how to read ingredient lists

Ingredient lists are a time sucking disaster for me. BUT, to ensure the products you purchase will perform as claimed - especially in skin & hair care products - you gotta learn to identify the 1% line. Here's why...

1: The 1% Line - Why Does it Matter?

According to INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) all ingredients must be listed in descending order of concentration - up to 1%.

So the 1% line acts like an invisible curtain, because anything after is less than 1% of the total mix.

Why should you care?

Some active ingredients like Vitamin C or Niacinamide need to be in high concentrations to be effective, but these ingredients can be expensive to source and formulate, so some brands sneak them into the ingredient list at really low concentrations to make big claims associated with those ingredients.

So if you spot these guys to the right of the 1% line, chances are their concentration is too low to work the magic they promise.

NOTE: this rule doesn't apply to all actives - some, like retinol, hyaluronic acid & beta glucan - still work wonders below 1%, and if they were higher than 1% they might actually damage skin.

2: The Bait and switch... where things get SHIFTY

When ingredients drop to concentrations of 1% or less, brands are allowed to shuffle them around in the list. So they often push unsexy preservatives like Phenoxyethanol and thickening gums to the bottom of the list, and push SEXY super food extracts to the top (NOTE: I think we may even done that with our facial cleanser, but I'm about to change it).

So, how do you become a 1% line detective? Look for clues!

Some ingredients like Xanthan Gum, Gellan Gum, Guar Gum, and related gums are often used as thickeners. But unless your product is super thick or gooey, these gum buddies are unlikely to be above 1%. Why? Because too much of them would turn your lotion into a sticky mess!

Have a look at the image below to see what I'm talking about...

Now check out another vitamin C serum from a company I just randomly picked, with the odd name of 'etee' (weird right)?

Notice how their vitamin C - L-ascorbic acid - is actually the SECOND ingredient on the list after water (I know, why are they shipping water??? It's a little trickier to remove water from serums, but 'they' are trying I promise).

3: Your 1% Watch List...

So, if you want to know which ingredients typically fall within the 1%, look for these ingredients as indicators:

  • Extracts (with a few exceptions)
  • Fragrance and Essential Oils (especially for face products)
  • Parabens
  • Disodium EDTA
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Potassium Sorbate
  • Thickening Agents

And if you'd like to check out any of etee's ingredients...

CLICK HERE to visit the shop!

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