How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels (Shop With Me!)

Today we’re in the store looking for a new leave-in conditioner/styling creme.  There are so many options in [insert your favorite store here].  What should you get?  You start looking at labels, they all look nice, but you’ve heard some things about certain ingredients being toxic and linked to cancer, and don’t want to buy one of those products.  What do you do?  Simple, Shop With Me!  I’ll teach you Label Poise–how to walk the walk, talk the talk, and buy products that meet YOUR standards, whether natural, organic, or safe enough.

First, there are some things you should know:

  1. Ingredients are listed by quantity in the formula, from greatest to least, based on standards by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  2. Ingredients are listed using the International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients (INCI), therefore they are listed using scientific nomenclature, or    binomial nomenclature (latin; taxonomy) for ingredients derived from plants.
  3. How ingredients are derived is seldom listed on the label (the same chemical can be derived synthetically or naturally).
  4. Fragrances are generically listed because they are considered trade secrets; typically naturally derived fragrances do not use “Fragrance (Parfum)” but a specific naming system.
  5. If it looks like a “chemical” it probably is, if you don’t want chemicals don’t buy it!  **Everything is a chemical, I’m referring to ‘bad’ chemicals here.

Quick Tip:  Aside from avoiding synthetic chemicals as much as possible, have an idea of what ingredients don’t work for you.  Pay attention to the ingredients in the products you use.  If you notice every time you use a product with [insert ingredient here] you get an allergic reaction or your hair/skin responds negatively, make a note and steer clear!  In my last post I told you mineral oil and silicones don’t work for me so I don’t buy them, irrelevant of the fact that they are synthetic or petrochemicals.

The Label


Would you buy this product?  Let me know in the Comments!

Check back tomorrow for a detailed breakdown of each ingredient and whether or not I would purchase this product!  Thank you for reading!


7 thoughts on “How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels (Shop With Me!)”

    1. You’re my first comment! Thank you!

      I too make a lot of my own products, it is reassuring to know what is in them for certain and to tailor them to my individual needs! Check back later today for Part II of this post!


  1. I personally feel that when I read a label in a commercial store or online that says its natural, it is loaded with unpronounceable additives and preservatives. Which is why, I, too make all of my own products 🙂 Great site. Glad to have people educating the public about ingredients, what can be harmful and what is just okay.

    1. Thank you for commenting! You are absolutely right. There is no official meaning of “natural” for cosmetics and personal care products so it becomes a free-for-all. I’m happy to get the message out there! 🙂

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