Here I’m going to be teaching you how to read an ingredient list in less than two minutes.
You know that reading an ingredient list can be really, really complex.
And here’s the hard, brutal truth. It is. It’s very hard, because there are so many ingredient lists out there, and it can seem really intimidating because I know the feeling all too well.
It’s an ongoing struggle of going to the store, finding a product, picking it up, turning it around and seeing hieroglyphics on the back.
Ingredient lists look really confusing. And as I was first getting into skincare, I would look at those ingredient lists like, what?
But as I was first learning about products, I found some tips and tricks that made it a little bit easier to read an ingredient list.
Things that helps me understand if this product was right or not for my skin.
And I want to share some tips and tricks with you.
I will say there are tens of thousands of ingredients out there. So by the end of this article, you’re not going to be able to magically understand them all.
Although, I wish I could grant you that power. I wish I could grant myself that power.
This will be able to help you look out for some key ingredients and connect you with tools and resources to make reading an ingredient list a little bit easier.
So let’s get into it.
My first recommendation is to look at the top five ingredients in a product.
An ingredient list is labeled from highest concentration to lowest concentration.
So whatever’s located at the top of the ingredient list has the most presence in the formula. And whatever’s located at the bottom of the ingredient list has the least presence in the formula.
Now, disclaimer, this recommendation, and a lot of my recommendations, are more centered around laws under the FDA, as that’s what I’m most familiar with.
If you’re in another country, there may be some different regulation, but most of the world follows this specific rule that you have to show the ingredients from the highest concentration to the lowest concentration.
Now, when you get around the 1% line, it does get a little bit tricky. So this isn’t like a hard-line rule.
Welcome to the skincare world, where it is an entirely gray area.
However, knowing that can show you what’s most present in a formula versus what’s least present in a formula, just to give you an idea of what the formula is made of.
Now, it’s really important not to get caught up too much in percentages. What percentage of this ingredient, what percentage of that ingredient.
Because at the end of the day, the people who formulated the product, chemists, know best.
However, knowing the top five ingredients is a great start to understanding what’s in the formula.
I’m going to be using some of Bubble Skincare products to show you how to read an ingredient list.
Let’s first look at the ingredient list of the Bubble Level Up Balancing Moisturizer.
It’s a great one that has a light gel consistency that works amazing for anyone who has combination or oily skin and has some really impressive ingredients.
So looking at the list, the first ingredient is water, and this is typical for pretty much every single product out there that I’ve seen.
Very few products don’t have water, it’s just what makes up the majority of skin care products out there.
The second ingredient is Glycerin.
Glycerin is a great ingredient for hydrating the skin. It works to make that serum moisturizer type consistency that works really well to spread ingredients across the skin.
The third ingredient is Caprylic Triglyceride, and this is an ingredient that helps to create that more moisturizer feel, the creamier heavier consistency.
Glycerine on its own has a more lightweight running type of texture, Caprylic Triglyceride is able to add kind of that creamy thickness.
Now the fourth ingredient is Cannabis Sativa or Hemp Seed Oil. This is a great ingredient for moisturizing the skin. It may have some benefits for reducing redness. All over, it’s a great ingredient for its ability to nourish the skin.
And finally, the fifth ingredient is Oleyl Erucate. This is an emollient, similar to Caprylic Triglyceride that adds that kind of richness, that texture to a product to make sure that it’s enjoyable to use.
And these types of ingredients are important, because if you just throw a bunch of good skincare ingredients together, that doesn’t mean it’s going to feel nice when you’re applying it across your skin.
So those are the top five ingredients of the Bubble Level Up Balancing Moisturizer, which helps us understand that this is definitely going to have a moisturizer feel, maybe a little bit more rich of a texture as compared to like a serum or a toner.
If you’re wondering, how the heck do I learn what ingredient does what?
No worries, I will teach you in a little bit.
But overall, this is just helpful for us to understand what is most present in the formula.
Now step number two is to find ingredients in an ingredient list that work best for your skin type.
One of the most helpful things you can do when it comes to reading an ingredient list is knowing what ingredients to look for.
If you’re someone who has dry skin, and you’re trying to find ingredients in a product that are best for oily skin, you’re probably not going to get a lot of good results because the product isn’t meant for your skin in the first place.
Having a running list of ingredients that you know to look out for, makes it a lot easier when you’re looking through ingredient lists and trying to find if that product is right for your skin.
So first, I’ll make a few ingredient recommendations that you can jot down.
If you have oily skin, I recommend looking for ingredients like Niacinamide, Salicylic Acid, Willow Bark Extract, the natural form of Salicylic Acid, Glycerin, and Jojoba Oil.
Just to name a few, but there are so many out there.
Now, if you have more dry skin, I recommend looking for ingredients like Shea Butter, Squalane, Avocado oil, Meadowfoam Seed Oil, Glycerin, and Murumuru Butter, also to name a few.
And of course, if you have more combination skin, it would be a mixture of both. And if you have normal skin, you are free to use whatever you want.
Knowing these ingredients, let’s take a look at the Bubble Slam Dunk Hydrating Moisturizer, to see what skin type it would be best for.
It has Glycerin, a great ingredient for hydrating the skin. It has Persea Gratissima, or Avocado Oil, another ingredient great for nourishing dry skin.
It has Shea Butter, a great ingredient for really moisturizing the skin. So I would know that this moisturizer definitely has ingredients that are great for dry skin.
And you can repeat this cycle for any product.
Let’s take a look at the Break Even Balancing Toner.
It has Glycerin a great ingredient for pretty much all skin types. We’ll see a Niacinamide, great for controlling oiliness on the skin.
We see Willow Bark Extract, a natural form of Salicylic Acid that works to really control oiliness on the skin and exfoliate deeply in the pores.
And even right after it, we’ll see Green Tea Extract, which I personally believe is great for oily skin because of its antioxidant abilities.
So it has three primary ingredients that I had mentioned before, that I know are great for oily skin.
You can always look at the description of a product and see if it’s much for more oily or dry skin. But a lot of times it can be reassuring to know what some of the ingredients are to make sure that they’re primarily meant for your skin type.
The third thing you can do as well, if you’re someone who really wants to understand what every single ingredient does, it’s functionality, what it’s meant to do.
There are tons of resources online to be able to help with that.
Bubble actually has a skin school on their website that has some great resources and different points talking about what ingredients they do use, what ingredients they don’t use and why, which is a great start to learning about ingredient lists.
But you can also use other websites where you can search the ingredient and see what it’s supposed to do.
I personally like using InciDecorder, or even CosDNA, which is cool because you can copy and paste an ingredient list into the website to see the functionality of every single ingredient.
I will say, however, it’s always good to be a little bit skeptical with these and be aware of any ingredient ratings.
These websites can be great for understanding what an ingredient does for the skin. But I don’t think it’s good to rely on these websites to understand if an ingredient is good or bad.
It’s always best to listen to the dermatologist and chemists for that.
And then the final step is always look through the entire ingredient list to watch out for any ingredients that you may not want on your skin.
You may have some skin sensitivities, or you just want to avoid certain types of ingredients, just to avoid skin sensitivity in general.
And it’s important to always look for those ingredients so that you don’t push your skin over the edge.
One of those ingredients, for example, is undisclosed fragrance. A lot of brands will use the term fragrance on their ingredient lists, which could actually be one term for hundreds and hundreds of ingredients that make up a singular fragrance of a product.
And now they do this to make the ingredient list shorter. But the problem is that we have no idea what all those different ingredients and components are.
And I personally like to avoid fragrance because fragrance sensitivities are really common. And it’s just a really unnecessary reason for experiencing irritation in your skin.
I always like to look for and use brands that don’t use undisclosed fragrance. And actually, Bubble does not use undisclosed fragrance in their products. They’re simple, effective, great for anyone who has sensitive skin.
I choose to avoid fragrance. That’s why I always look for it on an ingredient list to make sure it’s not in the products that I use.
Do you have any ingredients that you want to avoid or look out for? I highly recommend watching for those as you look through an ingredient list.
I know you’re probably sitting there like I’m going to be able to do that in two minutes?
I know. Don’t worry. It feels super overwhelming, but I promise once you get into the flow, you’ll be able to do it super, super quickly. And it’ll be so helpful in helping you know, which products are going to be best for your skin, and not.
Everything that I have said comes with a massive disclaimer. Solely reading an ingredient list does not replace the actual experience of using the product.
Everything in skincare is really relative and reading an ingredient list does not mean that you’ll know exactly how the product feels, exactly how effective it will be.
It’s impossible to know all of that just from an ingredient list.
I definitely don’t want to contribute to the belief that everything you need to know about a product comes just from reading the ingredient list.
Take, for example, the level of Balancing Moisturizer.
One of the primary ingredients in this is Hemp Seed Oil, and Hemp Seed Oil is typically used in more rich, really nourishing, really moisturizing products that are meant for really dry skin.
And looking at this ingredient list, I may have been like, oh, this might be a little bit of a heavier moisturizer. However, it’s an extremely lightweight gel moisturizer and a really cool formulation of the ingredient that makes it accessible for people who have oily skin.
Looking solely at this ingredient list, I wouldn’t have known that the texture and experience is so lightweight.
So it’s important to know that you’re not going to know everything about a product.
That’s not what this article is about.
However, this will help to make it a little bit easier to understand if a product is best for your skin or not, help you navigate the complex skincare shopping experience, and just make life a little bit easier.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.