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Deciphering Beauty Product Labels

Deciphering Beauty Product Labels

Unlike the world of organic foods, the cosmetics industry is not yet regulated by a set of federal standards under which products are certified. The industry itself has created a task force to develop voluntary guidelines, which will be presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval´┐Ża process that could take up to five years.

In the meantime, you can learn to differentiate between the hype and truth about beauty care products by reading product labels. Following are a few definitions. Remember, labels list product ingredients in descending order based on how much of each ingredient the product contains (so the more of an ingredient the product contains, the higher its placement on the product label).

Organic implies the product is made with some certified organic ingredients. This does not mean it is chemical free.

Natural implies that ingredients are extracted directly from plant or animal products; however, they may have been synthetically derived from these sources.

Hypoallergenic, dermatologist tested, allergy tested, or nonirritating implies that the product is less likely to cause allergic reactions than a product that is not designated as such.

Fragrance free suggests a product has no perceptible odor, although synthetic fragrance ingredients may have been added to mask an offensive odor originating from the raw materials. No synthetic (or artificial) fragrance means that there is no synthetic fragrance ingredients in the product.

Alcohol free generally means that the cosmetic product does not contain ethyl alcohol (or grain alcohol), although it may contain other alcohols, such as cetyl, stearyl, or cetearyl.

Expiration date specifies the amount of time for which a cosmetic product is good under normal conditions of storage and use.

Cruelty free implies that the product has not been tested on animals by the manufacturer, although it doesn’t guarantee that ingredients sourced to make the product weren’t tested on animals.

Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living. Click here for a free sample issue.

Read more: Beauty, Holistic Beauty, , ,

By Linda Knittle, Natural Solutions

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Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living.


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2:50PM PDT on Apr 26, 2012

Thanks for the heads up, we need to keep ahead of all the other labels and names the companies keep printing up.

9:28AM PST on Jan 4, 2010

so much covering up? why can't anyone just be good and honest anymore?

9:45AM PDT on Jun 25, 2009

it's also nice to be able to decipher the actual ingredient list on products you buy. kaia house organics offers a list of chemicals to avoid, why to avoid them, and only sells products that do not contain them. check out my blog for the list, and for the products!

2:42AM PDT on May 29, 2009

Safe vegan friendly bath products and more for sale on vegan shop at care2

5:34PM PDT on May 21, 2009

So far, not too bad.

5:31PM PDT on May 21, 2009

Well, Megan there's still polution so no way around the chemicals. I will check out your link, Fern. I have eye allergies, so that's how I usually find out what's good and not so good. It's also why I try to stick with all natural and organic. Let me see how my products rate...

6:30AM PDT on May 21, 2009

Probably the best way to avoid harmful chemicals and ridiculous testing is to get over our vain selves and let our skin breathe, living the house *gasp* with a natural, no make-up look! :-)

8:13PM PDT on May 18, 2009

It is very discouraging but not surprising to learn the amount of chemicals put into products pushed by commercial corporations. Thanks for the honeysuckle extract = parabens heads-up. I would see that on a list of ingredients and wonder why. It seems like only a constant review of products and a stream of complaints to the offenders -- and economic threats -- have any positive results at all.

6:51PM PDT on May 18, 2009

The Enviromental Working Group is a good resource. Within the site is an area called Skin Deep, a cosmetics safety database which talks about products by name-brand. They rate each product for safety to our health. Their link is:

12:13PM PDT on May 18, 2009

Another thing to keep in mind is that the water in a product is often the "70% organic" or other organic claim made on the labeling, while all the other ingredients are not organic. There's also some current controversy over "honeysuckle extract" being a clever way of adding parabens to products now that more people are trying to avoid them. There are tons of misleading ingredient names though. Organic Consumers Association has some great info for those wanting to learn more.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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