Skincare labeling can be highly confusing. It is difficult to know if a term is simply meaningless yet clever marketing or whether or not an ingredient is good for you. Here is a list of some of the most commonly used skincare terms that may require a bit more clarification:


The term acid may sound harsh; however, most are completely safe and necessary to accomplish peak skin performance. Some are used to breakdown the cell layer of dead skin on the surface of your skin. Some acids help with inflammation, balance pH levels, clear pores, minimize acne, hydrate your skin, exfoliate, and much more. If a product has a number of acids, they may not be ideal for individuals with sensitive skin; however, they may very well be the miracle ingredient to top skincare products.

Dermatologist Tested

This term is basically misleading marketing jargon with no actual meaning or relevance other than to try to make you feel warm and fuzzy about your purchase. To claim a product has been dermatologist tested, a company simply has to have one dermatologist or one of their patients test the product a single time. The dermatologist does not have to endorse the product and the company does not have to reveal if the test was a success. This phrase is quite worthless pertaining to the effectiveness of the product in the end.


Defining natural on cosmetic and skincare labels is a bit tricky. Basically, for a product to be deemed natural, it must be a natural component derived from an animal source, mineral, or plant. Also, it cannot have gone under a process of synthetic origin. One important note is that a substance can remain natural even after it has undergone a biological or physical change such as turning grapes into wine despite not being able to find the new substance in nature. As long as no unnatural elements have been introduced, it is still considered natural. 


The organic definition in skincare means that a product only uses ingredients grown sans the presence of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. This could also include botanical’s which is an alternative organic farming methodology. Truly organic products will be endorsed and approved by various governing bodies with a seal of approval to verify its authenticity. Keep in mind, if a product is organic it is also natural; however, a natural product is not necessarily organic.


Petrochemicals are often used to extend the shelf life, or rather expiration dates, of products amongst other applications, and they have been linked to cancer in a number of studies; however, this is not conclusive. You will find them in various face creams, as well as shampoos for scalp treatment. These nonrenewable petroleum byproducts are often labeled as benzene, butadiene, ethylene, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum, propylene, and xylene. Many organic products use citric acid, sea salt, and rosemary extract to accomplish the same results albeit they will not last as long.

Parabens and Preservatives

Parabens have been directly linked to breast cancer and are one of the biggest offenders on any environmentally friendly skincare line. You might see them listed as butyl, ethyl, isobutyl, methyl, and propyl. Crude oil and petroleum-based synthetic chemicals are also considered parabens.

Potentially harmful preservatives include:

  • butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  • disodium EDTA
  • EDTA
  • tetrasodium EDTA
  • formaldehyde
  •  methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • methylisothiazolinone
  • quaternium 15
  •  C12-15 alkyl benzoate.


A number of natural preservatives exist in both natural and organic products including phenethyl alcohol which is derived from flowers, glyceryl caprylate which is derived from plants, and sodium levulinate and sodium anisate derived from corn and fennel.


A synthetic is the antithesis of a natural substance in that they are natural substances that have been chemically manufactured or formulated to transform into a new altered substance of chemical origin. One popular skincare product containing synthetics is botox . The product is no longer natural as a chemical change has occurred with the introduction of unnatural substances. One example is that of table salt, which is chemically manufactured, versus sea salt, which is found in nature and remains in its pure state.

Would you like to see any terms added to this list?