How to Read the Ingredients on a Cosmetic Item Part 1

Before enlightening you with my wisdom let me just tell you how much I'm enjoying being on vacation after just recently finishing my exams. It's been a while since I've been able to blog or even do my daily beauty rounds. And while writing this post I decided to see if Beth had any reviews for the movie (Tashan) I will be seeing soon with a friend. Not only did she have a review, but her post has me laughing hysterically.

Back to beauty it is. I used to get suckered into advertising where companies used to promise extracts of exotic items. Companies pretty promise some magic extract that was taken from an almost extinct species of tree that produces a pearl-like (but it's not a pearl, that's why it's so special) substances only one a year and that too only according to an ancient Maya calendar. With their magical promises companies might as well be advertising this. So here's the first post in a series on how to interpret the marketing and understanding the ingredients.

Order of Ingredients:
When you read the ingredients of a product, look at the ingredients at the beginning of the list. The ingredients are listed in the order of their percentage. Take for example the ingredients in Cosmedicine Health Cleanse:

  • Water/Eau, Sodium Lauroamphoacetate, Cyclomethicone, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben.
As you can see, water has the highest percentage in the formulation, followed by sodium lauroamphoacetate.

I usually look for where ingredients are placed after the basic formulation of whatever it is I'm trying to buy. In the Cosmedicine cleanser, the witch hazel extract is placed right after the foaming agents. This means that I have a decent chance of the witch hazel having an effect on the way the cleanser works. If the cleanser had a lot of different ingredients and witch hazel was placed towards the end of the list, chances are the witch hazel extract wouldn't have made a skin altering difference.

So when companies promise special extracts, look at where they are placed in the list of ingredients. Since companies often advertise these ingredients, the common term for them is usually listed in parentheses next to its Latin name. If not, I like checking up on ingredients here.


Knowing the complex terminologies is very hard but there are a few basic patterns I look for. For example, ingredients that end in '-cone' usually indicate some type of silicone product. A good idea is to check a cosmetic ingredients database if you have any doubts (I will compile a list of common and recurring patterns of ingredients used in skin care soon and post it).

Isolating Irritants:
The best thing about reading ingredients is the potential power (yes it is power to not have cystic acne because of a new cream) in identifying and avoiding ingredients that might irritate your skin. When I am trying out new products and can feel those suckers rising from under my skin (I'm talking about zits in case I wasn't clear), I first eliminate products that I know I do not break out from. After this, I compare the ingredients of the potential products and look for a recurring ingredient. I then check with my skin-friendly products to see if I could tolerate the ingredients or not. If the ingredients are not listed in any of my skin-friendly products, I check them out here. I now have a basic idea of what is causing the irritation.


Anonymous said...

Hi Anu,
do you have any suggestions on what make-up to use to give the illusion of fresh glowing skin?

6:43 AM
Anonymous said...

Hi Anu,
Can you also suggest some tinted moisturizers for indian skin..I am planning to visit india shortly and would like to avoid foundation in the sweltering heat. Love to see some of your picks


11:06 AM
Leeann said...

Glad you're back =)

This post was so helpful! I never read the ingredients in my makeup and need to start doing so. Thanks for the helpful guide!

1:16 PM
Aarthi said...

I was just gonna post a comment asking for your recommendations on a tinted moisturizer for summer, but looks like a previous poster beat me to it :)
Can you please make some suggestions? Very important me is that it not break me out. I have got skin that mercilessly breaks out with liquid foundations :( Can you also suggest something with medium coverage (though I know that TM are sheer at best) because I have some hyperpigmentation from acne scars. Thanks a bunch!!!!!

8:30 AM
Anu said...

hey anonymous:
highlighters are my favourite thing in the world. if you can get your hands on it try the revlon bare it all lustrous lotion. i finished one a while back(gasp!) and recently found it again at big lots for $2. it used to be one of my favourite highlighters. other highlighters i love are benefit moonbeam and highbeam, vasanti eye and cheek mousse highlighter, shiseido accentuating stick in the glistening stick shade, nars albatross, milani glimmer stripes (easy on the application with these), mac strobe cream, and the wet and wild all over shimmer (which is awesome too). just dab some on your cheekbones, bridge of the nose, etc and it gives you a glow for the summer :). hope that helps.

hey anonymous:
don't laugh but one of my all time favourite tinted moisturizers is cover girl smoothers. doesn't give me that much coverage but it's sheer and does a great job at making me look polished. i also love maybelline pure make-up (which is pretty much a tinted moisturizer), laura mercier's tinted moisturizer (which is also really really nice). i'd also really recommend the yves saint laurent complexion enhancer. it's not a foundation but just enhances your complexion. i also like mac face and body for a sheer tint (it has no moisturizer though). lorac's oil free make-up is very sheer and is pretty much a tint (without moisturizer). neutrogena's healthy skin enhancer is something a lot of people have recommended me. aveda's inner light tinted moisturizer is very beautiful as well. of the whole lot, my heart belongs to the covergirl tinted moisturizer (the smoothers tinted moisturizer), then the ysl, the maybelline, and the the aveda one. let me now if you have more questions. also i'll let you now when i thin of more. i have them all swimming in the back of my head.

hey leeann:
glad to be of help :)

hey aarthi:
i posted a bunch above. i'll let you now if i come up with more (which i know i will later). the laura mercier one sounds lie a great fit. however, if you wont want to spend on the laura mercier, try the neutrogena healthy skin enhancer or the aveda inner lights tinted moisturizer. they all have a bit more coverage than the sheerer tinted moisturizers out there. alternatively you could cover up the marks with concealor (and settle for a sheerer tinted moisturizer.)

11:12 PM

yummy411 said...

super fab post!

9:08 AM
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4:40 AM

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