Breaking Down Skincare Labels

Naaila Khan

You know how you can really tell the difference between a true blue fashion enthusiast from a mere enthusiastic shopper?  They’ll spout off the complete history of a brand as opposed to just pointing out the store.

Well, here’s a class in some beauty terms with blurring lines that have always left you muddle-headed— hair, makeup, skin, everything— immediately hauling you into beauty pro territory. Ted Gibson, celebrity hairstylist to the ranks of Angeline Jolie and Anne Hathaway, detangles a major hair doubt, and the ever approachable and delightfully animated Dr. Bryan Nobbay clears out all things skin.

Take a look!

Think of this as totally changing the texture of your hair versus just aligning it.

“My clients from both my NYC and Florida salons ask me this question quite frequently,” says Ted. “Hair straightening actually changes the texture of your hair, making textured, wavy and/or curly hair straight. Hair smoothing treatments do not change the overall texture of your hair, but can eliminate frizz, add shine and make it easier and faster to blow dry your hair."

The first thing to know is that both these products hydrate your skin, because plump cells equals younger looking skin.

“Anti wrinkle products essentially target wrinkles, whether superficial, deep or whichever kind; they retain moisture and tighten the skin, says Dr. Nobbay, “while anti aging is a broader term covering a whole gamut of things— photo protection, moisturising, tightening of the skin, age spot removal, and of course reducing wrinkles.”

Who knew these were different things, right?

Skin brightening implies restoring the skin to a natural radiance by scrubbing off the dead cells that make it sallow-looking, so it can replace them with new cells; this is usually done using micro-exfoliant products.

Lightening products however, contain tyrosinase inhibitors that discourage melanin production, thus making your skin look shades lighter, which is “not something I endorse at all, as with any serious dermatologist/cosmetologist,” he says. If you do decide to go down this road, be wary of the sun— tanning is actually the skin’s defense mechanism against the sun.

Popularly seen on food products, these labels are almost always used interchangeably, though they are very different in truth.

The ‘natural’ label is a generic one, given to natural meat and poultry and food products that are minimally processed and have no artificial additives. It doesn’t clarify the growing of the plants, or the rearing or feeding of the animals. So technically, a high-fructose corn syrup could also be called natural.

The more popular ‘organic’ label however, ensures that the product has met the stringent requirements of a heavily regulated food system. It guarantees no toxic stuff—no synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, artificial hormones and chemical fertilizers in the production process. Enough reason to join the organic bandwagon already, don’t you think?

The common boon they share is super staying power and zero need of upkeep. Both water or alcohol based, they have liquid or gel-like consistencies.

Lip tints however, are much lighter in texture and need to be layered on the lip to create deeper colour, making them more versatile. Inversely, their drawback is that they aren’t strong enough to change the colour of heavily pigmented lips. So if you have darker lips, the lip stain is your hero.

The labels Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum indicate the concentration of essence they contain, and their price tag of course.

There are broadly four categories of fragrances based on their strength- perfume, parfum, toilette and cologne, in that order. Eau de parfum has 8-15% of perfume oil and because of its intense base notes, will stay put on your skin all day.

Eau de toilette has about 10% of aromatic essence, with more dominant top notes that are strong when you apply, though fade off quickly. Instantly refreshing, but needs to be reapplied many times in a day.

“Not really a difference. None of them entirely block the sun. They have a range activity, some of them are chemical intensive, some have a physical component like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, et cetera, incorporated to block off light,” says the dermat. What’s important to know is that “none of them are absorbed into the skin; if they were, you’d have reactions from all the chemicals in them.”

The sunscreen happens to be the more popular one; probably because it is not seen on the skin, unlike an opaque sunblock that you mostly know from funny streaked faces on the beach.  On the flip side, some people could be allergic to a few chemicals in a sunscreen, making sunblock a better bet. Whatever your preference, as long as it has an SPF of 30 and above; you’re good to go.

No stark difference here, the distinguishers are their texture and consistency.

A body butter is heavier, more emollient and feels more lush on the skin, thanks to a good dose of occlusive lubricants (think natural oils and shea butter) it contains, creating a barrier from environmental elements, as well as to keep the moisture intact.

Lotions are lighter in consistency, usually water based, and aren’t lubricating. They are primarily humectants, that is, they preserve the moisture that’s already present in the skin, making them a better option for dry skin that lacks more moisture than oil.


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