A Guide to Beauty-Product Labels
You don’t need a Ph.D. in chemistry to decipher the terms: Real Simple translates.
What it means: The maker has conducted some testing of the product in a clinical setting, like a lab.
What it doesn't mean: That anything significant has been “proven.”
Best for: Someone willing to do her own researching of independent data about ingredients.
What it means: The product has a low chance of causing allergies.
What it doesn't mean: It has been tested for all allergies. “There’s no way to prove it won’t cause a reaction in some people,” says Howard Murad, a Los Angeles dermatologist.
Best for: People with sensitive skin or a history of allergic reactions.
What it means: Found on sunscreens, it tells you the product protects against both ultraviolet A and B rays.
What it doesn't mean: That you’re fully covered. No matter what the label says, no sunscreen blocks out all harmful rays.
Best for: Everyone. Broad spectrum is the best protection available.
What it means: The product contains temporary brighteners, like mica, or ingredients that help even out skin tone.
What it doesn't mean: Lightening, a term regulated by the FDA. A cream can’t claim it will “lighten” the skin or dark spots unless it contains the chemical hydroquinone.
Best for: People with mildly uneven skin tone.