This edition is about common ingredients in formulas that many of you had questions about.
What should I look for a in face oil for the most hydration?
I get this type of question a lot and the reason I'm posting it is to help distinguish the difference: oils help with dry skin and they can seal in hydration. They're products that are good for DRY skin which is characterized by a lack of natural oils on skin surface. The way they might contribute to hydration is by sealing in moisture and for that, you'll need a a formula that has a good mix of carrier oils with larger molecular size that don't penetrate as deeply as some essential oils.
Water based products with glycerin and hyaluronic acid are what you're looking for if the intent is to help with maximizing hydration. The best time to put on products for hydration is within 3 minutes of showering. And as oils can help seal in the moisture (depending on the formula), make sure your skin is damp when they are applied.
I'm looking for a natural retinol or alternative, what are my green product options?
I've made a conscious effort to stay away from specific product analysis on here due to what transpired when I had questioned La Bella Figura's claimed Vitamin C effectiveness (which despite some plants that contain Vitamin C, does not actually contain active Vitamin C in the formula!) in Modern Radiance Concentrate which led to them harassing and attacking me. With that out of the way, the fact is that I do receive questions about new products and popular products ALL THE TIME and I understand many of you want to know my honest feedback so please - take what I am saying about this and all future specific products as purely my opinion.
There are some products that use retinol such as Osmosis and Arcona. Both use the chemical form which isn't bad, but most of you who e-mail me are making an effort to avoid them. Although neither Osmosis nor Arcona are fully 'green', their formula in general is pretty good as far as retinol based products go.
Sunday Riley has the Luna oil that contains transretinol ester which is also a chemical form in an oil base. What I don't like about it is the fact that there is blue coloring in the formula and I found her 'reasoning' behind it (to tell you when it is absorbed) to be frivolous and invalid due to the fact that dyes simply do not work as absorption indicators and they're also not included with the rest of the line (so does that mean absorption of her other products including 3 other face oils, aren't important?)
Natural forms of retinol do occur but not in the extracted, pure forms that are only present in chemical retinol form. This means they work slower, but you may also avoid some of the side effects like dryness, potential mutagenetic impact and phototoxicity. Some recommendations and more information is in a previous post I wrote about Vitamin A which you can check out here.
Lastly there are the 'retinol alternatives' and these are products that don't use any form of retinol but mimic their activity. Moonlight Catalyst is a retinol alternative and perhaps the one I get asked about most. This means it doesn't contain retinols nor naturally sourced retinols. The claim as a retinol alternative is because it's an exfoliating/resurfacing product with pumpkin enzymes and willow bark (often used as a natural form of salicylic acid) which is why it is a night time only product, also the new formula contains a biomimetic form of epidermal growth factor which is a building active. There are also actives like sea algae and peach extract that are said to hydrate skin. The truth is that retinol is more complex and does more than just exfoliating and we all know that retinol does not hydrate skin so I would say that Moonlight Catalyst is more of a broad anti-aging serum rather than a direct retinol alternative. I know their founder hates the phrase anti-aging, but honestly you guys- it's a scientific term that chemists actually use to describe what happens to skin and I wish we should stop wrongfully politicizing it as some type of age shaming concept when it isn't. It just creates a lot of confusion and in this case suggests retinol type activity when it isn't really accurate.
Soapbox moment aside, I also know from a formula standpoint that products shouldn't integrate 'building' ingredients such as growth factors with 'resurfacing/exfoliating' ingredients that break down such as enzymes and natural forms of acids. It can cause volatility and diminish the activity of the more fragile ingredient, in most cases the growth factors will be neutralized (additional source - via ELLE magazine October issue, below).
All green brands talk about how their ingredients are the freshest, in this case how do I tell who really has the most high quality products?
That is a great question but firstly, while freshness of ingredients is very (VERY) important, it isn't the only factor that determines the quality of a formula/product. I would consider the entire integrity of the formula as a whole, the level of ingredients themselves, the way plants might be extracted, all the way to how the products are packaged.
Now onto the question of freshness, I also see every brand discussing this and the truth is that for the most part these companies do order regularly and keep limited stock so in comparison to mass market brands, their products (and ingredients) are quite a bit fresher! With that said, companies that move more units will by nature tend to have fresher ingredients than a company that has ingredients waiting for orders. So more in-demand green brands are probably going to have fresher inventory than the small emerging one. The best way to tell this is to look at how they perform at retailers, if the inventory is pretty hurried and sells quickly, it's most likely a good sign.
A brand that controls their own production and sourcing will also tend to make fresher products than a brand that may source from other suppliers because in the latter case there is less control of production schedule so while they may order ingredients regularly, the actual ingredients shipped may be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months old when it gets to them.
Also, products made in a lab or co-packing environment should be better than products made at home even though many green fans like the idea of supporting a home-made line. There are lots more production standards in lab environments that limit contamination, ensure ingredient storage conditions, etc. that gives it a consistent level of quality assurance that cannot be matched by home production.
I wrote an earlier post called Not All Oils Created Equal that may be a helpful read. Essentially if you want fresh, you want as close to the source as possible and this differentiates between all the hoopla every brand spouts.
Brands that grow some to many* of their own ingredients (self-sourcing):
Earth Tu Face
*Based on publicly disclosed information