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Skincare 103: The Truth About Cosmetic Labels

Updated on October 7, 2015

Labels - The Key to Finding Healthy Beauty Brands and Products

Don’t worry its not just you.. cosmetic labels can be tricky and at times confusing and deceiving. The main goal of marketers is not to inform, but to persuade you to buy. Keeping this in mind, be careful not to jump at every appealing phrase or promise that you find on the front of your skin care packaging.

However, not every marketing phrase is misleading useless information- many times companies that actually believe in the positive effects of their products and are proud of their lack of harmful additives will advertise this on the packaging. I love this because it’s so much easier to get an idea of what products to potentially purchase instead of scrolling down every long list on the back of the packaging with no clue about what the brand claims or represents. If I am looking for a new shampoo or conditioner, I can narrow down my final choices quickly and look on the back before I make a final decision.

Labels to Look For:

“Parabens free”

“Phthalate free”

“Sulfate free”

“Sodium lauryl sulfate free”

“Lead Free”

“Pigment Free”

“No Fragrance Added”

“GMO Free”

“Vegan” (Especially if you’re an animal lover)

“Fair Trade Certified” (If you care about making the world a better place)

Useless Vague Labels (Ignore):

“All natural”


“Plant Based”


“Dermatologist Approved” or “Dermatologist Tested” (just because there's a random person in a lab coat on the back of your product packaging does not mean that it is good for you!)

“Clinically Proven”

Click here and here to learn why these labels are useless

Dont fall for "dermatologist recommended" marketing. For all I know, this could be great aunt Linda playing dress up


Favorite Places to Shop for Cosmetics: Sephora

My favorite places to shop for cosmetics are usually Sephora or Whole Foods Market.


Although Sephora has many overpriced products with useless and harmful ingredients, I just love the place! In most of the locations, there is a machine in the skin care department that scans the barcodes on products you are curious about and its prints out all the information you need to know if the product is good for you, how popular it is among users, customer ratings, high potency ingredients, and what other products in the store it works well with. So great! You can find some perfectly clean brands at Sephora that I love. Two of my favorite pure brands that the store carries is Tarte and Josie Maran.

Favorite Places to Shop for Cosmetics: Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods is another major location for the bulk of my cosmetic purchases. WFM has a highly informed staff in their Whole Body department that are happy to help you find what you are looking for and generally care more about the purity of products than regular beauty store salespeople. My two favorite brands from Whole Foods are John Master’s Organics and Juice Beauty.

Be Smart and Savvy

You can also find great brands at common department stores, drug stores, and supermarkets - just be careful to read all the information and ingredients of the products you find in these mega stores. Large chains make large orders and support big companies with big production quantities. Be careful with these mass produced brands, many times big companies with low priced products are forced to cut corners –resulting in added preservatives and other harmful ingredients to produce higher yields.

Just be smart about it! You have a wonderful mind and two beautiful eyes that should always be looking at all the components of everything you buy to make sure it is the best option possible for your health and outward appearance. Just don’t give up because it’s overwhelming or fall into trusting the big brands - their goal at the end of the day is to make money. The only person who knows your needs best and cares about your health and outward appearance is YOU that’s why you need to be an expert and wade through all the ineffective crap that the beauty industry spits out every year.


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