Excuse me, what am I putting on my face?

Frequently baffled by ingredients lists? These are the brands explaining it in plain English

Added on

By Elle Turner on

Perhaps once, it was good enough for a product to look good, smell good and feel good. A  smoke-and-mirrors marketing campaign plus a baffling (but scientific-sounding) ingredients list, and we'd readily hand over our hard-earned cash for products whose magical properties we were optimistic, yet (more often than not) clueless about.

But times are changing. In a social-media age with a wealth of information at our fingertips, we the consumer, are savvier than ever. Informed and engaged we are demanding to know more about what we're putting in our bodies and onto our faces. Transparency is the new currency and the brands prepared not only to be open about the ingredients they use, but presenting them clearly, are paving the way. What's more, you'll find often that those prepared to be open have something very impressive to shout about. Here's our pick of the best.


Aside from the fact that Tropic Skincare's ingredients are listed in plain English on the product packaging – "We're proud of all the fresh tropical ingredients we pack into our products, so it made total sense to list them all, in plain English, to give our customers more of a connection with what they're applying to their skin," says founder Susan Ma – they are a total treat to use. The smoothing cleanser used with a hot flannel melts away make-up easily, leaves skin looking fresh and feels like a spa experience.




Since Garnier's new SkinActiv range of cleansers, toners and moisturisers boasts 96 per cent natural products, naturally, they want to us to know about it. Their packaging lists the ingredients first in their scientific name followed by plain speak, and even has mini explainers such as "citronellol (perfume derived from plants)" for derivatives that can't be expressed as a name. Plus, their packaging is 100 per cent recyclable. The Botanical Balm Soothing Moisturiser made from distilled rose water is as delicious as it sounds. Dry and dehydrated skin will love this.



We're firm fans of Pai in the office. It's specifically formulated for sensitive skin so you can rest assured that the products used in their products are lovely and gentle. As for transparency, Pai was one of the first cosmetics brands in the UK to express their ingredients in a clear, straightforward way. Their boxes benefit from ingredients listed in both scientific and English names, while baffling terms such as "polyglyceryl-4 oleyl ether olivate" are decoded to become understandable – it's a naturally derived emulsifier (a substance used to prevent the product separating). The whole range is worth a look but their eye cream in particular is brilliantly hydrating and anti-inflammatory. 


Balance Me

Balance Me's Radiance Face Oil is excellent – 100 per cent natural, like most of their products and gentle on weary skin – it smells natural and herby and makes skin glow. Their packaging provides and in-depth list of key ingredients on the side to give you a real feel for what you're putting on your face, while the complete list is expressed first in it's scientific name and then in plain English.


Bloom & Blossom 

Bloom & Blossom's products are between 98.5 and 100 per cent natural, free from parabens, petrochemicals and synthetic fragrances and gentle enough for mums and babies: "INCI lists [the internationally recognised naming system] can be confusing so we always translate the Latin words for clarity and we always clearly state our naturally derived ingredients by their percentage on the side of the box" says co-founder Julia Yule. Try their Night-Time Dry Body Oil, which sinks in quick, leaves legs silky and smells utterly relaxing.



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