The good, the bad, and the unpronounceable. Welcome to learning about the ingredients in your products. Knowing what the ingredients in your products are and what they do is a CRUCIAL part of finding a skin care routine that works for you. Not only will you save time and money by cutting down the amount of products you’ll have to try, but you’ll actually start seeing some improvement in your skin’s overall health. It’s also important to be educated on this because you’ll feel safer about what you are using if you know you took the time to REALY learn what you’re putting on your skin. It’s important to be able to trust your own knowledge and judgement of that knowledge because you can’t always trust product labels/companies. In the United States, cosmetic products are not regulated by the FDA. So pretty much how it works is, people/companies can put out whatever they want using whatever ingredients they want (and lie about it) and the only way they can get caught is if a company or product is reported to the FDA. This typically only happens in cases where a product causes serious problems among a very large number of people using the same product (unless the product caused a very serious problem to an individual) because without multiple reports, people generally just think they personally have a sensitivity to it. Fortunately, we live in a time where everyone is very lawsuit happy so, the bigger companies get, the more cautious they are about the products they use and the more scientists they may employ for product ingredient research. Unfortunately, a major downside to that is sometimes companies are realistically hiring these scientists to figure out the cheapest way to make a product without too many adverse effects. It doesn’t matter if it actually works or not, with enough money, the right marketing, enticing packaging, and usually a doctor (they probably paid off) or celebrity endorsing the brand, companies can make millions off of products most people would be better off without using. They do it with ease too because truthfully, skincare isn’t something most people care deeply enough about to pay that much attention to so, not enough people notice. On the plus side though, there are humans who struggled with skin conditions growing up or throughout their life, who chose to dedicate their lives to researching ways to help combat those problems so, there are products and product lines that are genuinely crafted to try and improve skin imperfections. You just have to do your research to make the best judgement for that. Now, while I will be giving you a list of ingredients I think are fairly important to know, your research should not stop here. There will still be hundreds of other ingredients, both good and bad, that could potentially be used in your products so, your best bet is to always do a quick google search for ingredients you do not recognize, before making any purchases. Also, be wary of products that do not have their ingredients lists in a conspicuous location. It’s not always going to be a bad thing (ex. my professional grade products aren’t labeled on the bottle, but the consumer grade products are), but it should still raise a red flag that should prompt you to do a little digging into what’s in the product. Sometimes it’s just for aesthetic and the ingredients will be on the packaging, but again, still something to look into.
*All italicized definitions are directly taken from Milady’s Skin Care and Cosmetics Dictionary 3rd Edition.*
Alcohol (alcohol SD-40; alcohol SDA-40; ethanol; ethyl alcohol)– widely used in the cosmetic industry as an antiseptic as well as a solvent given its strong grease-dissolving abilities. Often used in a variety of concentrations in skin toners for acne skin, aftershave lotions, perfumes, suntan lotions, and toilet waters. Alcohol is drying to the skin when used in high concentrations. Personally, I try to steer clear of any products containing alcohols. Your goal should never be to dry out your skin and that goes even for the oiliest of skin. When you’re someone who deals with acne or just has oily skin, the objective of your products should be to cleanse and heal, not strip and dry. Like it mentioned, you’ll find a lot of toners with alcohols, but you will also find that your makeup removing wipes are probably full of them as well. (Ps, makeup wipes are bad for both your skin and the environment so, stop buying/using them)
Aloe vera- an emollient and film-forming gum resin with hydrating, softening, healing, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s moisturizing ability is it’s most widely recognized characteristic. Aloe vera supplies moisture directly to the skin tissue. Other properties include moisture regulation and an apparent ability to absorb UV light. It has a slightly relaxing effect on the skin, making it beneficial for sensitive, sunburned, and sun-exposed skins. Aloe vera was popular in folklore medicine as a remedy for burns. It is frequently used in gels as an effective refresher and relaxant for irritated skin, hence its popularity in sun preparations for cooling and soothing. This definition goes on and on for half a page, but this is a good stopping place for a general idea of the powerhouse that is aloe vera. Now, this definition is talking about aloe vera extracted straight from the plant, not the green dyed stuff you see at the drugstore. Unless you have a direct allergy to aloe, this is an ingredient that can be used on any and every skin type!
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)– the family name for naturally occurring acids often referred to as “fruit acids.” AHAs are used in cosmetic products as moisturizers, emollients, and exfoliants. They are also employed to treat such conditions as photodamage and hyperpigmentation and, at the medial level, eczema and ichthyosis. Their activity and associated benefits are dependent on the type of AHA used, the concentration employed, and the pH of the formula. The benefits attributed to these active substances include a reduction of fine lines and superficial wrinkles, a lightening of surface pigmentation, and softer, suppler skin with improved hydration. These noted benefits are a result of the AHA activity to normalize the stratum corneum by reducing its thickness through exfoliation, and the creation of a more compact structure; increased skin hydration due to the natural moisturizing properties; an ability to activate hyaluronic acid, which in turn, will retain a greater amount of moisture in the skin; an increase in dermal thickness due to the increased hydration and a normalization of skin functions. There are six key AHAs found in various plants and fruits: glycolic acid found in sugar cane juice; lactic acid from sour milk and tomato juice; magic acid found in apples; tartaric acid found in grapes and wine; and citric acid found in lemons, pineapples, oranges, and other fruits. Pyruvic acid is also an AHA. AHAs used in cosmetic preparations are synthetically derived. The exfoliating and hyperkeratinization-reducing properties of some AHAs make them prime ingredients for acne-oriented products, for reducing keratosis, and for improving the appearance of aging skin. This is another term with a definition that goes on for days, but I am okay with stopping there. Basically your AHAs & your BHAs (definition to come) are your powerhouse ingredients. These will most commonly be found as the active ingredients in your products (most importantly in your cleansers) and are the most effective when it comes to achieving actual results with your skin care. Glycolic acid is going to be the most common while also favored as the most effective for anti-aging. These are very strong ingredients so it is important to make sure you are not overdoing it with products containing AHAs.
Argan oil– emollient and skin conditioning, it also protects and moisturizes the skin. Its constituents include tocopherol, phenolic acid, carotenes, and essential fatty acids. It is obtained from the nut of the argan tree. With a comedogenic scale rating of 0, argan oil is one of my absolute go-to’s for topical skin moisturizing (emphasis on moisturizing and not hydrating) as well as a hair treatment. 10/10 would recommend for all hair and skin types.
Avocado oil– can function as an emollient and as a carrier oil in cosmetic preperation, helping transport active substances into the skin. It is bactericidal and soothing, particularly to sensitive skin. Current speculation among researchers is that avocado oil may mobilize and increase the collagen of connective tissue. This would help keep the skin moist and smooth in addition to having a favorable influence in the treatment for minor skin conditions. Avocado oils also demonstrated sunscreening characteristics and has been given the highest ranking by Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology for sunscreen effectiveness when compared to other naturally derived oils such as peanut, olive, and coconut. Please do not take that last line as any indication that you can use any of these oils in place of a real sunscreen. Avocado oil ranks a 3 on the comedogenic scale, and while that is as high as I like to go when it comes to any kind of skincare product, it’s mildness to sensitive skin makes it a great contender for a product base/carrier oil.
Beeswax– one of the oldest raw ingredients used in cosmetic preparations. It is traditionally used as an emulsifier for water-in-oil emulsions and is now also used to regulate a formulation’s consistency. Beeswax is used as part of the wax composition of solid and paste products such as creams, lip-sticks, and pomades. When on the skin’s surface, it can form a network rather than a film, as is the case with petroleum. Though there is no scientific proof for it, beeswax is credited with anti-inflammatory, antiallergic, antioxidant, antibacterial, germicidal, skin-softening, and elasticity-enhancing properties. As an antioxidant, beeswax has some free-radical scavenging ability. Depending on its source, beeswax can be considered a noncomedogenic ingredient. It rarely causes sensitivity, and allergic reactions to beeswax are low. Fairly self-explanatory, I feel.
Benzoyl peroxide– an antibacterial ingredient commonly used in acne treatments. It functions by forcing an oxidant (peroxide in this case) into the philosebaceous orifice where it releases oxygen, thereby diminishing the P. acnes population. This reduces the level of free fatty acids and the level of skin infection. Benzoyl peroxide may cause skin irritation. Mmkay, lets talk about this one. So, yes, benzoyl peroxide has its benefits, however, in my humble opinion, it should not be used in any daily skin care products. While I find it completely safe to use and very beneficial for occasional spot treating, in daily use, it can actually make your skin become addicted to it. If you are currently using a daily product with benzoyl peroxide as the active ingredient, do NOT just try to stop using it all together (unless you have been using it less than 2 weeks i’d say). If you stop all together, your skin will probably freak out on you. Just like with any addiction, to avoid withdrawals, you must slowly ween yourself off of the drug. Start by gradually mixing in the new products for a smoother transition. Start with maybe using your new products for one or two morning washes the first week while you continue to use your benzoyl peroxide products. Maybe the next week, add another morning or two. The third week you can do all morning washes with the new products while still using your old products at night and so on and so forth until you no longer are using the old products. Most people are not aware of this ingredients ability to have such a drastic affect on the skin so, when they feel like their skin is becoming too sensitive to the product (because constant use of bp can dry out and irritate the skin) they will try to switch it up, causing the skin to “freak out” which people then associate with the new product they’ve begun using instead of realizing it’s from the lack of benzoyl peroxide in their new product. I typically steer clear of this ingredient all together.
Beta hydroxyacid (BHA)- refines skin texture by reducing stratum corneum thickness through surface exfoliation. BHAs are excellent for use in acne products due to their ability to chemically exfoliate excessive dead skin cell accumulation around the orfice of the sebaceous follicle. Salicylic acid is the most commonly used example of a beta hydroxyacid. The holy grail of active ingredients for oily/acne-prone skin. Again, just like the AHAs, BHAs are powerful ingredients so, try to avoid overuse and give your skin a little break if you feel your skin getting a little sensitive.
Caffeine- able to break down lipids, it has a lipolytic effect on fatty cells. Given this ability and its draining properties, caffeine is used for skin firming and tightening. Caffeine is often incorporated into body product formulations targeting cellulite and slimming, as well as in eye creams that claim to reduce puffiness. Coffee scrubs are my go-to for all over exfoliation. Coffee grounds are coarse enough to remove dead skin, while also being rounded so they are gentle enough to use without causing micro tears like scrubs using nut shells, salt, or granulated sugar (brown sugar is actually okay to use) can. These ingredient particles usually are not rounded and tend to have tiny sharp edges that can do more damage than good to the skin.
Castor oil- a highly emollient carrier oil that penetrates the skin easily, leaving it soft and supple. It also serves to bind the different ingredients of a cosmetic formulation together. Castor oil is high in glycerine esters of ricin oleic acid. It is rarely, if ever, associated with irritation of the skin or allergic reactions. Impure castor oil may cause irritation as the seeds contain a toxic substance that is eliminated during processing. Its unpleasant odor makes it difficult to use in cosmetics. Castor oil is completely fine to use if it works for you, but so far I hate it almost as much as I hate coconut oil. Maybe I just haven’t gotten any from a good manufacturer, but in my experience it’s super thick and does not spread well, dried my hair out worse than drug store shampoo, and it completely refused to absorb into the skin leaving me uncomfortably oily for hours. It also does smell terrible. It’s just not my personal choice for an oil, but again, that’s just me. It only ranks a 1 on the comedogenic scale so, it is fine to use for all skin types.
Chamomile extract- has clinically proven anti-inflammatory and repairer properties. It is also considered bactericidal, anti-itching, soothing, antiseptic, purifying, refreshing, and hypoallergenic with the ability to neutralize skin irritants. There are various forms of chamomile, including Roman and German. German chamomile tends to be more potent due to its higher azulene content. Chamomile is considered a noncomedogenic raw material and can be beneficially used in aftershaves, age treatment preparations, as well as in products for dry skin. It’s also light and soothing enough to use on all skin types.
Clay- as a general ingredient category, it may include bentonite, beets, and China clay. Most frequently used for its ability to absorb oil and water, it is also employed as a bulking, stabilizing, and viscosity-controlling agent. Clay can help clarify liquids, act as an emollient, and serve as a poultice. It is found as a color component in face powders, face masks, body powders, and makeup foundations. It does not cause skin allergies. Clay masks are my go-to when my skin is really angry and needs to be hit with a product that will help clear up breakouts without being too harsh chemically. While salicylic acid is great for fighting acne, sometimes it can be a little too harsh if your skin is already very irritated or if you’ve had a bunch of extractions done. For clay masks, I typically only suggest these for occasional use for those with oily/acne-prone skin. It should still be followed by a moisturizer though to replace the oil you just removed with something hydrating.
Cocoa butter– softens and lubricates the skin. this yellowish vegetable fat is solid at room temperature, but liquifies at temperatures between 90-100 degrees F. Thus, it is frequently used in lip balms and massage creams due to its favorable melting point. Cocoa butter is considered comedogenic and may cause allergic reactions. Cocoa butter is found in many moisturizers, but I personally can’t stand the smell of it so, it’s something I try to avoid. If it works for you, then there’s no reason you should feel the need to stop using it, but if you’re someone who has always been told it’s good for you, but you notice it just doesn’t work well with your skin, you have a legitimate reason to want to try something else.
Coconut oil- used as a cream base, a raw material in soaps, ointments, massage creams, and in sunscreen formulations. Soft white or slightly yellow in color and semisolid in consistency, coconut oil is a grouping of primarily short-chain fatty acids bonded with glycerin and expressed from coconut kernels. It is stable when exposed to air. Coconut oil may be irritating to the skin and cause skin rashes. It is also considered comedogenic. I’m sorry, but coconut oil is absolute garbage for both your skin and hair and you cannot convince me otherwise. Just because you think it’s working for you, doesn’t mean it is. Coconut oil ranks a 4 out of 5 on the comedogenic scale. That means it is VERY likely to clog pores. The same goes for a hair cuticle. Coconut oil isn’t nourishing anything, but instead is coating the hair strand creating a barrier that keeps any and all other products from being able to penetrate the hair. Over time, once the coconut oil is finally rinsed from your hair (this will take multiple washes after discontinued use), it will most likely be significantly drier/more brittle. There are so many other oils that are much better for you and this goes for all genders, races, and skin types. Just because you grew up using this or sheens, does not mean they are actually good for you. I learned the hard way that our parents don’t always know what they are talking about and you can, in fact, take this new information and break the tradition if you choose. Now, this doesn’t mean that anything and everything coconut is bad. Coconut milk is incredibly hydrating and will not have the same negative affects as coconut oil will.
Collagen- very popular in skincare formulations for its great hydration potential and its ability to bind and retain many times its weight in water. This water-binding and retention ability makes collagen effective for use in skin moisturizers as a skin-protecting agent. It will not leave a feeling of tackiness or dryness on the skin, especially when used in hydrolyzed or soluble forms. As a film former, collagen aids in reducing natural moisture loss, thereby helping hydrate the skin. In skin preparations it enhances the humectancy of a topical product, contributes sheen, builds viscosity and leaves the skin smooth and soft. Collagen is not water soluble, and has been very popular in cosmetic formulations for more than 30 years. Collagen is considered a “commercially pure” protein found in animal connective tissue, and it is similar to the collagen produced by the body in the skin and bones. Also considered an anti-irritant, collagen does not cause allergic reactions when used on the skin. It is very stable, bland in odor, and light in color. This is one of the most effective and economical proteins available to cosmetic formulators. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding collagen so I wanted to use this full definition to highlight its beneficial properties before pointing some of those out. For one, collagen use in products is a big selling point because companies will act like it’s some new innovation they’ve discovered even though its been used in products for over three decades. It also cannot replace or rebuild the collagen in your skin. While yes, it is still beneficial, applying collagen topically will not put it back into your skin.
Elastin- a surface protective agent used in cosmetics to alleviate the effects of dry skin, enhance skin flexibility, improve skin feel, increase and improve the tension of the skin, and influence the formation of tropocollagen fibers when used in combination with soluble collagen. Preparations containing elastin and peptides derived from it are reported to promote wound healing. Reportedly in such systems, elastin can absorb lipids from the skin, and when applied to scars, increase the structural glycoproteins and elastin available in the scar tissue. Elastin is an elastic structural protein found in the dermis together with collagen, and is difficult to obtain in pure form. Collagen and elastin are similar, although elastin has a different amino acid composition and is found in lower concentrations. Its molecular size is also much smaller than collagen’s and as a result, there is a tendency to believe that it penetrates the surface epidermal layers, thereby improving overall skin appearance, softness, and suppleness. Often used in moisturizing products and those products for aging or mature skin. Same thing as I mentioned previously with collagen. While using elastin topically can help improve the overall look of your skin, it isn’t going to actually rebuild/repair the elasticity in your skin. That cannot be undone, but you can take preventative measures to help slow down the process. That’s another thing that’s important to remember with skin care; you’re not going to turn the clock back ten years overnight, but you can greatly reduce the rate at which your skin shows additional signs of aging.
Folic acid- generally used as an emollient. In vitro and in vivo skin studies now indicate its capacity to aid in DNA synthesis and repair, promote cellular turnover, reduce wrinkles, and promote skin firmness. There is some indication that folic acid may also protect DNA from UV-induced damage. Folic acid is a member of the vitamin B complex and is naturally occurring in leafy greens. This isn’t going to be as commonly found in your products, but it’s still a good one to know.
Glycerin- a humectant used in moisturizers. It is water-binding and able to draw and absorb water from the air, thus helping the skin retain moisture. Glycerin has been studied extensively for its hydrating abilities. Some of its associated skin benefits are attributed to its ability to facilitate enzymatic reactions in the skin, promoting corneocyte desquamation. Based on the data available, glycerine has been established as a good skin moisturizing agent. Glycerine also improves the spreading qualities of creams and lotions. It is a clear, syrupy liquid made by chemically combining water and fat that is usually derived from vegetable oil. While glycerine has not been shown to cause allergies, it may be comedogenic and irritating to the mucous membranes when used in concentrated solutions. I don’t know why for so long I had it in my head that glycerin was a bad ingredient, but I honestly didn’t learn about its benefits or how commonly it is used in products until this year-ish. To summarize, glycerin in skin care products is heavily diluted so it’s not something that will typically cause irritation (I’ve used straight glycerin all over my body before with no problems at all and I have crazy sensitive skin), but it’s used in lotions mostly because of its ability to bond to water molecules which in turn make it a solid ingredient for helping rehydrate skin (remember from a few posts back I explained that there is a difference in hydrating and moisturizing the skin). It’s safe and beneficial for all skin types.
Grapeseed oil- has moisturizing and nourishing properties due to its high linoleic acid content. Grapeseed oil is the fixed oil obtained by pressing grapeseeds. Another good go-to oil that only scores a 1 on the comedogenic scale.
Jojoba oil– a moisturizer and emollient. Jojoba oil was traditionally held in high regard by Native Americans of the Sonora Desert for its cosmetic properties. Mystical properties have been attributed to it for it’s apparent ability to heal the skin. Jojoba oil reduces transepidermal water loss without completely blocking the transportation of water vapor and gases, providing the skin with suppleness and softness. In addition, it gives cosmetic products excellent spreadability and lubricity. Studies indicate a rapid penetration ability by means of absorption by the pores and hair follicles. From these areas, it seems to diffuse into the stratum corneum layer and acts with intercellular lipids to further reduce water loss. Ingredient manufacturers claim the chemical composition, functionality, blending ability, appearance, and feel of synthetically produced jojoba oil is the same as natural oil. Jojoba oil is not a primary skin irritant and does not promote sensitization. This is another one of my staple oils. It only ranks a 2 on the comedogenic scale and is the oil I most commonly prefer to use on my face after a good moisturizer.
Lavender oil- fragrance. Lavender oil is considered an all-purpose oil credited with many therapeutic properties. These include antiallergenic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, balancing, energizing, soothing, healing, tonic, and stimulating. In addition, it is said to help clean small wounds after washing and regulate skin functions. It may also have insect repellent properties. Lavender oil works well on all skin types and produces excellent results when used for oily skin as well as in the treatment of acne, burns (sunburns as well as other superficial and non extensive types), dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. Its benefit to the dermis is immediate since it is easily and rapidly absorbed into the skin. Lavender oil is said to normalize any skin type and to stimulate cellular growth and regeneration. When added to other oils, lavender can enhance and balance their effect. Lavender is also claimed to relieve stress, and as such, is believed to be useful in treating skin problems caused or aggravated by stress. The oil’s main component is linalool acetate; other actives include geraniol, borneo, ocimene, and pinene. Lavender oil is distilled by using the flower tops and stalks. It is generally considered nontoxic, non sensitizing, and nonirritating. Another straight POWER HOUSE oil. Not only is is great for all skin types, but because it’s so fragrant (even though its not necessarily my favorite fragrance), it often doubles as a healing property and fragrance, eliminating the need for harsh chemical perfumes that can be very drying and irritating to the skin. So, even if you’re like me and don’t just go gaga over the smell of lavender, I think its benefits make it worth using.
Linoleic acid- also known as alpha-linoleic acid; omega-3. An essential fatty acid found in most drying oils. it is slightly irritating to the mucous membranes. It may be used in a cosmetic preparation for any of the following broad uses: antistatic, cleansing, emollient, skin conditioning, and surfactant properties. This is one of those ingredients that may work for some, but may also be irritating to others so, just proceed with caution or stop/reduce usage if you begin experiencing a lot of irritation. I probably wouldn’t suggest using it topically if you are someone with fairly sensitive skin, but it is naturally occurring in the body, and deficiencies can lead to dry hair, hair loss, and poor wound healing so, actually ingesting could be a good way of trying to also absorb its benefits without applying it directly to the skin. It can be found in some vegetable oils and well as safflower and sunflower oils. As for topical application, it can help with acne-prone skin due to its ability to aid in the healing of wounds (something to help speed up the recovery process after something like extractions and/or microneedling) and in clinical trials, a concentration of 0.1% linoleic acid-containing liposomal formulation applied to the skin can be effective for treating melasma and to help correct/lighten UVB-induced hyperpigmentation of the skin. (Science Direct).
Liposomes– extremely small, double layer, hollow, spherical, phospholipid membrane vesicles able to encapsulate water-soluble as well as oil-soluble substances. Their compatibility and affinity with cellular membranes allows them to be easily accepted and metabolized by the skin, and provide the skin with “activities” that would not be so readily accepted otherwise. Liposome effectiveness is measured by their ability to deliver encapsulated actives ingredients to target sites. By varying the type of phospholipids used to make liposomes and/or by attaching certain molecules to the surface of liposomes, they can be engineered to have many useful properties, which include: releasing their active content upon reaching the target site; protecting ingredients from acid and enzymatic degradation before reaching the target site; protecting compounds from premature oxidation; targeting certain tissues or cell types; acting as time releasers of valuable actives. In addition to their carrier abilities and penetration properties, liposomes provide the upper stratum corner with a pleasant and smooth feeling. Liposomes are predominantly formed by phospholipids of natural, semisynthetic, and/or synthetic origin. Liposomes have brought to the cosmetic field wide-spread interest in the concepts of micro encapsulation and targeted substance delivery. To summarize, liposomes themselves aren’t directly giving you any kind of healing properties (so they should be safe for all skin types), but they provide aid to the delivery of the ingredients that do have healing properties. To see whether your product uses liposome complex, you most likely are not going to find the word “liposomes” in the ingredient list, so you will have to do a little digging. Sometimes this is a big selling point though, so marketing teams will make sure “Liposome” or “Liposome Complex” or something along those lines, will be listed on the very front of the packaging.
Malic acid– the third smallest alpha hydroxyacid in terms of molecular size. While it is used in numerous cosmetic products, particularly those indicating a “fruit acid” content and generally designed for anti-aging, unlike glycolic and lactic acids, it’s skin benefits have not been extensively studied. Some formulators consider it difficult to work with, particularly when compared to other AHAs, and it can be somewhat irritating. It is rarely used as the only AHA in a product. Found naturally occurring in apples. Fairly self explanatory, I feel. This definitely isn’t the best AHA option so don’t let the fact that it is an AHA lead you to believe it’s as good as the others.
Mineral Oil- an emollient cleanser and demulsifier of dirt trapped in pores. Although widely used in European skincare products, its use is looked on with distrust in the United States, as many sources have classified it as comedogenic. Mineral oil is excellent for use in cleansers. In leave-on cosmetics, it’s comedogenicity or lack thereof appears related to the level of raw material refinement; therefore, some suppliers state that their product is noncomedogenic. When used in leave-on preparations, mineral oil’s occlusive capability is considered to help improve the epidermal barrier function. This is a clear, odorless oil derived from petroleum and is not known to cause allergic reactions. This is a very debatable ingredient that has a lot of negative connotation behind it so, let’s talk about the potential good and bad. Mineral oil isn’t something that I’ve necessarily steered clear from, but I know none of my products I currently own contain any, so I don’t have any personal experience or results to share so, I can only speak on the information I’ve been given. Mineral oil is typically what people will associate with baby oil or vaseline. They aren’t wrong, but also, they are basing judgements off highly processed, cheaply made products. Hence the reason this post mentions the negativity surrounding it in the US, but not other countries. Most developed countries have much stricter laws when it comes to what ingredients can and cannot be used in products. While I wouldn’t consider mineral oil to be terrible, it’s not something I would ever put on my face or any area of my body where you could potentially experience breakouts (like the neck, back, and/or chest). While there are a few oils that can be absorbed into the skin, mineral oil is not one of them. It is the epitome of a moisturizer and not a hydrator. The best way to use it (and this was straight from my instructors mouth when I was in school for aesthetics) is as an occlusive barrier to help with product penetration. If you put a hydrating lotion on your skin, then apply a mineral oil on top, after the hydrating lotion has dried/been absorbed into the skin, you kind of close off the lotion’s escape route so, the only place it has to go is further into the skin. This is what makes it bad for the face, though. If you do not cleanse your face properly or just have really stubborn black heads, that kind of barrier can keep dirt trapped in your pores. Clogged pores can often lead to infection forming an unsightly zit, but when that zit becomes a whitehead, it can easily be extracted, cleansed, and healed. Your body isn’t going to stop trying to push it out so, if the infection doesn’t have a means of escape, it can remain growing under the skin, turning into cystic acne. At least this is what makes sense to me, however, there are some companies who swear up and down by its safety (Read More Here).
Parabens- One of the most commonly used group of preservative in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industries. Parabens provide bacteriostatic and fungistatic activity against a diverse number of organisms, and are considered safe for use in cosmetics, particularly in light of their low sensitizing potential. An evaluation of preservative for use in leave-on cosmetic preparations lists parabens among the least sensitizing. The range of concencentrations used in cosmetics varies between 0.03 to 0.30 percent, depending on the conditions for use and the product to which the paragon is added. I wanted to put this definition here, but I’m going to combine discussing them with preservatives.
Peptides- short polymers formed by linking alpha amino acids. When such an amino acid chain is small, the molecule is called a peptide. When it’s larger, it is called a polypeptide. Proteins are polypeptide molecules. While proteins cannot penetrate the skin, smaller peptides can be absorbed. The ability to link different numbers of amino acids, thereby forming different peptides and polypeptide, gives these ingredients a variety of beneficial properties when incorporated into cosmetic products. These benefits include increased skin elasticity and smoothness to improvements in the appearance of wrinkles, a reduction of inflammation, and tissue repair. There are also claims that peptides can activate regenerative skin functions, increase collagen, and synthesize other epidermal components. Another ingredient that does not have any direct benefits itself, but aids in the delivery of ingredients with healing properties.
Preservatives- ingredient added to a formulation, to ensure microbiological safety and stability. Preservatives guard products during consumer use from undesirable microorganisms (usually seen as mold growth) that can be introduced into an open container and become a possible health hazard. This is especially true for products that contain plant extracts. Without preservatives, these everyday items would become overloaded with bacteria mold and fungus. An ideal preservative should include a broad antibacterial/antifungal spectrum; be nontoxic, nonirritating, and free of other sensitizing effects; to be compatible with other products in the formulation; and be compatible with the product’s packaging. While only some preservatives may cause irritation and sensitization, people tend to to believe this is this is case with most or all preservatives. This hs led to ‘preservative-free” cosmetics. In reality, “preservative-free” products do not lack a preservative system. They reconsidered “self-preserving” based on low pH value, the surfactants and antioxidants incorporated, aroma chemicals, alcohols, and some essential oils and other ingredients used to make growth and survival of microorganisms difficult. The idea that preservative-free cosmetics are safer than those with preservatives is not necessarily true. The use of preservatives in cosmetics is a regulatory requirement. This is a tough ingredient to dissect. On one hand, I agree with the book’s definition and emphasis on the importance of preservatives in products because they do keep bacteria from growing, but that’s only necessary in products that use water. So, why can’t we stop using water in products? While that may sound ludicrous, if you think about it, most of the time water’s main purpose in cosmetics is to dilute a solution so, why not just make a more concentrated solution that the consumer could add water to as they needed it? Or just used a different solution as a means of dilution? I’m obviously no scientist so, this is where I really have no true knowledge because I can’t test a substance under a microscope and determine whether or not it’s going to be good for my skin. Being someone who studied and worked as an aesthetician, I know that it’s not always easy to find trustworthy beauty brands who are also ethical, cruelty -free, and affordable. These are one category of ingredients that might be really beneficial to read up on to see which ones are the most commonly used, which ones are said to be the least irritating, and which are said to cause the most issues (to obviously steer clear of). I don’t know of any company that I trust that is genuinely “preservative-free,” but I’m sure there are some out there if that is a major concern of yours. Just take what you’ve hopefully learned from this post and try to make the best assumption for yourself. It probably seems like a lot of information, but you can try to take it all in slowly so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Retinol- a retinoid considered to be a skin revitalizer, retinol is reported to enhance skin radiance and treat conditions associated with chronological aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines, as well as dermatological disorders, including acne, follicular and lesion papule actinic keratosis, oily skin, and rosacea. According to clinical dermatologists, retinol is one of the few substances with a demonstrated ability to reduce and prevent fine lines and wrinkles. It is able to alter the behavior of aged cells so they act in a more youthful manner. It is considered necessary for normal epidermal cell growth and differentiation and stimulates the skin the. In addition, retinol has antioxidant capacities and protects dermal fibers by counteracting the increased activity of enzymes that degrade collagen and elastin when the skin is exposed to UV rays. Retinol can be drying to the skin when used for a prolonged period of time or in concentrations that are too high. A weaker retinoid than retinoic acid, retinol converts to retinoic acid once on the skin. When compared to retinoic acid, retinol has an increased penetration potential and is less irritating, making it an effect cosmetic anti-aging ingredient. The anti-aging benefits of topically treating skin with retinol are believed to be based on its penetration ability, which allows it to reach the sites in the skin requiring treatment. When used on sensitive skin for a prolonged period of time or in concentrations that are too high, retinol can cause dermatitis. According to research, retinol has tested to be highly effective, but it’s also some pretty heavy duty stuff so, I personally wouldn’t recommend anyone start their skin on that until your 30s or 40s. You don’t want to start things like this too early because even if you take breaks, your skin will still begin to build somewhat of a tolerance to it and overtime, it may stop being as effective when you need it the most.
Silicone- used in face creams to increase the product’s protection capabilities against water evaporation from the skin. Silicone polyethers are mainly used in water evaporation from the skin. Silicone polyethers are mainly used in water-based skin care formulations and give improved softness, gloss, and feel. Silicones have been sued in cosmetics fr more than 30 years. As they are minerals able to repel water, silicones present formulation problems because poor compatibility with cosmetic oils and emollients. Silicones are not irritating. This is another ingredient that causes a bit of controversy. Some people think its absolutely terrible, others swear up and down it’s harmless and has beneficial properties. I personally haven’t made up my mind about them yet. I tend to like the way silicone based lotions dry, but I also don’t know that they aren’t doing my skin a disservice. You’ll have to trust your judgement on this one.
Sulfates- neither of my books had a general definition for sulfates (though they had definitions for multiple individual kinds) so, in short, they are what make your products foamy. Contrary to popular belief suds don’t always mean clean. They can just form a lather, but I’m going to link a few different articles that will give you more information on this because it’s another one of those groups of ingredients that you have to kind of decide for yourself which side you believe.
This is where I’m going to stop for now because if I keep going I’m going to completely miss my trip this weekend, but this post ended up taking me so much longer because everything I typed came from books or my head so, I couldn’t copy and paste hardly anything haha! This will be a blog post that I come back and update occasionally, especially if I find a new miracle ingredient people are using, and I’ll timestamp the updates as well as listing out the new words that got added. I promise I will still be posting a blog on Monday and it will be listing out types of products and how/when to use them. Basically giving a few different skincare routine layouts for all skin types and for different occasions/needs. You’ll have the guidance to be able to give yourself a facial like a pro. Thank you guys for being so patient with me! Hopefully you learned at least one or two new things from this post!
- Milady’s Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary3rd edition by Natalia Michalum & M. Varinia Michalum
- Salon Fundamentals for Esthetics Textbook2nd edition
- Paula’s Choice