Reading the ingredients list on skincare products can be like reading a foreign language if you don’t have a background in Latin or a degree in chemistry. The International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients is the name given to that language. It’s similar to what you learnt in elementary school about the scientific method. The INCI exists to assist in the development of a standardized language of ingredient names for use on labels all around the world. Sadly, it is not very user-friendly.
Manufacturers will occasionally toss the common consumer a bone by adding the more common name in parentheses next to the scientific name, as in: Tocopherol (Vitamin E). However, without that tiny nudge, the components list is generally just a stream of long unknown phrases separated by commas.
Instead of conducting study on all skincare products, it’s much easier to go with the flow and choose products with a big following, especially in the age of beauty influencers. However, this is not always the best option. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all skincare treatment. What works for your closest friend may not work for you.
Finding the correct skincare products with the perfect ingredients for your skin requires a personalized approach. This takes a little more effort, and yes, reading the ingredients list is required, but it’s well worth it.
Fortunately for you, we spoke with dermatologists to make the whole thing a little less daunting. With some of this knowledge under your belt, you may be a more educated shopper, hopefully avoiding reactive skin disasters while trying out new products in the future.
UNDERSTAND YOUR SKIN TYPE
The most crucial element in selecting which skincare products will work best for you is your skin type. There are no terrible or bad products necessarily, but occasionally people with various skin types use the wrong product for their type of skin.
You may have guessed it already, but people with acne-prone or sensitive skin should be especially cautious when it comes to the substances in their skincare products. To all of you with oily skin, congratulations: you are the winners here: Oily skin can tolerate a broader range of ingredients that can cause breakouts or irritation in other skin types.
DON’T FALL FOR THE HYPE
Packaging and popularity are often easy traps that we fall into, don’t put too much weight or importance into what we choose for what’s beneficial for our skin. If you’re going to buy a product based on a suggestion from a friend or influencer, consider not only how fantastic their skin looks now, but also what type of skin they had to begin with. This will provide you with a more reliable idea of how well the product will work for you.
Regardless of how many positive reviews or stars the product has online, reading the ingredients list is still the best way to go.
NATURAL MAY NOT ALWAYS MEAN BETTER
Although seeing familiar words in the ingredients list can be reassuring, it does not always imply the best option to choose. There are some people whose skin comes in fairly with responses to natural essential oils. Although it’s one of those things where everyone is unique and you need to do what’s best for yourself specifically.
Seeing the words “natural” and “organic” on a product label is sometimes just a marketing ploy. Because those terms are not regulated and have no industry norms, they can make bogus claims. Furthermore, a product may be branded as natural if only one or two of the substances on the list are natural.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE ORDER OF INGREDIENTS
Once you’ve determined the primary ingredients you want to avoid or seek, you’ll want to pay attention to where they appear on the ingredients list. We recommend looking at the first five ingredients as a good rule of thumb, as they often account for around 80% of the product’s content.
Ingredients will be presented in order of highest to lowest concentration, so if one of the first five ingredients listed is problematic or potentially aggravating, you should avoid that product. Similarly, if you’re looking for certain elements in a product and those ingredients are listed at the end, the product isn’t worth your money. The benefits of the substances near the end of the list will not be felt because they make up such a small fraction of the entire product.
DON’T BE PUT OFF BY THE LONG INGREDIENT LIST
When it comes to the food we eat, we’re told to look for a shorter, more known ingredient list. While a shorter list may be easier to understand, it may not always suffice in terms of what you want to receive out of your skincare products.
When researching for anti-aging benefits or investing in medical-grade skincare products, the ingredients list will inevitably grow lengthier. This should not deter you. Instead, seek some assistance—either from a dermatologist or from technology—to assess whether the product is a suitable fit for you.
ALWAYS CONDUCT A PATCH TEST
A patch test is a good idea in your product elimination procedure. (Plus, it’s a wonderful reason to go to Ulta or Sephora without spending a fortune.) It’s time to put those test items to use.
A patch test can help assess whether certain products or ingredients will cause allergic reactions, irritation, or clogging of your pores. if it’s hurting your skin or making it worse, stop using it; it’s not the correct product for you.
It takes a bit more effort initially to test all of your ingredients before committing to them, but it can save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run.