Before I started studying pharmacy, I hardly ever looked at the labels on cosmetic products. Teenagers have other things on their minds…
Because deciphering that gobbledegook is hard enough, but in Latin or another foreign language, it’s a whole other thing. Well, simply put, like 90% of the population who have better things to do than reading labels, I was perfectly okay just with good-looking packaging (so that I could take it to the cashier without looking away…) and a product that didn’t smell too unpleasant…Yeah, that was good enough for me. But my skin always felt a bit more stretched, I had pimples that put up a fight and colonised new territories…
In a nutshell, it was depressing, and it made me wonder if I wasn’t some sort of mutant from the imagination of a mad scientist, that resisted all cosmetics… So, obviously, without convincing results, I stopped using those useless cosmetics, and started using a simple basic cream. And things went back to normal; some “symptoms” (pimples, irritation…) got better… in the course of some days. At the time, I proudly declared to myself: it’s normal, it’s part of growing up, I’m sure of it, I’m growing up!!! I’m turning into a man! Alleleuia! No more pimples for me!
In hindsight, I’m fairly sure that my theory, as appealing as it sounded (people are dumb at the age of 14-15), wasn’t well founded. I strongly believe that the products weren’t for my skin type, some of them containing too much alcohol, others containing substances that were irritant to my sensitive skin. (Wait, sensitive? Uh, I mean susceptible. That’s more manly.)
But since I didn’t know about any of that at the time, I couldn’t figure it out… (Sometimes I dream of going back in time to change the course of events… that could have saved me some bad surprises. Doesn’t that ever happen to you?) We surely can’t go back in time yet (not officially anyway… thank you television series) but I can help you better understand the information and the symbols on the packaging and the container of your cosmetic products, so you can choose them more wisely and most importantly, benefit from them more. Maybe my irritations and my pimples can still have been good for something.
Before I continue, I suggest you go get one of your cosmetic products and examine it as we go. Operation: Practical course… That should be okay as long as I don’t ask you to dissect a frog… Are you ready? All right, here we go!
Despite the rather shallow aspects you might think of, you should know that in cosmetics, people aren’t messing around. There’s a number of rules that have to be followed regarding the information on the box.
Here’s a list of things that mandatorily have to be included on your cosmetics:
1) The name (or company name) and address of the manufacturer (or the one responsible for bringing it onto the market).
That makes sense, you need to be able to contact the company if there are problems, or just for sending them thank you letters if you like their products. 🙂 Why only contact the company if there’s a problem, right? It’s like Valentine’s Day, no need to wait for Valentine’s Day to give the person you love something nice or tell them you love them…
Cosmetics are often sold in more than one country. In that case, the underlined address is where a file on the cosmetic product is kept. For example: Paris, London, Milan, Berlin… This file is mandatory; it’s like the medical record of the product. It contains documents that are indispensable to the sale of that cosmetic product. Cosmetics regulations are becoming more and more like medical regulations, and that’s a good thing, because skin is a very permeable organ. You don’t put just anything on your skin without warranties about toxicological harmlessness, microbiological tests, stability, and tests for preservative effectiveness…
2) The place of manufacture: this is the well-known “made in …” thing.
This is the country where the product was manufactured; note that for cosmetics made outside the EU, this indication is compulsory. And certainly, even though it’s not required, the phrase made in France is still an undeniable marketing trump card… and that’s not even being chauvinistic!
Nowadays, at the time of writing, France is still one of the foremost countries in the world of cosmetics, symbolizing elegance and beauty… (Don’t forget the world’s most famous cosmetics company is L’Oréal. Double yay France! ok ! only joking…. to be honest, France has a lot of pros and cons….)
3) The quantity of the product, in weight or volume, except for product under 5 grams (or 5 millilitres), free samples and single dose products.
Since cosmetic products are often exported to other countries, foreign regulations require quantity to be indicated in a different measuring system than the metric system, namely the imperial system: Oz net wt: Ounce net weight FL. Oz: Ounce Fluid E.g.: Weight: 1.7 Oz net Wt/ 50g – Volume: 1 FL. Oz /30mL Don’t panic, it’s just a different system! And no, it’s not a rip-off.
That reminds me of a pharmacy customer that I sold a cream to once upon a time, who returned the next day, infuriated, telling me 50 Euros for 1.7 millilitres was criminally overpriced… I honestly expected she was going to make me eat that jar! I managed to calm her down and had a look at the jar in question, after quickly checking the emergency exits just in case… I finally understood what had made her so angry: the volume wasn’t indicated in ml., but in FL.OZ., it was an American brand that hadn’t added the volume in ml… I was so relieved! Oh, those volume metric systems, putting my life on the line for a cream.
Well, this article is already very long, so I suggest a little break… the rest is to come. 🙂