Have you ever been lured in by a product because it is called something great? You know like "Shea butter cream" So you buy it thinking it is all rich in shea butter and you slather it on thinking all that shea butter will go to work making your skin awesome and soft. Then you flip the jar around and you read the label searching for the shea butter... it's there it's the last thing on the list. They save the best for last right?? Wrong. Did you know that by law lables have to list ingredients in descending order of amount found in the product. What does this mean? If the shea butter in your shea butter cream is last on the list then your cream could just be called cream. So let's learn how to read a label. Shall we?
First does it ever feel like the ingredients are suddenly in a foreign language? Labels are required to list the "international" terms for the ingredients unless it is a very commonly known ingredient like cocoa butter. This means that even something natural and safe can have a crazy "scary" sounding name. Like Shea is Butyrospermum parkii. The most important thing to realize about the labels in the order of the ingredients.
The first ingredient is the main ingredient in the product. In many cases this is water but you don't need to immediately think this means that your product is watered down, or diluted. The human body is mostly water and yet we are not "watered down". Water just helps to pull it all together. Most diluted products are diluted with alchols or other fillers since they can mimic the ingredients they are replacing only much cheaper. So check for alcohols on the list and be sure they are not near the top of the list or understand what kind of alcohol they are (some should never be in your product and some are ok, more on that later). Mineral Oil should never be on your ingredient list.
Another key part of label reading is placement. So we all know now that they descend in order but did you know that some ingredients will always have a set percentage in any product? For example, fragrance is always going to be between 1-2% in any given product. So any ingredient listed after fragrance on the list has less than 1-2% in the product. So you may be shocked to find that a "shea butter cream" lists shea butter last and that is after fragrance. What? Less than 1-2% of shea butter yet, it's called a shea butter cream? Well shea butter is good, and powerful but even for shea butter that is a stretch of it's capabilities.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), isopropyl palmitate, coco-caprylate/caprate, stearic acid, glyceryl stearate se, butyrospermum parkii (wildcrafted shea butter), lavendula angustifolia (lavender) oil, squalane (vegetable derived), prunus armeniaca (apricot) kernel oil, cannabis sativa (hemp) seed oil, glycine soja (soybean) oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower) oil, hydrolyzed wheat protein, lecithin (soy), trisodium edta (sodium salt), sodium benzoate, methylparaben and propylparaben.sambucus nigra (elder flower extract), achiullea millefolium (yarrow extract) hydrolyzed wheat protein, lecithin, sorbic acid, phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate. Citrus medica limonum (lemon extract), chamomilla recutita (maticaria extract)
Isopropyl palmitate is recommended between 1-5% but here it is second. Lavender Oil is most likely not over 2-3%, so everything after that is most likely in very small amounts. Also includes paraben's a preservative system many choose to avoid.
Ingredients: Agua, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter, Butyrospermum Pakii (Shea) Butter, Cocos nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Macadamia ternifolia (Macadamia) Seed Oil, Cetearyl & Ceteareth 20 (Emulsifier), Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance
Note how other than water, Cocoa Butter is the number one ingredient. The next is an emulsifier, has the term alcohol in it, but is not considered an alcohol even by the FDA as it is actually a waxy type substance. (as mentioned that will be covered in another post) then we are back to coconut oil and shea butter. That is what makes this product so thick and lovely, it is packed with real natural oils.
So go ahead give label reading a try, you might be surprised by what you find, or by what you don't find.