The reality is, unless you have a beauty or skin care qualification, it’s really hard to understand skincare labels. Skincare products lure you with promises of eternal youth; or they are filled with confusing technical terms that mean nothing to the average consumer.
We tend to rely on the packaging of products to tell us whether or not it’s the right product for our skin. However, more often than not, the products we buy are plastered with meaningless phrases because the cosmetic industry is simply not legislated enough.
What do all those reassuring terms on your skincare products packaging really mean?
Let’s take a look at 3 common phrases you’ll find plastered on skincare product labels and find out what they REALLY mean:
1. ‘Suitable for sensitive skin’
This generally means that a product is free from ingredients that commonly may cause skin reaction (like fragrance/ perfume). However, the skin is the largest organ of the body; and we can all have very different sensitivities to different things. It shouldn’t be assumed that any one product will ‘suit’ everyone. People can be sensitive to anything from a natural essential oil to chemical preservatives. Your skin is unique, and so are its needs.
'Suitable for sensitive skins' may also mean that the product has ingredients in it that are known to be soothing and calming - such as chamomile or calendula - which is a good starting place if you're wanting to buy a product for sensitive skins. However there is no guarantee that the product is going to "fix" the underlying cause of your sensitivity. The goal should be to get down to the bottom of the CAUSE of the sensitivity; which can be anything from a skin barrier disorder to an intolerance to a know allergen.
It's always recommended to seek advice from a qualified skincare therapist first and address the real cause of your sensitivity. A thorough analysis will take into consideration your lifestyle, history, environment, diet and genetics. Sensitivity can be caused by so many different things; and consideration needs to be given to all of the above.
Not sure about whether your current products are suited to your skin? I suggest you take your products with you when you book for your skin analysis to get a skincare professional's input and advice.
2. 'Dermatologically tested'
This sounds very impressive but in fact, this term means absolutely nothing!
'Dermatologically tested' is widely used in the cosmetic industry today to give credibility to those who are trying to sell you the latest and greatest skincare product on the market. Putting this on a skincare label creates an illusion that a "medical panel of dermatologists" somewhere has investigated the products thoroughly and that in their conclusion the product is the best for your skin. Sadly, that's not the case!
In reality all that may have taken place or is needed to state this claim on a product, is a single dermatologist tests the product on their own skin or perhaps a patients skin, and if they don’t have a reaction, they may endorse the product. If there is a reaction to the product, it would probably just be put down to being an odd occurrence and no one would ever hear about it!
There is NO "panel of experts" making this declaration... Also, in many cases doctors/ pharmaceutical companies may actually have a financial stake in the product they are supporting or they are a paid for their endorsement. This is something which is behind the scenes, so you as the consumer has NO way of knowing the actual validity of the claim. In the eyes of these companies, at least there is no LIE… since a dermatologist did test it….however subjective that opinion may be. The answer: Look for products that back their claims with true research studies!
3. ‘Organic' and ‘Natural'
The growth in Organic and Natural beauty products in our industry has meant there are many brands trying to cash in on the terms “Natural” and “Organic” as a marketing ploy - duping customers into paying a premium.
Few people know this, but there’s actually NO legal definition of the terms “Natural” and “Organic” in the beauty industry. This means that many of the products you’re buying with these words on the label may well contain as little as 1% natural ingredients and the rest synthetics or irritants!
In theory, a 99.9% synthetic product could legally lay claim to being natural.
Organic skincare certification for skincare products can be very confusing. The process is similar to that of the organic food industry, but unlike the certifications for organic food, organic skincare is not government regulated and there is no global harmonization.
So what does "Organic" really mean? "Organic" is not just about being really, really natural.
Organic certification, while voluntary for skincare companies, guarantees a manufacturer’s claims are 100% true and requires full traceability of ingredient from seed to the retail shelf. The only way you can be sure if a product is the real deal is by checking for a certification logo from an independent body. They do the due diligence for you, checking the source, sustainability and purity of a product’s ingredients. Their logos are like badges of trust to verify a product is living up to its claims.
How does certification work?
Each certifying body creates a set of guidelines that a product and manufacturer must meet in order to be certified Natural and/or Organic.
These rules will define requirements such as:
- The minimum percentage of organic content required within a product
- The percentage of synthetic ingredients acceptable under certification
- Ingredients that are excluded from use in products
- The manufacturing processes which can be used in the creation of ingredients and the end product
- Whether water can or cannot be included in the calculation for the organic percentage of the product
Found this article interesting?
You may also enjoy this article about What You Need to Know About Your Skincare Products by Tegan Frost.