How to read a Beauty product label the Etie'no way

Love beauty products?  I do too.  I love the premise of a new product and I am always fascinated by the sound of a fancy ingredient with outrageous promises. 

I recently saw a commercial for a fancy hair oil containing Moroccan Argan oil which promised to leave my hair swishy, nourished and moisturised.  The advert promised that the magic miracle working oil was natural, vegan and paraben free.  I was hooked. No brainer right?

Out of curiosity, I took a look at the ingredients and got the shock of my life. 

 My magic oil contained mineral oil in the form of paraffin, synthetic silicones, a little Argan oil and partum all for the lovely little sum of £36.

 I am currently doing of course on organic hair care formulation and my knowledge of ingredients is expanding every day.  Had I not done the course I would have been easily swayed by the promise of “natural” in my product.

It got me thinking how does the everyday person decode what is in their products how can you tell if your product is natural and how much of the natural ingredient is actually in.

There is a very common trend in the beauty industry called "Green washing" where companies use fancy words to market a  product. Sometimes the words natural and organic are used when it’s only a fraction of ingredients in the product are natural or certified organic.

 So in our case for instance a fraction of Argan oil has been added to make the product appear 100% natural when in fact it has not.  Not cool

 It is important that you understand the ingredients in your product labels this is the only way you will know what goes on your skin and if it is any good for you. Grab a drink let’s work on it.

I have a few ways of reading my labels.

1. The first thing I look at is how much of the said ingredient is in my products. We list ingredients in order of concentration which means the first thing you see in most product is the largest amount. In most products it is listed as water, aqua or eau.

That said some actives ingredients are safer at small concentrations so read with discernment and ask questions.

 2. I also look at the INCI (pronounced inky) names. Cosmetic companies in the EU, have to label ingredients using their INCI name. According to Ian Taylor, Cosmetic Scientist for Green people.  "This stands for the International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients, and in general uses either the chemical name, or for plants the Latin binomial name of the plant together with the part of plant used and whether it is an extract, oil, powder, or whatever.”

So do not be scared of the latin names  but look them up. Some names are fascinating. Avocado Oil will be listed as Persea Gratissima Oil and Shea butter is Butyrospermum Parkii. See, not so scary after all. 



 3. Have a look at the long words. Do you recognise them? A transparent manufacturer will tell you what it is. One long word i can not pronounce is Cocamidopropyl betaine (i had to use spell check) but it is simply a naturally derived surfactant made from coconuts. 




4. Keep an eye out for fragrances/parfum.

I love a nice smelling product. Scent has the powerful ability to evoke memories and help us form connections with a product. Fragrance can be naturally derived (essential oils) or synthetic and is a broad name for both. Some companies create compounds from so many ingredients that they are not legally required to state on the label because of trade secrets and these mixes can have an adverse effect on our health. (Think sore throat to disrupting your nervous system). 

Watch out for ingredients like – acetone, ethanol, benzaldehyde. The list is endless.

Products with strange sounding names on the bottle like “fresh rain “or cotton fluff are big indicators your product scent is not natural.





5. And finally how is it preserved?

Preservatives are designed to kill off harmful bacteria and funghi in our products and some popular ones have been linked to everything from dermatitis to oestrogen mimicking properties.

Look out for ethyl paraben, propyl paraben, methyl paraben butyl paraben and methylisochlorothiazolinone (what a mouthful). Studies have shown it to be toxic to the nervous system.

At Etie'no skincare, we are very conscious of ingredients we use. Every single ingredient is considered carefully and we tell you what it is too. We decided from day 1, not to use chemicals, parabens or fragrances in our products. We prefer, natural oils and butters, naturally derived surfactants, natural preservatives and essential oils instead.

I hope this gives you an insight into how to decode ingredients in your beauty products.

In my next post, I will decode an actual product on the shelves and break down each ingredient for you. I will also share some resources to help you learn more about ingredients.

Do you feel confident about reading labels?

I would love to know