Skin Care Labels 101: Read Your Way to Great Skin

Skincare labels can be deceiving. The information on the jar or bottle of that night cream, anti-aging serum, or daily moisturizer is, in many cases, more marketing hype than product fact. Today, when so many skin care issues cross the boundary between aesthetics and medicine, it’s important to be an educated reader of skincare labels, so you can avoid making problem skin worse.

Here are some important points to keep in mind when reading skin care labels, as outlined in an American Academy of Dermatology release this month:

Nobody’s accountable. With the exception of sunscreens and products that contain ingredients available only by prescription (such as higher percentages of retinol, for example), there are no regulations with regard to the language of skin care labeling. Whether purchased in your local drug store or grocery or ordered from a high-end manufacturer, most skin care products are not required to tell you the truth about what they contain — or even to tell you what they contain, at all.

You can have a nasty reaction to products labeled “hypoallergenic” or “for sensitive skin.” The Food and Drug Administration has no regulatory authority, as we noted, and there is no guarantee that what works for someone else’s sensitivities will work for yours. Most manufacturers use these skin care labels for products with a milder formulation that avoids known irritants, but you should always test new products first on a small area of skin — and for a longer period than a day. Some sensitivities do not show up for weeks or even months.

Natural? So is poison ivy. That’s a reminder from Board-certified Dermatologist Dr. Rajani Katta of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She continues, “And even if a natural ingredient is good for your skin, some products may combine that ingredient with additives or preservatives that could be harmful.” Remember allergies here, too. If you have hay fever, products containing chamomile may trigger sensitivities. Food allergies may mean avoiding products containing such all-natural ingredients as nut oils and berry essences.

Unscented and fragrance-free may be stinky to your skin. Skincare labels that use the term unscented may just mean there’s a chemical fragrance blocker added to cover the smell of ingredients. Fragrance-free simply means no ingredient has been added for the purpose of fragrance alone; the product may still contain ingredients used to moisturize or as antioxidants, for example. If you are sensitive to fragrances, be sure to test a sample — with your nose and on your skin — before buying or using.

These are just a few of the reasons it pays to choose skin care products distributed by your Dermatologist, which are selected for the optimum health and beauty of your skin. At Comprehensive Dermatology Center of Pasadena, we offer products whose benefits are backed up by scientific testing. Contact us and we’ll help you navigate the intricacies of skincare labels — and treat any reaction you might have to a carelessly labeled product.