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Ingredient Labels Explained

By: Robert Manzo
Posted: May 28, 2013, from the June 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Before & After

Before: After weeks of cleansing with a waxy cleanser, there is no visible occlusion. After: Under UV light imaging, a heavy occlusive layer is visible.

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1. There are more than 16,000 listings in the INCI dictionary. No one can know all the cosmetic ingredients at any given time. If you are unsure what dose and what active ingredient is in particular serum, request that the manufacturer supply that detailed information.

2. Watch out for serum claims and their target biology. For example, if you have a serum that claims it can improve collagen and elastin by stimulating skin, the ingredient would need to penetrate to the dermal tissue. If you need to lighten skin, ingredients must penetrate no more than to the epidermal-dermal junction, where color-producing cells exist. If you want to exfoliate, the serum should not penetrate far below the stratum corneum.

Serum myths

1. Serums will improve the skin immediately. There are ingredients that can artificially tighten skin and temporarily reduce fine lines; these include specific types of seaweed extracts and oligosaccharides. Essentially, as they lose water through evaporation once applied to the skin, the molecule that is left contracts and tightens the skin. This is fine if that is what is claimed, but for true skin improvement, serums take between 30–90 days to start showing signs of real progress.

2. Watch out for product occlusion from lotions and cleansers. If the skin is occluded, active serums will not penetrate to their intended target, causing them to not work, resulting in a frustrated client.

Take the extra step

See Decoding Label Lingo to help interpret some of the ingredients in products you use or want to compare. This is a very general list, but it can help guide you into the next phase of ingredient understanding for you and your clients.

The Skin Care Ingredient Handbook is so much more than an ingredient dictionary. You will learn about cellular functions and skin aging; skin care trends for ethnic skin, scalp and hair products, BB creams, suncreens; active versus functional ingredients, natural, organic, and synthetic ingredients; OTC drugs; INCI names, antioxidants and DNA and how to read labels. Did we mention the newest ingredients are listed?

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