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Reading Handcrafted Skin Care Product Labels

Commercial products call to us with their beautiful packaging, charming descriptions, gorgeous colors and enticing aromas. As consumers, we need to shy away from impulsive appeal and thoroughly read the label and ingredient list for any product that we put into or onto our bodies. The same holds true for any product that we use to clean our home, launder our clothing or that we may use to personally fragrance our homes.

Becoming a savvy label reader will not only help you to avoid products that are misleading or filled with harmful ingredients, but it will also help you to more thoroughly enjoy the products that you use.

When shopping for products locally, get into the habit of carefully reading product labels before and after purchase. When shopping online, be sure to read all product information. If any information is missing about a product, contact the artisan/company to ask questions. This not only will help you, but it will help the artisan realize that he may need to elaborate on his Web site and product descriptions.

Ingredient List:

The products that you purchase should include a list of the ingredients. Soaps do not have to list their ingredients, but many artisans choose to promote the choice of quality oils and other ingredients that they use to make their soaps. Some artisans choose to reveal what fragrance or essential oils they include as a precaution for those that have sensitivities and/or allergies.

Carefully review the list of ingredients, and research those ingredients that you are not familiar with. Keep in mind that just because an ingredient is natural does not always mean that it is safe to use in all products. Cinnamon essential oil, for instance, is natural and is a favored aroma for household fragrancing and for its flavor in cooking.* Cinnamon essential oil, however, can cause severe irritation if included in a skin care or bath product at too strong a concentration.

A helpful resource to keep on hand is the book entitled A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter, M.S. It provides brief, introductory information regarding thousands of ingredients used in skin care and related applications. Although sparse in some ways, this reference can help clue you into harmful ingredients that you may wish to research further.

Product Descriptions:

Carefully read product descriptions to ensure that each product meets with your intended purpose. Watch for terms that give you an indication of the quality of the ingredients used, the reason for the choice of particular ingredients, and other comments that can help you determine if the product is best suited for your needs. As some products such as lip balms are small, it's not always possible for artisans to include long descriptions on the label. Be sure to carefully read the descriptions included on the artisan's Web site or in any other materials that the artisan provides.

Watch for promotional terms such as "Made with essential oils" or "Made with natural ingredients." Remember that these terms do not indicate that the product is made exclusively with essential oils or all natural ingredients. These terms can be used even if only a tiny percentage of the said ingredient(s) are used - even as little as 1%. The "Made with..." phrase can be a dead giveaway that the product is also made with synthetics.

Not all products can be made with 100% natural ingredients. Handcrafted lotions, for instance, often must include preservatives otherwise they would have an incredibly short shelf life and become unusable within a couple weeks. Ensuring an adequate shelf life while create as natural a product as possible can be a dilemma for many artisans.

Usage Instructions:

Some products, like bars of soap, are pretty self-explanatory. But for those products that aren't so obvious, be sure that the product has clear usage instructions. If not, ask the artisan or look to his/her Web site for usage recommendations.


Be sure to read all precautions before using any product. Natural and nearly all-natural products are usually more gentle and safer to use than their commercial counterparts. Some natural ingredients, however, can cause sensitivity or be harmful if used by individuals with particular health issues, if used in excess, or if used in a manner not intended. For instance, shea butter contains a small percentage of natural latex. Those who have a latex allergy should avoid products that include shea butter. Not all individuals with latex allergies are aware of this, so some artisans include it as a precaution.

Shelf Life:

Natural and primarily all natural products often have a much shorter shelf life than heavily preserved commercial products. Look for product expiration dates. Remember that some products may have an expiration date of just one month or two as opposed to a year or more for commercial products. For that reason, some artisans also list the date of manufacture. If you are concerned with a product that has a short shelf life, feel free to ask the artisan for their input. If you are shopping locally, check to make sure that the product you are considering is not covered in dust. Dust is a giveaway that a product has been sitting on the shelf for awhile and is not fresh.

Product Weight/Size:

When shopping locally, it's usually pretty easy to visually see the product quantity that you will receive upon purchase. Even still, boxes can be manipulated so that it's hard to visually tell. It's more difficult to tell when shopping online unless a product lists its weight or volume measurement. Become comfortable with reading product weight/sizes. Match them with any usage instructions and the recommended quantity to use at a time.

Shopping for Handcrafted Skin Care Products

Beauty By the Batch is a practical resource for assisting you in finding artisans that provide natural and nearly all-natural skin care products. Begin your search by visiting the Beauty By the Batch Artisan Directory. Not only do the artisans that appear within the Artisan Directory support the efforts of Beauty By the Batch, but they have all agreed to adhere to Beauty By the Batch's Artisan Code of Conduct. By agreeing to our Artisan Code of Conduct, artisans promise to abide by truthful and accurate marketing and a number of other practices that are in the best interest of consumers.

Visit the Beauty By the Batch Artisan Directory

*Much of the "cinnamon" sold in stores for culinary use in the U.S. is actually cassia, a tree that is similar to the cinnamon tree.

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