Are you tired of spending a fortune on skincare products, only to see little to no improvement in your skin? Are you confused by the long list of ingredients on the back of your skincare products? You’re not alone. 

Many of us are guilty of blindly trusting the labels on our skincare products without truly understanding what they contain. 

But, what if I tell you that by understanding how to read skincare ingredients list, you could take control of your skincare routine.

This is not just about vanity, this is about taking care of ourselves, about investing in our skin, in our confidence and self-esteem. 

In this post, we’ll dive deep into the world of skincare ingredients, and empower you with the knowledge you need to make informed choices about the products you use on your skin.

How To Read Skincare Ingredients Labels?

Following are some easiest ways to decode skincare ingredients and understand product labels: 

1. Understand The Order Of Ingredients

The order of ingredients is essential. The first few ingredients are the most abundant, making up a more significant portion of the product. For example, if you see water listed as an ingredient and then olive oil, you know that olive oil makes up a small amount (maybe less than 10 per cent) of the formula while water is far more prevalent (at least 90 per cent).

You will also see this with preservatives: Sodium benzoate is listed at the top, and then potassium sorbate at the bottom. That means sodium benzoate makes up more than 99% of your product’s preservative system, while potassium sorbate only makes up 0.1% or less!

2. Get Help From EWG Skin Deep

EWG Skin Deep is a database that rates the safety of ingredients used in personal care products. It uses data from scientific studies, animal studies and lab tests to produce its ratings based on hazard (the potential for harm), exposure level and regulatory status/concerns. Products are graded from 0 (best) to 10 (worst).

To use EWG Skin Deep effectively, you need to know what the ratings mean. A 0-2 rating indicates low hazard; 3-5 indicates moderate hazard; 6-7 indicates high hazard; 8s indicate very high hazards; 9s indicate severe hazards; 10s indicate extremely severe hazards.

The site also provides tips for avoiding ingredients with high hazards or those that may be harmful when combined with other ingredients.

3. Know What Your Skin Needs

It’s important to know what your skin needs to make an informed decision about the products you should use. You might want to ask yourself these questions if you are unsure:

What is my skin type? Oily, dry or a combination? Oily skin tends to be shiny and greasy, while dry skin can appear rough and flaky. Combination skins have oily and dry areas, making them more complicated than other types of complexions.

Is my skin sensitive? If so, ensure that any product you choose has no ingredients that could irritate it further.

Am I prone to acne breakouts or blackheads? This can indicate increased sebum production—the oil secreted from sebaceous glands in the pores—which leads down a path toward clogged pores and pimples galore!

Look for products that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, as this help reduce inflammation associated with blemishes by unclogging them gently but effectively. 

Keep in mind that these ingredients may irritate if used excessively, so always start by applying a small amount of any new product before increasing how much it’s applied later on down the road.

4. Good Ingredients Vs Bad Ingredients

Good Ingredients: anything that has been proven safe and effective by science. These ingredients are generally considered “safe” for everyone (except individual allergies). They’re often natural or made from plants, minerals, and other naturally occurring sources.

read skincare ingredients

Harmful Ingredients: any ingredient that has not been proven safe by science. These ingredients may be harmful in large doses, even if they’re found in nature or used by humans for centuries without adverse effects (i.e., salt). Some common examples include fragrance oils (which often contain phthalates) or parabens (which have been linked to cancer).

5. Check For Known Allergens Or Irritants 

If you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies, it’s important to avoid certain ingredients that may cause irritation. Common allergens include fragrances, alcohol, and certain preservatives.

6. Avoid Toxic Skin Ingredients

Parabens: These preservatives are used in many cosmetics to slow the growth of fungus, yeast and bacteria. The problem is that parabens can mimic estrogen in your body, leading to breast cancer, infertility and even early puberty in young children. They’re also found in the majority of sunscreens!

Alcohol: This is a common ingredient and can be found in many types of skincare products, including moisturizers, toners, and cleansers. When used in large amounts or over time, alcohol can irritate the skin by drying it out. If you have any concerns about an ingredient with this name on your product’s label—like “denatured” or “SD alcohol”—you may want to avoid it altogether.

Mineral Oil: A petroleum-based oil derived from crude oil, a common ingredient in moisturizing products. It stops moisture from escaping from skin cells by creating a barrier on the outer layer of your skin. 

Still, it doesn’t let anything else enter or leave it, including other beneficial ingredients meant for absorption into your bloodstream, like vitamins or antioxidants! You’ll find this ingredient listed as “petrolatum” on most skincare labels (and some makeup ones too).

Sulphates: Surfactants that foam up when mixed with water; they’re commonly found in shampoos and soaps because they quickly dissolve oils on our bodies without drying out our hair/skin too much…but did you know they’re also irritants? 

This means they cause redness when applied directly onto sensitive areas like eyelids, where they can irritate while washing off after use.

Silicones: A class of chemicals used to make your skin feel smooth without causing any irritation. They’re often used as thickeners or emulsifiers in skincare products but can also be found in sunscreens, makeup and even some hair care products!

Silicones are typically safe, but if you’re allergic to them or have sensitive skin that tends to break out from products containing them, you should avoid using anything with this ingredient.

7. Look For The “Active” Ingredients 

Active ingredients are the ones that have a specific purpose, such as fighting acne or reducing the appearance of fine lines. These ingredients are typically listed first on the ingredients list because they are the most important.

8. Look For “Inactive” Or Supporting Ingredients 

These ingredients may not have a specific skincare benefit, but they play a role in the product’s overall formula. Examples include emollients, which help to moisturize the skin, and surfactants, which help to cleanse the skin.

The Importance of Reading Skincare Ingredients Lists

There are many reasons why you should bother reading skincare ingredient lists, and here are just 5 of them:

  1. Ingredient labels tell you what’s in the product.
  2. It’s a quick way to weed out potentially harmful ingredients that could be causing skin problems or reactions.
  3. If you have sensitive skin, knowing what ingredients are in your products can help you avoid products that may cause irritation or breakouts.
  4. You can ensure the product you’re buying hasn’t been tested on animals, which is becoming more important to many consumers.
  5. Ingredients lists also give you a good idea of what the product does for your skin — and whether it’s worth the money!


It’s easy to grab a bottle of lotion or cream and think that you’re doing your skin some good, but product labels are crucial to choosing the proper skincare for your needs. 

This means being more aware of the best ingredients for your skin and knowing what you want from a skincare product.

Reading the ingredients list is the first step to finding out what is in the product. If a product has an unfamiliar ingredient, look up its purpose and figure out if it would benefit your skin or cause irritation or inflammation.

We hope that by reading this article, you have become more informed about what goes into your products and why it matters.

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