Low Down on Skin Care Product Labeling

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration do not define the term natural or organic. In fact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration department (FDA) does not approve cosmetics before going to the market. The responsibility of the safety of the cosmetic lies with the manufacturer. Except for color additives and those ingredients which are prohibited or restricted by regulation, the manufacturer may use any ingredient in a cosmetic provided that they are safe and properly labeled and can coin numerous terms when marketing the cosmetic that may or may not be true. You can read more about the FDA's regulation of cosmetics at www.fda.gov.

Understanding skin care labels can be quite intimidating, thus most people do not bother to read them. They take for granted that what is advertised on the front of the bottle to be true. For instance, a product is labeled natural and we assume that it is made from natural ingredients, whether it is botanicals, herbs, or marine substances such as seaweed.

Below are common terms used in skin care product labeling:

Alcohol Free: when we read this term we assume that the product contains no alcohol, and to the layman we assume a grain alcohol. However cosmetic products may contain other alcohols such as cetyl, stearyl, ceteryl or lanolin. Did you know the above ingredients were alcohol? These are known as fatty alcohols.

Hypoallergenic: suggests that this cosmetic will not cause an allergic reaction. However, there are no clinical or scientific studies required substantiating this claim. Furthermore, the terms dermatologist-tested, sensitivity tested, allergy tested or nonirritating will not guarantee that you skin will not have an allergic reaction.

Fragrance Free: most cosmetics have some fragrance added to them to cover any offensive odor from the raw materials used. However they are used in small quantities so that there is no noticeable scent.

Natural: as stated above, natural implies that there are ingredients extracted from plants, animal products, and herbs. There is no basis or scientific fact that products containing natural ingredients are good for the skin, given the amount of natural ingredients in the product.


Noncomodogenic: means the cosmetic does not contain common pore-clogging ingredients that could lead to acne.

Shelf Life (Expiration Date): the amount of time for which a cosmetic product is good under normal conditions of storage and use, depending on the product's composition, packaging, preservation, etc. Expiration dates are, for practical purposes, a rule of thumb, and a product may expire long before that date if it has not been stored and properly handled.

Cruelty Free: makes us feel better because we are not purchasing products that are tested on animals. However, most ingredients used in cosmetics have at some point been tested on animals so consumers may want to look for no new animal testing, to get a more accurate indication.

Next time you are shopping for natural cosmetics, read the label. Question the product. Is there scientific proof or clinical testing that can substantiate the product claims? Are you paying more because the product is labeled natural? Again, read the label and what natural ingredients do you see? The skin care product labels list the ingredients in the order of volume, therefore the ingredients at the top are the primary ingredients and the ones listed at the bottom are the least. Are the natural ingredients you are looking for like aloe Vera, essential oils, herbs, etc., listed at the top?

Additionally, sensitive skin should avoid fragrances, alcohol, FD and C colors, mineral oil and formaldehyde, however, mineral oil is in almost all skin care products and the more you use it the drier your skin becomes. Unfortunately many women continue to have irritated, dry, scaly, itchy or blotchy skin and jump from one chemical cosmetic to another trying to find the cure.

There are alternatives to better skin care: the first is to consider making your own skin care products, you can find toner recipes, facial cleansing, masks, peels and serums. The second alternative is to read the labels on your skin care product and know what you are applying to your skin. Is there scientific or clinical research that the product really works? Can you call the manufacturer and ask them for scientific data that proves the product claims what it says. If not consider products that will provide this information if requested.

For skin care articles and skin care recipes visit Complete Skin Care Therapy


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