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How to know if a skincare product is worth the money

In her upcoming book, skin specialist Anupriya Goel talks about how to invest in products that keep the skin healthy and glowing. An excerpt

The best way to know if a product is worth your money is to be able to understand the ingredients it contains. (Unsplash)

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A Louis Vuitton and a Hidesign bag are both made of leather. Yet the price difference is a world apart. It’s up to you, the consumer, to choose the price point. A Hidesign bag is a really good-value leather bag. It’s the same for skincare. Expensive does not necessarily mean good. Not all that glitters is gold. Especially when it comes to skincare products. In fact, especially with skincare products, what’s inside a bottle or jar counts more than the packaging. But there’s a catch. How do you really know if the product you want to buy will deliver all that it claims to? After all, you do want value for every buck you spend.

The best way to know if a product is worth your money is to be able to understand the ingredients it contains. You already know what active ingredients you need to look out for that work best for your skin type and skin condition. Now let’s learn how to read a product label, so you are guaranteed those ingredients for what you are paying.

The Elements of a Product Label

Even though the outer packaging of every product seems different, the story behind every label is rather similar. Every product that is legitimate needs to follow the FDA guidelines and state the following:

1. Brand name and product name

2. Description of the product/product type

3. List of ingredients

4. Net quantity of the product

5. Contact details of manufacturer

Now, other than the information above, it is vital to understand the list of ingredients and the meaning of the symbols on every product.

Anupriya Goel, renowned skin specialist and medical director of the Berkowits chain of clinics
Anupriya Goel, renowned skin specialist and medical director of the Berkowits chain of clinics (Courtesy Penguin eBury Press)

What Is an INCI List?

An INCI (International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients) list is simply the ingredients mentioned on the back of the product in their chemical and Latin forms. For example, the chemical name for water is aqua.

Below are some INCI list names of common ingredients:

Aqua: water

Caprylic/capric triglyceride: liquid fraction of coconut oil

Glycerine: humectant

Cetearyl alcohol: emulsifier

Sodium stearoyl lactylate: solubilizer, emulsifier

Sucrose stearate: emulsifier

Aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder: aloe vera

Tocopherol: vitamin E

Xanthan gum: naturally derived thickener

Parfum: fragrance

Linalool: fragrance component/allergen

Hexyl cinnamal: fragrance component/allergen

Some preservatives commonly used for natural cosmetics and skincare products:

Benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate.

You can find the complete list of preservatives and perfume agents on the INCI decoder website (

The book, published by Penguin eBury Press ( <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>299.00, 256 pages), will be out in June.
The book, published by Penguin eBury Press ( 299.00, 256 pages), will be out in June. (Courtesy Penguin India)

How to Read an INCI List

I consider this step the most important when making a purchase. A majority of skincare products mention their key/active ingredients in the front. This adds to the appeal of the product. However, before being impressed, do not forget to check the complete ingredient list at the back and the order in which they are listed.

The most important thing to note is that the ingredients mentioned first are present in the highest quantities and the ones mentioned at the end are present in the lowest.

But do keep in mind that although an INCI list is a good way to judge a product, companies don’t always list all their ingredients. Luxury companies tend to leave out certain ingredients to avoid being copied by others.

Organic Ingredients

In India, organic products have always been successful, because we have an inherent instinct to believe in traditional home remedies. So it is only natural that when we see a product listed as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, we think it is amazing and without any side-effects. I am not against organic products but when a product claims it is organic, make sure it is!

The truth is that a product can claim it is organic due to the presence of organic almond oil as an ingredient. However, if the quantity of this organic oil is just 1 per cent, such a small amount would hardly be of any benefit. Also, it could be that except for the organic almond oil, the other ingredients are not organic. But since they have the word ‘organic’ printed prominently on the label, it makes the consumer think that the entire product is organic. This is a false claim. Ensure that you check and confirm the organic label at the back of the product. Legitimate organic brands are Ecocert Cosmos-certified.

Excerpted from How to Get Glass Skin: The Industry Secrets To Getting Flawless, Glowing Skin with permission from Penguin India.

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