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It's all double Dutch to me....

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Double Dutch


Have you ever heard anyone say "It's all double Dutch to me"?

Well let me explain what it means.

Long ago, British merchants trading with The Netherlands said the Dutch language was so difficult that only the Dutch could understand it. In frustration they called it double Dutch. Today double Dutch is anything written or spoken that cannot be understood. 


I have been learning about and making cosmetics for a few years now and, still, the ingredients list can be double Dutch to me so I'm wondering:

How are you, my customers, surviving out there?

It's a struggle isn't it?

So how do you know that what you're buying is legally-compliant and safe? Hmmmmm......

wood for the trees

Well.  I can't promise to make it easy (that would be boring, right?) but, through this post, I hope to make it all a bit more understandable..... to try to help you see the wood from the trees, so to speak.


To start with, here's a checklist of what you should be looking for when you buy a beauty product.  These points are all required, by EU law:

1)  Company Name and Postal Address

Why?  Well if you find something wrong with the product, you should have a means of contacting the company to advise them.

2) Batch number

Why?  Well, again if there is something wrong with the product, the comany should be able to have a means of identifying the batch so they can recall that specific batch of product from the shelves.  Additionally all cosmetic manufacturers, no matter how large or small, need to keep a detailed record of their batches.

3) 'Best Before End' date, commonly referred to as 'BBE'

Why?  Well, like food, cosmetics should be used up before a certain date or they will go bad.  They may not smell bad like food when they go off.  Instead bacteria may start to grow; bacteria that cannot be seen by the naked eye.  And that can be dangerous.  At Simply Skin I always put a BBE date based on the production date (usually 12 or 24 months post production, depending on the product type).  I think (and have been taught) that this is the safest date to use.  Other companies may use different BBE dates.   For example, some companies will show the sign of an open jar with a number of months shown in it (egopen-jar).  This means that you should use the product within the specified number of months after opening it.

4) Minimum content weight

In factory-produced cosmetics, this weight will usually be the same for each and every batch.  But for hand-made cosmetics, this can vary as each and every batch is unique.  Whilst the ingredients may be exactly the same in every batch, one batch of whipped body butter (for example) may turn out to be lighter (or heavier) than the previous.  Factors such as the length of beating time, ingredients batch and even the weather can create differences in product weight.  Some companies use jar size in ml, rather than content weight in g.  Again, I have been taught that the better way is to use minimum weight.

5)  'Directions' advising you how to use the product

Why?  Well you may be an expert when it comes to using your favourite facial cleanser, but what one company calls a facial cleanser may be slightly different to what another company calls a facial cleanser.  And the way to use each product may differ slightly.

6) Full list of ingredients

Why?  Well people can be allergic/intolerant to a whole host of ingredients.  And you wouldn't want to use a product which contains an ingredient you may be intolerant to, would you?

7) Ingredients must be listed using their INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) name

What? Next time you look at a beauty product ingredients label, see if you actually understand everything that is written on it.  Is it, perhaps, a bit double Dutch?  Does it, perhaps, say things like "Butyrospermum parkii" or "Lavandula angustifolia oil" or even "Oryza sativa bran oil"?

Yeah - this is a toughy.  The cosmetic companies are not out to make life purposely difficult for you.  Nor are they trying to be deceiving about the ingredients they put in their products (well they shouldn't be).  The idea is to have an international language for all cosmetic-used ingredients.  Should you be intolerant to an ingredient, you will be advised that you are intolerant to, for example "Butyrospermum parkii", rather than being told you are intolerant to "shea butter".  That way you can be sure you stay away from that exact ingredient or ingredients which may incorporate Butyrospermum parkii as part of their whole.  Does that make sense?  Don't worry if it's not crystal clear..... I'll talk more about INCI names in next week's blog.


So now you know the essentials to look for on all beauty products. 

You're ready to hit your bathroom cabinet and check your favourite products, right?

shopping spree

You'll know what to look for when you're out on your next beauty shopping spree, right?





Not quite yet...... one second.......

Did I mention that you need to find all 7 points above on ALL beauty products?


Confused?????  Let me ask you this, then:

Do you buy all your beauty products from large High Street stores? 

Or do you sometimes support the local artisan and buy from the local market?


Well if you're like me and trying to support the smaller, local businesses who give back more to their community than the large retailers, then you need to understand that a beauty product manufacturer is a beauty product manufacturer, regardless of their company size and regardless of whether their products are factory-made or hand-made. 

Any beauty product that is sold in the EU, must comply with EU regulations.  And, therefore, every beauty manufacturer must provide all the information I've listed above on each and every product. 

The regulations are there for your safety. 

People are becoming more and more aware of the labels on their food products.  Now you need to also be vigilent with regards the labels on your beauty products.


Did you know that as of August 1st, I shall be publishing the monthly Simply Skin eNews?  If you want to keep up with Simply Skin news, be among the first to hear about new products, or be invited to order products made exclusively for Simply Skin eNews subscribers, then simply click this link and fill out the form.

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  1. Vivienne

    Hi Vanessa I do exactly the same thing when it comes to medicines. It can be difficult to always have labels on the actual containers because the containers may be really small (eg facial serums). Wherever possible I ensure labels are on the containers but, for example, with my lip scrubs, it is really difficult to read the ingredients so I add another label to the outer packaging.

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  2. Vanessa

    Thanks Vivienne, What I find quite annoying is that we often unwittingly throw the outer packaging away together with the info! I now keep all packaging! Just this morning I opened a cellular eye concealing pen, the product itself is bear! ( It is inside a beautiful applicator) I will be keeping the box and info leaflet!

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  3. Vivienne

    Thanks Renee

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  4. Renee

    Great post, really interesting and useful.

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