Skincare - Ingredients Vs. Formulations

Skincare ingredients are being highly talked about all over the industry. Whether it is high percentages of retinoids (eg retinol) to products with not enough percentage of vitamin C, the effectiveness of those skincare ingredients ultimately comes down to the skincare formulation.

It is tricky to decipher what product is going to work better, especially when there is a lot of marketing out there saying that more of an “active” means it will be better performing. This may or may not be the case depending on the formula. Many active ingredients perform better at lower concentrations as they are less likely to cause irritation, meaning you can use it regularly providing a better end result.

INCI labelling (an international standard for cosmetic labels) has helped many customers decipher more information about ingredients that are being used in a formulation, however, only the ingredients that are over 1% will be listed in the most to least order. All ingredients below 1% can be in any order. This can be deceiving when you are looking at an ingredient like retinol that is effective at 0.5%, as the product ingredient listing would now be perceived as being ineffective. Things the labelling doesn’t tell you are: is this ingredient at the recommended level for maximum effect and minimal irritation? What is the delivery system of this formula (fast or slow release)? 

The practice of listing actives at certain percentages has been deemed as transparent by some, however the difference between ingredients like 2 differing retinoids at 2%, could mean the reality of a product doing what it says or a product burning your face off. Unless you are a cosmetic scientist, it is going to be very difficult to tell what product will or won’t work for you. A higher percentage claim also suggests a higher benefit, but whether you see a benefit will depend on the formula and how that product works with your skin.

So, what is the best way of determining if a product is going to work for you, especially now we have discovered the issue with relying on ingredient percentage? There are a few things you can look at that will help you decide, and they are probably things you are doing already when looking for a product for a certain condition.

  1. Shop from brands that put a premium on integrity and honesty. This is the gold nugget I use to decide on what product I am going to purchase, whether it is skincare, appliances or washing powder. You can find out about Plunkett’s values here.
  2. Ask friends and family that have similar skin to you. What products they are using particularly if you like the results they are getting. You can also ask groups on social media if you have a particular concern. While it will be general advice on what is out there (it is not recommended to take medical advice from people on the internet), it can steer you towards product options you may not have thought of for your concern which you can then research further
  3. Reviews. Reviews will tell you a lot about a product, sometimes you can get more info on the product, if there needs to be more caution used, or if there is someone else out there with your skin type that has had amazing results. Reviews can tell you lots and not all bad reviews are actually bad

So, how do we at Plunkett Pharmaceuticals develop a formula? There are some big questions we ask ourselves before undertaking a new product development.

  • What is the purpose of the product? What skincare problem are we trying to fix with this product?
  • What ingredients are we wanting to include in this formula to make it perform, different to what we already have, and what are the recommended percentages of those ingredients?
  • How are the ingredients going to be delivered (ie what packaging) and how will we stabilise them for best outcomes to our customer?

We then work with our cosmetic scientists and come up with some options which we test on ourselves (because while it may work in a lab, we want to make sure it works on actual people) to ensure we have developed a product that is going to live up to the John Plunkett standard.

One last thing that needs to be addressed is the issue of layering. While I also love layering my skincare, without knowing how the products can be used together (ie what the exact formula is) you are taking a gamble on the products causing irritation and potentially damaging your skin barrier. I find if in doubt always contact the manufacturer so you can discuss with them about what products you can use together within their ranges. The manufacturers will be able to advise you on their own products, however as they don’t share formulas, they won’t be able to advise on other brands products.

At the end of the day it is all about the formulation and how it has been designed to address its target skin concern. John Plunkett’s range of Cosmeceuticals builds it’s ranges based on the concern you are trying to address and the ingredients we use are at the therapeutic levels recommended for these results:

  • if you have a hyperpigmentation issue, you can check out SuperFade
  • if you want more even skin tone, you can check out SuperEven
  • if you want brighter more luminous skin, you can check out SuperBright
  • and, if you want skin that is more moisturised and lifted, you can check out SuperLift