Understanding the Ingredients in Your Skincare and Cosmetics

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In recent years we’ve started to take interest in the ingredients list in our foodstuffs. A trip to the supermarket can now involve much studying of labels to find out:


  1. What ingredients are in the foodstuff
  2. In what proportions they’re present


But should we give the same attention to what’s going into our skincare? I believe we should.


A couple of unrelated recent events prompted me to think about ingredient lists in relation to skincare.


The first was being asked by ‘Me Me Me’ to write for them an article about microbeads and their effect on the environment.  Microbeads are a common ingredient in many skincare and personal hygiene products – exfoliants and toothpaste being notable. It’s microbeads that give these products their ‘scrubbing’ action and the damage they are doing both to us and to the environment is immense.


The second was during a visit to Boots and the counter of a well-known skin-care company.


I asked the assistant what ingredients a particular product contained and she listed three.  I asked were they the ONLY ingredients. She responded ‘Oh no. They are the key ingredients.’   I then asked her what the other ingredients were but she didn’t know and suggested I look at the company’s website. So I did. No wonder she didn’t know.  The list was extensive and largely unpronounceable!


Which leads me to wonder: how much do you know about what goes into the products you buy? 


Does it matter?

Well yes. It does. Aside from knowing whether your fave face wash contains any nasties or not, understanding its ingredient list is key to knowing how effective it is. Or otherwise.


It’s complicated

Well of course it is. So, much like food labeling and mobile phone tariffs, analysing a skin care ingredient list is tricky and leaves you feeling like you need a PhD in biochemistry.


So, let’s have a quick look at some of the barriers to making sense of them:


  1. The sheer number of them: Firstly, there are thousands of possible ingredients. Secondly, the number of potential combinations of said ingredients is incalculable. And they can all create a range of textures that affect both how WELL it works on the skin, or even if it works at all!


Confused? You will be!


  1. Then there are the chemical names to contend with: Were all of the above not complicated enough there’s chemical names to get your tongue and head around. For most of us these are all too easy to confuse given how similar their names can appear to be.


  1. It doesn’t get any better with plant extracts As this Paula’s Choice article says ‘some natural ingredients have names that are just as long and unpronounceable, such as Gaultheria procumbens or Simmondsia chinensis.’ Try saying either of those after a carafe of Chianti.


The article goes on to say how even something as seemingly straightforward as vitamin C is a cornucopia of confusion. ‘It’s one of many great ingredients for skin, but it comes in more than a dozen different forms with overly technical names, each with its own unique functions and benefits in a formulation.’


I’ve got a little list

So what can you do? Well, not washing is not an option so making some effort to understand SOME of what goes into such products is a start.


If you’re willing to do some detective work then don your deerstalker and get sleuthing. In future blog posts, I’ll cover some things to look for in skin product labeling. But in the meantime, this Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary may help.


As with foodstuffs, skincare ingredients are listed in descending order. Hence, if you happen to know a particular ingredient in skincare is an irritant and it heads an ingredient list then that item is best avoided.

Squash the Squalane

It’s not just the use of microbeads in skin care that’s having a detrimental environmental effect.  Squalane is another.


Squalane has long been considered a luxury ingredient. Unfortunately, it’s often harvested from shark livers –  an action with a knock-on effect on the marine environment.


We derive the squalene we use in our eye love serum from olives – so it’s naturally sourced.


In fact, all  Pink&Green’s ingredients are responsibly sourced and our entire range is hand-made in small batches. As I said in the ‘Me Me Me’ article: ‘I see no sensible reason to compromise on what nature does so well.’

2 Responses

  1. Sharron Mchugh

    Love the information in this article carol. You have inspired me to make some of my own skincare products and this really helps xx

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