Choosing skincare with your head,
not your heart
We all react differently to various skincare. You can't force your skin to get used to a particular product. Instead, you have to learn which products give your particular skin type the best results.
It's simply about understanding what you are putting on your face. There is no silver bullet remember, and that means not being distracted by luxury packaging, bold claims or poorly informed trends.
... and here's a guide to getting it right
Most people assume the price of skincare is the best indicator of how good it is. This simply isn't true.
1. CHECK THE LABEL
When you spot the ingredients you're looking, you know you're on to a winner. These are legally required to be in order of concentration, starting with ingredients that make up the majority of the product.
2. RECOGNISE THE RUBBISH
Know what you don't want and make sure it's not in the first half of your ingredients list. I'm talking fillers such as petrolatum, silicones (as dimethicone), alcohol, and isopropyl myristate. They have a function, but you don't want to see them making up the bulk of your facial products (or any in some cases).
3. LOOK FOR LATIN
High levels of extracts and Latin names (which often refer to botanicals) are a good indication your product is nourishing and active.
4. DO THE MATHS
A good trick for gauging whether you're getting a decent amount of active ingredients is to look where they sit on the list in relation to essential oils (fragrance and preservatives at non-naturals). When you see a large number of ingredients you want, such as plant oils, and extracts, vitamin C or E, falling behind these, then it is a sign to look for a better option.
5. INSPECT THE PACKAGING
Instead of novelties (crystals, little spoons, metal-clad lids), look for functionality — opaque, hermetically sealable, airless packaging designed to keep products away from UV, and oxygen to keep them fresh.
6. BE WARY OF TRENDS
Ground coffee, coconut oil, hempseed oil, banana peels. These are just a few popular trends in skincare at the moment. Be wary of trends and do your research on scientific evidence beforehand. Where an ingredient is proven effective (e.g. hyaluronic acid, retinol), prioritise professional formulas that combine the right ingredients to maximise the therapeutic effect. Avoid applying ingredients on their own.
... and watch for red flags!
Products that go on about their 'iconic scent' or 'melting texture' which are 'so important for the skincare experience'. They may well be, but they don't add anything to the effectiveness of the product (or hampers it) and are an excuse to whack up the price. And if you get a whiff of alcohol, it'll make up most of the product and that is never good for your skin.
Top 10 ingredients to avoid in skincare products, especially if you have sensitive skin
LOOK FOR - Fragrance, perfume, parfum, aroma
FUNCTION - Fragrance is defined as a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne its distinct scent.
HEALTH CONCERN - Some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.
LOOK FOR - Ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, other ingredients ending in –paraben
FUNCTION - Parabens are preservatives used in a wide variety of personal care products to prevent the growth of microbes. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals can be absorbed through skin, blood and the digestive system.
HEALTH CONCERN - Endocrine disruption, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity.
LOOK FOR - Petrolatum, Petroleum Jelly, Paraffin Oil, Mineral Oil
FUNCTION - Derived from petroleum, it is often used in personal care products as a moisturising agent.
HEALTH CONCERN - Cancer. The primary concern with petrolatum is the potential contamination with PAHs (when not properly refined).
LOOK FOR - Phenoxyethanol, 2-Phenoxyethanol, Euxyl K® 400
FUNCTION - Phenoxyethanol is used as a preservative in cosmetic products and also as a stabilizer in perfumes and soaps.
HEALTH CONCERN - Allergies, nervous system effects.
LOOK FOR - Phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance
FUNCTION - Widely used in scented products to help the scent linger, although it is rarely found on labels because it is a constituent of the ubiquitous ingredient “fragrance.”
HEALTH CONCERN - Endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, cancer.
LOOK FOR - Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal.
FUNCTION - They help prevent microbes from growing in water-based products.
HEALTH CONCERN - These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions.
LOOK FOR - PEG-(followed by a number), polyethylene glycol, PPG, polypropylene glycol.
FUNCTION - These petroleum-based chemicals are used to thicken, soften, and help products to retain moisture.
HEALTH CONCERN - They cause skin irritation and system toxicity, especially when used on damaged or broken skin.
8. SULFATES (SLS, SLES)
LOOK FOR - Sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl ether sulfate, anhydrous sodium lauryl sulfate, and irium.
FUNCTION - Penetration enhancers, detergents (foaming), they attract both oil and water allowing dirt and grime to be lifted from the skin.
HEALTH CONCERN - Strip natural oils from skin, causing dryness, allergic reaction, and irritation.
9. CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS
LOOK FOR - Oxybenzone, Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate), Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Avobenzone
FUNCTION - UV protection, skin damage (ageing) protection
HEALTH CONCERN - Mimic estrogen in the body, potentially causing hormonal disruption.
LOOK FOR - Dimethicone, methicone, phenyl trimethicone, cyclomethicone, dimethiconol, and dimethicone copolyol.
FUNCTION - Dimethicone is a silicone-based polymer found in a wide range of cosmetics and personal care products. It is used to create a soft, smooth feel on skin and hair.
HEALTH CONCERN - This ingredient blocks pores from drawing moisture from the air and releasing toxins, and often leads to acne and irritation.
There are different types of alcohols, all with different properties, we will explain their functions and potential risks on a following blog.