Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Quick Quides: How to read an ingredients label

The first thing I do when I pick up a product is look at the label. Ingredients are listed in order from the highest concentrate until you hit the ingredients at a less than 1% level. The problem is that you have no way of knowing where that magic 1% level is. More of that later.
SO: I by no means know every ingredient or what it does, but there are a few key things that I personally look out for - namely:
  • mineral oil - listed as petrolatum, paraffinum liquidum or good old 'mineral oil' - I'm not a fan, if you are, crack on, but I see it as a red flag in 99% of situations.
  • palm oil - Whether the brand says it's 'sustainable' or not, there are too many problems with palm oil for me at the moment. I don't completely rule out using a product that contains it in small quantities, but I do try and politely ask the brand questions before I post about it re: their source and if they plan to replace it with an alternative. I know I'm in a fortunate position to be able to do that, but for you - if you haven't already, you may want to look into it, do your own research, make your own thoughts. 
  • alcohol - this is not cut and dry, if alcohol is the main ingredient or in the top three, I look carefully at the other ingredients. I'm talking straight alcohol, not all of the variants. An example would be Clinique Clarifying Lotion 4: Water, Alcohol Denat., Salicylic Acid, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Trehelose, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA-Copper, BHT, Phenoxyethanol, Benzophenone-4, Green 5 - some nice ingredients, but too much alcohol.
  • phenoxyethanol - this I use as a guide for %s. Phenoxyethanol, along with parabens, is not allowed to be in formulas at an amount higher than 1%. So you know that anything listed after either of those, is less than 1%. So..... if a brand is harping on and on about their massively 'active' ingredients (see previous post), and they all come after phenoxyethanol or parabens, they may not be that 'active'. There will always be exceptions, such as retinols, which are frequently at a strength of 0.3 or 0.5% - but in general, peptides, vitamins and the majority of other actives, you would mostly want them higher than 1%. Mostly. Not always - like I said, it's not an exact science.
Obviously, parabens and phenoxyethanol are not in all products - but where you do see them, it would be preferable to keep the bulk of the other ingredients listed prior to them - as in the example below:

Zelens Brightening Serum: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Squalane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Sodium Hyaluronate, Superoxide Dismutase, Thioctic Acid, Ubiquinone, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, Bisabolol, Perilla Frutescens Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Pinus Strobus Bark Extract, Echinacea Angustifolia Leaf Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Dimethylmethoxy Chromanol, Hydrolyzed Sesame Protein PG-Propyl Methylsilanediol, Tripeptide-1, Lactic Acid, Polyacrylamide, Phenoxyethanol, Dimethicone, Acrylates Copolymer, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Laureth-7, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polysilicone-11, VP/Polycarbamyl Polyglycol Ester, Butylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Parfum (Fragrance), Linalool

The Zelens serum is front-heavy. The serum below however, is not, it's back-heavy:

Kate Somerville Mega-C Dual Radiance Serum - the Omega formula: Water, Neopentyl Glycol Diethylhexanoate, Propanediol, Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Diisopropyl Dimer Dilinoleate, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Fragrance (Parfum), HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Phenoxyethanol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Xanthan Gum, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Lecithin, Maltodextrin, Pyridoxine HCl, Silica, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Starch Octenyl Succinate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocotrienols, Adenosine, Sea Whip Extract, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide

A lot of the good stuff is listed after Pheno - and fragrance is listed higher than it. (I do like this serum though - proving there are no definites.)
  • Fragrance - personally, I'm ok with fragrance in general but I know some of you are not, so in your case, keep an eye on how high it is in the inci list, and bear in mind that fragrance can contain hundreds of ingredients - and all be listed as 'fragrance'. If essential oils are your concern, they will be listed individually and easy to spot.
That's it for an overview of what I look for at a glance. Bear in mind, this list is EU and UK relevant. The USA is another ballgame and an entirely different minefield altogether. The FDA are nowhere near as stringent as the EU with ingredients and %s. 
If you have any questions leave me a comment and I will answer what I can and refer you to relevant people/authorities if I'm unsure.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Beauty Myths No.16 - Active vs 'Inactive' Ingredient

What used to relate purely to ingredients that qualify as drugs, is now used as a marketing tool industry-wide and to say that the terms 'active' and 'inactive' are overused and abused by marketing departments everywhere is an understatement.

Active ingredients - traditionally, when used in products considered drugs i.e. SPF products - are 'any component of a drug product intended to provide therapeutic and pharmacological activity in direct effect to a diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans.' 
Depending on your country, retinoids, acids, sunscreens like oxybenzone and avobenzone are all considered 'active'.
They are considered active enough to change the structure of the skin. Take prescription strength retinoids. In a product like that, the vitamin A will be classed as the drug and therefore 'active' and the rest of the ingredients are 'inactive' because they make up the formula/emulsify/are the delivery system and do not actually change the structure of skin at all. A lot of ingredients considered truly 'active' will have a maximum % that they are allowed to be used at in any formula.

Inactive ingredients - officially, are 'any component of a drug product other than the active ingredients.'

However, we are now seeing the words 'active' and 'inactive' bounded about everywhere as the general rule, not the exception to be used only in the case of drugs.

A brand will say 'active' ingredients are peptides, vitamin c, seaweed, whale sperm, witch's warts...pick something. What they actually mean when they say this is 'what we are charging you the big bucks for'.
Inactive ingredients are all too often completely glossed over, ignored or relegated to the very smallest font on the pack and except in the rarest of circumstances, essentially mean 'the bulk of the product' i.e. water/carrier oils etc.

The potential problems arise when unknowing customers purchase something assuming that 'inactive' means 'has no effect on the skin'. Just because something doesn't change the structure of the skin ('active') does not mean that something does not affect the skin. 

Alcohol, fragrance and silicones, for example, are all 'inactive' ingredients, yet the ones I am asked about the most from readers. You can bet that a high level of alcohol in a product will be 'active' on your skin in some way.

If a bacon sandwich was skincare, the bacon would be labelled on the pack as the 'active' ingredient, but the bread would certainly be an active ingredient to someone with a gluten intolerance or a wheat allergy.

Ignore the marketing hype, read the ingredients label. That's where you see what is likely to be an 'inactive' ingredient that could actually be something 'active' for you to look out for.

Some brands have started using bold type for their 'active' ingredients in their inci lists in order to make them stand out. Clever, but not if you know what you are looking at. 

Tomorrow: how to read an ingredients label.

Monday, 31 August 2015

First Aid Beauty Giveaway

To celebrate their launch into Selfridges Oxford Street and online at this month, First Aid Beauty, one of my favourite hard-working, affordable ranges, are holding a takeover of the Selfridges Beauty Workshop this week. From today until Sunday 6th they are on site to offer sampling, talk about the range and advise you personally for the best products for you.

They are also offering one lucky reader both here and on my Instagram, the chance to win 6 of my favourite FAB products.

To win this lovely lot:

Milk Oil Conditioning Cleanser

Facial Radiance Pads
Vitamin Hydrating Mist
Ultra Repair Hydra-Firm Sleeping Cream
Facial Radiance Overnight Mask
Ultra Repair Body Lotion

Simply enter via Rafflecopter below:

  • Open Internationally
  • You can enter once a day
  • One prize, one winner on blog
  • One prize, one winner on Instagram
  • Giveaway closes on Sunday 6th September at 11.59pm UK time.
Good Luck everyone!

First Aid Beauty is available at and obviously their own website:

Aerin Rose Oil

Oils are the one product I cannot live without. If pushed, they would be the one thing I would take to an island. Whether for cleansing or massage, everyone needs one. I've been using them for so long that I tend to not talk about them that often - but after a little sort out recently, I have so many suggestions that I figured I would share them more often..

One of the most recent finds to land on my desk is the new Rose Oil from Aerin. This has completely surprised me. I think I was expecting it to be a heavier consistency and more traditionally scented, I don't know. 
Oil manufacturers have a constant dilemma on their hands with scent and keeping customers happy. The best oils for the skin frequently stink. They just do. I don't mean they're 'slightly unpleasant', I mean they full-on PONG. When Sunday Riley launched Juno, which is fragrance-free, India Knight called the smell 'faecal' in the Times (I have to say, it didn't hurt sales at all). If you've used it you'll know what she means, although it never bothered me personally. 
So a lot of brands add a little fragrance, to counteract the smell. Then customers kick off about 'cell death' and other such extremes and it seems we're in a never-ending circle. 

For the record, I don't mind essential oil or fragrance in my products, the key for me is the quality and the quantity, not the fact that they are in there in the first place. And I don't agree with Beautypedia about essential oils causing 'cell death'. Nothing new there, but I've been asked about that in particular a lot lately so probably worth mentioning. 
'Oh but there are studies that show...' ... There are studies for both sides, always have been, always will be.

Anyway: the heavy consistency/overpowering fragrance is not what we have here. This is lovely and light, I mean really light. And the scent is fresh and subtle, again, really subtle. Some rose-based oils smell musty and are overpowering, this one dissipates really quickly and does not linger.
It massages like a dream, absorbs beautifully and works extremely well under my moisturiser in the morning. 

I haven't been able to find out if it is cold-pressed or not, but I suspect not. When I find out I will update the post. 



Well worth checking out if you are in need of a little extra oomph as autumn draws in.

The Aerin Rose Oil is £50.00/$68.00 and available from most Aerin outlets including Sephora.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Beauty Myths No.15 - Micellar Waters are a 'proper' cleanser

Source - Marie Claire - Design by Katja Cho

I am frequently tagged on twitter or Instagram whenever there is an article singing the praises about micellar waters, cleansing, mineral oil, wipes (God - always the wipes!) online or in a magazine. 

It's a daily occurence and I read as many of them as I can. Sometimes for a laugh, sometimes I agree with them. As always, whatever works for you, do. 

Yesterday though, Marie Claire posted this article 'Ditch the Cleanser: 6 reasons to make the switch to micellar water' and I had to stop and read it, aghast.

Micellar waters were originally designed to be used for those occasional times when you have no access to water, like backstage, hence the huge awareness of Bioderma. 

Firstly: I will never, for the life of me, understand people who think that using these products are 'quicker' than washing your face. If using micellar water is 'quicker' than washing your face, you're using them incorrectly. A quick swipe across the forehead is not going to do it. When I have to use them backstage at shows it takes me at least four sets of two separate cotton pads to clean the face of makeup. Used both sides. That's not quick. 
Add to that the constant rubbing of cotton wool and ingredients that aren't exactly 'softening' and you're setting yourself up for a sore face.

The reason this Marie Claire article riled me was this sentence: 'Plus, it's free of soap, fragrance, alcohol, and other abrasive chemicals that can wreak havoc on your complexion daily.' Just no. These waters are all chemical, some contain alcohol and most contain fragrance. 

Before those of you that have to use micellar waters jump to their defence, I've already said, do what you have to. Work situations, new babies, flying, the gym - micellar waters can come in handy.

But try and make them a temporary substitute, not a permanent fixture. 

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