SKINCARE ingredients list

Understanding The Gibberish That Is Skincare Labels


We’ve all tried to read skincare ingredient list at one point in our lives but failed miserably. And after that, we just gave up on the whole gibberish completely. This potion of my diary is going to teach you how to interpret the gibberish that is skincare product labels. It might seem daunting but stick with me on this one.

Why you should read skincare product labels to begin with

Most times people take reading labels for granted, they purchase solely on hearsay. Now don’t get me wrong, that is definitely not a bad thing. Nonetheless, we can’t forget that every skin is different and what worked for Ada might not work for Bola. Developing a habit of reading labels, helps you form your own nest of trusted ingredients that work for you. Also, it helps identify the bad boys which you might be allergic or are generally toxic. Nowadays, people are guilty of considering just three factors when buying a new product:

  1. Cost
  2. Expiry Date
  3. Name

Yes, I put the ‘name’ last.  This is because most people don’t even remember the name of what they bought once they’ve left the store. Funny but true. As important as those three aforementioned are, giving the product label at least a quick brush through can save you a lot of consequences. I’ve seen nasty reactions to products simply due to failure to check it’s contents. Know what you put on your face. Does your skin agree with these ingredients? Will your skin love them? Have these in mind when shopping for a new product?

I know that these labels are like a whole new bizarre world to most of us. When we do try to look at it, we have no idea what on earth we’re looking at! And that’s why I’m here…

Before we proceed….

I want to say this. Please avoid brands that are secretive about the content of their products! Flee from them, I have no respect for the term ‘trade secrets’ when it comes to the safety of my skin. And if you own a skincare product line, endeavor to adopt transparency as one of your brand’s attributes. This being said, unless the contents are stated, do not buy! Better safe than sorry.

Don’t rely on labels to give you the information you need. Trust only the ingredient list and your gut.”
― Yancy Lael, Soulful Skincare: The ultimate guide to radically transforming your complexion

Now we proceed….

Ingredients Order

The first thing I’m going to be pointing out is the arrangement of the ingredients. Skincare brands always arrange their ingredients with that of the highest concentration up first and the lowest at the end. This applies to every product actually, not just skincare. To know the key ingredients in your product, checking the first five listed. Aqua (water) usually comes first. The brand might boast of its product containing: rose oil, green tea or caviar extract. Although on further inspection, these are at the bottom or not far behind. Keep in mind that in cases like this, you get next to zero benefits from these ingredients. Another thing to note, if an ingredient like alcohol, for instance, comes up at the top three ingredients, RUN!

Ingredients such colour (if any), preservatives, and fragrance usually come in the lowest concentration i.e. 1%. These ingredients can be listed in any other, although not at the top of the list. Keep an eye out for the ingredients that come after them, as these are likely just for show and to spice things up. What we call fluff.

In case of any allergies, it’s also wise to watch out for those ingredients in a product before you buy it. Sometimes, you might not even need to check the list of ingredients as it’ll be brightly stated upfront if it’s a common allergy. Do you see why I favour brand transparency in skincare?

Names of ingredients

Ever wonder why these people can never speak normal English we all understand? I mean if you’re putting jojoba oil, why say Simmondsia Chinensis. Not everyone is chill with chemistry you know! They have a reason though; they follow the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) system. Yes, all over the world sadly even Nigeria. According to INCI, all ingredients have to be listed with their scientific name and for plants in Latin. Personally, too much fuss.

Thankfully for people like me who hate too much fuss, some God-sent producers put the names in normal English, usually all-natural brands, or put the normal names in parentheses. All isn’t lost!

But for the rest going strictly by the INCI system, I still have a little something to help you figure theirs out. I will be outlining some wonderful ingredients we all look out for in our products, but might miss on the labels itself because of the gibberish translation…

Let’s get to it

Here’s a list of 21 ingredients and their scientific or Latin names

1. Aqua —————————– Water
2. Parfum ————————– Fragrance
3. Mel ——————————- Honey
4. Cocos Nucifera —————- Coconut
5. Ascorbic Acid —————— Vitamin C
6. Tocopherol ——————— Vitamin E
7. Retinyl Palmitate ————- Vitamin A
8. Aloe Barbadensis Miller —- Aloe Vera
9. Acetic Acid ——————— Apple Cider Vinegar
10. Hamamelis Virginiana —– Witch hazel extract
11. Argania Spinose ————— Argon oil
12. Ricinus Communis ————- Castor seed oil
13. Persea Gratissima ———— Avocado oil
14. Simmondsia Chinensis —— Jojoba oil
15. Lavandula ——————– Lavendar oil
16. Olea Europaea ————— Olive Oil
17. Rosa Canina —————— Rose hip oil
18. Melaleuca Alternifolia —– Tea tree oil
19. Camellia Sinensis ————- Grean Tea
20. Curcuma Longa ————– Tumeric
21. Zinc Oxide ——————– Suncreen

Steer Clear of these!!!

Scientists have proven a lot of traditional ingredients harmful to our overall well-being. Considering our skin is the largest organ and covers our entire body, this is something to consider. Not to mention it has an absorption rate of 60%.

Personally, I’ve almost completely dedicated myself to the all-natural method of skincare. This saves me the hassle of most of these things I’m about to mention, but if you must go otherwise, here are the bad boys that shouldn’t be on your skincare product labels…

o The Bad Alcohol

Previously, I’ve made a lot of emphasis on alcohol-free products. Earlier in this post I also mentioned to avoid products with alcohol as the top ingredient, I still stand by that. But get this. When I say ‘alcohol-free’, I’m referring to the bad alcohol. That is what you should steer clear of completely. These Bad alcohols include….


Ethyl Alcohol

Alcohol Denat


Benzyl Alcohol

Isopropyl Alcohol

SD Alcohol.

These are the drying kind I was referring to. Avoid these boys. I’ll list the good alcohol at the end of this article.

o Sodium lauryl sulfate

SLS is a sadly common foaming agent found in many skin care products. Including shampoos and some kinds of toothpaste. According to research, it causes or contributes to skin irritation, disruptions of skin’s natural oil balance, and canker sores. It is also believed to be a major contributor to acne (especially cystic acne) around the mouth and chin. Look out for sulfate-free washes and shampoos.


A common exfoliant and also an ingredient in perfumes. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is another harmful preservative. It can cause skin depigmentation, can disrupt hormones, cause an increase in estrogen, and lead to breast cancer.

o Triclosan and triclocarban

Triclosan is commonly found in antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, face wash, and the likes. It gained popularity in the 1990s as antibacterial products became prevalent. In 2013, a law was enforced that manufacturers using it had to show that there were no long-term detrimental effects.

Triclosan (in liquid products) and triclocarban (in bar soaps) have been linked to hormonal disruptions, bacterial resistance, impaired muscle function, impaired immune function and increased allergies. Instead, use natural ingredients like tea tree oil with antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

o Parabens

These are preservatives found in several products, such as; moisturizers, shaving gels, makeup, etc. Several studies have linked parabens, which mimic oestrogen, to breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count. Research shows that 99% of breast cancer tumours contained paraben. Unfortunately, parabens are yet to be officially banned in products and are still in use to date.

To be on the safer side, avoid ingredients with the suffix “-paraben.” Also, ‘paraben-free’ products will be labelled as such.

o Polyethylene/PEGs

Those tiny plastic beads in face or lip scrubs and exfoliating washes are made from polyethylene (used because they’re gentler on the skin than natural exfoliators like walnut shells). The downside of these synthetic beads is that they contain chemicals that can lead to respiratory problems and irritate the skin. It is banned in Canada.

Polyethylene beads in scrubs and body washes are not filtered by our sewage systems, meaning they can serve as pollutants.

o Hydroquinone

A skin lightener usually found in lotions used to decrease the formation of melanin in the skin. Melanin is the pigment in our skin that gives it a brown colour. This skin-bleaching chemical, when used chronically, can cause a skin disease called ochronosis. This leads to deforming and irreversible blue-black lesions on exposed skin. Other side effects include; increased signs of aging, thinning of the epidermis, slight odour, etc. Illegally imported skin lighteners can contain mercury, which can poison adults and children and is especially toxic during pregnancy.

Hydroquinone has a distinctive foul smell which some companies make futile efforts to cover up with excess artificial fragrances. If your skin goal is overall evenness, there are other natural alternatives that don’t involve harsh chemicals: neroli oil, orange oil and chamomile. Kojic acid is another safe ingredient you can use instead.

P.S. God made you sexy, so why are you bleaching? Love yourself. You’re black, and you’re gorgeous!

o Oxybenzone

Found in sunscreen and other products such as moisturizers, lip balms, and makeup. It acts like oestrogen in the body and is associated with endometriosis in women. It is also a known endocrine disruptor, and can alter thyroid function and has high rates of skin allergy.

We should avoid chemical sunscreens at all costs, instead go for safe, physical sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium oxide. These are chemical-free, mineral-based ingredients.

Good Alcohols to look out for….

Fatty alcohol or Hydrating alcohol is referred to as good alcohol. We don’t mind seeing them on our skincare product labels, they include;

Cetearyl Alcohol

Cetyl Alcohol

Myristyl Alcohol

Stearyl Alcohol

Butylene glycol



Taking these into consideration the next time you are shopping for skincare products, it is important to read the ingredient lists thoroughly. Hopefully, this has made it a lot easier to interpret skincare product labels.

Ask yourself these questions, why am I putting this on my skin? Will my skin love it? Avoid shopping for skincare products when in a hurry or a foul mood. This way you’d have time to think of what you are buying. Be it online or physically.

Purchase products that are pure, organic, all-natural ingredients and should not contain any toxins with adverse effects.

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Heyy! It’s your favourite Nigerian skincare addict.

Hope you and your skin are good and living your best life. I'm thrilled to have you on this never-ending journey with me! When you can't find me here, I'm definitely nose-deep in a book or on Ig. Let's stay in touch?

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