aamiriat unravels what’s in your products!

How many times have you walked through the cosmetic aisle and stopped in your track to grab this shiny  new cream , you eventually try it on your hand and find its fragrance simply irresistible. But before we choose to drop it in our shopping cart, deep down we all wonder will it work? Will it really take years off of our face and magically improve your appearance. The inquisitive ones among us might go through ingredients at the back, but most of us just give in to the beauty assistants’ persuasive arguments. So the next time you consider buying a new product here are some of the things you should look into at the back of the label.

cosmetic ingredients


Shelf Life

shelf lifeFirst and foremost, when shopping for cosmetics you should be looking for a date of manufacture or expiry, most of which are either printed or made into the seal edge of packaging. If the product is supposed to last more than 30 months there needs to be sign ‘period after opening sign’ showing lid off jar with bold number on the middle signifying its shell life.  So be a little inquisitive before buying this ridiculously down priced lipstick off that new e store you never know it might have expired.


New and improved

new and improvedWhile there are millions of beauty and personal care products already on shelves, manufacturers continue to roll out tens of “new, improved and best-ever” variants almost every other year. Just bear in mind that until unless there are major scientific advancements in potent content (which are actually one In a million),all they are doing is varying color, fragrance or packaging. And worst of all these is ‘new contoured packaging’ which essentially mean less net weight of the product itself . So at times its less bang for a buck or more appropriate example would be a chime instead of a bang.

Potency of Content

laboratory equipmentSo your product says it has Gold, but have you ever talked to a pharmacist or a real doctor on how flakes of metallic foil can permeate deep into your skin? If you search real dermatology journals  you ll deduce that it most such claims are just quackery! Even if there are other potent ingredients in the pack, how much of it is in there and in which form greatly determines its efficacy. As for their quantity, as basic rule of thumb ingredients in most OTC products are listed in the order of weight in the product, so do some basic maths.


vitaminsAt some point of our lives all of us have used a product that makes flagrant claims about benefits of Vitamins infused in it. The efficacy of topical application of many such ingredients is debatable and no matter what fancy animation this new cream shows nothing beats the results achieved through actually eating Vitamin rich foods and supplements. For the starters Vitamin A are commonly mentioned as ‘Retin-’ word compounds, Vitamin E as  ‘tocopherol-’ word compounds and Vitamin C as various terms including the words ‘ascorb-’.

Silicones and Sulphates

siliconeBoth Silicons and Sulphates  have got a lot of bad reputation recently and most of the time claims are at most irrational fears. Silicons make your skin smoother, and hair silkier as it reduces friction and forms a protective layer. Silicones mostly have names that end in “-cone or –siloxane”. Sulphates on the other hand are bubble-making ingredients (surfactants) found in almost all foaming products from shampoos to facial cleansers. So no matter what conspiracy theory chain mail you have followed you can’t really rule out their use as silicones offset the drying effects of ‘surfactants’. And as much as 8 out of 10 skin and hair care products contain silicon and almost 9 out of 10 contain sulphates.


SunscreenSorry to burst the bubble but spritzing rose water before going out in the sun won’t do anything significant besides giving  rosy fragrance let alone protect you from harmful UV rays of the sun. Chemical sunscreen (Avobenzone,oxybenzone )and physical sunscreen(titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) of some sort need to be in a product for it to be called a sun protector. Another thing to know is UVB rays are primarily responsible for causing sunburn, and UVA rays age the skin so you need a product that protects you from both. Sun Protection Factor number in average person terms protects you for certain time frame, so higher the number the longer you are protected, and extent of tanning depends on your natural skin tone.

Fancy terms

fancy namesIf you have sensitive skin or skin prone to constant breakouts, you would constantly see fancy hard to pronounce words on the labels. Most commonly used are Exfoliating, Noncomedogenic and Hypoallergenic. Exfoliation means removal of top layer of dead skin cells typically what scrubs and salicylic acid formulations do; Noncomedogenic refers to products that won’t clog your pores and the term Hypoallergenic means that product is designed to reduce or minimize the possibility of an allergic response, as by containing relatively few or no potentially irritating ingredients.


organic signsOne of the most loosely used and most exploited term in marketing cosmetic industry. Natural, derived from natural, like natural and what not continue to trick users into buying loads of products. Just consider the shelf life of your DIY at-home remedy masks you can easily infer that products that claim to contain natural or herbal ingredients are not necessarily free of artificial/ synthetic compounds such as preservatives. For a product to be surely natural/organic it needs to have Ecocert, BIDH, SOIL ASSOCIATION, CERTECH or USDA Organic sign on the packaging. Remember that as of now there is no authority in Pakistan that can certify whether a product is herbal or otherwise so exercise caution when using a hakeemi ubtan or even a neem soap.

ingredients cosmeticsAll of the items mentioned above are a very basic primer and this list is no way exhaustive.If you want to know about a specific  product ingredient I suggest you search for it in INCI directory (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) which is an industry established and regulated list  Or alternatively you could ask an MBBS qualified doctor.It is my humble request that for your own safety  and greater good don’t follow quacks on TV with their witch potions Whether you believe it or not placebo effect does come into play most of the times you think the product is “working “. Having said that it is not bad to splurge on something superficial to make yourself feel good.


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