A Guide to Buying Personal Care Products: 4 Factors Consumers Must Consider

A consumer’s ability to make sound purchase decisions depends on how well she knows the factors that make a personal care product worth buying. However, how society works these days makes it hard to filter out the noise to get the most valuable information to make an informed choice.

Instead of doing research, more people go with the easy route and simply follow the majority vote without thinking that a product’s popularity doesn’t always translate to safety and effectiveness. This is especially true with skincare, because there’s really no universal formula that offers the same effects for every individual.

In short, something that may work for your friend may not be effective for you.

Because of this, you should consider the following factors when creating a product line or buying such skincare products for your personal use:

  1. Ingredients – Know What to Look For and What to Avoid

A lot of personal care and cosmetic companies focus their product promotion around natural ingredients because they want to appeal to more consumers who are now becoming more health- and eco-conscious. But beyond the hype, there’s actually a scientific basis why you should go with products containing botanical extracts and other natural ingredients.

Based on studies, bioactive extracts or phytochemicals found in botanicals mixed into cosmetic products have two functions: to care for the body and to influence biological processes that ensure skin health.

Most botanical products provide antioxidants, vitamins, proteins, hydrocolloids, essential oils, and other bioactive compounds that offer various benefits. This will all depend on the properties they have.

For instance, some extracts trigger antioxidant activity to reverse the effects of exposure to UV rays and skin aging by fighting free radicals. Certain ingredients help inhibit the overactivity of tyrosinase, which basically means they brighten up the skin.

Besides seeking the right ingredients, you should also know which ones to avoid. Below are some of the terms you should be wary of in skin care products:


Many skincare and even baby products today have the phrase “paraben-free” in their labels. What makes these ingredients so bad, you ask? First, you have to know what parabens are.

Parabens serve as chemical preservatives to hinder bacterial growth in certain products. However, industry experts know them by another name – “estrogen mimickers.”

Over time, parabens can throw off the balance of hormones. Experts also warn that these ingredients can be problematic, especially for young children and people at high risk of breast cancer.


These cleansing agents found in shampoos and body washes strip away natural oils, which can inadvertently lead to irritation and various other consequences.

Formaldehyde and its releasers

Nowadays, formaldehyde is no longer included in products’ ingredients. It’s already classified as a known carcinogen, after all. 

However, experts explain that it may come in other forms of chemicals like DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, diazolinge urea, and imidazolidinge urea, among others. These scientific-looking ingredients act as preservatives, but they also release formaldehyde over time.

While experts are still not sure if these ingredients are harmful when used as such, they can be considered potential allergens that cause adverse reactions when applied to the skin.

  1. Skin Type – Personalize Your Choices

Buying skincare products is much like shopping for a new pair of shoes – you have to ensure that you get the correct fit.

Many experts emphasize the importance of skin type when choosing specific products to use. They explained that the main reason certain products are ineffective, is not because they are poorly made products, but because they just weren’t the right ones to use for a specific skin type.

While every individual has unique skin, most people belong to one of five categories: normal, oily, dry, combination, and sensitive skin. The trick is to determine the best products based on the formulation and ingredients that suit your skin type.

For example, ointments work best for dry skin, whereas creams are better for oily skin. Skincare products formulated for dry skin should also have ingredients that can rehydrate and moisturize it, while those for oily skin should reduce the size of pores.

  1. Label – Always Read the Fine Print

Besides looking at the names of substances combined together to form a cosmetic product, you should also pay attention to their position on the ingredients list. Often, the first five ingredients on the list account for roughly 80 percent of the product’s overall makeup.

Ingredients are also listed in order of concentration, from highest to lowest. Knowing this will let you decide whether a potentially irritating or problematic component makes up a bigger percentage of the product.

It will also help you determine if a product contains ingredients you’re looking for with a significant concentration level to achieve its desired effect on the skin. This means that if you find an ingredient you’re after along the end of the list, then it’s not worth spending money on.

Besides, you shouldn’t fear products with extensive ingredients lists. Although it is well and good to find familiar ingredients with shorter names, an abbreviated list may not offer you enough in terms of skincare.

Take the products made to reverse the effects of aging, for example. Those that genuinely deliver this promise are bound to have a longer ingredients list consisting of unfamiliar but medical-grade ingredients.

Instead of avoiding the product just because you don’t understand what it’s made of, you should call for assistance. Ask a dermatologist or do some research to ensure whether the product is safe and worth its price.

  1. Effects – Perform a Patch Test

The final but equally important factor that consumers must think about when buying cosmetics and personal care products is the effect they have on users.

Take note that what you’re looking for is not just the “advertised” effects. Instead, you should look at actual results.

Doing a patch test is the best way to do this. Besides determining if a specific makeup shade matches your skin tone, for example, this process can also help eliminate products that could irritate your skin, cause allergic reactions, or clog your pores.

The Bottom Line

There are two essential things you need to achieve in skincare: effectiveness and safety. The factors listed here are crucial in achieving both, so make sure that you remember them regardless of whether you’re a consumer or manufacturer of personal care products.


Lamia Rochdi is the Marketing Manager at Bell Flavors & Fragrances EMEA. A successful family-owned business, Bell’s core competencies include customized solutions for the food and beverages industry, the household and personal care sector, and the perfume industry.

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