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Understanding Cosmetics Labels

I can understand that because some of the ingredients on cosmetics labels are obscure and difficult to pronounce. There’s an old maxim that says, “If you can’t pronounce it, you don’t want it,” but this is far from true. Why? Cosmetic manufacturers abide by a rule established in the early ‘70s by the Personal Care Product Council in the US, which standardized worldwide nomenclature for ingredients. Known as the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients, or INCI, it’s a mix of scientific, Latin and English names found on cosmetics labels. Latin is always used for botanicals, for example, so you’d be forgiven if you read Gaultheria Procumbens and didn’t know it was good old wintergreen or saw Sodium Cocoate and didn’t know it was coconut oil.

There’s also another challenge: ingredient lists on cosmetics labels don’t tell you how much of the ingredient is in a product. The best you can do is to understand that ingredients are listed in descending order. So, a wonderful ingredient might be promoted as contained in a product but actually included at such a small amount that it is inconsequential.

Hydrating Ingredient: Avocado Oil

I’m going to start with Avocado Oil because not only do I love it as an hydrating ingredient for my skin, but I eat so many avocados that I’m beginning to look like one! The avocado itself is a powerhouse containing potassium, sodium, magnesium, folic acid, niacin and vitamins A, B6, C, and K. It is also very high in fiber and low in sugar. As an oil, it’s an excellent source of antioxidants, but it’s major claim to fame for cosmetics is its hydration properties. Avocado Oil softens and traps humectants onto the skin, which is why it can be even more effective when combined with Hyaluronic Acid (more on that ingredient later). Lips need all the hydration they can get since they’re simply extensions of the mucus membranes that line the mouth. They have no sweat glands and no hair follicles – nothing to protect them except what you put on them. So, it makes sense to coat them with products that protect and moisturize, and it makes even more sense to use an ingredient that will actually benefit you if you eat it!

Hydrating Ingredient: Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid is having a moment, but it’s been around for years. Let’s understand one thing first: Hyaluronic Acid, or HA, isn’t an acid. It’s a polysaccharide hydrator and an incredibly effective hydrator at that. About 15 grams of it is naturally present in the body. A gel-like water, it’s an important part of the composition of connective tissue, most prevalent in the eyes and joints. For the skin, it acts as a hydrating ingredient by holding moisture and helping to create that firm, plump skin that we all crave. Unfortunately for us, the levels of our natural Hyaluronic Acid decrease as we age by almost 50 percent. UV rays, pollution and tobacco smoke speed up the decline, so we’re left with dry, sagging, aging skin. Ugh! But there is hope.

We can replenish HA levels with products that contain this hydrating ingredient. They help to restore our natural hydration and strengthen the skin barrier function. Believe it or not, HA molecules bind to and absorb up to 1,000 times their own weight in water. With daily application, HA can help plump fine lines and wrinkles, increase moisture retention and repair the skin’s lipid barrier. No wonder it’s having a moment! And that isn’t all, it combines well and enhances other ingredients for extra hydration.

Hydrating Ingredient: Pomegranate Extract and Antioxidants

Another important benefit you can give to your skin is daily application of an antioxidant. When used as ingredients in skincare and makeup, antioxidants fight free radicals, those nasty atoms looking for their missing electron that happily steal from your healthy cells and cause all kinds of problems. Pomegranate Extract is a hydrating ingredient and contains potent antioxidants. It’s derived from the ancient fruit thought to be the actual apple in the Garden of Eden, and polyphenols in the extract provide the antioxidant. Studies show that Pomegranate Extract can help detoxify the skin from free radicals; help repair the skin from environmental and UV radiation damage; aid skin regeneration; and help protect the epidermis. If you’re drinking juice, choose pomegranate. It has skin wow-factor!

Hydrating Ingredient: Apple Extract

Last but certainly not least is Apple Extract. In addition to being an antioxidant, Apple Extract is also an exfoliator loaded with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). As we age, we don’t turn over the dead cells on the epidermis as quickly or as efficiently as we used to, resulting in drier, less vibrant-looking skin. Exfoliators break up the proteins that hold dead skin cells together, allowing for quicker, easier sloughing and resulting in a youthful glow. Apple Extract exfoliates without a scrubbing ingredient like microbeads (some microbeads are plastic and deadly for the environment), and it’s also rich in vitamin C, phenolic compounds and flavonoids, all beneficial for the health of the skin.