Easy guide to understanding skincare and cosmetic ingredients

How many times have you bought a product only to be disappointed by breakouts or irritation? Researching ingredients before you buy anything is a fantastic routine to become familiar with because then you will be less likely to buy something that you can’t use. I’m sure many of us look at the back of products and think, “What do these words even mean?”


So here is how I personally go about researching ingredients, you can use as little or as many steps as you like. Also, this is just my own technique, there are so many ways to go about it.


Irritation and comedogenic ratings

Cosdna (<<<my most visited website)

www.cosdna.com is an website that allows you to analyse products by their comedogenic and irritation rating. You can search by product, ingredients or even analyse your own ingredient list.

First, I always type in the product I am wanting to buy in the product search bar on the front page. If it’s available on the website, it will give you a list of all the ingredients and their comedogenic and irritation ratings.

What if my product isn’t listed? 

If it’s not listed then there is nothing to worry about, because you can analyse any ingredients you want to! If you click on “Analyse Cosmetics” tab, then it will bring you to this page.

You can now copy/paste all of your ingredients of the product directly into the form and it will show you the same irritation/comedogenic list. I have visited the Innisfree website and copied the ingredients for Innisfree Eco Safety Perfect Waterproof Sunblock directly from there and pasted them into the form. Once you click analysis, it displays the exact same list.

Screenshot 2015-08-22 18.43.08

If you are buying in Australia, most products on the Priceline website will have the ingredients listed. Otherwise you can try to go directly to the brands website to find a list.

What does this information mean? 

The scales are out of 5, so the higher the number it is, the more likely it is to cause acne or irritation. Personally, I try to avoid ingredients with a 3 or higher unless I have carefully tested them. It’s important to note that just because a number is high it doesn’t mean its guaranteed to break you out, everybody reacts differently to ingredients.

twoBasic Ingredient research

Once you have a list of the ingredients, you may sometimes want to know what benefits they exactly have for your skin. I use a few sources for this. One for example, is Paula’s Choice.

Paula’s Choice uses peer reviewed journals and dermatology books in their Ingredient Dictionary. Here you can research particular ingredients and read more about them to find out exactly how they relate with your skin.

Screenshot 2015-08-22 18.52.50


Further Ingredient Research

If you want to research these ingredients even further then there are a couple of different ways I use.


Nicki Zevola, founder of FutureDerm, also focuses on science based skincare and has many fantastic articles relating to particular ingredients. As you can see from my screenshot below, her article about Jojoba Oil is more detailed than the Paula’s Choice ingredients dictionary and links directly to scientific journals for you to read.

Screenshot 2015-08-22 19.01.06


Next on my list is PubMed, which is a free resource that allows you to search the National Library of Medicine database and many abstracts from fields such as medicine. PubMed does not link full articles, and instead will link you externally to the study. Not all of these studies are free. Around 33% of the studies will be free to read, you must pay to access others. So it may not be as useful for everybody, but it can occasionally be a great source for a casual skincare obsessed individual.


I hope this helps you on your search of ingredients, even if you only use the first step. Over time, I have slowly become more familiar with all of the ingredients and can often understand the back of the bottle without further research. Big ingredient names aren’t scary once you break them down! Good luck 🙂


4 thoughts on “Easy guide to understanding skincare and cosmetic ingredients

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