How does a skin expert read product labels?


Renowned dermatologist Dr Madhuri Agarwal tells us how to read labels of skincare products like a pro.

Clever words, fancy packaging and attractive fragrances can tempt us into buying products. Whether such products work on the skin or deliver the promised result is another ball game altogether. While making your monthly skincare inventory or while deciding upon a new brand for your service menu, you can’t take risks. Your choice of brands and products will have a direct impact on your bottom line. Often ingredients that claim to be ‘organic’ can cause rashes on your client’s skin. And some times ingredients with complicated names that might sound ‘chemical-like’ are safe to use in reality. Dr Madhuri Agarwal,  founder and medical director of Yavana Aesthetics Clinic, gives us a lowdown on what the labels actually mean.

What do labels on skincare products mean?

They contain relevant information about the product. They give out information about the type of product (such as moisturiser, serum or face wash) and the skin type it can used for (like acne-prone, dry, oily and sensitive). Nowadays, the labels also list whether the product is eco-friendly, paraben- or fragrance-free, etc. In the label listing, the first five are the main ingredients and constitute about 80 per cent of the product.

However, preservatives also act as a masking agent, warn experts. This means that a preservative can be listed as a ‘fragrance’, and make it seem like the product is free from preservatives. Similarly a product which is ‘dermatologist tested’ doesn’t mean it is ‘dermatologist endorsed’.

What are the harmful ingredients that one needs to check for while buying a skincare product?

The harmful ingredients that one needs to steer clear of include:
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl. Found in nail polishes (to make nails less brittle) and hairsprays (to give the hair a more flexible form), phthalates are carcinogenic in nature and are not required in your product. Parabens are used as preservatives in products and again can be done away with. Synthetic fragrances and colorants are potentially carcinogenic and must not be included in your regular products. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) can lead to skin irritation and reactions. Triclosan can cause allergic reactions and impaired immune function.

Why are these ingredients harmful?

These ingredients can lead to various bodily dysfunctions such as carcinogen potential, allergies, hormonal disturbances, impaired muscle and immune function. It can also increase the skin sensitivities to any future product applications.

Which ingredients can be used to replace them?

There are many natural ingredients that can be used. Rosemary extracts, grapefruit seed extract, lemon, aloe vera, unrefined coconut oil, turmeric powder, apple cider vinegar, beet root powder are some natural ingredients that can do wonders to the skin.

Which ingredients should one look for in a skincare product?

Ingredients to be looked for are as follows:
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs): These make the skin look younger, smoother and visibly firmer.

Salicylic acid: Unclogs pores and helps to get rid of dead skin cells.

Hyaluronic acid (HA): Delivers lasting moisture to the skin

L-Ascorbic Acid: Pure Vitamin C is known as L-Ascorbic Acid. It helps to reduce photo-damage caused by harmful UVB rays and helps to cure inflammation and hyper pigmentation of the skin.

Retinol: Exfoliates the skin and improves its texture.

Other ingredients include DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), alpha lipoic acid, peptides, lactic acid and niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3).



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