Female holding various skincare products

As far as skincare is concerned, deciphering product labels can often seem like fighting your way through a jungle of confusing terminology and symbols—so how do you make sense of it all? 

All the ingredients and indications in cleansers, toners, masks, serums, and moisturizers may look foreign right now—but in this blog post, we're here to guide you through everything you need to know about understanding product labels. From why the order of the listed ingredients matters to all the symbols and their actual meaning, learn the basics for decoding any skincare label!

Skincare product labels: Why they matter?

Have you ever been stumped by a skincare product's label? All those technical words and tricky ingredients—it feels like trying to decipher a foreign language! But being informed about what goes into your skincare products is actually pretty important. 

Product labels can be thought of as nutrition labels on food – it provides essential information about whether or not the item should be part of your routine. For example, they can let you know the skin type the product is best suited for, if it has irritants or allergens, if it’s vegan or cruelty-free, if it’s clean, and the list goes on and on. 

As much as we would love to trust everything we hear from brands and influencers, it's not enough - we really need to get cozy with those labels in small print, so then we can decide whether or not the product is right for us 

What you need to look for in beauty product labels

Shopping for beauty products can be tricky if you're not sure of what to look for on the label. Of course, everyone wants a product that will make them look beautiful and it's easy to get overwhelmed by the vast selection of brands. To make sure you are buying the right products for your skin type, make sure to look out for: 

1. Ingredients list

A lot of us are oblivious to the fact that the order of ingredients on a skincare product label actually matters. But little did you know, these ingredients are listed in order from most concentrated to least concentrated. So, for example, if you’re dying to get a skin care goodie with aloe vera and this ingredient is at the very bottom of the list, you might as well be splashing water on your face! 

So next time you’re shopping for skin care products, examine the labels closely before making any purchasing decision and make sure your desired ingredient falls within the first few listings to ensure maximum potency!

2. Comedogenics

Believe it or not, determining whether a skincare product has the potential to clog pores isn't as hard as it sounds! If you have oily, combination, or acne-prone skin, these are the most common comedogenic ingredients you need to avoid in custom labels: 

  • Cocoa butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Beeswax
  • Dimethicone
  • Stearic acid
  • Mineral oil
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Olive oil

Additionally, another way to determine if an ingredient in a skin care product is comedogenic is by checking it in a comedogenic checker like Acne Clinic NYC and My Glow Zone.

3. Lifestyle symbols

Another thing to look for in product packaging is the symbols displayed at the back and front, especially if you are looking for products that match your lifestyle. 

For example, if you’re looking for cruelty-free products, look for the leaping bunny symbol, which is a sign that a skincare product is completely cruelty-free; this means that no animals were harmed or tested on to create the item. On the other hand, if you wish to have vegan products, look for the little plant that signals that none of the ingredients came from animal products or animal by-products. 

4. Expiration date

No matter the brand, any skincare goodie needs to display an expiration date on the back of the product. Basically, the date signifies when the product will start to lose its effectiveness and performance capacity. However, this doesn’t mean you need to throw away expired products immediately, but, it all comes down to the ingredients. 

Beauty products are made up largely of natural ingredients, like oils, herbal extracts, and vitamins that can break down with age and create micro-environments where bacteria can accumulate and multiply. While those germies won’t be jumping out your product screaming “Boo!” the safety and efficacy of non-prescription items cannot be assured beyond a certain point in time. So, for example, some active components in skin care, such as Vitamin C, are unstable and can break down over time. That's why manufacturers include expiration dates – they want you to get the full benefit of your beauty products. 

5. Recyclable

Skincare labels usually show that the packaging is recyclable and the lower part of the product. To check for this, you need to look for the green or black circle arrows that mean that the product is made with recyclable material or that the packaging can be recycled after using it.  

6. Open jar symbol

The open jar symbol is actually a reminder of how long a product can be safely used after being opened. It’s completely different from the expiration date because this symbol means that the product can be used for a certain amount of time after you open it, on the other hand, a product has the same expiration date whether you open it or not. 

The jar can say 12M (12 months), 6M (6 months), and so on. 

Are all labels for skin care products the same?

Yes! In fact, all beauty products are read the same way. It doesn’t matter if it’s makeup or skincare, the ingredients are ordered from more concentrated to less concentrated and all symbols mean the same thing. So, even if it is confusing in the beginning, once you conquer skincare labels, you’ll be able to decode any beauty product. Brands do this so customers can understand the labels faster. 

So now you are the queen or king of skincare labels and are officially ready to make the best decisions based on your needs and what the product has to offer! 

We hope this blog has helped you a lot! Don’t forget to check our blog section in Asian Beauty Essentials to keep learning about anything and everything of the skincare world!

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