| Amy Robson

Q: How do I read product labels?

A:

Whilst it might seem a boring topic at first glance, the back of a product has plenty of interesting and important information to be aware of! In fact, we're required to provide much of it by law, so it's worthwhile getting to know your way around product labelling to get the most out of your skincare, and waste less too!   

 So, let’s go from top to bottom!


The INCI

The INCI is a list of the ingredients you'll find in a product (you may be familiar with this from our Decipher The INCI blog series). Many of these ingredients are written with their species names, which is why you'll see things like Aqua instead of water, or Aloe Barbadensis instead of Aloe Vera. This rule applies to ingredients where the species name is from the plant, flower or nut origin. You’ll see the colloquial names in brackets for these ingredients, like Jojoba or Shea.

Some ingredients, like Hyaluronic Acid, have a totally different scientific name, so it's good to be able to recognise your favourites - Sodium Hyaluronate in this case! Ingredients above a 1% inclusion are listed in order, from greatest to least. Ingredients between 0.1% - 1% inclusion can be listed in any order. These are usually your pH adjusters or multifunctional ingredients, rather than ingredients that reap major skin benefits!

Finally, we have to let you know if there are any common allergens naturally present in the product such as Limonene which is naturally present in citrus fruits like Grapefruit or Lemons. Typically, you will only find allergens in products that contain fragrance or essential oils. Check out a database of allergens here!


Warnings & Product Information

Our product warnings are usually unsurprising e.g., ‘avoid contact with eyes’ and ‘for external use only’. However, it’s important to take note when opening a new product, looking out for sunburn warnings in particular! This is commonly seen on products that contain alpha and beta hydroxy acids, which make your skin more sensitive to harmful UV rays.

A little more product information comes next, telling you where the products are  made, for us, this is proudly in England! Brands have a choice to provide additional information such as if the product is suitable for vegans or vegetarians.   

 You'll also find the business contact information - exactly where to address your return if ever you need, as well as our email to get in touch. If you like to do things the old-fashioned way and send us a letter, we won't turn down a bit of mail!


Symbols

You’ll see three symbols on our products. The Union Jack to show that it was manufactured in the UK, the mobius (or recycling symbol) to show that the packaging is widely accepted in your domestic recycling, and finally a symbol that looks a little like this:



This is the period-after-opening symbol, or POA, and it’s to help you determine how long your product can be used after being opened for the first time. Cosmetic products are designed to remain stable whilst they are unopened, therefore the POA is a helpful alternative to an expiry date. The ‘M’ stands for months, so in the case above, your product can be used for six months after opening.

You may spot a six-digit code (****/**) stamped on to your label, which is a batch code. Every time we make a run of products, they are allocated this unique code so we can identify them once they’ve left our warehouse. In the rare case that we have a problem with one of our products, it allows us to easily work out what went wrong! We keep a number of products from every batch for this reason.


Here's a recap!


Other than these important elements, the rest of the label is up to us (within reason)! With only a small space to play with, and so many good things we need to say, you can see why we adopted our handy checklist! Instead of squinting to read a paragraph of information, it’s easy to go straight to the benefits and skin types to help with your decision making.


Amy @ Team Q+A

Amy Robson
eCommerce coordinator at Q+A and decipherer of product labels 🔍

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