Reading the ingredients list of beauty products sometimes feels like attempting to read another language. As a general rule, I try to avoid products containing too many bizarre chemicals and I google ingredients to find out more about them. Some ingredients are harmless and simply have a weird name, but that's absolutely not always the case.
On the other hand, there are some ingredients that are widely known to be good for your skin, like witch hazel and rosewater. Sometimes, though, brands will hype up these ingredients when a product isn't offering up the full benefits of that ingredient, or use it to hype up a product that's full of things you'd rather avoid. I'm absolutely still learning, but these are a few things I've learnt that I thought I'd share.
This was a bit of a buzzword in the beauty community for a while. I found that over time, though, it became an ingredient I'd see a brand hype up a product for containing but once I read the ingredients list I'd see the product was packed full of filler ingredients I'd rather not put on my face. In my experience it's easier to use a hyaluronic acid serum. You avoid all the filler ingredients of the aforementioned products, and probably get a higher dose of the ingredient you're actually after. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning it draws moisture from the deeper layers of the skin, and the environment around you, to the upper layers of the skin. It's best when paired with occlusive ingredients because they provide moisture for the humectant to draw on while also providing a barrier between your skin and the environment around you so you don't lose any moisture. This means that using a moisturiser containing hyaluronic acid might not ensure you get the best out of the ingredient, because it depends on what ingredients it's paired with. I use a hyaluronic serum, occlusive moisturiser and then seal it all off with an oil. I'm currently using The Ordinary's hyaluronic serum, but I definitely want to try a few others. Glossier's Super Bounce is at the top of my list, but unfortunately I can't get it in Australia.
This is another semi-hyped ingredient that I find is better used in a more concentrated form. I use The Ordinary's niacinamide serum every morning and swear by it, but I also use Aesop's control gel as a blemish treatment and love it. I definitely recommend using niacinamide in your skincare routine, as it reduces redness, dullness and hyper pigmentation as well as regulating oil production and get this, protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays.
Witch hazel gained some attention on the internet recently as a natural acne-fighting ingredient. It also helps to fight free radicals due to its antioxidants; free radicals can cause a loss of collagen production and speed up the ageing process. While this is a key ingredient in my skincare routine, seeing it on an ingredients list doesn't spark a need to buy that product. I prefer to use witch hazel as a toner on its own.
I used to be a big fan of products like the Mario Badescu rosewater spray. Then I read the ingredients. Unnecessary colours and fragrances? Alcohol? No thank you. I poured out my Mario Badescu spray and refilled the bottle with pure rosewater that I bought at the store for less than ten dollars; that bottle is still going strong months later because it's huge.
To be honest I have a little bit of beef with all Mario Badescu products, because most of them are ridiculously coloured. The only product of theirs I'm into is the drying lotion, but you can pretty much make it at home.
Yeah, this is a blanket category. Sue me. I used to be of the mindset that there was no way I was paying for a facial oil unless it was a blend. Then I tried pure rosehip oil and fell in love. I'm still a big fan of oil blends, just in combination with rosehip oil (I'm never giving it up). There are a few oils I look for in them, like sweet almond oil and jojoba oil. Sweet almond oil contains vitamin e which protects your skin from free radical damage. It also contains vitamin a, which helps fight acne, and is also a good source of fatty acids to help your skin retain moisture. It's also largely non-comedogenic , which means it won't clog your pores. And yes, there's even more benefits, because it also can reduce under-eye circles and is a good source of zinc. Jojoba oil has some serious benefits too. It mimics sebum so can help regulate sebum production if you're producing too much, and this help fight acne, or replace it if you're not producing enough. Jojoba oil prevents irritation to the skin as well as dry patches and is also non-comedogenic like sweet almond oil.
Okay, the example I've got in the photo for this is Lucas' Papaw Ointment and I just need to say straight off the bat that I'm a Papaw Ointment devotee and that will never change. Now, the issue with petroleum jelly. It's not a bad ingredient, it just probably doesn't do what you think it does. Petroleum jelly forms a barrier between your skin and the surrounding environment. It offers no nourishment to your skin, however is great for protecting a pimple from germs in the air or your lips from the wind. I personally use this ingredient (in the form of Lucas' Papaw Ointment) to protect pimples while they heal and to protect my lips from the external environment. Usually I apply a more nourishing balm (like Go-To Lips!) and then put Papaw Ointment on over the top.
So I was innocently googling the ingredients on the Malin & Goetz Vitamin E Moisturiser (pictured above) because it used to be my favourite moisturiser a few years ago but it's ingredients list is gibberish. I came across one ingredient called phenoxyethanol that when googled produced an array of terrible, terrible results. It can cause skin and lung irritation, and is also apparently toxic to the kidneys, nervous system, and liver. Repeated, long-term exposure can apparently cause organ damage. So that's fun. Definitely not something I'll repurchase then. I awkwardly received a sample of it with a purchase a month or so ago too. This is why it's important to google ingredients.
As I mentioned before, I just don't see the point of artificial colours in my skincare routine. Not only is it just unnecessary, but because artificial colours are generally made using coal tar and petroleum they can contain heavy metals such as lead or arsenic. I don't know about you but I'm not super keen to have something like that on my skin.
I am not against scents in skincare products. I am, however, against not listing the ingredients used for scents in skincare products. I'm not particularly sensitive to scents, but if you do have sensitive skin they can be pretty damn important. Brands like Go-To get a big thumbs up from me for listing these ingredients.
I've written a whole separate blog post about the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens and why I choose to use physical sunscreens exclusively. Some products, like SPF lip balm, simply don't come in a physical sunscreen option. In that instance, I avoid the ingredient oxybenzone at all costs and choose products that use the ingredient avobenzone instead. While I do think one is better than the other (ahem, physical) the most important thing is to USE SPF EVERY SINGLE DAY.