What do labels on skincare products really tell us and are we giving them due attention?

Ms May Cheah, Principal Pharmacist, Pharmacy Department, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, tells us what those rows of words are there for.

Name of product

Serves as the product's identity.

Name and address of local manufacturer of importer

Useful should there be any product enquiries.

Batch reference

Makes it easier for the relevant authorities to withdraw or recall particular batches of the product if required, for example, in the event of a defective product or inappropriate content.


May include instructions such as: For external use only; Keep out of reach of small children; Avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes; If irritation develops, discontinue use.


Most creams and lotions should be stored in cool, dry places. In hot, humid Singapore, you may think of putting your toiletries in the fridge, but there is a risk of the cream or lotion crystallising. Serums containing chemicals such as vitamin C should be stored in the fridge between 2ºC and 8ºC.

Directions for use

Tells you how and when to use the product, how often it should be used, how much to apply and which part of the body to use it on. Inappropriate or excessive use can lead to skin irritation or allergy. Using a night cream in the day, for instance, exposes the product to the sun which can cause skin reactions. Night creams are usually more oily, and if used during the day when it’s hotter, might cause skin breakouts.

Symbols and logos

​Known as the universal recycling symbol. Tells you that the packaging components are recyclable.
​Indicates the period of time over which the product should be used after opening.
​Implies that additional information about the product is available elsewhere like in a leaflet, card or tag.

Click to next page to learn how to read ingredients list and possible side-effects of some chemicals used in skincare products.

Ref: U11