CosmeticOBS - L'Observatoire des cosmétiques
Aug. 29, 2010Learning to read labels

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The Observatory of Cosmetics

The function of a product is a kind of its purpose: what and whom it is designed for. As per the applicable regulation, it is mandatory that this information be obviously easy to see on the outside label of the cosmetic product. This requirement is always met, this information being of the utmost importance for the consumer to choose a product that meets his (her) needs (or, at least, seems so …). Nevertheless, a thorough reading may help in understanding it … to prevent any mistake.

Reading time : ~ 5 minutes

The function comes as a description of the cosmetic, which can take many forms, all easy to understand, even if they are more or less accurate.

The naming

Some manufacturers choose the name of their product as if a dream: "Souffle d’Eau Pure" (A Breeze of Pure Water), a "Caresse d’Eveil" (an Awakening Caress), or "Cocktail Végétal" (A World of Plants), all are poetic names, for sure, but are unable to give the consumer the faintest idea of what is in the cream pot.
The names shall then come with more explicit and precise words, which may be respectively, a "Tonic Lotion", a "Day Care Cream" or a "Serum".

When the name is relevant, it may be even more explicit as to the purpose of the cosmetic or the part of the body it is designed for. The three examples come now as, "Refreshing Tonic Lotion", "Moisturizing Day Care Cream", "Face Care Serum" …  

The function may be as simple as the name of the product itself: when a Moisturizing Day Care Cream is labelled "Moisturizing Day Care Cream", well, it is less glamour but easy to understand. 

The target

If the sidelines of products for men are put apart (though the sidelines are more and more similar to women’s), it is no longer time for the "all-in-one" products. The multi-purpose cosmetic product (the moisturizer for body and face, the day-and-night care cream, the eyeliner and blush …) is no longer on the crest. The trend is more to the product meeting the needs of the core target.

This is always on the label: let us take as examples the day-care creams, which are available in as many references as there are kinds of skins (normal, sensitive, oily, dry, problem skins, intolerant, young, mature, matte, fair, reactive, with a tendency to atopic dermatitis … we probably have left many aside).   

Are formulae that different? Manufacturers say that choosing the right active ingredient makes all the difference between two creams (and their target publics, their packaging and maybe their prices …). Well, in fact, nothing is closer to the base of a moisturizing cream than the base of another moisturizing cream …

How it works 

Some labels go even farther while describing more precisely, what the cosmetic product is due to do. The anti-dandruff shampoo is designed for "sensitive scalp"; the cream is not only moisturizing, but also "anti-ageing"; the toothpaste will help to heal the "bleeding of the gums", to desensitize "sensitive teeth", to lighten the "enamel whiteness", to "prevent cavities" …  

Sometimes, the limit between the precise description of the function of a product and the higher level of the sales point, what the product is claimed to be able to do for the consumer, is a bit fuzzy.

How can the function of a cosmetic be understood? 

Accurate, well targeted, comprehensive, the description of the function of a cosmetic product is a useful base for the right choice. For sure, one is not to buy a shampoo for dry hair if the need is for a body care cream.

Beware, in no way, it is the guarantee that the product will be efficient. One has no means to know whether a cream claimed as moisturizing comprises everything needed for that application; it is even more impossible to know whether a slimming gel will make an unsightly roll of fat disappear or whether an anti-wrinkle will even the skin as if by magic …

Mandatory as per the applicable regulation, yes, but not necessarily enough to choose wisely. The step of reading the list of ingredients is essential: this is the only way to know everything (or almost everything) on the true formula of the product!

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