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Picky Guide: Reading Skincare Labels Like A Pro

Understanding your skincare label can feel like deciphering hieroglyphics! But once you have the symbols and info down, you’ll be reading these skincare labels like a pro! Good thing we have our Picky Expert and dermatologist Dr. Jarische here to give us the inside scoop on how to read your skincare labels!

Where to Find Skincare Labels

You can find the symbols relating to the product on both the front and back side of the packaging! Most of the time all the info is on the back side of the product, or even on the external packaging alone. So don’t throw it away until you get all the information you need!


Instructions can help guide you on when to use and how often, and typically how to use the product correctly. Especially for certain, ambiguous sounding, products where you’re not sure exactly how to use it properly, make sure to read the instructions or directions. Usually located either on the packaging box or on the product itself!


Reading an ingredient list is another battle to conquer. But understanding some basics about the formulation can be a helpful tool. For ingredient lists, they are usually listed in order of concentration, therefore the highest to lowest, this should help clear up what heavy hitters are in the ingredient list. But do keep in mind that even with a low concentration, certain ingredients can still be quite effective. Just because you don’t see a key ingredient in the first five listed, doesn’t mean you won’t feel the benefits of that ingredient.

For more about ingredients, we have a few tips you can check out here.

Expiration and PAO

Now these two are very different. Expiration date refers to the general shelf life and length of time a product will remain fresh despite it being left unopened. Typically, you can find the expiration date printed as EXP MONTH/YEAR on the packaging. PAO stands for period after opening and is symbolized with the ‘opened jar’ logo. Usually there’s a number within this open jar that indicates how long the brand can guarantee the product will be safe to use.

For more details about expiration date and PAO, check out the post here!

Cruelty Free, Vegan, Eco-Friendly

For how to recycle or throw away a product, the symbol is typically right on the packaging! You may find a recycle symbol, green dot or other to indicate the best way to properly dispose of the emptied product. As for cruelty free, you can find the leaping, or PETA, bunny to show that no animal has been tested on in the making of the product. Sometimes, if a product is fully vegan it will present a logo with a ‘Vegan’ title. These types of logos tend to be pretty straight forward!

Be Picky

Did you pick up some tips for reading your skincare labels? We hope this quick guide will be helpful for your next skincare purchase! If you’re lost on what to buy next, or just skincare concerns in general, make sure to check out the Picky app. With a mega skincare database, with ingredient analysis, and a welcoming Picky community full of skincare enthusiasts and curious users, such as yourself! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and check out our YouTube for more fun skincare content.

Created With

Dr. Jarische

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