by the WebMD Medical Reference
Confused about all the competing information on your cosmetic and skin-care products these days? Don't be. Here's our simple guide to reading cosmetic labels.
Alcohol free. In cosmetic labeling, the term "alcohol," used by itself, refers to ethyl alcohol. Cosmetic products, including those labeled "alcohol free," may contain other alcohols, such as cetyl, stearyl, cetearyl or lanolin alcohol. These are known as fatty alcohols, and their effects on the skin are quite different from those of ethyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol, which some consumers may think of as drying the skin, is rarely used in cosmetics.
"Cruelty-free or Not Tested on Animals." Although this statement implies the product hasn't been tested on animals, at some point most ingredients have been tested on animals. Look for the words "no new testing," or "not currently tested." The FDA also notes that there is no legal definition for these terms.
Hypoallergenic cosmetics. Products that manufacturers claim produce fewer allergic reactions than other cosmetic products. However, there are no federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term or ensure that these products are less irritating to sensitive skin than others.
Ingredients. The FDA requires that cosmetic manufacturers list all ingredients on the labels of cosmetics sold on a retail basis to consumers- even if the label states "For professional use only." Ingredients are listed in order from the greatest to the least amount.
Noncomedogenic. Suggests products do not contain common pore-clogging ingredients that could result in acne.
Shelf-life (expiration date). The amount of time for which a product is good under normal conditions of storage and use. Storing cosmetics in damp, warm places like a bathroom can lead to earlier expiration.