Reading Labels - Robert Natali

Reading Labels

To Look Your Best, Look at the Label

If you’re serious about looking your best, maintaining healthy, younger-looking skin, and getting the most out of your grooming experience, start by finding out what’s in your skincare products. The ingredients will reveal their true quality and purity. True that.

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How to Read a Label (and Why You Should)

Skincare labels can be difficult to understand. Why are some ingredients listed on both the front and the back of the label? How come there are two names for every ingredient? Is there a difference between the ingredients at the top of the list and those at the bottom?

It’s all very confusing. And let’s face it, you have other things to do besides analyze ingredients lists on your grooming and skincare products. Even if you take the time to do it, chances are you may not know what you’re looking at. So why bother?

We’ll tell you why. Because it’s important to know what you’re exposing your skin to. Especially since up to 60% of it can be absorbed into your skin, bloodstream, and body, where it may compromise your health. In short, it’s in your best interest to know.

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Read the Fine & Not-So-Fine Print

Allow us to simplify the process of reading a label. Skip any ingredients on the front as they’ll be listed again on the back. They are featured on the front to attract your attention. And they can be misleading. The full ingredients list on the back is what separates the men from the boys. And the higher an ingredient is on the list, the more of it there is. Conversely, the lower on the list, the less there is.

Skincare companies are required to list two names for each ingredient, the standardized International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) term and the common name. The former can sound a little off-putting, as in the following examples…

INCI
Tagetes Erecta
Vitellaria Paradoxa
Panthenol
Glyceryl Stearate
Common
(Marigold Flower Extract)
(Natural Shea Butter)
(Vitamin B5)
(Natural Essential Fatty Acid from Coconut/Palm Kernel Oil)

Skip the INCI term and focus on the common name, which comes before or after it, often in parenthesis as it is above. Be aware that synthetic additives are represented only by their chemical names. And they’re the ones to watch out for. If you don’t know what they are, we encourage you to find out as they may be potentially harmful. The Environmental Working Group’s website (ewg.org) is a great place to start. [For more information, see our Skincare Glossary.]

To know what you’re getting into—or rather, what’s getting into you—here are a few more tips…

  • Look for skincare companies that provide complete ingredients lists for their products. Federal law allows companies to leave many ingredients (harmful chemicals among them) off their labels. Choose products from companies that promote full transparency. [For more information, see Our Ingredients.]
  • Keep in mind, the FDA doesn't regulate the term organic when it comes to skincare. The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates organic labeling for food, doesn't have authority over the labeling of skincare products. That allows for plenty of disconcerting wiggle room.
  • Don’t be misled by featured claims. If a label says No Sulfates or No Parabens, the product may still contain plenty of ingredients are potentially harmful.
  • Don’t listen to the often-stated advice: If you can’t pronounce it, it’s bad. There are plenty of ingredients that may sound nasty but are completely safe and beneficial.
  • Beware of conspicuously short ingredients lists. More often than not it means other unfavorable ingredients have been conveniently omitted.

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We know all of this is a lot to absorb. (Pun intended.) Our goal is not to overwhelm. We simply want you to know what’s in the products you use, so can avoid those that aren’t safe. You deserve better, you are better than that. No one could ever put a label on you.