Trying to identify fragrances in skincare on the label

Reading Product Labels: What Skincare Ingredients Are Best for Your Type?

I have posted frequently about many skincare ingredients to avoid in your cosmetics? I have ranted about how you can’t trust the manufacturers to be honest, so you really need to educate yourself about ingredients and actually read those labels.? As you know, I am looking for the safest product lines on the market at different price points to recommend to you in the Product Spotlights that are also as effective as possible.? This is turning into a long process.

So in the meantime, here is some advice on what ingredients to look for on product labels for your particular skin type.? Keep in mind that I am not a cosmetic chemist, or holistic/naturopathic doctor, etc?; and this is not a complete list.? These are just some very good ingredients that I have read about in books, seen in my favorite products, and learned about in school.

When reading labels, look for these ingredients to be listed in the first five ingredients.? The first five ingredients comprise the majority of the actual product, so if the first five ingredients are functional skincare ingredients (ingredients that give the product its consistency and help it spread), it will not be an effective product.

Here are some common skincare ingredients for common skin concerns

Oily skin/acne:

Many acne products still contain alcohol or use benzoyl peroxide as a drying agent.? These will dry out the skin too much and cause your oil glands to overproduce, which will cause more build up and lead to more breakouts.? Look for these ingredients instead:

  • Colloidal silver: Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory.? This ingredient is a wonderful alternative to benzoyl peroxide.? It dries up breakouts without overdrying, and actually kills the acne bacteria.
  • Salicylic acid: has antiseptic properties, helps exfoliate, and dries out breakouts.? Less irritant than benzoyl peroxide or alcohol when used in small percentages (like what you would find in a toner)
  • Sulfur: helps exfoliate dead cells and control oil production
  • Tea tree: antiseptic, anti-fungal, and soothing properties
  • Lavender: soothing, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, healing
  • Witch hazel: has astringent properties and is also used in place of alcohol or benzoyl peroxide.? Can also be soothing.
Lavender can treat almost every skin condition.

Dry skin

Dry skin needs to be hydrated as much as possible. Also, a barrier needs to be formed on the surface to keep that moisture in the skin and prevent dehydration. Dryness and dehydration can occur with other skin types as well, during the winter, or if you are in a harsh, try environment.?Look for humectant and emollient skincare ingredients such as:

  • Seaweed (algae): humectant properties (attracts and helps bind water/moisture to the skin), helps renew and revitalize.
  • Sorbitol: also a great humectants
  • Glycerin: very effective water binder and skin softener
  • Vanilla Extract: soothing and hydrating
  • Rose Water: softens skin and restores the skin?s natural moisture
  • Hyaluronic acid: possibly the best humectant ingredient used in skin care products today.
  • Chrysanthemum: helps increase circulation and restore dullness that can be caused by dry skin.
  • Lavender: helps soothe and restore balance to dry skin

???? Combination skin: look for ingredients that will not over-dry the skin and that will restore the skin?s balance.? If the contrast of oily versus dry areas is drastic, it may be necessary to treat the oily areas and dry areas separately.? Here are some good ones that balance and moisturize without clogging pores or causing more oil production.

  • Lavender: again, helps restore balance, but also has antiseptic properties
  • Calendula: gentle and soothing, but also balances the skin?s natural oils
  • Aloe:? moisturizes and binds water to the skin but won’t clog pores
Aloe is soothing and anti-inflammatory.

???? Sensitive skin/Rosacea:? the key to managing skin that is chronically sensitive or has rosacea is using soothing, gentle, anti-inflammatory skincare ingredients.? Avoid harsh chemicals, soaps, and potent formulas.? Look for anti-allergenic, non-irritant ingredients, since sensitive skin is very susceptible to irritant and allergic reactions; and rosacea can be aggravated by ingredients that are too strong, drying, or harsh.? Here are some suggestions:

  • Aloe: excellent for soothing, healing, and reducing inflammation.? Also moisturizes.
  • Bromelain: a very gentle enzyme derived from pineapple that will help exfoliate without irritating.? Also can help control inflammation.
  • Licorice: anti-irritant
  • Green tea: powerful antioxidant that is soothing, anti-inflammatory
  • Chamomile: calms and soothes irritated skin
  • Calendula: soothing and anti-inflammatory
  • Horsechestnut: helps strengthen capillary walls to aid in the prevention of broken capillaries.? Broken capillaries are common with rosacea.
  • Peppermint: also helps prevent broken capillaries, reduces redness and irritation, feels cool and refreshing on the skin.
  • Squalane (not to be confused with squalene): desensitizes and nourishes the skin
  • Zinc oxide: not only offers physical protection from the sun, but also protects, soothes, and heals sensitive, irritated skin.? Also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and is easily tolerated.
  • Azulene: derived from chamomile.? Anti-inflammatory and soothing.

???? Mature/aging skin:? the best thing you can do to help reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and discoloration is reduce inflammation, moisturize, exfoliate, and neutralize free radicals.? Here are some categories of skincare ingredients to look for:

    • Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory and also neutralize free radicals.? They help repair cell damage and can promote collagen synthesis.? Here are some good ones: Vitamins A (retinoic acid), C (ascorbyl palmitate is C-ester, which is better for topical skin care), and E (tocopherol); grapeseed extract (look for the name Pycnogenol), green tea, chrysanthemum, turmeric, Resveratrol, dark colored fruits and berries (pomegranate, acai, blueberry, cranberry, mangosteen, red/black grapes, etc.)
    • Peptides: these are building blocks of proteins that are anti-inflammatory, help strengthen the skin?s immune system, and help prevent the loss of collagen and elastin.? This will help improve the appearance of puffy, sagging skin; and will also help prevent further loss of elasticity.? Peptide ingredients often contain the word ?peptide? in them (example: Tetrapeptides, Oligopeptides).? There are some commonly used trademarked peptides out there that are quite popular: Matrixyl 3000, Argireline, GABA.
    • Emollients and lipids: these are rich moisturizers that lie on the surface of the skin to lock in moisture and prevent dehydration: Silicone, allantoin, ceramides, and jojoba are good ones.
Humectants attract and bind water to the skin.
  • Humectants: attract and bind water to the skin.? Examples are aloe, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sorbitol.

And don’t forget…sunscreen is a required skincare ingredient for EVERY skin type.

Do you want help figuring out which skincare ingredients are right for your unique skin combination?

I’ve got you covered! Check out my Find Your Synergistic Skin Combination e-book to learn more.


Balch PA, CNC and Balch JF, MD . (2000) Prescription for Nutritional Healing, third edition. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc.

Gerson J, D’Angelo J, Lotz S, et al. (2004). Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians, ninth edition, Clifton Park, NY: Cengage Learning.

Hylunia. Anti-aging and anti-inflammatory ingredients focus on healing, repairing, and renewing the skin.?

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