We’re all familiar with hyped skin care ingredients that promise the moon—or at least subliminally suggest that we’ll look as if constantly bathed in moonlight with regular usage. Of course, some superhero ingredients, like retinol, stand the test of time. Others, like vitamin C derivatives SAP and MAP, have improved tremendously over their earlier versions thanks to excellent research and development. And others, like peptides, excited formulators at first, then disappointed once it became obvious that they weren’t living up to their original promise. Still others, like plant stem cells, were silly from the get-go—we are not plants, so it’s unclear how plant stem cells (undifferentiated cells that foster new cell growth) are supposed to improve mammalian skin. Plants and animals don’t even belong to the same Kingdom, so it’s a stretch.
Consumers have had a considerable impact on the food industry by demanding more organic, natural, sustainable and local options. And since consumers have turned their attention to the cosmetics and skin care industry, demanding better accountability and more stringent safety standards, we’ve seen real progress when it comes to cleaning up our cosmetics and body care products, especially in the last decade.
When the goal is to prevent aging and correct existing damage, virtually all dermatologists will agree that daily retinoid use is the answer. The term "retinoid" refers to vitamin A and the various molecules derived from vitamin A—which itself is also known as retinol (ROL). This can lead to great confusion because while the official name of Vitamin A is retinol, the derivatives, called retinoids, belong to different categories. Beta carotene is a pro-vitamin A, while retinyl palmitate, unlike its successors in the conversion chain to retinoic acid, retinol and retinal aldehyde, does not convert to retinoic acid. This means you do not want to use these forms of vitamin A (unless you are looking for an oil-soluble antioxidant).
As a skin care company that prioritizes safety and efficacy, we always stay up-to date on toxic ingredient lists. Over the last few years, we’ve been paying a lot of attention to preservatives, in particular. There are good reasons to avoid parabens, but the substitutes for parabens used by many companies claiming to be organic, natural and toxin free title are also problematic. Specifically, preservatives like phenoxyethanol and/or sodium benzoate may be contaminated with carcinogenic compounds or react in the presence of other molecules to produce carcinogens.
This comprehensive list was developed to help you navigate your product labels for the safest skin care yet.