The Secret to Picking Out Skin Care Products that Actually Work

Rule # 1: Educate yourself — Always buy your skin care products based on the ingredients

In today’s stimuli-driven consumer world, it’s very tempting to buy skin care products for their fancy packaging, great advertisement, convincing sales rep or big celebrity endorsement (“Jenifer Aniston uses this product, I love Jenifer Aniston!”). But, the key to picking out skin care products comes down to one key factor: what’s INSIDE the bottle – the ingredients – because that’s what will (or will not) produce results for your complexion.

With that in mind, here is our quick, guide to becoming an expert in picking out skin care products.

1: Know the best active ingredients. Do your research; it’s best to go in to buying a skin care product knowing what active ingredients are proven to address your skin issues and then look for products containing those ingredients. We often write about superstar skin care ingredients on this blog, here are some of the standouts:

Not only should your skin care products contain active ingredients that are proven to be both safe and highly effective, but they should be in high enough concentrations that the ingredient is actually effective (typically in the 5-15% range, depending on the ingredient). One easy way to determine this is ensuring that the active ingredient is near the top of the ingredient list. If it’s towards the end of the list, then it’s only a minor component of the product, and likely not in a high enough concentration to make any impact on your skin.

2: Know your oils. Most skin care treatments contain at least some oil, which serves as an emulsifier, but while some oils are completely safe, others are extremely pore clogging and can make your skin congested and break out. Here are the safe oils that will not break you out:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Jojoba Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Sunflower Seed Oil
  • Macadamia Nut Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Argon Oil
  • Neem Oil

3: Know what ingredients to avoid. Below are eight common skin care ingredients that are either pore clogging, ineffective or flat out dangerous. Keep this list with you and avoid skin care products that contain them.

SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES Skin care products often contain phthalates, synthetic chemicals commonly used to stabilize fragrances and make plastic more pliable. These endocrine disrupters mimic hormones and may alter genital development. Avoid products that list fragrance as an ingredient unless the label states that it’s derived from essential oils
PARABENS: methylparaben, propylparaben, isoparaben, or butylparaben Ubiquitous in skincare, parabens are used to preserve other ingredients and extend a product’s shelf life–but these antimicrobial chemicals have hormone-disrupting effects and are linked to skin irritation and can increase your breast cancer risk
UREAS DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate are preservatives that release formaldehyde in very small amounts and are a primary cause of contact dermatitis
1,4-DIOXANE A chemical carcinogen created when ingredients are processed with petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. To avoid it, skip any product with the following ingredients: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other -eth), PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol.
PETROCHEMICALS: Petrolatum, Mineral Oil and Paraffin Derived from crude oil, petroleum-based ingredients such as petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin form a barrier when applied to the skin that does not allow it to breathe and clogs pores.
MEA/DEA/TEA Used as foaming agents, synthetic stabilizers, and to adjust the pH of cosmetics, these ammonia compounds can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of the hair and skin.
SULFATES The most common sulfates, sodium lauryl and sodium laureth, are harsh detergents that give cleansers, soaps, and shampoos their latherability. Often derived from petroleum, sulfates are so harsh they are commonly used as garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers and car wash. They are extremely pore clogging and often the cause of acne around the hair line.
CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS Oxybenzone and octylmethoxycinnamate, the main ingredients in most sunscreens, have been shown to disrupt endocrine/hormone activity. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safer and more effective alternatives.

4. Beware of too many ingredients. A big red flag is a product that contains too many ingredients. Any more than 15 ingredients in a single product — especially with a lot of those being long, unpronounceable words — is a strong indicator that the product is packed with lots of fillers, synthetics and parabens and less of the active ingredients that will actually provide results for your skin.

Rule #2 Learn how to avoid easy marketing traps

Drugstore Skin Care Products

The mass-merchandised brands sold at drugstores are created to work for hundreds of thousands of users, so these lines play it safe with lower concentrations of active ingredients and a lot of added “fluff” —fillers, synthetics and parabens, which are designed to keep costs low and extend the shelf life. They may be less expensive than alternatives, but, you get what you pay for …

Department Store Skin Care Products

The products sold at department stores have one goal in mind: selling. Since these companies are in fierce competition with one another, the consumer’s satisfaction isn’t always the top priority. With that in mind, they focus on fancy packaging and marketing materials. After all, these companies know they have to catch your eye when you walk through the department store aisles. Also, these companies know that people will open and smell the products, so they use a lot of perfume additives because they know that smell sells! Fragrance is the number one cause of reactions from skin care products. In fact, many people who believe they have sensitive skin are in fact just sensitive to added fragrance.

Private Label Skin Care Products

Here’s a big secret in the skin care industry — most “professional skin care lines” are actually private label products. Private label products are generically manufactured product lines that individuals or spas can contract to sell with their name and label – often with a huge mark up. When a spa uses a private label product, they are not involved in the product formulations, ingredients or quality of the products and these products are typically no better than inexpensive drug store brands, just with fancier packaging and a higher price. We can tell a private label product from a mile away, but many consumers can’t. Here’s what to look for — if a skin care line does not tell you that they formulate and make their own products then they are likely a private label brand. Also, you can look up the lab where the product is made (typically listed on the label) to determine if it’s outsourced. The most common private label products are found in spas and by celebrities that have their own skin care lines.

We hope you enjoyed our guide — becoming an educated skin care consumer you will get more bang (and results) for your buck. Unfortunately, skin care is too often about fancy packaging and good marketing then about high quality products that actually work.

About us: Vasseur Skincare makes our products fresh with the highest concentrations of active ingredients and none of the “fluff” – fillers, synthetics, parabens or harsh chemicals. Learn more about what makes us different here

2 thoughts on “The Secret to Picking Out Skin Care Products that Actually Work”

  1. Thank you for every other fantastic article. The place else may just anyone get that kind of information in such an ideal manner of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the search for such info.

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