Ingredient Listings Decoded (A Handy Cheat Sheet)

A couple weeks ago in Shop Talk we covered why complete ingredient listings are the most important words on any decent organic beauty shop’s site. Finding out exactly what is in a product is the only way to truly know if it is safe before you buy.

You know how you’ll go to an online shop who is doing a great job of making themselves and the products they carry look green? No this, no that, all natural … Then you go to the page of an interesting looking product. Sounds good, looks good, let’s take a peek at what’s in this pretty little beauty.

And there it is. Or shall we say, there it isn’t. No ingredient listing to be found. Or maybe it has one of those key ingredient listings. You know, where they list all of the natural-ish ingredients in the product but don’t give up a full ingredient listing.

Guess why they may be doing this? It usually is not in the name of being more concise. Both of these scenarios are red flags. Even the one that lists those wholesome sounding key ingredients.

You’ve been around the block enough times now to know that just because a product contains a few natural ingredients, doesn’t mean it is free from toxic ingredients. And the good old none-of-this-or-that-disclosure you see on sites? Forget those and get straight to the nitty gritty, the ever important ingredient listing.

Ok, so you shop places that list everything in every product they carry. Yay! Dazed and confused once you are faced with deciphering this mess of words? Even some natural ingredients sound not so natural?

I’m going to arm you with a powerful tool. An ingredient decoding cheat sheet. This will help you to differentiate healthy ingredients from nasty ones on the fly.

Ingredient List Decoder

1 :: Check the first 5 ingredients. These ingredients make up the majority of the product. Like food, cosmetic product ingredients are listed in order of concentration, from greatest to least. So if a product is comprised mostly of water, it will be the first ingredient on the list, and so on. Synthetic emollients and harsh foaming agents hang out here. Use my Ingredients to Avoid list for help.

2 :: Check the last 5 ingredients. These may be used in lesser amounts but the end of an ingredient listing is where you will usually find fragrance and preservatives.

3 :: If you’ve made it this far, fairly safe to say you have a safe product. Now scan those ingredients in the middle of the listing, if there are any, to see if anything comes up dirty.

4 :: Not sure on an ingredient name? Many brands follow the European INCI ingredient listings, using Latin names for ingredients. Check the INCI listing here.

5 :: Wondering whether or not the ingredients are organic? Organic ingredients are often marked with an asterisk. “100% Organic” means a product contains only organically produced ingredients, “Certified Organic” means the product is made of at least 95% organically produced ingredients, “Made with Organic Ingredients” means the product contains at least 70% organically produced ingredients.

So there’s some help in decoding those pesky ingredient listings. Have more questions? Ask away!

1 comment on “Ingredient Listings Decoded (A Handy Cheat Sheet)”

  1. Excellent post! It is a minefield out there in the organic & natural beauty world. Unfortunately too many brands are more concerned with profit than honesty & integrity surrounding their products and their ingredients. The easiest thing I believe organic consumers can do to protect themselves from being misled is to look for a credible certification symbol like the Soil Association, USDA or COSMOS ones. It is probably worth mentioning that some brands do like to add misleading symbols like ‘contains organic ingredients’ etc that you could be forgiven for believing carried some weight!

    I believe that we should only be putting true organic products on our skin – and why not when there are so many high performance ones out there at the moment! I truly believe that we have reached the stage where organic is as effective or more so than the alternative. This is why I created Totally Organic (www.totallyorganic.co.uk) which offers the best of the certified organic products available today. Obviously all ingredients are openly stated along with the organic percentage and certifying symbol.

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