Guest Post: Reading Skincare Ingredients Lists by Barbara Gare

Guest Post: Decoding Skincare Ingredients Lists by Barbara Gare

Being lovers of all things health & wellbeing here at Clarity, we thought we were pretty up to date with the goings on of the natural skincare world – turns out, not so much! We’ve been rather shocked by what we’ve learnt about the industry, but then empowered by this knowledge as we navigate our bathroom cabinet, going over labels with newly-opened eyes, sorting out the goodies from the not-so goodies…

In the spirit of this skincare spring clean, we thought we’d share this revealing article by the wonderful & very knowledgable Barbara Gare from Y-Natural skincare.

If you enjoyed this post, do be sure to check out the Y-Natural website. Their blog is a fabulous resource!


Reading Ingredients Lists – time for another Quickie!


A conversation with a friend on the weekend is the catalyst for this review.

It’s of a foaming cleanser for an internationally-known brand. For some reason a lot of people assume this brand is Certified Organic – which it isn’t – and in fact, there doesn’t seem to be even one Certified Organic ingredient! This is disappointing, as it would show a stronger commitment not only to healthy products going on our bodies, but also to the environment.

As ever, the idea is gradually build your knowledge and understanding of what goes into products so you can make informed choices about the products you use. Sometimes it’s about spotting chemicals that are genuinely bad for you and/or the environment; sometimes it’s about understanding the authenticity of a brand’s position. We don’t delve into every single ingredient – we share what we can tell quickly from looking at an ingredients list. If you follow our blog and facebook page you’ll gradually learn how to do this too.

So let’s take a look… The full ingredients list is here:

Aqua (Water); Cocamidopropyl Betaine; Macadamia ternifolia Seed Oil; Polyglyceryl-3 Palmitate; Sodium Chloride; Xanthan Gum; Lithospermum erythrorhizon Root Extract; Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride; Lecithin; Zanthoxylum alatum Extract; Fragrance/Parfum*; Oleyl Alcohol; Phenoxyethanol; Ethylhexylglycerin; Linalool*; Limonene*. *From Natural Essential Oil (Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia; Chamomile – Chamomilla recutita (Matricaria); Tea Tree – Melaleuca althernifolia)

Let’s start with the positive side of things…

  1. There are three lovely plant ingredients in this product: Macadamia ternifolia Seed Oil; Lithospermum erythrorhizon Root Extract; Zanthoxylum alatum Extract. Macadamia is wonderful oil and serves as a nod to the Australian origins of the brand.Plus there is Xanthan Gum; a natural thickener.
  1. Linalool*; Limonene*.This is becoming quite a common sight on brands that export. They’re not ingredients as such, but components of essential oils. It’s a requirement in some countries to list the presence of certain components. We’ll do an article on this some time to make it easy to understand. Suffice to say, this is not a bad thing at all????
  1. Fragrance/Parfum: From Natural Essential Oil (Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia; Chamomile – Chamomilla recutita (Matricaria); Tea Tree – Melaleuca althernifolia). This too is good, as these oils have a beautiful fragrance and also skin benefits, though it would be better if they were Certified Organic.

The main cleanser therefore is made of the following ingredients:

Aqua (Water); Cocamidopropyl Betaine; Polyglyceryl-3 Palmitate; Sodium Chloride; Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride; Lecithin; Oleyl Alcohol; Phenoxyethanol; Ethylhexylglycerin.

We know water is OK! And Sodium Chloride (salt) is OK – it’s just used to thicken.

Coco Betaine is a synthetic ingredient that is used to create bubbles. It’s nowhere near as harsh as ingredients like Sodium Laureth Sulphate, but is still a known irritant that’s known to cause contact dermatitis in some people. It’s inclusion in a cleanser that is intended for sensitive skin is a touch on the questionable side… It’s also prone to having amine impurities, which we wrote about recently. In this instance the impurity is 3-dimethylaminopropylamine which, in the EU, is classified as toxic or harmful for products used on/around the mouth or lips.

Polyglyceryl-3 Palmitate is another surfactant. There’s not a lot of data about this, so we have no comment about whether it’s good or bad. Similarly for Ethylhexylglycerin,  a skin ‘conditioner‘ that is probably more often listed by another name 1,2-Propanediol. That said, it’s just worth noting that when you see ingredients with numbers, you will usually find that it’s an ingredient that has no place in a product that is supposedly ‘organic’ or making statements as to ‘purity’.

We’ve talked about Phenoxyethanol and other problematic preservatives in the past. It too is classified as toxic or harmful in the EU (for products used on/around the mouth or lips). It’s an irritant and there’s quite a cloud hanging over it due to evidence that it may mess with the central nervous system.

I hope that helps add a little extra to your growing knowledge of how to read ingredients lists!

Til soon xo


Clarity Admin

Book Online