Skin ish Mom Column

Ask #SkinishMom – Why can’t Skincare Product Label be Easier to Read?

#SkinishMom Parenting Skin Expert
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My child has eczema and our whole family has sensitive skin. I’m trying to read the label of ingredients but gosh, why can’t they be in simple English? I can’t understand why some cheap products have so many ingredients while the more expensive ones have fewer. Then I can’t understand why certain luxury brands have so many ingredients as well. What are these ingredients all saying anyway? I just want to know – To Buy or Not To Buy for my family of sensitive skin!

Frustrated Mom

I totally understand. Why can’t skincare companies just say plainly what their ingredients are, like ‘Sorry, we’ve added some preservatives which aren’t too fab for your skin but if we don’t, your product won’t even make it to the shelf without spoiling.’ So, here are the #SkinishMom Get-Past-the-BS Skincare Product Label tips:

Warning skincare product label

1. Ignore the Picture

Nice looking pictures have no bearing on the contents inside. What I do look for is if the picture is blurred and resolution bad, I would conclude that if they don’t even put in effort into getting the picture right, how can I then trust they’d get the product formulation right.

2. Be warned about ‘Hypoallergenic’, ‘Natural’, ‘Organic’, ‘pH balanced’, ‘Dermatologist-recommended’, ‘Good for Baby’ and ‘Noncomedogenic’

The use of these terms are not regulated and therefore you should take these terms with a pinch of salt.

Hypoallergenic means less likely to result in allergies

Natural means more natural ingredients used – there’s usually some reason why certain ingredients are selected, for instance, tea tree oil has antiseptic properties but is also a top allergen. So being natural does not equal no skin rash.

Organic carries weight if it is certified, means the plants have been grown organically without pesticides.

pH balanced refers to being close to the pH of the skin, as being over alkaline and over acidic will dry or redden the skin

Dermatologist recommended and Good for baby has no meaning at all, it’s almost a signal to me that the product company chooses to use a term that has no clear definition

Noncomedogenic refers to less likely to clog pores

3. The more ingredients, the more likely it’d irritate

The general rule is if with more ingredients in the bottle, the higher chances one of it will irritate your sensitive skin.

When I look at luxury brands, I do notice that they have a long list of ingredients – my guess is to distinguish themselves, they aim for a mix of ingredients to get the fragrance and texture to smell/feel sophisticated with a large number of natural extracts. Personally, I tend to get rash when I use perfume. And when I examine the ingredients in my branded skincare product, I see lots of potential irritants (see below).

4. Don’t get a skincare product with the top irritants

This is the part that gets a bit technical. The easy part is avoid the ingredients below. The tougher part is they have many different names, good news MarcieMom had interviewed a renowned dermatologist (Dr Verallo Rowell) who cares so much about us lot with sensitive skin that she listed the different names in this interview.

List of Ingredients that could Irritate in skincare product
List of Ingredients that could Irritate

Avoid also ethyl alcohol that is drying for skin. Avoid surfactants (chemicals ending with sulfates), that dries and damages the skin.

5. Don’t buy if you don’t like the first half of ingredients 

Ingredients that have the highest percentage have to be listed first. For ingredients of less than 1%, they can be listed in any order. Look for the active ingredients too and see where they fall in the ingredient order. The active ingredients can vary widely, for instance, some focus on vitamin A which is listed as retinol or others have patented names for restoration of skin lipids. Not all have to be higher percentage in order to be effective.

Go for some skincare shopping now, test your knowledge!


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