The 6 Steps to Finding Your Perfect Face Cream
I can imagine only too well that it can make you break out in a sweat when trying to quickly scan through hundreds of ingredients lists whilst a sales assistant, full of well intended but not always useful advice, is distracting you. I am going to give you a few tips which will ensure that, in no time (well, before closing time, at least), you have come away from the shop with a fine product, or better still a tester. For convenience we are going to begin with the face cream; the Cleanser, Toner, Exfoliant and sun protection cream will follow soon…..
Step 1 Throw pots away
First of all check how the product is packaged, this is also the first thing you see, of course. Leave anything in pots and glass containers behind on the shelves. Face products which allow light and air in are extremely unlikely to contain a high concentration of active ingredients. If they do, though, the cream will turn a brown colour as a result of oxidization. You can safely assume that white cream in a pot is actually just a pot of grease. This is fine if you have dry skin, but we could also pick up such a product for a couple of euros from the chemist or pharmacy! We are now looking particularly for a truly effective face cream with anti-oxidants which can soothe, replenish and protect the skin from sun damage. A cream which will give you attractive, healthy skin. Therefore only tubes or containers with a pump will find their way into our shopping baskets, but even better still airless packaging. This ensures that minimal amounts of oxygen come into contact with the product so maximizing the effectiveness of the ingredients. And don’t let yourself be fooled, the ideal product for your face can be a serum, a night cream, a day cream or even an eye cream. If it is neither too greasy nor too watery for your skin then it doesn’t matter how it is named on the packaging. The only difference between these products is the consistency! Whatever you do, don’t buy several products which, in fact, merely contain the same ingredients, that’s really just a waste of your money…
Step 2 Ban products which contain perfume or alcohol!
The ingredients list (or INCI list) is quite frustrating. Even though I have delved into INCI lists for years now, I still regularly come across ingredients that I’ve never heard of. As there are thousands of cosmetic ingredients in existence this isn’t so strange and new ones are appearing every day. Before you despair I can set your mind at ease, you don’t have to concern yourself with most of the ingredients. They are added to a product to thicken or bind it (you can liken it to cornflour) and are not good, but also not bad for your skin. So let’s keep it as simple as possible, by avoiding products with the 2 most common ingredients which, as we know from research, contribute nothing to the effectiveness of the product but which can cause skin problems; alcohol and perfume.
Perfume is the number 1 allergen and furthermore there may be nasty substances such as phthalates within your perfume compound. This is not required to be listed. If you see perfume (fragrance) on the ingredients list then put the product back. And don’t let yourself be fooled, there are even fragrances which need to be listed separately because they have a higher probability of causing allergic reactions. Then there are cosmetics manufacturers who make out that the product is un-perfumed. You can find them on my blog about these fragrances. Next you scan the products for the ingredient alcohol. Here I need to add a little note, not all types of alcohol are actually bad. The damaging alcohol types (and those that you usually see in cosmetics) are: alcohol denat, ethanol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol. If you see this ingredient at the end of the ingredients list then it is highly likely that the product contains a very low concentration. You don’t have much to worry about then provided, of course, that the product also contains beneficial ingredients!
In an ideal world you should now check for any more potentially damaging ingredients in the products. Sadly that is an awful lot of work… Because the odds of avoiding these ingredients are very low and moreover would leave you with no products to choose from, I suggest that first of all you check for any effective ingredients contained in the products. Otherwise you are once again left with a face cream which only keeps the skin a bit greasy and we don’t want that!
Step 3 Choose ingredients which actually do something for your skin
Now we really are coming to the most important: the beneficial ingredients! Vitamin C, like Niacinamide, is a winner with its many fine qualities. This really should be included in the product because there is so much evidence regarding its efficacy. Other beneficial ingredients are Vitamin E (Tocopherol) and Allantoin. You can find a full list in my book, but my blog contains a good deal too. Additionally you can read the review article “The Truth About Over-the-Counter Topical Anti-Aging Products: A Comprehensive Review” by Catherine K. Huan. Be aware that, in almost all cases, the product should contain at least 1% of these ingredients. With Niacinamide and Vitamin C at least 3%. So in practice, these ingredients are displayed pretty well at the beginning of the ingredients list. If they are displayed in the last third then you can assume that the concentration is lower. If you still have a few possible products, compare these for the presence of any other poor ingredients and choose the product containing the least potentially irritating or damaging substances.
Step 4 Make sure the product suits your skin
What, for you, may be a good product may not be for your next door neighbour. But it is not as complex as cosmetic manufacturers would have us believe either. Primarily, they want to earn money and, with all those rare substances and new hype ingredients, want to make it unnecessarily complicated for you. Almost all of the active ingredients are just as effective for oily as they are for dry skin and have several functions such as soothing, sun damage repair and hydrating. For sensitive skin you need to be more careful with exfoliating substances like Glycolic Acid, and such ingredients should not be contained in your day cream, but instead in a separate product. There are certain ingredients you are better off avoiding if you have oily, blemished skin. Examples of these are coconut oil, grapeseed oil and oleyl alcohol. You are best choosing a product which displays aqua at the top of the list or is at least less concentrated. A serum can also be suitable and a good option even, for very oily skin, is a toner containing active ingredients. If you have dry skin you can go for a more rich face cream but you could also put a thin layer of a simple, more oily (and inexpensive) base cream over the top of your product. This is often even better because then the ingredients can do their work more effectively!
Step 5 Don’t pay too much!
A good product really doesn’t need to cost very much. I’ve never yet seen a cream costing more than 60 euros which is also worth the price. You can presume that you are paying for the name, the marketing or the expensive container, but not the ingredients. There are many ridiculously expensive poor quality products, but sadly also many cheaper inferior products around. Just as there are good quality expensive and inexpensive products too. In almost all cases a cream costing 100 euros will have a body double with, near enough, the same ingredients but for a fraction of the price.
Nevertheless, you can safely presume that a cream costing less than 10 euros will not contain sufficiently high enough concentrations of active substances. So do invest in a good quality face cream. You don’t need much for a good face cream and then preferably save money on your cleanser and body products.
Step 6 Ask for a tester
Even if your selected product contains the very best ingredients, it may still not be suitable for your skin. So look closely at how the product reacts on your skin. A product with high concentrations of active ingredients may initially make your skin react a little bit and cause a few temporary spots to appear. We also see this with medical cosmetic treatments such as a peel. If your skin becomes very red, swollen and itchy, then stop using the product. You are most probably allergic to it. You could even be unfortunate enough to be allergic to “good” ingredients such as Vitamin C. Bear in mind that a product containing a lot of beneficial and active ingredients is more likely to cause a skin reaction than a pot which is diluted down with water. So, be on the safe side and try a tester first, at least then you can rule out any allergies in a few days.
(Dr. Jetske Ultee – Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)