Label Lingo: How to Decode and Read Skin Care Product Labels
by Celeste Hilling, healthy skin care expert and CEO, Skin Authority
How’s your label lingo? If you don’t know the difference between a humectant and emollient, much less what they do for your skin, don’t be discouraged. I’m here with label advice that will keep you from furrowing your brow.
Today, most products are expected to be multipurpose, have a long shelf life, and be cosmetically pleasing. To meet these requirements, most formulations include several key ingredient families: Humectants, Emollients, Occlusives, Protein (Plumping) Agents, Surfactants, and Preservatives.
Humectants are used to draw moisture up to the surface layers of the skin. Common humectants ingredients are: AHAs, glycerin, glycerol, and elastin.
Emollients create the feeling of smooth skin by lubricating or filling in cracks. Common emollients are: oils from avocado, almond, grapeseed, sunflower, jojoba, sesame, and coconut.
Occlusives form a barrier/layer on the skin to prevent moisture from escaping. Beeswax, paraffin, castor oil, and mineral oil are common occlusives.
Protein Agents are used to plump up dead surface skin cells so they appear refreshed. Collagen, elastin, and keratin are frequently used for this purpose.
Surfactants are ingredients that allow cleansers to lather and wash off easily and creams to glide on easily. Common surfactants are: Ammonium Laurel Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-5, 30, 10, 40, 100. Stearic Acid or ingredients ending with the term “Stearates” can be used as surfactants.
Preservatives kill bacteria, fungus, mold, and yeast. Multiple preservatives may need to be used in a single product to perform all of these functions. Common preservatives are any ingredients ending in the term “paraben” or ending in the term “urea”.
There’s a method to the order ingredients are listed too. The product manufacturer only has to list ingredients in a concentration higher than 1% in order of percentage used in the product. Any ingredient of 1% or less can be listed in any order the manufacturer desires, not in order of percentage used. Therefore, if all of the ingredients are at 1% or less, the ingredients can be listed in whatever order the manufacturer desires.
About the author: With two decades in the beauty and skin care industries, Celeste Hilling is the Founder, CEO and Product Formulator for Skin Authority. Skin Authority is respected for developing pure and powerful products without the use of parabens, added fragrance, dyes or animal testing. More on www.skinauthority.com, Facebook at Skin Authority, Twitter @SkinAuthority and @MissSkin.