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Be a Savvy Shopper: A Guide to Buying Skin Care and Cosmetic Products

Be a Savvy Shopper:
A Guide to Buying Skin Care and Cosmetic Products

How to Choose Skin Care Products
Crazy Claims
Skin Care Terms and What They Really Mean
Ingredients That May Cause Problems
Sensitive Skin Saver

How to Choose Skin Care Products
With so many skin care products out there, choosing the right ones for your skin can be confusing. Check out these tips to find the best products for you.
  • When buying face care products, choose products made for your skin type. For example, if you have dry skin, look for products made for dry skin or that are moisturizing.
  • Trial and error is your friend. Even if a product is made for your skin type, it may still irritate or bother your skin. You may have to try a few different products before finding the right one for your skin.
  • Don't take the vitamin buzz too seriously. Lots of skin care products have added vitamins such as E and A. It's true that taking vitamins by mouth can improve the health of your skin and hair. But there's no proof that putting them on your skin does any good.
  • Skin care products list their ingredients in order of most to least. It's a good way to tell what's in a product. For example, if the first ingredient is water, then there's more water in the product than anything else.
  • If a label doesn't list the ingredients in a product or if it says, "and other ingredients," don't buy it. It could be too risky for your skin if you don't know what's in a product. back to top
Crazy Claims
You see them everywhere—ads promoting products that promise thinner thighs or flawless skin. But the truth is, cosmetic and skin care products can't work miracles. A good rule to follow is: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some examples of claims that aren't true.
  • Pore-reducing refiners or toners. Toners are liquids that are used after washing your face. They help remove extra oil and make your skin look better by reducing shine. In some cases, toners or refiners claim to be able to "shrink" pores. The truth is, nothing can shrink pores. Pore size is determined by genetics—if your mom or dad has large pores, odds are you will too. Here's a tip: If you like using toner, but don't want to spend a lot of money, try witch hazel. You can find it at the drugstore.
  • Cellulite Creams. In spite of what cellulite creams promise, no cream or lotion can get rid of cellulite. A healthy diet and regular exercise may help, though. Some cellulite creams are made with the asthma drug aminophylline. If you're taking this drug for asthma, it may not be safe for you to use a cellulite cream with this ingredient. Aminophylline may also cause allergic reactions in some people. So always check labels carefully. back to top
Skin Care Terms and What They Really Mean
Shopping for cosmetics and skin care products can be confusing. Especially when words like noncomedogenic and dermatologist-tested are plastered all over skin care products. What do they mean anyway? It depends. These terms can mean different things depending on the company. But that doesn't mean you should avoid products that make these claims. Most big companies do their best to make sure that their products are safe. Still, it helps to know what these words mean. Here's a quick guide to common terms.
  • Dermatologist-tested. This label tells you that the product was tested by a dermatologist. What it doesn't tell you is whether the results were good or bad. Again, most good companies make products that are safe for your skin.
  • For sensitive skin. This usually means that the product won't irritate or bother sensitive skin, which is skin that gets red or irritated after using skin care products.
  • Hypo allergenic. This term means the product is recommended for people with sensitive skin that reacts to many ingredients. Hypo allergenic products are usually made with ingredients that are less likely to cause a reaction. But some people may still react to them.
  • Fragrance-free. This means that the product contains no fragrance. Fragrances are one of the biggest causes of skin irritation. So if your skin gets irritated easily, you may want to look for fragrance-free products.
  • Natural. Products labeled natural suggest that they are made with all-natural ingredients. But the term "natural" is often used very loosely. A product labeled natural might not be natural at all. One way to tell how much of a natural ingredient is in a product is to check out the list of ingredients. The closer the natural ingredient is to the top of the list, the more of it is in the product. Just because a product is labeled 'natural,' it doesn't mean that it won't irritate your skin. There are plenty of natural ingredients that you could be allergic to, or that could cause problems. Test "natural" products on a small area of your skin, just as you would other products.
  • Nonacnegenic. These products are recommended for people with acne-prone skin. Nonacnegenic products are made with ingredients that are less likely to cause pimples.
  • Noncomedogenic. These products are made with ingredients that are less likely to clog pores and cause blackheads and whiteheads.
  • Not tested on animals. Many companies claim that they do not test their products on animals. Products with a label that says "not tested on animals" or "cruelty-free" are usually developed without animal testing or without harming animals. Like all of these other terms, it means different things for each company. For a list of companies who say they don't test their products on animals, you can contact the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
  • Ophthalmologist-tested. This label suggests that the product is safe to use near the eyes. But just like the term "dermatologist-tested," you don't know what the result of the testing was. Most well-known companies do make sure that their products are safe to use.
  • Unscented. Unscented is different from fragrance-free. Unscented products sometimes do contain fragrances, but you usually can't smell them. They are added to get rid of the unpleasant smells of some of the ingredients. The result smells unscented even though it contains some fragrance. back to top
Ingredients That May Cause Problems
Some people can use anything on their skin and have no problems. Other people break out in a rash just thinking about trying a new product! If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, here are some ingredients you may want to avoid.
  • Benzoyl peroxide. Some people are allergic to this acne medication. If your skin gets red and itchy after using it, you may be one of them. Still need to battle blemishes? Try salicylic acid, or check out tea tree oil and calendula, which are natural blemish fighters.
  • Cocoa butter. The oil in cocoa butter can clog pores and make acne worse.
  • D and C red dyes. These dyes are often used in blush. They can clog pores and lead to acne.
  • Lanolin. When used in makeup, lanolin may clog pores.
  • Mineral oil. Mineral oil is used in many facial moisturizers. It may clog pores and cause breakouts.
  • PABA. This sunscreen ingredient irritates many skin types. If sunscreen or sun block tends to irritate your skin, try a PABA-free sunscreen.
  • Vitamin E. When added to skin care and cosmetic products, this vitamin can clog pores and irritate some skin types. back to top
Sensitive Skin Saver
If your skin gets red and irritated easily, test new skin care products before you use them to avoid ugly and uncomfortable reactions. Here's how: Rub a small amount of the product on a hidden area, such as your underarm or the inside of your elbow. Then wait 24 hours to see if a rash starts. If it doesn't, you can go ahead and use the product. You can also irritate your skin if you use a product incorrectly, so always follow the directions on the package. back to top

Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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