Skincare secrets

Todays post is going to be about a topic which is pretty close to my heart-  skincare.

Skin care is important. We are always being told to look after our skin, to keep it moisturised, to keep it protected from the sun, from pollution. But do we really know what we are putting on our skin, and what it does? Below are a few things which we should all bear in mind when shopping for skin care products.

What do the labels on our skin care products really mean?

“Dermatologically tested” – this sounds really good, and certainly always eased my mind when selecting out skin care items. But, we should take this statement with a pinch of salt.

Dermatologically tested means that the product was tested on skin- but heres the catch… it doesn’t tell us anything about the tests carried out, what the tests were designed to show or even if the product passed the test! This could mean anything- from 50 women taking home a small pot of cream to try every day and saying ‘yes it made my skin soft’ to lab based tests.

“Dermatologist tested” This is even more vague than the above statement. Dermatologist tested means exactly what it says- a dermatologist (A doctor specialised in skin, hair and nails) reviewed the product. That is all it means. It doesn’t mean that they used it in a clinical trial, or that they even liked it- just that they reviewed it.

“56% increased X shown in in vivo studies” This type of label makes me very skeptical indeed. This means that the product was tested in a lab, on some cells.. in a petri dish. Cells in a petri dish do not compare to our skin!! Our skin is made up of lots of different cell types, it has several different layers, a complex network of cell signalling pathways- this is simply not replicated in a petri dish. The thing is the statement in itself is most likely true- an increase in X was shown in in vivo studies. The problem is that this being on a bottle of for example skin moisturiser suggests that the effect will be seen on your skin. And this is most likely not the case, as cells that are in a single layer in a petri dish just do not act the same way as our skin does….

Fibroblasts- one of the skin cell lines commonly used in vitro to look at what happens in relation to compounds when added to skin. source: wikimedia

Skin care and Plant actives.

Now, I love natural skin care and using plant-based cosmetics don’t get me wrong, however, I do not love some of the claims plant-based skin care have…. i.e This product contains “X plant extract, known to boost X”…

This statement is troublesome. My research is looking at plant actives and their biological effects on skin. As part of my research I have delved into the world of skin cosmetics and the use of plant actives in skin care products already on the market- and here is the thing…. this type of labelling is pretty misleading.

Why? Firstly, a lot of companies talk about a plant extract in their product, but the ‘biological effect’ is often attached to a particular compound in the plant not the extract as a whole.

Why does this matter? Plant extracts often don’t contain the biologically active compound-  for example, Soybean extract is a common compound promoted in skin care- due to it containing the isoflavone Genistein. However, Genistein is hardly ever found as Genistein in the natural plant extract. It’s actually found as Genistin, the glycosyated (or sugar containing) form- which doesn’t have the same biological activities!!  In fact, you have to do an expensive enzymatic process to release Genistein from soy beans. So in fact, while it may be true that a skin care product contains soybean extract, it is pretty unlikely for it to contain the active compound Genistein- upon which the claims are based. Unless of course Genistein has been extracted via acid based enzymatic processes and then added- however, this then leads to another problem of how is this compound being kept stable?

A lot of active plant compounds- i.e plant compounds which have been shown to have beneficial biological effects are very unstable. If you leave a vial of, for example, a solution of resveratrol at room temperature, after a day you would have maybe half at maximum the working concentration of resveratrol left. This leads to wonder how some of these skin care creams containing plant actives are able to keep their actives… active? Especially when these products will most likely be repeatedly opened and closed, and kept at room temperature over at least a month. They may well have a way, it’s probably tied up in the jargon and patented names they use in their products… but it does make me wonder!

Another problem is that a lot of skin care products simply state “made with grape extract a known antioxidant” But how much of the plant extract is in the product?? And of that how much of the effective compound? The answer is often very unclear- and this doesn’t even factor into the actual working dose of product you should be using on your skin.

I am absolutely not saying to not use skin care products which state that they contain plant extracts, or a plant compound in their formulations, I am suggesting that you take any claims made about specific changes to the skin with a healthy mix of skepticism!

SPF and skin care

Finally, I would like to mention SPF. SPF is important to wear every day- it really does help to prevent skin aging. However, its completely understandable, that people don’t want to put on suncream everyday. Skin care and cosmetic companies have cottoned on to this and add SPF into their skin care products. However, the amount of product you use is probably way less than that required to give the SPF on the label of the product! Take a look at this video by make up artist Wayne Goss, who highlights the problem of SPF in foundation and illustrates pretty effectively the problem of dosage in cosmetics!

In addition, remember if you use SPF, or a moisturiser containing SPF this will not protect you the whole day! You would need to reapply… something to be aware of if you are buying a product for its SPF protection.


Honestly, I didn’t know about half this stuff until looking into it for my project! Hope you enjoyed reading, ’till next time!

2 thoughts on “Skincare secrets

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