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What’s in Your Beauty Bag Matters | An Esthetician’s Guide to Reading Skin Care Labels

Today, the skin care industry is an exciting place to be. The world of skin care has merged with new advanced techniques and technology to improve ingredients for your skin. The industry has gone global with endless choices for beauty products and the options are limitless.

Every cosmetic and skin care line claims to provide a variety of options for different skin conditions such as fine lines & wrinkles, sensitive types, discoloration, acne & rosacea, but what are the reasons and benefits behind purchasing any of these products for YOUR needs?

Here is a simple list of criteria to help you purchase a skin care product right for you:

  • Does it contain the highest quality of ingredients?
  • Is the line/product synergistic?
  • Does it feel good on your skin?
  • Does it benefit you?

Because there are so many different skin types, conditions and lifestyles — no one skincare line is right for everyone. It is always best to choose the best ingredients you can find for your skin type. Ethical standards may help you choose what quality of ingredients you are looking for and what they mean to you. Your beauty bag should define your lifestyle, from what is right for your current skin health condition, right down to the ingredients and your lifestyle. I often refer to food as an analogy of how to choose my skin care ingredients by reading the packaging labels. By becoming familiar with what you are using on your face, hair and body, you get a better understanding of how it’s processed and what all ingredients it’s made with. Although, making sense of marketing and ingredient labels can be tricky.

Deciphering ingredients and how they regard to your health and skin condition takes research aside from just reading the pretty little package. Some ingredients are better than others. Some being toxic, cancer-causing, or some other dire threat to one’s health — with the responsibility on you to know which synthetic ingredients are bad, while natural ingredients are painted as better or safer, which is not always the case.

If you really want to learn more about these ingredients, research Environmental Working Group, to clear up much of the confusion about different types of ingredients, including many of the controversial ones you’re often told to avoid. This will help you understand why you should, or shouldn’t, avoid them. You also might find it useful to look up the ingredients you already think you know about. For example, people tend to view “natural” ingredients as inherently safer, but after years of research, they’ve proved that there are actually good and bad natural ingredients, just as there are good and bad synthetic ingredients.

Natural Versus Scientifically Altered Skin Care Product Ingredients

Are natural ingredients that have been scientifically altered still considered safe? This question does not necessarily have a single answer, since the terms natural and based on science, have different meanings in different contexts. Holistic purists typically do not want any products that contain ingredients that have been altered from their original state, though most are unaware of how few ingredients meet those criteria. On the other hand, more progressive holistic enthusiasts recognize the benefits of scientific enhancements of natural ingredients.

So, which skin care line is right for you?

Why and How to Read Skin Care Labels

Working as an esthetician for two decades, I personally use and recommend SkinCeuticals. SkinCeuticals is skin care backed by science, serves to a variety of skin conditions and has undergone extensive research on synergistic ingredients delivering lasting results.

Since their inception in 1997, SkinCeuticals has displayed a strong commitment to clinical studies and scientific research. This research allowed them to bring the very first topical vitamin C formulation to the skin and beauty market. SkinCeuticals works with some of the best scientists in the world from the fields of medicine, biophysics, chemistry and molecular and cellular biology in order to develop its products and further its understanding of skin conditions and the skin aging process. SkinCeuticals is personally responsible for funding the clinical testing of skincare products at the National Institute of Health and Duke University Medical Center, among other respected institutions.

SkinCeuticals’ mission is simple: to provide advanced skin and beauty products based on scientific evidence. Many of the company’s products are designed to be used as a system with the goal of correcting existing damage, protecting healthy skin and preventing future damage. SkinCeuticals products are designed to truly protect the integrity of the skin, as opposed to just improving cosmetic beauty on a temporary basis.

The FDA requires ingredients in skin care to be labeled with the primary ingredient listed first. You might find that cosmetic labels list the active and inactive ingredients separately. This is done to help consumers identify the key ingredients.

Active Skin Care Product Ingredients

By definition, active ingredients affect the structure and function of skin, are in all types of skin care products and are responsible for delivering proposed benefits — They are considered drugs and regulated in the US. They must be approved by the FDA, which involves going through a rigorous drug approval process.

Active ingredient examples include such substances as sunscreen agents, skin-lightening ingredients (specifically, hydroquinone), and anti-acne ingredients, such as sulfur and benzoyl peroxide. Whether an ingredient is categorized as active depends on what claims are being made for the product and on what the FDA permits for that specific ingredient. For example, a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) exfoliant contains salicylic acid, but if the product does not make an anti-acne claim, it does not need to list salicylic acid as an “active” ingredient.

Inactive Skin Care Product Ingredients

Inactive ingredients must be listed alphabetically or can be listed in descending order of concentration. “Inactive” does not mean the ingredients don’t have any effect; rather, it simply means they do not have regulatory status as active ingredients.

Inactive ingredients are in the product for three main reasons:

  • As a vehicle to deliver active ingredients to the skin
  • As a preservative to help maintain a reasonable shelf life for the product
  • To make it feel, smell and look & feel nice

Inactive ingredients examples are any ingredients that the FDA does not consider “active.” While such ingredients still must have an established record of safety, they are not regulated in the same manner as active ingredients, nor does the FDA require such ingredients to be proven safe prior to use. Instead, the major requirement is that “inactive” ingredients be listed in descending order of concentration; therefore, the ingredient with the largest concentration is listed first, then the next largest, and so forth, if present at a concentration of at least 1% in the product. Ingredients present at concentrations less than 1%, however, can be listed in any order thereafter.

Recommended Beauty Bag Must-Haves:

SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Mask — This intensive calming facial mask cools on contact, comforts skin sensitivity, reduces visible redness, and restores natural radiance and smoothness. This versatile botanical facial mask has multifaceted uses post temporary skin reactivity: post workout, post sun exposure, post shave and post laser, IPL.

COOLA® Moisturizing Body SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion — Sunscreen with so much organic goodness. This SPF 30 Moisturizer protects your skin while helping boost its own natural defenses against the sun. This water-resistant, non-greasy cream infuses skin with antioxidants, vitamins, and hydrating ingredients to keep it soft, smooth, and shielded.

UMA Ultimate Brightening Rose Toner — Soothe, nourish, and smooth the skin’s surface with this luxurious rose toner made from legendary fruit extracts and their most precious essential oils.

Read your labels! By making a few small changes to your lifestyle, you can protect your skin, look younger longer and carry confidence out into the world! Refer to an esthetician for a thorough skin analysis on specific recommendations for specific skin conditions you may have. They can direct you to a skin care line that is right for you and your skin care needs.


Caroline Perdomo

Woodside Spa Licenced Esthetician

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