Reading an ingredients list can be a complicated task but, if you want to know what's going on your skin, it's important skill to learn.
All cosmetics in the U.K have to list ingredients on their packaging and while they might look like gobbledegook on first look (some are listed in LATIN for goodness sake) the can be interpreted.
First thing's first. The ingredients are listed in order of volume on the product.
This is so important. Found an incredible cream that claims to be full of great things? Look at where they live on the label. The closer they are to the bottom - the less there is in it.
As the % of ingredients decreases - the order no longer matters. Anything under 1% can be listed in any order.
It is important to note that the fragrance/essential oils in a facial product can be a max of 1% in a total formulation. Anything listed underneath those ingredients is present in only the tiniest of quantities. Don't be fooled that they're going to do much if they're at the bottom of a label.
This can be a good thing as well as bad. Seeing an ingredient that can be an irritant at the bottom of a list is way better than seeing it at the top.
Most of the worst and most harmful ingredients in cosmetics are not allowed in the U.K, which is a marvellous thing. Formulations need to be tested by a cosmetic chemist in order to be deemed fit for human use here too which is wonderful. This is not the case in the states at this time. Only 30 chemicals have been banned there compared to around 1300 here. That cream that you can only get when you're on holiday in New York might not be the very best thing for your skin. Look it up before you buy. Living in the states? Don't worry - you can buy Wonder Balm online 😉
Remember those latin names? They're for plant based ingredients. Sometimes brands use brackets to let you know the english names, sometimes they don't. It's for this reason that it's not always a bad thing to see long and unpronounceable names on a label. If they have a bracketed name next to them, it means they come from plants. Tocopherol for example is the latin name for vitamin e. Vitamin e is an antioxidant that allows us to use essential oils in formulations without the product spoiling. It's not scary.
One thing that isn't really regulated though is the wording used to describe products.
'Contains Natural Ingredients' could mean only 2 of 50 ingredients are natural. The same goes for 'Contains Organic Ingredients' or 'Botanical'. It's a beautiful word - but it doesn't mean everything is plant based, only that something is plant based.
'Dermatologically Tested' quite literally means that a dermatologist has tested it. It doesn't give any indication whatsoever of what those tests were, what they hoped would happen or what the results were. It definitely doesn't necessarily mean what lots of consumers seem to think it means (that it's safe for all skin types & is proven to be effective). It might well be, but not because it says dermatologically tested on the label.