Like most people, you probably don't scour the entire ingredient list before purchasing a skin cleanser. If you do, though, you could probably rest assured that the list outlining the ingredients in your soap was accurate and thoroughly regulated -- right? Product labels and lists of ingredients are supposed to help us make an informed decision. Having the ingredients listed on the back of a package gives us peace of mind as consumers that what we're buying is safe, but it also allows us to compare products and make sure we're getting the best deal possible.

Actually, that's not always the case. There are laws about how ingredients must be listed on packaging, but the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not pre-approve labeling when it comes to cosmetic products like skin cleansers [source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration].

The only problem is that the labeling of cosmetic products is basically regulated by the honor system. Cosmetic companies are supposed to list all of their ingredients because it's the law, but there is no cosmetic labeling police force out there looking over their shoulders [source: Steinberg].

If you're concerned about what may or may not be in your skin cleanser, the best thing you can do is research it. More often than not, manufacturers won't break the law by leaving ingredients off their package, but they will make unfounded claims. For instance, a skin cleanser may claim that vitamin E has health benefits for your skin, but the FDA doesn't recognize that claim. Besides, it's much more likely that the vitamin E in your skin cleanser is used as a preservative to keep it from breaking down at a chemical level [source: Steinberg]. Until the labels on cosmetic products are strictly regulated, the only thing you can do is educate yourself about the products you're using and the companies that make them.

For more information on ingredients in skin cleansers, see the links on the next page.