Decoding the Labels: 4 Red Flags in Personal Care Products

RRylee September 7, 2023 4:52 PM

Personal care products, from skincare to makeup, are a part of our daily routine. But have you ever taken a closer look at their labels? Understanding what goes into these products can be more than just confusing - it could be the key to keeping harmful ingredients away from your skin. Let's decode these labels together and find out the 4 red flags you should be watching out for.

Hazardous ingredients in personal care products

Artificial fragrances, parabens, and sulfates. These are just a few examples of the chemicals commonly found in personal care items. Even though they may make products smell nice or lather well, they can also have harmful effects on the skin and overall health.

Artificial Fragrances

Often listed as 'parfum' or 'fragrance' on labels, these synthetic scents can trigger allergies and asthma. Some even contain phthalates, a group of chemicals linked to hormonal disruptions.


Used as preservatives in many products, parabens can interfere with hormone function by mimicking estrogen. They are often hidden under names like methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or ethylparaben.


Found in everything from shampoos to body washes, sulfates create that satisfying lather we all love. However, they can also strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation.

Synthetic Colors

Dyes and colors used in cosmetic products are often derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. These synthetic colors, labeled as D&C followed by a color and a number, have been linked to ADHD in children.

Identifying red flags in product labels

Decoding the labels of personal care products isn't just about knowing what harmful ingredients to look for. It's also about understanding what the labels actually mean. Here are four red flags to watch out for:

1. The ingredient list is difficult to understand

If the product's ingredient list is full of long, chemical names that are hard to pronounce, it might be a sign that the product contains synthetic ingredients.

2. 'Fragrance' is listed without specifics

The term 'fragrance' can hide a multitude of sins. Since companies are not required to disclose the individual ingredients of a fragrance, it can be used to conceal potentially harmful chemicals.

3. The product contains parabens

As I mentioned earlier, parabens can interfere with hormone function. If a product contains any ingredient ending in '-paraben', it's best to steer clear.

4. The product contains sulfates

Sulfates can strip the skin of its natural oils. If a product contains sulfates, especially if they are one of the first ingredients listed, it's a red flag.

How to choose safe personal care products

Avoiding harmful ingredients in personal care products isn't always easy, but it's definitely possible. Here are a few tips to help you choose safer options:

  1. Read the labels carefully: Look for products with short ingredient lists and words you can pronounce. The fewer ingredients, the better.

  2. Do your research: There are many resources out there that can help you understand what's in your personal care products. Websites like the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database can be a great tool.

  3. Choose fragrance-free options: Since 'fragrance' can hide a variety of harmful ingredients, opting for fragrance-free products can be a safer bet.

  4. Opt for certified organic products: These products are less likely to contain harmful synthetic chemicals.

Remember, you have the power to choose what goes on your skin. By understanding the labels on personal care products and knowing what to look out for, you can protect your health and well-being, one product at a time.

More articles

Also read

Here are some interesting articles on other sites from our network.