Monday, February 8, 2016

Reader Questions: Formula Edition

It's been a while since I've been able to post on here. Mostly school has kept me pretty busy and the time I'd spend writing a post is now relegated to answering the growing numbers of e-mails. I'm going to try and organize your reader questions into categories so they're easy to find if you ever need to come back to them at a later date.

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).



The last point to note is that a significant part of the price is due to the presence of Epidermal Growth Factor which the founder says cost them $300,000 per kilo ((source - where it is stated in the comments section) which may mean you're shelling out a lot for a product with an active ingredient that may not actually be doing too much due to how it is formulated. This isn't to bash the product, the founder, nor the brand, I want to make that apparent. I also want to be honest about my perspective which I know is different from the Kypris perspective, which is OKAY. Ultimately, it's up to everyone to use products as they please.

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):
Bottega Organica
Earth Tu Face
Intelligent Nutrients
Tata Harper
Y√úLI

*Based on publicly disclosed information

20 comments:

  1. great read! welcome back, for the time being :)

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  2. good to see you are back! great post as usual! laura

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  3. So much great information here! Looking forward to your next post, hope it's not too far away:0
    -L

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  4. For the record, Tata Harper grows maybe 3-4 herbs on their property on a good year, although they would like customers to believe they do way more than that. It is still far better than any big cosmetic corporation and something that is to be applauded, but their marketing is still exaggerated.

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    1. Hi Anonymous, thanks for letting us know. I wasn't sure myself however I did see videos of her farm and of dried flowers infused in her oils. It certainly looked like more than just 3-4 herbs. Can you share your source? I'm always game to learn more.

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  5. OMG, thanks so much for pointing this out re: the moonlight catalyst serum. It had been annoying me because it didn't seem accurate to say that exfoliation=retinol... Plus, they aren't actually opposed to using the active, isolated vitamins--antioxidant dew contains Ascorbyl Palmitate, for example. It makes no sense to imply that retinol is unnatural but tocopherol is! I had not realized that the growth factor they include was pretty much a waste--thanks so much for the info on that!

    I was curious about their "phospholipid encapsulated antioxidants" Kypris touts. It's something I have seen FutureDerm talk about but I would love to hear your take, and any green products that do this you would recommend.

    Reguarding retinols, I was looking at both Mad Hippie and Mychelle as affordable options that don't contain anything particularly "bad"--do you have any thoughts on these brands?

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    1. Hi sarahjan, thank you for pointing that out about the inconsistency in labelling retinol as synthetic while using Vitamin C. I hadn't looked into Antioxidant Dew.

      So lipid encapsulation is basically microspheres of fats immersed in a water solution that hold a dense center of nutrients that are released. Now... no one knows the exact mechanism for how these nutrients are delivered so I would be a bit skeptical on the Kypris claim that they "target" anything. Reading through the ingredients list, I see the antioxidants they mention but do not see what is encapsulating the antioxidants.

      I'm not too familiar with either Mad Hippie or Mychelle but I think Mad Hippie in general produces 'cleaner' products but have not tested the efficacy of either of their retinol products.

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  6. Oh, and I have one more question. I was recently reading about the new-ish Moss skincare line. (It's made by one person--I think at home--so it might not be enough of your style to be on your radar), but she is using a lot of interesting oils and butters in her products that made me decide to try some samples! Have you heard of it? The founder is also working on a new online shop to sell more brands of acne-focused skincare, and I think she has a great approach regarding the importance of diet for skin health.

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    1. Hi sarahjan, I just perused the Moss Skincare website. I don't mind if a line is made by a team or one person as long as it's properly vetted and created. I did go into this a little in the previous post about how at-home production is a little risky in that there are not production or fulfillment standards in place which increases risk of contamination, microbial growth, poor storage conditions, etc.

      What is most important is how the products work for you. Having tried the samples, do you find that they're better than what you've used from others? A lot of times in green beauty what I notice is that there isn't a lot of differentiation and any addition of a random oil is marketed as an "exotic" formula. There are so many oils out there and in that case, it will always be possible for new products to come out, but what is important is why they're included and how they're better.

      There are a few areas of concern with MOSS, one is their sun protection balm and powder is being marketed as a sun protection with no set indication for the SPF (sun protection factor) nor active - zinc oxide concentration which are required by law for safety. This shows to me that they're done no product testing for safety and efficacy and do not adhere to legal cosmetics standards. Another is that so many products have "proprietary blends" so they never really disclose the full ingredients list and in the case of a cleanser, I actually see a non-green ingredient which casts some further doubt on transparency and honesty. Given your information that they also make the products at home, I'd have to pass on this line.

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    2. Completely agree with your analysis. Besides, the price of Moss Skincare is growing hastily while the product volume downsizes. Have no idea what the founder will think if her customer volume downsize as well. Definitely exorbitant. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, love it! :)

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  7. thank you so much for cutting through the 'green hype' and talking sensibly - all product makers should be able to calmly and hopefully with some semblance of scientific fact back up their claims - it is a 'messy' world out there and I am so thankful to have found someone who can debate sensibly especially since the people who sell these products do so mostly at a high premium

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  8. So happy you're back! I want a gentle retinol and have been looking at the TN Botanicals retinol product. I like to keep things green when possible, but I'm more like 60/40 about it. So, what do you think about their formulations, specifically the retinol serum. Is there one you would recommend more? I tried the Yuli one, but I'm looking for something more powerful, but still more gentle that an Rx (which wrecked my skin!). Also, was thinking about pairing it with their vitamin c capsules, but after reading your post and the photo clip you added, it sounds like the retinol would just render it ineffective, right? Let me know if you don't feel comfortable giving specific brand advice on here and I'll give you my email address. Thanks and welcome back. You know your knowledge and honesty were missed!

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    1. Hi Juliet, I apologize that this is a little late but I think during this time TN Botanicals has discontinued their retinol due to BHT contamination. If you are comfortable with 60/40, I really like Osmosis Renew, I believe this is the more powerful version and they have a 'entry level' one that is less concentrated in case you'd like to start slow.

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  9. very glad I found your blog - super informative for someone who's just getting into the world of "green" beauty and skincare!

    question regarding using a product with vitamin C - could I use an exfoliator that's AHA or BHA based with a vitamin C product? Also, could I use, say a serum with vitamin C, with something like rosehip oil?

    Lastly, have you tried/looked at the Drunk Elephant line? the vitamin C product I'm considering is their day serum.

    Thanks!

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    1. You can use products that have these ingredients but not in the same product. So for instance you can use an acid toner than has AHA/BHA, wait for it to do it's job and then apply your Vitamin C and then finish with the oil.

      I have not looked at the Drunk Elephant line but I have heard from many that the Vitamin C Day Serum is their *star* product.

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  10. What do you think of the pestle and mortar superstar retinol night oil? I'm a little confused by what retinol does or does not do.

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    1. hey Vanessa, I just answered a very retinol-centric question over at Garcon's World that I think might also address your question: http://garconsworld.com/index.php/2017/02/08/office-hours-retinols-acne-treatments-losing-effectiveness-exfoliation/

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  11. Hi! I am currently showing signs of an imbalance on my skin because my whole face is covered in clogged pores but my skin also feels very dry most of the time. I do not normally experience very many actual break outs, but definitely always covered with clogged pores which are impossible to clear. It seems like always a vicious cycle since my skin also feels very dry. I am in the cosmetic industry so it's unfortunately a must that I wear foundation during the day. I am a little lost as to what skincare to help minimize my clogged pores. My derm suggested I use tretinoin cream long term to try and clear the pores, but I am looking for the best cleansing options in the green beauty industry to deep clean pores but also keep my skin hydrated. Also, maybe the best toner in your opinion. I have been researching Yuli, Vintner's Daughter, Root Science, MUN, True Botanicals and Kahina Beauty for possible skin hydrators and maybe you can help lead me in a good direction as to what brands you would recommend out of those? Thank you!

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    1. Hi I think a good cleanser followed with a toner will help a lot. Then instead of a moisturizer, I recommend an oil. Yuli Halcyon is tops, bar none in my opinion in that the formula is so good and balancing, offering just the right amount of daily cleansing without aggravating dry skin. I think for your toner, you should go with something like the First Aid Beauty Radiance Pads which have two forms of acids to manage clogged pores but is fairly gentle if it is your first time using an acid toner. A face oil helps lock in moisture and a suitable oil helps to balance sebum to target the dryness and minimize clogged pores, this includes the Yuli Skin Fuel, Mun Aknari Serum, True Botanicals Balancing Face Oil. I think these options are a good start to bring balance back to your skin. If you are starting these products at the same time, you may notice some gradual breakouts as pores are being cleared and it should subside after 1-2 weeks. Please message me with an update and we can adjust from there.

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