque bottles. Manufacturers specify the coloration on the bottle to ensure that buyers know it is clean, safe, and not oxidized.

This is performed so that when you open it up, you can double-check the color. If the color of an item has transformed to yellow or brown, it is no longer safe to use since it has oxidized and may be harmful to your skin’s health.

  • Temperature: what should you know about them?

It is recommended that the products be stored at a specific temperature stipulated on the label in order to maintain the efficacy of the active ingredients present in them.

Always observe the storage directions to maintain the product’s potency for as long as possible.

  • Creams, lotions, or serums?

The consistency of the substance is the major distinction between creams, serums, and lotions.

Serums are velvety, more powerful, and lighter than lotions. Because they contain concentrated active substances, they are light in weight and quickly absorb into the skin.

Creams have a thicker consistency than lotions and leave your skin nourished for longer.

Lotions spread quickly and may be applied to wider areas of the body.

  • The time or tenure of application:

Before starting to use any product, check if the product has to be applied during the day or at night. Certain products are not photo-stable and are generally advised to apply at night only, as they can cause side effects.

  • To wear or not to wear? (disease-causing products)

If some ingredients are applied to your skin for an extended period of time, they might lead to skin cancer. Hence, avoid administering any ingredient for longer than it’s recommended. While prescribing such drugs, a dermatologist can assist you in identifying and understanding labels.

Finally, keep a few key points in mind while selecting skincare products, as well as how to correctly decipher the label. Always check the active ingredients and take into account what the terms on the label represent. Keep in mind that there is more information on the container and ingredient label than meets the eye.

Final Words

Well that brings us to our conclusion. To put it plainly, beauty product labels may be perplexing. There are a lot of words, images, and marketing lingo to get your head around. Then there’s the matter of the ingredients. We understand why they’re necessary, but how do we know what the components are, their functionality, and whether or not it’s beneficial for our skin?

It’s difficult, but knowledge is key, specifically when it comes down to investing your tough-earned cash on products that are supposed to make your skin look the best and remain healthy. And hence, we have come up with a list of all the information that we feel would help you immensely. For more details on skincare products, do not forget to check out our website.