How to read the cosmetic labels?

Have you ever wonder how long does it last that product after you buy it? Let’s  find out what the shelf life of a product is. Many eco- manufactured products tend to give a specific date. But in the absence of that, there is another way to find out the optimal time to use a cosmetic product. On the of packaging, there will be a small symbol representing an ‘open bottle’ with a number inscribed inside along with the letter M. This indicates the recommended time for using the product once the container has been opened. For example, 6M means 6 months of recommended use.

Now, let’s talk through the ingredients.  According to the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients), the names of chemical substances appear in English while the names of the natural ingredients are written in Latin (for example water = aqua). The ingredients are ordered according to the quantity included in the product from highest to lowest. The following are some of the best-known ingredients that are currently proving controversial:

– Parabens: these chemical preservatives have been the focus of some studies for their potential to act as endocrine disruptors or potential links to breast cancer.  Some cosmetic brands claim that the parabens that are potentially harmful are called ‘long chain’, and that the ones they use are ‘short chain’ (such as methyl paraben and ethyl paraben) and not harmful.  In general, to locate them in the list of ingredients you can find them with the word ‘paraben’ (example methylparaben) or the words that end in ‘zoate’ (for example: parahydroxybenzoate).

– PEG or PPG: These are derivatives of petrochemicals manufactured from ethylene oxide. They are mainly used as emollients to be able to homogeneously mix ingredients that are not normally miscible, such as water and oil. There are questions as to their toxicity to the liver and kidneys and whether they cause allergies or are carcinogenic.  They are not biodegradable. They generally appear with their PEG or PPG name associated with a number and sometimes appear under names such as ‘propylene’ or ‘polyethylene glycol’.

– Silicones: they are used in cosmetics to improve the textures of products (especially lipsticks and hair products) but they are not very biodegradable, which means that they accumulate in the environment. It is also suggested that they can clog the pores of the skin. Cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) is suspected of having carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic effects on reproduction. This ingredient is prohibited by European regulations. To recognize other types of silicones look at the ingredient names that usually end with ‘cone’, ‘one’ or ‘xane’.

– Paraffin is a derivative of petroleum, which is purified for use in cosmetics. It is used as a thickener and to give a smooth, semi-solid or solid texture to the products. It has been suggested that it can also turn out to be comedogenic, blocking pores. Mineral oils are added to the composition as a stabilizer. In organic products they are usually replaced by vegetable oils, such as avocado oil, coconut oil and argan oil. To find them in the INCI, you have to look for content such as ‘paraffin’ or ‘mineral oils’.

– Phthalates, can be used in many cosmetic products such as nail polishes, perfumes and hair fixers. There are questions about whether phthalates can act as hormonal disruptors in the development of women or cause sterility in men.

– Aluminium salts and aluminium chlorate are present in some deodorants and there are suggestions they could be responsible for breast cancer and Alzheimer’s cases. You can find it in the INCI under different forms, in general the names are made up of the word ‘aluminium’.

– Sulfates: these are the ingredients that create the foaming effect in shampoos and shower gels and facial cleansers. Their irritating and drying potential is questioned, and they are also suspected of removing part of the protective hydrolipidic mantle that is naturally present on the skin and scalp. You can find them in the ingredient list generally under the names ‘sodium’, ‘lauryl sulfate (sls)’, ‘sodium laureth sulfate (sles)’ or ‘ammonium lauryl sulfate’. The most used are usually the SLS and SLES.




To improve our recycling systems, we need to design products to be recycle. But what does that mean? When we say design, we’re not talking about the shape of a product – WE’RE TALKING ABOUT DESIGNING IT WITH AN END-GOAL IN MIND. Currently products are designed for ease of use, not reuse.

THAT MEANS WE NEED TO ASK: What is it made of? Are there additives? How easy is it to clean? How easy is it to sort? How easy is it to recycle?

LET´S START WITH WHAT IT’S MADE OF: Currently, we often mix polymers to create products or use additives that make it hard to reuse or cause it to degrade during the recycling process. WE NEED TO TRANSITION TOWARD SINGLEPOLYMERS IN OUR PRODUCTS – just one type of plastic per product!

WE ALSO NEED TO DESIGN OUR PRODUCTS TO BE CLEANED EASILY,  allowing them to be recycled without loss due to residue.


The more that are used, the harder it is for recycling systems to keep up. Because the truth is, some plastics are harder to recycle than others: we currently don’t have the technology or infrastructure to recycle some plastics, even when they say they’re recyclable.




Greenwashing is a commercial practice used in advertising with the aim of promoting the sales of a product through the natural or ecological concept, when in many cases it is not. Many times the claim on its packaging with the words bio, organic, eco or images of green leaves, flowers or fruits transmits the message that we are dealing with a product that is almost like it came out of the earth.

So how to know if a product is truly what it claims to be?

An environmentally friendly product could be, for example, one in a refillable format that should also be cheaper, however this does not guarantee that the product formula is made with ingredients from organic farming.

To know if the formulation is as ‘natural’ as it claims to be, we must read the list of ingredients and be able to recognize them.

We can also see if these are backed by a recognised certification. It is important to note that the certificates are awarded to the product, not to the brand, which means that within a cosmetic brand we can find some that have an ecological certificate and others that do not, hence the importance of knowing how to read the label and recognise the seals.



Until The Mid-20th Century, plastic was a material that was rarely used. Modern plastic started to be manufactured after the 2nd World War when the army realised how versatile this material could be, so it went to be used to protecting cargo to keep our food fresh as packaging and household products. Synthetic materials such as nylon went to be used to manufacture parachutes to being used as stockings, and plastic began to be part of our lives. Clearly this material also helped to lower production costs, but at what price?


It is fairly common to find food containers, bottles, wrapping materials and other leftovers that we use on our daily basis not only in parks and streets of some cities, but also in natural spaces such as beaches and mountains. This ´phenomenon´ that invades natural environments with our waste it is called littering and despite its obvious consequences it is an increasing problem of our time.


Perhaps what you might not know, is that these debris are not only found around us but thousands of kilometers away, and that there is so much plastic in the sea that 5 huge islands have been formed in the 5 oceanic gyres that are produced by its water currents on the planet. These currents are eddies produced by the rotating action of the earth and the winds that move from the tropics to the Polar zones. These currents act as carrier belts on which the plastics go from the coasts to the distant waters where these islands are being formed. The largest, located in the North Pacific gyre is estimated to have more than 2 billion pieces of plastic, 10 times as many units as there are stars in the Milky Way, and which extends over a surface area of ​​approximately 3 times the size of France. Together the five large spots contain more than 5 billion pieces of plastic that would weigh almost 270,000 tons.

According to a study in the journal Science, each year more than 8 million tons of plastic are thrown into the oceans. The causes, probably besides of careless individual actions, are insufficient or poor waste management. It must be taken into account that what causes garbage is not the material itself but the way it is managed. It is estimated that 20% of the plastic in the oceans is the product of oil rigs and ships, while 80% comes from onshore production. The rivers are the main routes by which plastic reaches the ocean, a problem that particularly affects Asia, that has 20 of the most polluting rivers in the world. The most prominent contributor to pollution is China followed by the United States, Germany and Brazil.


For those who like me, are concerned about the environment, we wonder what we could done about this besides recycling or the occasional volunteering work. Hence thinking about all these data and conscious about what social media could do, I came up with this project where I’m determined to raise awareness about sustainability within the cosmetics industry.


I have been working as a make-up artist for more than 10 years, so a countless number of high end cosmetic brands have passed through my hands. Most of them using plastic in their package, something that makes me wonder – Would it be possible to supply these products in a more eco-friendly. way? This concern is nothing new that has just crossed my mind, luckily this philosophy is increasingly popular, so fortunately we can say that there are more and more companies that produce their products taking into account factors such as packaging and production proximity.


When I began to become aware of the environmental damage that my lifestyle caused, I wanted to change radically, buying only sustainable package products, but soon I realized that the goal of being 100% sustainable was not achievable and I accepted what many activists are stating, and that is simply that what the world needs is not a person who does everything perfect, but a lot of imperfect conscious people, with their contradictions but committed to changing step by step their habits to improve and achieve a more sustainable future.


Reversing the damages caused to date is an inescapable duty. Not just for ethical reasons, but because, as Woody Allen said, the future should concern us because it is where we are going to spend the rest of our lives.




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