Your Guide To Decoding Skin Care Labels

Unless you are a certified skin professional or a self-professed skin care junkie, figuring out the best skin care product for your skin can be a difficult task. With a wide variety of products available on the market, how do you know which will not leave your skin worse off? You might say, “Just read the ingredients list!”.  But the long and complex names of some chemicals found in skin care products can leave you feeling even more confused. The different labels found on the packaging of these products can be hard to decipher too.

Lucky for you, we are here to help you decode the various labels that can be found on skin care products.


The Ins & Outs Of Skin Care Labels

Labels found on the packaging of skin care products are meant to help the consumer’s purchasing decision. From the ingredients list to the expiry date, skin care labels should provide you with different types of information such as what the product contains, whether it is certified organic, or the type of skin it is most suitable for.

Read on to find out more on the different labels you can find on the packaging of skin care products.

List of Ingredients

Besides the name of a product, its ingredients list is one of the first things most people would refer to when deciding on which product to purchase. The important thing you need to know when it comes to the ingredients list is the order of arrangement — the ingredients are arranged in decreasing order, which means the ingredient with the highest amount comes first. This is good to know if you are looking for products with certain ingredients that target your skin concerns such as eliminating acne scars or lightening dark spots. The only exception to this decreasing order of arrangement is for ingredients present in concentrations of less than one percent; they can be arranged in any order. The ingredients list is useful information to have, especially if you have any skin sensitivity or allergies. It is also wise to refer to the ingredients list if you are looking to avoid specific ingredients such as fragrance and parabens.

Period-After-Opening Symbol

The Period-After-Opening (PAO) symbol is one you definitely should take note before using your skin care products. The PAO symbol denotes how long you are able to use the product before it expires. The symbol is depicted as a small jar with an open lid, with the number of months before it expires and the letter “M” stated inside it. For instance, a PAO symbol with “6M” indicated on it means the product will be usable for six months after you have opened it.


Referring to the product’s ingredients list is essential if you are allergic to certain ingredients. Another label you should look out to check for the presence of any allergens is the “hypoallergenic” label. A skin care product labelled as “hypoallergenic” means it is less likely to result in any allergic reactions compared to other products on the market. However, this does not necessarily mean it will not cause an allergic reaction at all. Therefore, if you do have allergies, be sure to check the safety of the product by performing a test patch before you apply it all over your skin.


If you have an oily skin type, this is one label you should definitely keep a lookout for when purchasing skin care products. A product that has been labelled as “non-comedogenic” means its formulation will less likely result in clogged pores. Non-comedogenic products usually do not contain any oils, thus making it a suitable option for oily skin sufferers. Do not just rely on this label when making your purchasing decision, however, because there are no governing bodies that regulate the use of this label on skin care products. If you have oily skin or generally experience easily clogged pores, it is better to opt for products that are lighter in texture, even if they do not have the “non-comedogenic” label.


Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of the use of chemicals and preservatives in their skin care products, which accounts for the number of natural skin care brands that have been popping up left, right and centre in recent years. Unfortunately, like the “non-comedogenic” label, there is no existing regulation when it comes to labelling skin care products as “natural”. A brand might label their product as “natural” but the actual natural ingredients the product contains might be just a small amount. If you are new to the world of natural skin care, refer to the list of ingredients rather than looking out for products that have been labelled as “natural”. The ingredients list would provide you with a better idea of how natural the product really is.


Organic skin care products have also been enjoying a surge of popularity due to consumers becoming more aware of what they are putting on their skin. Thankfully, unlike products labelled as “natural”, there are regulations put in place to ensure the proper use of the “organic” label. To confirm if a product is certified organic, check if it has the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) symbol.