It’s the flight home after the holidays and I can feel the after effects of my gluttonous, slothful holiday coming up on my skin... On my chin. On my jaw. On my forehead. Ouch. I’m remembering the many fantastic home cooked meals I had and the lazy days on the couch… and I’m regretting every single one of them. But this isn’t how it’s supposed to be – why should I regret a week of wonderful times with my family just because of a few pimples? That shouldn’t ruin the memories of my holiday. And that’s when it hits me – If I could figure out a way to have healthier skin, surely my skin would react better to holidays like this one… and I wouldn’t be sitting on the flight home worrying about my skin?
So I’ve decided to blog my journey to finding solutions to give me healthier skin, most of the time – because, honestly, let’s be realistic, we can’t have great skin all the time. There will be days we don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. But I intend to keep those to a minimum.
The first thing I’ve decided to do is an audit of all the skin care I have in my bathroom to see what I have and to review all the ingredients. This a pretty big task because women tend to hoard so many skin care products, saving them for use at an unknown later date, which of course we never do… And my bathroom is no exception. It’s packed with free samples, travel sizes, full sizes, and salon sizes of all my favourite products. I reluctantly pick up my favourite cleanser, turn it over and start reading…
I am fortunate to have completed both a bachelors and master’s degree in science – specifically biotechnology and biochemistry – so my understanding of chemical ingredients, their interactions and effects is above average. I’ve also worked in many laboratories and healthcare corporations over the last 10 years so I’ve had my fair share of exposure to the world of pharmaceuticals. Add this scientific curiosity to the horrible acne prone skin I grew up with, and still have as an adult, and you essentially have a cosmetics super nerd.
So the first thing you need to know when looking at the ingredients list on your skin care is that ingredients are listed in descending order of percentage within the formulation, according to the laws and regulations in your country, or the products’ country of origin, whichever is more stringent. This means that whatever the first ingredient in the list is, this is what’s making up most of the product. And whatever is last on the list is probably 1% of the product, or less. So if you buy something called ‘ginger lemongrass scrub’ you would hope to see both ginger and lemongrass in the first 5 ingredients of the product. If you don’t, then I would question if ginger and lemongrass are actually the active ingredients, or if it’s just water, other ingredients, and some sort of preservative.
So when I start to read the back of my favourite cleanser and it starts with: Water, Caprylic/ Capric Triglyeride, and Butylene Glycol let’s just say I’m none too impressed. Let’s break that down:
- Water, well we all know what this is… But I often wonder when I see this as the first ingredient “why am I paying $$$ for water?”
- Caprylic/ Capric Triglyeride is made from plant sugars and a mixture of fatty acids from coconut or palm kernel oils. This is what makes your cleanser (or anything else) feel silky smooth and also what helps to nourish and moisturise your skin. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m none too happy with anything that comes from palm oil – just type in “true cost of palm oil” into google and you’ll see what I mean. But overall this is a very common ingredient that does have proven benefits – and often this can be derived solely from coconut oil… So really, this is up to personal choice I think – do your research and decide. You'll notice we have used this in a couple of our LUXE Botanics formulations, but this is conscious choice for us based on its benefits and we have made sure that ours come from sustainable sourced coconut oil.
- Butylene Glycol – This is an organic alcohol which is used to help other products dissolve in water so it thins creams and gels but its main function is as a preservative. Essentially it’s a petroleum by product. If you want to see what this does to your skin just google it – you won’t be impressed as this is often the culprit behind skin allergies and dermatitis.
Overall the first few ingredients don’t blow me away, and some certainly scare me a bit. As I keep reading the ingredient list I come across things like Safflower oil (excellent source of Linoleic Acid – Omega 6), Rosemary leaf oil (great for eczema, oily skin, and dermatitis) and tocopherol acetate (vitamin E) so my spirits are somewhat lifted. However, these ingredients are all pretty far down on the list. I haven’t had any bad reactions to it yet, so in the end I pragmatically decide to hold onto this one until I can find a better organic cleanser.
As I start to look through my other products I notice that a lot of them don’t list full ingredients but say things like “made from natural oils of 97% organic origin” and some just have a book symbol to indicate I need to refer to the product insert for more information – well what if I threw away the box with the insert when I bought it? And if 97% is of organic origin, what is the rest?
In the end I realise that I can only audit about half of the products in my bathroom. Most of the others require me to research more on the internet to find their ingredients and quite frankly I’m tired from my flight, and while I’ve been doing this I have unconsciously been scratching at my upcoming pimples… there’s not much the best skin care in the world can do if I don’t stop scratching!
Wishing you all the best of luck for your new year’s skin care audit,
The LUXE Botanics Team
This article was originally published on January 5, 2016 and updated on April 16, 2019.