The Chemistry of Beauty: Decoding Ingredients Labels for Better Choices

The first thing to see in a beauty product is the ingredient labels. Occupying a small corner of the packaging, the ingredients are one of the most essential things in a cosmetic or skincare product.

Fancy packaging and trendy buzzwords do not make a product safer and appropriate to use. What really matters are the ingredients that make up the product.

People have the right to understand and know what goes onto their skin and their bodies. Cosmetic labelling requirements can differ across the world. Though toxic ingredients are discouraged everywhere, it is vital to know what ingredients are better avoided.

Let’s find out about these ingredients so that you can make more informed choices related to cosmetics.

Labelling Active and Inactive Ingredients

Active ingredients perform a specific function or are added to address a certain condition. These are approved by authorities such as the United States Food and Drug Administration.

How to Avoid Fake or Counterfeit Beauty Products

For instance, benzoyl peroxide is used for acne treatment and titanium oxide for sun protection is present in sunscreens. These ingredients are written on the packaging with their concentration, how they work and how to apply it.

Unlike their name, inactive ingredients also fulfil a purpose. They either have cosmetic benefits such as hydration or provide additional support to the active ingredients for their effective functionality.

Usually, these are listed alphabetically with the active ingredients on top. The concentration of each product is missing several times when only active and inactive ingredients are mentioned. Thus, it is not an effective way to know what percentage of chemicals are going into your body through the product.

Green Labeling for Environmental-Friendly Products

Green labelling is backed by an organization using an authentic certification process. However, many products market themselves as environmentally friendly but are not certified.

Many people will not go as far as to confirm whether these beauty products are environmentally friendly or not. Simply incorporating green somewhere in the packaging can impact the opinion of consumers.

Ecolabel Index is a directory with 457 certified green-label brands. While purchasing a product that claims to be eco-friendly, you must check with the directory once.

Ancient Beauty Secrets

Like green labelling, natural and organic labelling is also on the rise.

Natural and Organic Term

These popular terms have taken over the beauty industry but do you know what they mean? Natural suggests that nothing synthetic or artificial is included in the product.

Since it also refers to colour additives, this definition is for food products.

Organic may refer to products without antibiotics, pesticide use, petroleum-based fertilizers, growth hormones and ionizing radiation. This also applies to agricultural ingredients that may be present in cosmetics but do not refer to the entire product.

There is no governing body to confirm that any claim regarding the terms “natural” or “organic” for a product is true.

When you are looking at labels, beware of such terms and do your research to know whether the product is worth buying and lives up to its claims.

Knowing Allergens

Beware of these products in your beauty products:

  • P-phenylenediamine (PPD) is linked to dermatitis, eye infection and other allergies
  • Heavy Metals like lead, nickel, mercury, and cadmium are red flags in the ingredient list. Lead is toxic so there should be no safe amount of it in makeup
  • Phthalates are plasticizers present in beauty products such as nail polishes, hair sprays and soaps that are thought to pose problems in hormones and the reproductive system
  • Formaldehyde causes skin irritation and allergic reactions.
  • Parabens can cause hormonal problems, disrupting their production
  • Coal tar leads to rashes, itchiness, and skin irritation but is still a common ingredient in shampoos and perfumes
  • Triclosan’s use is banned in soaps and body washes but it is still a common preservative in mouthwashes, hand sanitizers and toothpastes
  • Methylisothiazolinone causes a skin rash
  • Fragrances in cosmetics do not suit every person. Some go through asthma attacks or migraines due to these fragrances

Reconsider buying a product that has any of these ingredients. Some of these effects may not appear immediately but after continuous use of the product.

How to Know If Your Beauty Products Have Expired

So what should you do instead? Look for ways to shop your beauty products smartly and carefully.

How to Buy Beauty Products Carefully?

Ingredients such as Hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid are all the rage, certain chemical names are not the real stuff you need.

You need to shop smarter according to your skin type and condition without focusing on green labels or organic products. Active ingredients do play an important part in addressing the skin condition but not knowing their percentage may create problems in selecting the right product.

While buying products, you should always run over the list of toxic ingredients to check if there is any present. Soon you will know common allergens, toxins and ingredients that simply do not work for you.

Also, stick to the products that work for you unless you need specific treatment. Note what ingredients usually work for you and keep using them if there are no formula changes.

Download apps that let you scan the product bar code and check the product quality such as the Think Dirty app.

While buying, beware of manufacturer symbols. These are not verified through third-party certifications. These include labels such as natural, green, made with natural ingredients, dermatologist recommended, paraben free, not tested on animals and formulated with organic ingredients.

Keep Bacteria Out of Your Beauty Products

While these labels may shed light on the process of making the product, these aren’t verified and only serve the purpose of marketing the product. Instead look for official symbols such as vegan, Cruelty-free, recyclable, Fairtrade certified, USDA organic and an expiration date.

Once you understand these tactics, buying beauty products will be a piece of cake. You will now be able to navigate the world of beauty products without hassle and without giving in to trendy chemical formulas and buzzwords. Instead, you will be able to make informed choices about the products you use and stay away from any toxic substance that can be detrimental to your health.

Filed under: Makeup & Hair, Tips and Myths

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