The Good, the Bad and the Very Bad.
We see these beauty articles nearly every day: Reader’s Choice, Best Picks under $20, Beauty Editor’s Favorites, Best Eye/Lip/Anti-Aging (You name it.)
Every beauty publication out there is giving us endless lists of “Must-Have” products we need ASAP. It makes you wonder, what is the motivation for publishing these lists? The products on these lists change so frequently, what about the “Must Have” from the last list? Nowhere to be found… Gone forever. Are companies paying for these product placements? Are editors desperate to put out brand new content? Are thei really testing these products before they tell millions of readers to go purchase RIGHT NOW?
We decided to take Good Housekeeping’s Top Beauty picks of 2014, one of the most trusted household publications, and have Dr. Hannah Sivak analyze the actual ingredients in these so-called “Top Beauty Products.”
We looked at the claims they make, what are they promising? The name of the product is usually the main indicator of these promises, but do the ingredients back-up these claims? We had Hannah look at the INCI nomenclature of these products to determine if these claims were at all justified. (When we could find the true INCI lists, as many companies don’t allow them on their websites.) We asked Hannah what SAS products were similar to these product ingredient lists, and what SAS products could actually deliver the promises. (Interestingly, not always the same thing.)
Exuviance Age Reverse Day Repair SPF 30, $70
Active Ingredients: Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (Avobenzone) 3.0%, Ethylhexylmethoxycinnamate (Octinoxate) 7.5%, Ethylhexyl Salicylate (Octisalate) 5.0%
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Acetyl Glucosamine, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glyceryl Stearate, Butylene Glycol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, PEG-100 Stearate, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Nylon-12, Triacontanyl PVP, Retinol, Tocopheryl (Vitamin E) Acetate, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Coffea Arabica Fruit (Coffee Bush Berry) Extract, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Arginine, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Triethyl Citrate, Cyclohexasiloxane, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, BHT, PEG-75 Stearate, Ceteth-20, Steareth-20, Dimethiconol, Polysorbate 20, Xanthan Gum, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/ VP Copolymer, Methyldihydrojasmonate, Ethylene Brassylate, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, CI 19140 (Yellow 5), CI 17200 (Red 33).
Note: this is a sunscreen, so it is actually an “OTC” (over-the-counter medication) according to the FDA. For this reason, the ingredients that give the sunscreen it’s sun protection properties are listed separately.
Description: The SPF 30 is good. It is always a good idea to wear sunscreen. Acetyl Glucosamine is also a nice ingredient.
Claims: FAILED. This product will not “reverse age” or “repair,” but it will prevent further damage.
SAS: SPF 30 Advanced Protection to prevent sun damage.
SAS that can help “reverse age” (what this product promises): UV Repair Cream
Murad Intensive-C Radiance Peel, $50
Ingredients: Water, Kaolin, Synthetic Beeswax, Glycerin, Glycolic Acid, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethyl Ester of PVM/MA Copolymer, Pentylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Urea, Yeast Amino Acids, Trehalose, Inositol, Taurine, Betaine, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydrolyzed Opuntia Ficus Indica Flower Extract, Hydrolyzed Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract, Azelaic Acid, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Butylene Glycol, Mushroom Extract, Cimicifuga Racemosa Root Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Chitosan, Propyl Gallate, Zinc Gluconate, Methyl Diisopropyl Propionamide, Ethyl Menthane Carboxamide, Menthyl Lactate, Lauryl Laurate, Hydroxyethyl Behenamidopropyl Dimonium Chloride, Aminomethyl Propanol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Ceteareth-20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Limonene, Orange Peel Oil, Mandarin Orange Peel Oil, Basil Oil, Grapefruit Peel Oil, Galbanum) Resin Oil.
Description: This is a bad product. Here’s a mask that has irritants like Menthyl Lactate and Mandarin Peel Oil which may redden the skin.
Claims: The Glycolic Acid that could peel is here for label value, as it has been partially neutralized. Also, not a very “intensive C” as sodium ascorbyl phosphate is probably the least effective form of vitamin C.
Other problems: Full of unnecessary fragrances. Potentially allergenic and probably phototoxic.
SAS: Vitamin C Serum, The ascorbic acid will give a light peel and provide “radiance.”
Hada Labo Tokyo Replenishing Hydrator, $18
Ingredients: Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Dipropylene Glycol, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Methylisothiazolinone, PPG-10 Methyl Glucose Ether, Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hyaluronate.
Description: This is a bad product. Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid (a.k.a. low molecular weight hyaluronic acid) has been shown to promote inflammation.
Weleda Iris Hydrating Facial Lotion, $21
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Alcohol, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Distillate, Glycerin, Glyceryl Linoleate, Hydrolyzed Beeswax, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Calendula Officinalis (Calendula), Iris Germanica Root Extract, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Beeswax, Fragrance (Parfum)*, Limonene*, Linalool*, Citronellol*, Geraniol*, Citral*.
Description: Bad product, too much fragrance (Fragrance, Limonene, Linalool, Citronellol, Geraniol, Citral). Why alcohol? This will dehydrate the skin.
Shu Uemura Porefinist Cleansing Oil, $31
Ingredients: Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Isopropyl Myristate, Capryl/Capric Triglyceride, Polyglyceryl-10 Trilaurate, Polyglyceryl-6 Tricaprylate, Octyldodecanol Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Undecane Tridecane, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopherol Sqalane, Sea Water, Simmondsia Chinensis Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius Oil, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Prunus Cerasus Extract, Prunus Yedoensis Leaf Extract, Parfum
Claims: Refining pores? Assuming it means “shrinking” pores, this formulation can’t do it.
SAS: Cleansing Oil
RoC Multi Correxion Lift Anti-Gravity Day Moisturizer SPF 30, $29
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (12%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (1.7%), Oxybenzone (3%)
Inactive Ingredients: Water, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Glycerin, Cyclohexasiloxane, Silica, Tetrahydroxypropyl Ethylenediamine, Cetearyl Alcohol, Diethylhexyl 2,6-Naphthalate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Dimethicone, Phenoyethanol, Steareth-2, Steareth-21, Citric Acid, Polyacrylamide, Cetearyl Glucoside, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Arachidyl Alcohol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Disodium EDTA, Behenyl Alcohol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Propylparaben, Arachidyl Glucoside, Laureth-7, Ethylparaben, Benzalkonium Chloride
Claims: “Multi Correxion Lift Anti-Gravity” in the name, yet there is nothing in the ingredient list to justify the name. All it does is prevent further sun damage, very important but any sunscreen with SPF 30 will do the same.
SAS that can “Correct, Lift, Anti-Gravity”: Firming Collagen Serum
Caudalie Vineexpert Night Infusion Cream, $75
Ingredients: WATER, GLYCERIN, BUTYLENE GLYCOL, ISONONYL ISONONANOATE, CAPRYLIC/CAPRIC TRIGLYCERIDE, CETEARYL ALCOHOL, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL, GRAPE SEED OIL, PEG-20 STEARATE, SQUALANE, BITTER ORANGE FLOWER WATER, SHEA BUTTER EXTRACT, CARBOMER, PALMITOYL GRAPEVINE SHOOT EXTRACT, FRAGRANCE, CAPRYLYL GLYCOL, POTASSIUM SORBATE, POLYGLYCERYL-10 PENTAOLEATE, PALMITOYL GRAPE SEED EXTRACT, XANTHAN GUM, TOCOPHERYL ACETATE, SODIUM HYDROXIDE, VERBENA EXTRACT, small leave linden (Tilia cordata) EXTRACT, CERAMIDE 3, SODIUM HYALURONATE, ACRYLATES/C10-30 ALKYL ACRYLATE CROSSPOLYMER, SODIUM CARBOXYMETHYL BETA-GLUCAN, TOCOPHEROL, SUNFLOWER SEED Oil, LINALOOL, LIMONENE, COUMARIN, BUTYLPHENYL METHYLPROPIONAL.
Description: Ceramide and Shea Butter are good ingredients to supply some useful lipids to the skin, but there’s an emphasis in fragrance.
Claims: None, Infusion means nothing really… Ingredient list contains weird, useless ingredients (palmitoyl grapevine shoot extract, palmitoyl grape seed extract). These would be, I assume, hydrolyzed proteins that have been esterified with a fatty acid. It probably smells nice, though, with linalool, coumarin and limonene.
SAS option: ELS serum
Vichy Liftactiv Retinol HA Night, $48
Ingredients: WATER, GLYCERIN, DIMETHICONE, PENTAERYTHRITYL TETRAETHYLHEXANOATE, SHEA BUTTER, PALM OIL, PROPANEDIOL, BUTYLENE GLYCOL, HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL GLYCERIDES, SUCROSE STEARATE, DIMETHICONE/VINYL DIMETHICONE CROSSPOLYMER, POLY C10-30, ALKYL ACRYLATE, STEARIC ACID, SORBIC ACID, TRIETHANOLAMINE, DIMETHICONOL, SODIUM POLYACRYLATE, SODIUM HYALURONATE, RETINOL, PHENOXYETHANOL, ADENOSINE, DIPOTASSIUM GLYCYRRHIZATE, HYDROGENATED PALM GLYCERIDES, CAPRYLYL GLYCOL, HYDROLYZED HYALURONIC ACID, XANTHAN GUM, ACRYLATES/C10-30 ALKYL ACRYLATE CROSSPOLYMER, FRAGRANCE
Description: Glycerol and Hyaluronic Acid are good ingredients, but Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid is known to promote inflammation. The ingredients list Retinol, although it is probably present as a more stable ester.
Claims: Lifting, HA for hyaluronic acid?
Clinique Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel, $17
Active Ingredient: Salicylic Acid 1%
Ingredients: Denatured Alcohol, Water, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Witch Hazel, Laminaria Saccharina (brown algae) Extract, Sea Whip (soft coral) Extract, Butylene Glycol, Benzalkonium Chloride
Description: Very bad idea to dissolve the Salicylic Acid with Denatured (how?) Alcohol, which will dry the skin and bring about further sebum production.
Claims: “Clinical” for an OTC product. Clearing acne… Big claim!
L’Oréal Paris Glow Renewal Oil, $25
INGREDIENTS: CAPRYLIC/CAPRIC TRIGLYCERIDE, OLIVE FRUIT OIL, JOJOBA SEED OIL, CAMELINA SATIVA (false flax) SEED OIL, SUNFLOWER SEED OIL, ROSA CANINA FRUIT OIL, FRAGRANCE, CORN OIL, APRICOT KERNEL OIL, Passion flower SEED OIL, RICE BRAN OIL, TOCOPHEROL, LIMONENE, Rose geranium essential oil, ORANGE PEEL OIL, CITRONELLOL, LINALOOL, ROSEMARY LEAF OIL, GERANIOL, Marjoram LEAF OIL, LAVENDER OIL, Chamomile FLOWER OIL, LAVANDULA HYBRIDA OIL, CUCUMBER FRUIT EXTRACT, BENZYL ALCOHOL, CITRAL, TURMERIC ROOT EXTRACT, EUGENOL, COUMARIN, SCLAREOLIDE, ROSE FLOWER OIL, JASMINE EXTRACT, ALPHA-ISOMETHYL IONONE
Description: Emphasis in fragrance (more than half the ingredients). If it follows the INCI nomenclature regulations, then everything listed after “fragrance” is present in minimal concentrations. Maybe the fragrances and essential oils are present at high enough concentrations to irritate the skin, which would make the skin “glow” (and possibly itch, inflame, etc.)
Claims: Glow and renewal. No way!
SAS alternative: ELS serum
GlamGlow ThirstyMud, $69
Water, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Butylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Apple Fruit Extract, PEG-8, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Coconut Fruit Extract, Ginger Root Extract, Tea Leaf Powder, Olive Leaf Powder, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Honey, Allantoin, Saccharide Isomerate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hexylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sodium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium EDTA, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Polysorbate 60, Menthoxypropanediol, Cetyl Alcohol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Oat Bran Extract, Kaolin, Buteth-3, Trideceth-10, Benzophenone-4, Sodium Benzotriazolyl Butylphenol Sulfonate, Tris (Tetramethylhydroxypiperidinol) Citrate, Tributyl Citrate, Aminomethyl Propanol, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance, Coumarin, Linalool.
Description: Olive leaf powder is a good ingredient, but it would be nicer if standardized for effective chemicals.
Claims: ? It probably is a nice smelling mask.
SAS alternative: None. But you can add some honey to plain, full fat yogurt, apply it to your skin and take a nap while you listen to some music. You will save money and your skin will look nicer.
Diptyque Multi-Use Exfoliating Clay $69
Water, Calcium Carbonate, Glycerin, Octyldodecanol, Cetearyl Isononanate, Titanium Dioxide, Kaolin, Apricot Kernel Oil, Coco-Caprylate, Arachidyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Pentaerythrityl Distearate, Oat Kernel Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Rice Powder, Arachidyl Glucoside, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Allantoin, Sodium PCA, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Retinyl Palmitate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Peanut Oil, Sorbitan Isostearate, Polysorbate 60, Magnesium PCA, Zinc PCA, Manganese PCA, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance, Citronellol, Geraniol, Linalool, Citric Acid, Chlorphenesin, Methylisothiazolinone, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylated hydroxytoluene, Tocopherol.
Description: It is a bad idea to use a gritty mask to exfoliate. I guess that will make the skin “glow” from irritation.
Claims: Detoxifying and remineralizing. No such activities.
Note: Diptyque is apparently a candle maker, so I am sure their products smell nice. Also, for $69 they could have used a better oil than peanut!
SAS alternative: Exfoliation Set, This kit contains multiple ways (manual, enzymatic and chemical) to exfoliate and leave skin feeling soft and smooth.
Pigment-Correcting: L’Oréal Paris Youth Code Dark Spot Serum, $25
WATER, GLYCERIN, BUTYLENE GLYCOL, DIMETHICONE, NIACINAMIDE, C12-15 ALKYL BENZOATE, ALCOHOL DENAT, ASCORBYL GLUCOSIDE, HYDROXYETHYLPIPERAZINE ETHANE SULFONIC ACID, C13-14 ISOPARAFFIN, PEG-100 STEARATE, STEARIC ACID, POTASSIUM HYDROXIDE, GLYCERYL STEARATE, TRIETHANOLAMINE, SODIUM CITRATE, SODIUM HYALURONATE, PALMITIC ACID, ADENOSINE, DISODIUM EDTA, LAURETH-7, XANTHAN GUM, OXOTHIAZOLIDINECARBOXYLIC ACID, CHESTNUT SEED EXTRACT, ETHYLHEXYL HYDROXYSTEARATE, POLYACRYLAMIDE, CETYL ALCOHOL, TOCOPHERYL ACETATE, PHENOXYETHANOL, CI 77163 / BISMUTHOXYCHLORIDE, LIMONENE, FRAGRANCE
Description: Denatured (how?) alcohol is drying. Why HEPES (a buffer), plus triethanol amine and sodium citrate? Why OXOTHIAZOLIDINECARBOXYLIC ACID (a derivative of cysteine)? Glycerol and Niacinamide are good ingredients.
Claims: For hyperpigmentation/sun spots?
SAS alternative: Skin Brightening Cream