Everybody’s skin type is unique, and especially if yours is the sensitive type, you may have experienced unpleasant reactions from cosmetics & skin care products at some point.
If you find one product causes irritation, you may just toss it out and switch brands until you find something that seems to agree with your skin - what else can you really do?
Well, ideally you’ll be able to identify the specific ingredients that are causing you problems, and avoid them in the future. But with many skin care products packing up to 20 or more compounds you may have never even heard of, this can be easier said than done!
To complicate things even further, many companies are less than transparent about what’s going into their skincare products - making it almost impossible to determine what’s in them, in what quantities, and why the ingredient is included in the product at all.
This post will give you a few quick tips to help you better understand what’s inside all those bottles under the bathroom mirror - so if you do find yourself with any skin issues you’ll have a better chance of isolating your personal “troublemaker” ingredients.
And even if your skin isn’t that sensitive, it’s always nice to know more about what is going in your body every day, so you can make more informed and healthy choices.
Here are four things you must take into account when it comes to buying skin care products - ( without needing a degree in chemistry ;)
1. Ingredients are listed from the largest to the smallest concentration.
Consider the top ingredients as the foundation of the formula and never assume that because there’s a big amount of a particular ingredient it means it’s going to be more effective. The truth is some ingredients works best in small amounts.
So if you are consistently getting irritation from a particular product, it’s likely (but not always) coming from one of these ingredients near the top of the label. It’s possible that the concentration is just too high for your skin in that formula
When it comes to sunscreen or a product specifically for acne or eczema the story is quite different. This product category are considered as drugs and called over the counter (OTC).
In this case the active ingredients that have been approved by the The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) should be labeled separate with the percentage from the ingredient list.
2. “INCI” helps to better understand ingredients worldwide.
You should be familiar with the term INCI. It stands for International Nomenclature Committee and according to the Personal Care Council it is defined as “systematic names internationally recognized to identify cosmetic ingredients.”
In other words, this system exists to make easier the process of identifying ingredients around the world, since they can vary depending on the country. In some cases the ingredient name and the INCI can be the same but this is not always the case.
To make this easier it can be understood as the worldwide scientific name of ingredients that can go from oils and pigments to chemicals. For instance, the ingredient that we know as Jojoba Oil has a different INCI nomination, which is Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Seed Oil).
3. Some fragrance ingredients in your cosmetic products may not be listed at all on the label, as they are “trade secrets”
The FDA requires cosmetic brands to declare a list of their products’ ingredients under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act - but with one notable exception.
The ingredients that make up a product with “fragrance” or “flavor” do not need to be listed individually on cosmetic labels, due to the fact that they are the ingredients most likely to be “trade secrets.”
Fragrance manufacturers want to maintain the ingredients list that are used to create specific scents as confidential information. This means many labels want to keep this as a “secret” because they don’t want to give away information that is solely known by the company in order to avoid the possibility of being copied.
For this reason, the ingredients are only listed as “fragrance” - which is not exactly helpful for us who really care about what we’re putting on our skin.
So what’s the bottom line?
If you see the words “flavor” or “fragrance” in the ingredients list, you can be sure that you are not seeing the full picture of what’s in the bottle. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything harmful in there, but if you if you have a specific allergy or very sensitive skin, it may be best to avoid using skin care products with fragrance.
4. Be aware of undisclosed ingredients that come in small amounts
Some ingredients aren’t required to be listed at all on a cosmetic product’s label, if they are present in very small amounts and / or they’ve proven to have little to no negative impact on the skin.
At ELSI we’ve decided to disclose 100% of the ingredients in our products, even if we’re not required to. We also will never try to hide anything behind “trade secrets”.
Every cosmetic manufacturer receives a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) about the ingredients the brand is using and sometimes there are more ingredients than what the INCI is showing. Additionally, these are not shown on the finished product label. SDS are not meant for consumers and the ingredients that are not shown are mostly because they are used in a small amount and because it has been proven they don't have any negative impact on the skin.
We are firm believers that consumers have the right to know all the ingredients part of the production process and decide if these are the perfect fit for their skin or not. As a brand we want to put all our cards on the table without holding anything back. We took a step forward and decided to raise the bar and disclose all the other featured on the SDS on our product labels. By doing this we are redefining the meaning of transparency in every possible way while hoping other brands will join the movement too!
By Camila Encomendero, Fashion Journalism student
Try our Let's Start Over moisturizing serum designed to nourish and respect your skin without irritating.