How to Understand Cosmetic Ingredients Lists

A woman looking on an ingrediants list of a cream

Nowadays, there are so many beauty products available that it’s difficult to choose the ones that will be not only effective but safe for your skin as well. Some of the ingredients that are often added to creams, serums and toners can deal irreparable damage to your skin, so it’s imperative to avoid them. Unfortunately, in many cases, they are “hidden” on the label by fancy terms that few people understand. Today we will try to help you solve this problem and learn how to read the ingredients lists.

There are two main issues that make understanding these lists difficult. The first is the number of the ingredients, as every cosmetic product consists of a great many chemicals that produce the reactions necessary to create certain effect when they come into contact with your skin. The second issue is the complex names of the chemicals that are difficult to understand for non-professionals. Note that some manufacturers use the fact that several of these names can be easily mistaken for one another, though they refer to completely different chemicals, one of which can be potentially harmful.

Tip 1: Study a Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary

The Internet made quality shopping much easier. Now you can study the list of ingredients in detail and decipher every word in it so that you understand exactly what the product is made of before you press the “buy” button. You can easily download a free dictionary of cosmetic ingredients or find one online and use it to understand every name on the list. Take your time to research every ingredient so that you know exactly what kind of effect it will have on your skin.

Tip 2: Understand What to Look For

You should do some quality reading on skin health and the effect of various chemicals on your beauty in order to know what elements might be dangerous and which are completely useless. The most common irritants are fragrances and alcohol, but quite a few natural extracts can be harmful as well.

Tip 3: Know the Difference Between “Active” and “Inactive” Ingredients

The miraculous power of “active” ingredients in cosmetic products is one of the most common beauty myths of today. Many people actually believe that only “active” ingredients can improve the state of one’s skin.

Of course, this isn’t true, or why else would there be “inactive” ingredients in the product. You need to understand is that “active” ingredients aren’t somehow magically different from “inactive” ones. The only difference in them lies in the fact that “active” elements have been researched and approved by the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration). Note that FDA approval is only legit if the ingredients are used in the process that meets a very specific set of regulations. These regulations also cover the percentage of the element in the product. The products that comply with the FDA regulations are often referred to as “cosmetics that are drugs”. For example, hydroquinone (an ingredient used in sunscreens) and benzoyl peroxide (used in anti-acne products) fall into the category of “active” ingredients, and the products that contain them are usually sold over the counter in pharmacies.

Some ingredients can be listed as “active” or “inactive” depending on the type of the product. For example, the FDA recognizes salicylic acid as an “active” ingredient in anti-acne treatments. However, if the product that contains it doesn’t focus on treating this particular problem, like many scrubs that usually contain some amount of salicylic acid, the manufacturer isn’t obliged to acknowledge it as “active”.

Don’t believe all the hype about “active” and “inactive” ingredients and focus on understanding the effects of the chemicals listed on the label to avoid any pitfalls.

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