SKINCARE 101: Decoding the Ingredient List

SKINCARE 101: Decoding the Ingredient List

Just as we review the nutrition facts on the backs of our favorite foods, it’s important to take heed of ingredients found in your personal skin care products. Many of these products contain chemicals that can harm your skin, despite claims that they will turn your acne-prone complexion into clear perfection. However, reading ingredient labels can be complicated and written in scientific language that can be confusing.

You should first be aware that the ingredients are listed in descending order. For example, the first ingredient that is listed in the formula is more prevalent than the second ingredient listed, and so on. However, you cannot determine the actual amount of each ingredient this way. Let’s say that the first ingredient is water: one brand may consist of 85 percent water, whereas another might only contain 60 percent. The ingredients can be identical, but the formulation may not be.

The International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) is a system of names for waxes, oils, pigments, chemicals and other ingredients found in soaps and cosmetics based on scientific names and other Latin and English words. The INCI makes it difficult to identify natural ingredients. For instance, the term for vitamin E is known as tocopherol and the INCI name for shea butter is butyrospermum parkii butter. Most cosmetic companies abide by this naming. This forces the consumer to remember that L-ascorbic acid is Vitamin C as well as an antioxidant.

The following definitions briefly explain popular descriptions of ingredients:

  • Chirally Correct €” Can be derived from natural or synthetic ingredients. It causes the least amount of irritation and lessens the chance of an adverse reaction. Chirally correct products are always recognizable by the skin's receptors.
  • Natural/Organic €” Created by nature. Contrary to popular belief, natural ingredients can cause irritation much like a synthetic ingredient.  The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the term natural, so keep in mind that any and every company can claim its products are just that. All products that claim to be organic must undergo rgirous vetting and are regulated by government agencies.
  • Artificial €” May contain artificial fragrance and colors; may look or smell similar to natural ingredients but is not recognizable by the skin or body.

Keep in mind you cannot tell how good a product is from the ingredients list alone. It’s impossible to determine if the product is worth its high price tag just by reading the ingredient list. While it is important to know what’s in every product, the formula is what counts the most. The list of ingredients does not tell you how labor intensive the product is to make€”whether or not it was cold processed or cooked by an automatic cooker; mixed by hand or in a 500 gallon vat; or made fresh to order or pre-made and stored in drums. Bottom line: If a product is very inexpensive, then its quality might be low. It costs a lot to make an exceptional product.”

So the next time you turn over the back of your facial cleanser and squint to read the list of ingredients, understand that skin care is a complicated science if it's going to produce the best results. Being an educated consumer is the best kind of consumer. Your skin would agree.

Save Your Skin From Free Radical Damage With This Ingredient


While it seems the term antioxidant is used to promote everything from vitamin supplements to dark chocolate, few people understand what makes this unique property so beneficial. As the body’s first line of defense against oxidation €” a chemical response that can produce cell-damaging free radicals €” antioxidants inhibit potentially destructive reactions before they have a chance to snowball out of control.

The human body produces antioxidants naturally and acquires them through dietary sources. However, environmental factors and lifestyle choices greatly increase free radical production and can quickly use up the body’s natural levels of antioxidants. When environmental threats (i.e. UV rays and pollution) and lifestyle choices (i.e. smoking, excessive drinking and poor diet) overwhelm the body with free radicals and exhaust its antioxidant reserves, it often leads to a condition known as oxidative stress. This plays a major role in the loss of firmness, smoothness and luminosity in the skin.

Many skin care products allegedly have antioxidant properties that constantly rebuild the body’s antioxidant supply. The type €” not the quantity €” of antioxidant is what truly makes a difference. Glutathione is a tripeptide that is produced in the liver and consumed in leafy greens such as spinach and purslane. Glutathione works in conjunction with other antioxidants to effectively rid the body of excess free radicals. By maintaining a healthy supply of glutathione in the body, the threat of oxidative stress and free radical damage is greatly diminished, creating a healthier internal environment and keeping skin from aging before its time.


COSMEDIX has rendered this essential ingredient even more effective in many COSMEDIX products.

Benefit Balance | ANTIOXIDANT PREP
A powerful antioxidant and environmental protection solution, Benefit Balance boosts the skin’s free radical defenses to prevent the signs of premature aging. Suitable for all skin types, this preventive formula refreshes and tones the skin, while chirally correct L-glutathione mops up excess free radicals to keep it safe, healthy and radiant.

Containing a unique blend of collagen stimulators, Trehalose and supportive remodeling ingredients, this nourishing repair serum is the ideal choice for mature and/or damaged skin. Fortified with L-Glutathione, Radiance offers superior protection against free radicals and aging, while stimulating collagen and elastin production to restore the skin’s youthful glow.

This antioxidant superserum is packed with more than ten skin-specific antioxidants, including L-glutathione. A perennial bestseller, Affirm is ideal for preventing and correcting the appearance of photodamage€”the no. 1 cause of premature aging.