Beginner’s Guide to Reading CBD Beauty Product Labels for Cosmetics

26th October 2020

We’ve all been there-you're checking out a great new brand of cosmetics when you flip the bottle over. There it is, a list of ingredients longer than your hair, after lockdown! What exactly is AHA, anyway? And is snail mucin what it sounds like?

Here’s a little cheat code to decoding some of these fancy terms.


While cosmetic labels can vary from extremely elaborate, to minimalist labelling, there’s actually a standard set of information on their labels. Most of us are familiar with the typical terms, like brand name, product type, directions, and weight. It doesn't matter if its CBD cream for acne or just a generic balm you can buy in the pharmacy there are certain standards that every product will follow.

But what about the other terms you might come across?

INCI List:

Today, we learned that the INCI List is simply the list of ingredients, so don’t let that overwhelm you! INCI stands for, “International nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients”. This might seem like a mouthful, but don’t be scared — we’ll come back to this.

  • Manufacturer or Distributor:

This one’s easy enough to understand. It’s just the name (and usually, country of origin) of the company that made the product. Yep, that’s really it!

  • Symbols:

There are usually two or three little symbols on the back of a bottle, and we’re going to break them down for you.

A line-drawing of a rabbit means that the product is cruelty-free. The standard recycling logo means — you guessed it — that the bottle, container, or packaging is recyclable.

Finally, there should be a symbol of an open jar, with a number, and the letter M, inside it. This is the PAO — or “period after opening”, listed in months. It’ll tell you how quickly you have to use up your products. This can vary greatly, depending on the product.

We’d recommend that you stick to it as much as possible because the longer your product’s been open past its PAO, the less potent it’ll be.

Ingredient Order

Did you know that the first few ingredients on the ingredient list usually make up the majority of your product? The first five or six ingredients on the label are the ones used most liberally in making the product what it is, so keep an eye on them.

So many products on the market are all-natural, but so keep this in mind when you shop for that new tube of lip balm. A quick scan of the list of ingredients will tell you if this is true or not!

Concentration Levels

Sure, a product might advertise its array of active ingredients. Still, it’s important to remember the basic order of ingredient lists — the ingredients with the highest concentration are listed first.

However, this isn’t always the case. Some products might have a detailed list of their active ingredients on a separate area, complete with its percentage! This extra-helpful step makes scanning the list a great way to find out if a product and its active ingredients will work for you.

Preservation Method

If a product boasts a long list of natural ingredients, but also a longer shelf life, you’re right to be a little puzzled. Plus, most liquid cosmetics — natural or not — contain water and need some form of a preservative. No one wants a mouldy bottle of serum!

Parabens, which are found on some ingredient lists, are a form of preservatives you want to stay away from. Not only can they cause irritation to your skin and disrupt your hormones, but they’re also found to be carcinogenic.

Thankfully, loads of paraben-free products are readily available, and for every price range! Read our guide on where to buy CBD oil if you're finding it hard to find the right products.

What Does the Latin Mean?

If reading this has your flipping over your cosmetics to check the label, you’re going to come across some Latin terms. Oryza sativa, helianthus annuus, Rosmarinus officinalis — what are these things?! Will they harm you?

Don’t worry — Latin terms are great! They’re just the scientific names for botanicals, and botanicals are natural products. Now, let’s revisit those terms — Oryza sativa? That’s rice! Helianthus annuus is sunflower and Rosmarinus officinalis is rosemary. Latin isn’t that scary now, is it?


If you’ll pardon the pun, skincare products naturally (regardless if they’re natural or synthetic) contain scary-looking chemicals that no one can pronounce. They make up preservatives, essences, and active ingredients, and they’re not bad for you!

Chemicals can be either synthetic or natural. Like any other ingredient, it can be completely safe — provided you don’t have any allergies! If you’re still uncomfortable with any of the chemicals in your cosmetics, look them up.

Put your mind at ease and hop over to The Skin Deep website. It breaks down practically every cosmetic currently on the market, explaining how the chemicals in them work and if they’re safe!

Understanding Fragrance

Unless you’re looking for unscented products, you’ll know that most cosmetics are fragranced. Soaps, primers, setting sprays, creams, masks — some of them smell better than others, but they all smell pretty good!

Fragrances can usually be found on the list of ingredients. Just look for words like, “fragrance”, “perfume”, or “parfum”. Finding out if fragrances are listed as ingredients is useful in finding out if your unscented product really is unscented.

However, remember that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose what goes into their fragrances. This means you should be sure to look into this, especially if you’re new to the brand.

Know the Source

With CBD products, it’s important to know that the brand you’re purchasing from is trustworthy so you can get the many amazing benefits of CBD. Many manufacturers are dedicated to creating high-quality products that are ethically-sourced, but just as many create filler-infused products with little to no CBD content.

Much like buying your other cosmetics, each product and manufacturer should be researched — but of course, we’ve done some work for you!


While CBD-infused cosmetics are relatively new to the market, they’re increasingly becoming more and more common. There’s no harm in trying out a CBD-infused primer or moisturizer — it could revolutionise your beauty routine.

Still, remember to look at the list of ingredients, and don’t let the Latin scare you off!

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