The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Skincare Product Labels

Marion Simms
3 min readJun 30, 2020

“l like my products like I like my people… non-toxic”

Photo by GLOBENCER on Unsplash

When reading skin care product labels these days it helps to be a chemistry major. However, not all of us are. So here are some useful tips to clue you in on what you are putting on your face.

First and foremost, pay more attention to the ingredient list on the back of your products than the claims written on the front. This will tell you what is actually in it.

Although most ingredients are listed in order of their concentration, manufacturing companies today are not required to list percentages. So, as a general guideline, pay attention to the top five ingredients to inform you of the product’s main functions.

Most active ingredients are listed separately — for example, sunscreens and acne products. But just to confuse the issue, not all active ingredients have to be near the top of the list and can be beneficial at lower levels. Certain botanicals, vitamins A, C and E are good examples of these ingredients.

Know that there is a difference between ‘fragrance-free’ and ‘unscented’ products. The first claim means that raw ingredients used had their odors removed before blending in a formulation and contain no fragrance at all. The second claim refers to a formulation where ‘masking’ or ‘neutralizing’ agents have been added to the formulation to disguise any odor. Although fragrance-free products tend to be more costly, the investment is worth it if you have very sensitive skin.

Another point to make here — ‘hypoallergenic’ doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the product won’t cause a reaction. Skin can be sensitive to just about anything! I often see a client who has been using the same products for years and suddenly finds that their skin has become sensitive to those trusted products. Anything is possible and it depends on the expertise of your facialist to find a regimen that works for you.

Buy date-stamped skin care products when possible or mark the date of purchase yourself especially on those items that last for a while. Products are supposedly manufactured with a shelf life of two years but it is impossible to know when the product was actually sealed and left the factory for distribution or how long it has been shelved.

Marion Simms

I have been in the skin care industry for over 25 years as teacher, beauty therapist, lecturer, consultant, writer and business owner of Skin Sense Wellness.