How to Choose the Right Skincare Products: Top 20 Tips on Picking the Right Ones

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Your skin absorbs more than 60% of what you apply to it.

Hence the type of skincare products that you use matters a lot. We apply a lot of skincare products to our body, perceiving them to help promote healthy skin.

However, if we are not careful in choosing the right ones, we may end up using many ingredients that can actually be toxic to our skin. The cosmetic industry promotes various products that promise to take years off your appearance. To add to it, a plethora of advertisements promise you soft feather-like skin. While the industry offers an extensive array of skincare products for every skin type, and all these may look rosy; there is more to it than meets the eye.

The maxim “Buyer Beware” plays an important role when it comes to choosing the right skincare products.

Now, let us uncover the dark side of the beauty industry by focusing on what they do not tell us. We will decipher the fine print on the labels and learn to pick the right skincare products.

20 Tips for Finding the Right Skincare Product

#1. Avoid the Myths surrounding a Skincare Product

The common myth is that if a product is available in a popular store, it must be safe. This need not be the case. In the US, cosmetic products and ingredients apart from color additives do not need FDA–premarket approval. A lot of products can thus make it to the shelves, and not all may be safe. Certain products can be loaded with toxins, posing a danger to your health.

#2. Learn To Evaluate the Products

Going by the maxim "Buyer Beware," it definitely pays to do a self-analysis of the product that you intend to buy. Thanks to the up-gradation in technology, one can make things easier when it comes to deciphering the complicated ingredient terminology. Try to make use of databases like EWG Skin Deep or CoSDNA that detail the ingredients, rate them, and give a safety score.

The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, for instance, is an online repository that helps one to protect oneself from potentially toxic chemicals in skincare products. Once you type in the product name, you will get a rating for the hazard level of that product. This will help to arrive at a proper starting point to rate the product before actually buying it from the store.

#3. Pay Attention to the word Fragrance

The term fragrance is a broad, ambiguous term with many hidden toxic chemicals and synthetic fragrances that can harm your endocrine system. Hence it is better to go for scents that are "au naturel."

#4. Read the Label of Ingredients

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a skincare product is to read the fine print on the labels. For instance, certain products termed as natural can be as harmful as conventional products. Even products labeled as "unscented" may contain fragrance. So the best way to find out if there are toxic ingredients contained in our skincare products is to read the label.

Dr. Julia Carroll, a dermatologist based in Toronto, states that one must read the fine print before buying a skincare product.

She says, "Be sure you scan the label for legit claims and beware of wording such as "improves the appearance of" followed by your skin gripe (pores, fine lines, dark circles). Instead, look for the concentration of active ingredients,"

#5 Choose Trusted Companies

Keep in mind that not all ingredients are displayed on the label, so make sure that you fully trust the manufacturing company. Research the companies that you are buying from and choose the one you can trust. Find companies that are transparent with their ingredients and have stringent testing measures. This will help you in making informed decisions.

#6 Educate Yourself:

Keep yourself updated about skincare ingredients and guidelines for skincare and stay abreast of the latest market news on cosmetic products and companies. This will pave a secure path for you to choose the right product on the market.

#7 Know Your Skin Type and Check if the Product Suits it

An individual’s skin predominantly falls into one of the following categories:

  1. Normal skin
  2. Dry Skin
  3. Oily skin
  4. Sensitive skin

Certain people also have a combination skin type. It is essential for you to know your skin type and choose the right product else it may end up doing more harm to your skin than repairing it.

#8 Weigh the Pros and Cons of all the Ingredients

It pays to analyze each ingredient's pros and cons to ensure the product is beneficial as a whole. Do not blindly believe what the company or brand is trying to feed you.

#9 Check if Dermatologists Approve it

Check for tag lines like hypo-allergenic; dermatologist tested and approved, non-comedogenic, etc. Use products that are backed by research and reviews.

#10. Will it Address the Required Skin Issue?

Each individual has a unique skin concern, and a single product cannot address everyone's issues. Check if the product caters to your specific problem or not.

#11. Check if the Product is Worth the Money Spent.

Many like to spend a lot of money on skincare products. However, overpriced products do not always work. If you are planning to pay extra, make sure that the product is worth it and satisfies your skincare requirement.

#12. Follow an Individualized Approach when Selecting Skincare Products

An Individualized approach is fundamental when selecting skincare products. According to Jennifer David, a dermatologist who specializes in cosmetic dermatology, "What works for your friend may not work for you." So take a little more time in researching what works best for you by reading the ingredients list.

#13. Don’t Fall for the Hype

Attractive packaging and viral marketing are smart traps that most shoppers fall for easily. These are common, especially online, as we tend to go by popularity reviews.

However, online reviews should not form the basis of purchasing decisions. If you are buying a product based on a recommendation from a friend or its popularity, do not go by how the friend's skin looks at present, but rather how their skin looked in the beginning and what issue they dealt with. This will give a more reliable indicator as to whether the products live up to their promises.

#14. The Term Natural doesn’t Always Mean it is Better

Familiar words mentioned in the ingredients can be quite comforting to the purchaser, but it does not always indicate that the product is safe. Sometimes the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ can be nothing more than a marketing gimmick. This is because the use of these terms is not regulated. Also, a product can be labeled as natural just because of one product mentioned in the list.

#15. Check the Order of the Ingredients

Know the primary ingredients that you want to be on the list or those that you definitely want to avoid. Now go through the ingredient list carefully and see where these must-have or must-avoid ingredients fall in the list. Ingredients are typically listed in the descending order of their concentration from highest to lowest.

Usually, the first few ingredients (say the top five in the list) account for a significant chunk of the total formula. So, if you find the must-avoid ingredient appearing among the first five ingredients listed, then it is better to stay clear of the product. Also, if the must-have elements occupy the lower chunk of the ingredient list, then the product may not really be useful to you and hence can be avoided. If the must-have ingredients are only a small percentage of the total composition, then the product may not be worth the money you spend.

#16. Do a Patch Test

A patch test works best when you are confused as to whether to go in for the product or not. A patch test helps determine if the ingredients in the product will cause allergic reactions. If the product feels sensitive or irritates the skin, then do not go for it. While patch testing different products may take a little longer, it is well worth the effort as it saves you from grief and loss of money later on.

#17. Do not Get Petrified on Seeing a Long Ingredient List

While most prefer a small ingredient list with familiar terms when choosing a skincare product, a long ingredient list is not something one must be afraid of. To be fair, a short ingredient list is easier to read through. However, it may not contain all the information you are looking for. For instance, if one wants to invest in a good quality medical grade skincare product, the list is likely to be longer. This should not deter one from buying the product. Instead, one can search online for additional information or consult a dermatologist to find out if the product suits you.

#18. Check for Expiration Date:

Many expired products can contain bacteria and harmful chemicals that can cause skin issues. Look for the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol that specifies how long the product will be safe for use after opening. Also, look for the lot number. This will help to trace the product back to its origin, should anything go wrong.

#19. Elimination Criteria: Look for Products that are Avoidable

One way to eliminate or filter products is to look out for products that can definitely be avoided as follows:


This is a preservative with mercury content and is commonly found in eye drops and eye solutions. Mercury can result in adverse reactions of the nervous system.

Diazolidinyl Urea and Imidazolidinyl Urea

These are used as preservatives and can release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can cause pain in the joints, asthma, neurotoxicity, chronic fatigue, and loss of sleep. It is a proven carcinogen and hence, best avoided if it is included in skincare products.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a.k.a Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate is a commonly used surfactant found in cleaning products, personal care products, and cosmetics. This surfactant can irritate the skin or result in allergies; hence it is best avoided.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

This ingredient is used in many skincare products and cosmetics as a thickener. It is common among sunscreens, lotions, and shampoos. PEG usually contains Ethylene Oxide (a known form of carcinogen) and 1.4 –Dioxane (that can cause respiratory problems)


This ingredient is commonly found in chemical sunscreens. Sunscreens come in two forms, namely mineral and chemical filters. Most of the sunscreens on the market use chemical filters like Oxybenzone which can alter the functioning of the thyroid gland and is an endocrine disruptor. It is also commonly found in moisturizers, lip balms, and makeup. It can cause skin allergies also, and hence it is better to avoid products that contain oxybenzone.


This is a foaming agent and a known carcinogen. It can cause respiratory issues. Despite restrictions on its use in personal care products, it can still be found in shampoos, and many types of body wash. Look out for the word DEA (an abbreviation of Diethanolamine) on cosmetic labels.


This is another ingredient that was once used in antibacterial soaps before it was banned. However, it can still be found in personal cosmetics. Triclosan can cause antibiotic resistance, and animal studies have shown that it can cause gut inflammation. Best avoided.

#20. Inclusion Criteria: Include the Right Category of Ingredients

Skincare products are most effective when they contain three specific ingredients:

(a) Antioxidants – They help to protect the skin against environmental pollutants.

(b) Skin–replenishing ingredients – They hydrate and revive the skin’s surface. Certain must-have ingredients are:

  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Sodium Hyaluronate
  • Glycerin
  • Ceramides Amino acids
  • Glycolic Acids
  • Salicylic Acid

(c) Skin-restoring ingredients – These ingredients rejuvenate dull skin and make the skin look noticeably younger. They work in tandem with antioxidants and skin-replenishing agents. Certain skin-restoring components include:

  • Retinol
  • Niacinamide
  • Peptides
  • Adenosine
  • Linoleic and linolenic acids

Make sure to keep in mind the above three categories of ingredients when choosing products.

Follow these simple tips, and you should be able to pick a product that your body loves, one that is free of all the hidden toxicities.

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