Monday, 11 January 2016

A word about 'key ingredients' and incis.


I know I've touched on this subject numerous times before, but here we are in 2016 and some retailers and brands are still refusing/just not bothering to list the full ingredients of the products they sell on their websites.

Why? Who knows. I can tell you this though. I'm so over it. Ingredients are absolutely key as to whether I personally make a purchase or not. I made a stand about listing them in full in every review some time ago and the response from all of you was very positive. It seemed I was not alone. If you are expected to lay out your hard-earned cash for something, in a lot of cases, something very expensive, you want to know what is in it.

In the UK: Retailers including Selfridges, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Harvey Nichols, even you John Lewis, not an inci to be had on any skincare item I searched. Not one. I realise you all have one major thing in common, you're high street first, web second. But still. Not good enough. Stop making us search.

There are notable exceptions, and some that do it brilliantly. The Body Shop, Marks & Spencer, Cult Beauty, Victoria Health and Content Beauty - all are outstanding for content and information, but the rest don't fare much better. You can devote entire pages to your returns policy, but we have to search everywhere else outside of your site, notably on blogs and beautypedia.com in the hope that someone has taken it upon themselves to type up your ingredients for you.

And brands. You set the tone. Some of the biggest brands in the world still do not list their ingredients.

I searched for the bestselling items across every major brand and not one listed the ingredients on their own websites. Oh there's some talk of 'key ingredients' and how the flowers are harvested by vestal virgins at dawn, but no actual 'here is what is in this product that we would like you to buy'.

If you think of the people that own the parent companies of these brands, I highly doubt that they put a cream on themselves without checking what's in it. Why do they not get that their customers want to do the same thing? 

Please stop relying on us to do your job for you.

59 comments:

  1. This was brilliant. I want to know what I put on my face. If I'm happy to give you my £££ then why can't you give me a simple online list? Annoying.

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  2. Cannot agree more. well put and said.

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  3. Caroline, thank you for the detailed reviews you write, and for making it clear how long you've used a product for in the review. You stand head and shoulders above the beauty bloggers in the UK & USA.

    I must say, with some beauty brands, you need the skills of a ninja, the tenacity of a pitbull, and hours of spare time to track down the ingredients of their products online. My experience has been the harder it is to find the information, the more likely I am to be unimpressed or horrified when I do e.g. a face cream with castor oil as its 2nd ingredient, or a whopping 4 types of parabens, or 4 types of silicones. For smaller brands (NOT the Estee Lauders, Clarins, Dior, etc), I might e-mail them to ask for the ingredients list.

    I sometimes wonder if those running the beauty brands realise how much they infuriate and alienate potential customers by 1) not providing ingredients list upfront, 2) not providing sample sizes, and 3) chucking in cheap filler ingredients then expecting us to pay £45 per pot.

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  4. Well said especially if I am going to make an investment purchase and to me that is anything over about £30 , I want to know that what I am slapping on my face is not a combination of chip fat and air freshener fragrance !

    Seems a bit daft to me that a company might spend shed loads on research and procuring the very best ingredients and then not want to tell the world how many of these lovely things are in their products ...or on a sadder note protect themselves against someone who might want to sue the behind off them if they use a product which then makes their face fall (slight exaggeration maybe !) due to an unknown allergen being included in it.

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  5. Thank you for this, Caroline. I submit questions on brand websites asking for ingredient details, but I'd love any suggestions on how to make them understand that we want this info. I wish every beauty blogger would complain about this.

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  6. Caroline; thanks for yet another brilliant post. On the money as ever. I think the same principle applies to skin care as food, you wouldn't eat anything with out checking what's in it, where it's made etc., so surely the same with skincare? Whilst I hope / think that most brands are OK, it does lead you to the conclusion that products are being padded out with cheaper ingredients.

    Like many women, I'm low in the pecking order for spending in our house (home running and kids first etc.), if I'm considering a splash, I need to know what I'm getting to help justify the spend.
    Thank heaven for you, but exhausting and unnecessary for you.

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  7. Very well said, as always Mrs Hirons. I'm forever checking out your blog for inci lists because they're not listed by the brands themselves.

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  8. AGREED! I cannot use products with ingredients that I'm allergic to, such as sweet almond. It is SO frustrating and I feel forced to only shop in-store!

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  9. The sad thing is, when I am in store and ask the sales associates if I might look at the ingredient list on the box I get a range of reactions from "Why do you want to do that?" to one sales associate held the box and read just a few of the ingredients to me. My response is always, "It's my skin and my money. I get to see the ingredients or I'm not buying."

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  10. I wrote a company--PTR, I think--and asked for a comparison percentage-wise regarding their retinoid ingredient against the prescription retinol and they refused to tell me, saying it was proprietary information. How could they think I would pay for retinol without knowing how much retinol their product contained?

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  11. I used to write copy for M&S toiletry products... Let me tell you - ensuring those inci's are correct is no mean feat...!!!

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  12. I used to write the inci' in the copy for m&s toiletry products - its no mean feat... They were always hot on it.. Being such great chemists in the dept...

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  13. Content Beauty. My all time favourite place to do my beauty shopping. I would live in that shop if there was a space for me to sleep.

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  14. I really hate this. Especially when online customer service departments reply to a request for an ingredients list with link to the product page that has no ingredients list on it ...umm, that's why I am emailing to ask!

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  15. Well said, Caroline, as ever. I've noticed that Kate Somerville and Perricone MD both list full ingredients on their site...makes me feel even better about buying and loving a number of products from each. BTW, your "What to Buy" feature on KS was fantastic! I expect Zelens will also be in your Top 3 and will have a similar post...fingers crossed Perricone might be in the mix, too. Your recommendations are everything. Thank you for all you do for us.

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  16. I love this. If I can't see what is in it, I won't buy it

    Lauren x | www.laurenapowers.blogspot.com

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  17. Clinique is a disaster when it comes to ingredient transparency. Even Sephora's ingredient section for Clinique products is blank. Not that I am surprised—they are a little heavy-handed with the alcohol, ahem 'toner'—but for a 'sensitive skin' brand?

    Zachary Thor

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  18. So on point!
    I have a question about expiration date. I read everywhere that you mascara should be thrown out after three months and you moisturizer after 6-12. But after binge-watching your youtube videos (<3 them) it seems as if you keep them longer than that? Do I need to throw out my makeup or skincare in less than a year of me purchasing it? Do some items have expiration dates and some not? I feel like I should keep them longer, but all these articles that keep popping up makes me confused.

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  19. Hera hear! I NEVER buy without first reading the inci list! So - no list, I just don't buy.....

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  20. I totally agree! I want to know what I am putting on my face! I just was wondering if you had any recommendations for somebody who is prone to spots and breakouts especially on their nose for any products that would help to clear the breakouts as I have tried many different creams and roller balls and gels and nothing seems to work as well as an old cream my friend got me that has since been lost. Would be great to here some recommendations
    Elle xxx

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  21. Clinique and Estee Lauder are terrible about this. I'm an inci list fiend. I need to know exactly what's going on my face.

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  22. I have requested ingredient lists from several brands and I am always disappointed when they only give active or ask why I need to know. L'Occitane don't have the info in the UK when they eventually reply they have to ask someone in France who takes even longer to send the list which is eventually sent to me. I still don't know if one sun are product has UVA protection and they don't understand why I wanted to know this. UVA wasn't on the box or typed on the leaflet inside

    Really disappointed Space NK are very inconsistent with full ingredients

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  23. Hear hear! In all honesty majority of the time I have NFI what 95%+ of the ingredients are, but I do like to look for a few key things depending on the product. And I also like to see if there are any unfavourable listed as well.
    The Beauty Bloss

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  24. Amen! I was actually trying to find a full ingredients list for a L'Occitane product tonight, due to an allergy, and can't find it for love nor money. So I won't be buying it. Simples!

    Jess xo | The Indigo Hours

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  25. Oh my gosh YES! Thank you!!!!! I shouldn't have to search high, low, up, down and center to find what's in a lotion for goodness sake!

    prettyneutral.com

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  26. Hello! I discovered the blog thanks to Zoella and I think it's very nice! I was wondering if you could recommend me any skin care product for men. I have some spots over my face and also I would like to have a smoother skin hahah maybe I'm asking for too much, thank you in advace though

    Zoel Hernández | zoelhernandez.wordpress.com

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  27. Indeed! On more than one occasion, here in the US, I have been able to omit only certain products from a line based on ingredients that don't agree with me (I'm looking at you PTR, why bergamot?!) Without the full ingredient list I would have to scrap the whole line following a bad reaction. More ingredients listed = more of my money.

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  28. Maybe I've been a little OCD about this but for the last couple of years since I have been more serious about skin care, I have been scanning the boxes of beauty products that I buy before I toss the box. That way I had the ingredient list so I had a chance of determining why or why not I was getting results. Especially because they change the formulation sometimes and I have the older one. Caroline - Once again, thanks for being our "CHampion" on this one!

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  29. So important to know what you are putting on your body!!! Completely agree about The Body Shop being great at letting you know what are in their products! More should certainly be like them!

    www.soskiny.blogspot.com

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  30. One company which I think have excelled in providing this is a New Zealand Brand, Trilogy (www.trilogyproducts.com) not only do they list EVERY ingredient, they also have a database of all the ingredients which you can find out even more.

    **I am in no way associated with this brand, Just like their products**

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  31. In Australia we're so lucky that Priceline (kind of the equivalent of Superdrug but a much bigger range of brands from what I recall) lists the ingredients of every product on its site. So even if the brands don't - if it's something Priceline stocks you can find it easily. This has actually meant that I'm more likely to try out a new product/brand from Priceline because I can check in advance. (I always try to avoid products with a high proportion of dimethicone because it seems to make my skin look really holey!)

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  32. Thank you for everything you do, you're my fave!

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  33. Great post as always :) xxxx

    http://www.mammafulzo.com/

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  34. Couldn't agree more. I refuse to buy stuff if I don't know what is in it, and I am annoyed the most by high-end companies claiming their ingredients are "secret formulation" and not meant to be shared. If I lay down my hard earned money, I want to be able to tell if something is most likely going to work for me or just feel nice when applied because it is a blend of smoothing silicones that won't do anything for me in the long run.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

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  35. Excellent post. I never make a blind purchase. I insist on being able to read an ingredient list.

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  36. Absolutely. One of the reasons I like shopping in a Sephora store when visiting Canada is because I can pick up the box for a product and read the inci right there, then try it if I want. Including the high end brands like Clinique, Dior, etc. But that's really the only place where those products are that accessible in person, even - if you go to the counter, the reaction you'll get is mixed. I think some SAs take it personally, like you're questioning their life choices when all you want to do is look at the bloody ingredients of their pet products.

    Beauty Bay is another UK e-tailer that does pretty well with listing inci.

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  37. I think some of the brands just want to keep something in secret just in case others steal those key ingredients or mimick the way how they mix them or even copy the whole thing but put a twist etc. On the other hand, maybe they want to rely more on marketing if they don't think their ingredients are having advantages enough to be the brands pros. Anyway, they have their own concerns that normal people like us don't understand. Things happen for a reason, if all those big fame department stores don't do one thing in common. It's a story behind the senses.

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  38. Could not agree more. We are in catering(We have a guesthouse)now we have to list every-thing that is in our food, what a nightmare, especially if you buy a different product one week, even my home-made cakes for the rooms. I totally get it some people are allergic to different things. So there must be people out there that are also allergic to different ingredients in make up and skin care.
    Love your blogs Caroline. Ohh and Happy New Year by the way.

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  39. I am in full agreement, and how about readable print size while we are at it...I don´t walk around with a magnifying glass in my purse, I don't even use glasses. Great blog post, as always, thank you!

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  40. I disagree. I used to be so obsessed with ingredients, threw away so many amazing products because they contained alcohol or mineral oil... Though, I kept asking myself, why some products with "bad" ingredients work so amazingly, and those with the "perfect" ingredients list cause breakouts, clog pores, etc. So I came to a conclusion that there is more than just ingredients' list: there are chemical reactions, there is quality of ingredients, there is honesty of manufacturers... So I don't care about ingredients any more and just use what makes my skin healthy and looking good.

    http://againstandforward.blogspot.com.by

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    1. But would you pay £50/£100+ for a product that was mainly mineral oil? The cheapest of base ingredients? I wouldn't be happy about it. That's not to say it couldn't work well for someone, but cheap ingredients shouldn't be in expensive products just because it's a certain brand name.

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  41. I bought the Estee Lauder New Dimension serum, and I like it just fine but I realized upon getting it home that it contains an acid (I forget which one). The marketing insert that came in the box even says you must wear sunscreen when using this product. You would never know that from any of the websites that this product is sold on.

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  42. Companies seem to have something to hide - that's my impression. I am allergic to talc and can't have it anywhere near my eyes. It's amazing how difficult it is to get the ingredient list for some lines! I remember going to the Clinique counter and being told by a snotty clerk to "go on the computer and find out." I went home and found out that their website does NOT list ingredients (I haven't checked recently.) What the...? The only way you get any info is to email the company and they forward your request to someone who eventually gets back to you. Great. Buying becomes this long, involved process.

    My doctor told me that talc is a very common allergen and I think that is why some companies are loathe to release details - a lot of the higher end brands still use talc and they don't want customers to know that. Lorac, Urban Decay, etc, still load up their eyeshadows with that crap - as does Lancôme, the last time I checked.

    I think it labeling needs to be mandated by law - as they forced the food manufacturers to do. You don't have a choice - put that info on the package!!!

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  43. Dear Caroline, I'm 24 in a few months, and I have combination to oily skin (mostly oily). I have scars on my cheeks due to pretty bad pinching my face on my teens... I was wondering if I should try any treatment to improve my skin texture (line LUNA by Sunday Riley), and if I should start using retinols on my face.

    Thanks a lot!
    Best from Spain

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    1. Dear Cassie,
      I'm no expert by any means, but Good Genes by Sunday Riley worked wonders on my skin (same type as yours, same problem with acne scars...)
      Edit

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  44. Just yesterday, I wanted to check the ingredients of the Clarins lip oil and compare them to the ingredients for a newly released lip oil from Milani (US drugstore brand). Clarins didn't have the ingredients on their site (although they did brag that their oils were harvested by vestal virgins at dawn) but Milani did. It turns out that the Milani product had many more high end essential oils, all for a MUCH lower price. I think that's why high end brands don't list ingredients.

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    1. Thanks! This is good info! been wanting to try one and might've gone with the Clarins.

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  45. I sincerely hope this blogpost inspires a change on websites! I am seriously allergic to lavender and lavender derived ingredients such as limonene, linalool etc. I NEED these ingredients lists, otherwise I end up seriously ill and with lovely breakouts across my entire face. Something needs to change!

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  46. As a brand owner I am happy to see all the interest and awareness of ingredients. I fully agree companies should make the INCI available online. As you pointed out emilymaee many people are allergic and need to know what is in the products. I am just starting out my brand so if you have a minute to spare please have a look at http://www.ninni.co.uk and let me know what you think. I appreciate all feedback!

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  47. I just don't buy a product if I can't see the ingredients in some way (either online or in-store)...and I don't go searching unless I'm REALLY interested in a product. So, their loss!

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  48. Just a shout-out to Charlotte Tilbury - every product page on her site has a full ingredients list.

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  49. Cosmetic companies need to realize that they have a responsibility to their customers in many ways. If they don't list the ingredients because they are questionable (i.e. parabens) then they need to reformulate to "green up" their products because women aren't stupid. There is too much in the press, the internet, and conversation about our toxic lives. If these people want to do business they have to be responsible and responsive to their customers. If they don't list the ingredients because they are afraid of disclosing a "trade secret" then they are stupid because women want quality, safe products and don't really care about their trade secrets. Or maybe they are lazy. I for one read the labels and I buy NOTHING that doesn't have ingredients easily found somewhere -- either the label or the website -- and I buy nothing that contains ingredients that I find objectionable. With that said, I am willing to spend $$$ on products that work but when the high end companies fail to be responsible to me I save my money or buy products that cater to my sensibilities. These big companies will lose out one way or another if they don't realize they are working for the public.

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  50. Hello Caroline! I'm a big fan. Thanks for all of your good, truthful work. I thought I would share my thoughts on this issue, coming from a skincare formulator perspective, as I’m on one of the people who do not publish full ingredient lists on my site. Let me first say that I'm sharing this more for your readers, as I know you will understand where I'm coming from since you are very ingredient savvy. The question I like to pose is, can you look at an ingredient list on the back of a bottle or jar or on a website and really determine it if will deliver good results or not for your skin? I believe the answer is no. People will look at a list and form assumptions about the ingredients that they may have read about or heard of. For example, if you’re prone to breakouts you might see shea butter or sunflower oil listed, and assume the product will be greasy and pore clogging. These assumptions can be invalid, because the results a product delivers are based on the percentages of the ingredient used in a product and as you know, people will never see this from looking at the list on the back of a bottle. Many years ago, the well-known product reviewer, Paula Begoun wanted to review some products from my line and requested the full ingredient lists, but never the actual products. When the review was published, one product in particular was so completely inaccurate. My Daily Protection SPF 30 got a great rating but she said "based on the moisturizing ingredients, it is best suited for dry or very dry skin." This sunscreen is for oily, acne-prone skin and is incredibly lightweight and actually dries to a matte finish. If someone with dry or very dry skin uses it, their skin will practically crack from being so dry, yet a very experienced ingredient expert couldn't tell this from the list. (No disrespect at all to Paula.) So the reason why I don't share full ingredients on my site (just key ingredients) is because I don't want people to judge a book by its cover and rule out a product simply because they think they know about ingredients. Once they order it online and get it delivered, they could possibly see an ingredient that had they known ahead of time, they might not have ordered it, but they already have it in their possession so they can touch it, feel it and use it to truly have an accurate opinion. (Now mind you, if anyone emails us and asks for the full list, we will promptly give it to them so we are not hiding anything.) My line has 58 products and is based on 9 unique skin types. We have a skin type quiz that people can take to determine which skin type they are and which products are best for their skin so if they follow my suggestions and only purchase products for their skin type, then they can be confident knowing that it was formulated to be a great fit for their skin. Of course, if they choose their own products randomly and not follow their skin type suggestions, then they might run into problems. I'm a big believer that generally, there are no good or bad products out there (although my line steers clear of some of the bad culprits like mineral oil, petrolatum, synthetic fragrance, solvent alcohols etc…), the consumer should use products that are right for the unique needs of their skin type. Unfortunately though, a lot of lines still do the “for all skin types” thing so that can make it challenging and force people to make more assumptions about an ingredient list. So that’s my thoughts, hope you don’t mind me weighing in on this topic. On a side note, I’m doing a full rebranding of my line and introducing a lot of new products and I’ll be in London in September. Perhaps we can get together for a chat. :)

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