Whenever you buy any product, it is really important to know what it contains. Certain skincare products provide optimum benefits only if they contain specific ingredients in the right quantity. Thus, it is important that you read the labels before applying them to your skin. 

Labels of the products reveal a lot about what that bottle contains. They act as brief guides which help you to pick up the right product as per your skin type and concern. Apart from the ingredients, they also have warning signs and instructions to use the product. 

Let's take a look into what details are mentioned on the labels and how to read them properly:        

1. Ingredients. Before buying any skincare product, it is important to check the ingredients that are present in it. You can find them either on the front or back of the product. 

Mostly active ingredients are mentioned on the front and rest on the back label.  

It is required that all ingredients be listed in descending order, with the largest ingredient listed first. This means that the ingredient that is present in large amounts is present on the top and the ingredient present in the lowest quantity, is present at the bottom. 

There are certain specific words mentioned on the label that can be very helpful in understanding its composition:   

  • Alcohol-free. It only refers to a specific alcohol which is ethyl alcohol. However, the product still might contain cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl or lanolin alcohol which are fatty alcohols and can dry the skin.  
  • Hypoallergenic. This term basically means that the product has very less chances of causing any allergic reaction as compared to other products.
  • Non-Comedogenic. This term basically refers to the fact that the product doesn’t contain any ingredient that can clog your pores and cause acne. So, if you have oily or acne-prone skin, you should look for a ‘non-comedogenic’ label while buying skincare or cosmetic products.
  • Organic. At times, there are complex chemical names that are mentioned on the product which are confusing. In reality, organic products are the ones that contain carbon in them, but certain cosmetic and skincare product companies use synthetic chemicals derived from petroleum jelly and label them as ‘organic’. 

The best way to ensure that you are buying the right product is to look for the ‘certified organic product logo’ on it. 

Only if the product contains more than 95% organic ingredients, then only it is marked as an organic product.         

2. Warning Signs. This majorly focuses on the facts about the product which you need to know immediately. 

For e.g., certain products explain where and how it has to be applied or what areas you need to avoid while applying them. This information is very important to avoid any skin reactions.        

3. Source of Ingredients. This is indicated by ‘a red dot or a green dot’ on the products. This plays a vital role if you are very particular about using only plant-based products and want to avoid animal source derived products. 

  • ‘Green Dot’ implies the product is made of plant sources
  • ‘Red Dot’ implies the source of the product is animal-based.         

4. Manufacturing And Expiry Dates. All beauty products have an expiration date or symbol. This primarily depicts the time period through which the product is considered good for storage and application purposes. 

 Check for this information on your product to ensure you use it within the expected time period. 

Never use any product beyond the expiry date as they can hamper your skin health or cause allergies.        

5. Colour of The Product. Some products have ingredients that are sensitive to sunlight, and therefore are available in opaque bottles. 

To make sure that consumers know the product is safe and not oxidized, manufacturers mention the colour of the product on the bottle. 

This is done so that you can cross-check the colour when you open the bottle. If the colour of a product has changed to yellow or brown, it means that it is not safe to use as the product may have oxidized and can affect your skin health.

6. Temperature. To keep the active ingredient in the products effective, it is advisable to store it at a given temperature, which is mentioned on the label. 

Always follow the storage instructions so as to maintain the efficacy of the product for a longer duration.       

7. Serums/Creams/Lotions. The main difference between serums, creams and lotions is the consistency of the product. 

  • Serums are more velvety, potent and light. They have concentrated active ingredients so they are low in weight and penetrate easily into your skin. 
  • Creams are generally thicker in consistency and keep your skin hydrated for a longer duration. 
  • Lotions are oil in a water base, they spread well and can be used on larger body areas easily. 

8. Pregnancy And Lactation Warning. A lot of products are not safe if you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding. 

If you are pregnant, make sure that you consult a dermatologist before using any skin product.       

9. Application Time. Before starting to use any product, check if the product has to be applied during the day or at night. 

Certain products are not photo-stable and are generally advised to apply at night only, as they can cause side effects.         

10. Cancer-causing Ingredients. Certain ingredients, if used for a longer duration on your skin, can cause skin cancer. So, avoid using any specific ingredient for more than the prescribed duration. 

Your dermatologist can help you to look for labels and understand them while prescribing such products.

At the end of the day, while choosing skincare products, keep in mind these few key points and how to properly decipher the label. 

Always look at the active components and make sure you know what the terminologies on the label mean. Keep in mind that the box and ingredient label includes more information than meets the eye.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.