This article has been written from my knowledge as a product developer to outline specific“ myths and truths” about skin care products, which will help to increase awareness so you can weed out product lines that are marketed using false claims from those that are presented with integrity and truth.
Myth #1:“No Preservatives used in our products”
I’m still surprised when I walk a trade show floor to see the number of spa professionals gathering around certain booths in large numbers, where that company is making claims such as “our products do not contain preservatives” or “100 percent natural”.
The product will have a shelf-life and will contain natural ingredients but supposedly will not require a preservative? With the increased level of education provided to spa professionals through these shows and other educational spa events, I still see many in our industry buying into false claims and taking the word of the skin care company without doing any independent research before buying.
1. Regarding preservatives, scientifically the majority of products with a shelf-life of a few days or longer that is a gel, lotion, or cream base containing water in the formula can grow bacteria, molds, and yeast within a short period of time. In some cases a formula like a massage oil, powder of bath salt that contains no water can have a shelf-life without preservatives or with the use of just preservation using vitamin E for example.
Therefore, if a product is made with water in the formula and at the same time claiming to not need a preservation system one should take a deeper look into the product and ensure they are asking the right questions before making a decision to buy that line.
2. Unfortunately, a natural preservative such as; Grapeseed extract or other commonly used antioxidants is often not enough to provide a shelf-life and control growth of bacteria in most cosmetic formulations especially those that include water in the base. What these can do is help to reduce growth of bacteria in some products to a certain extent and possibly help to extend shelf-life slightly if used along with a cosmetic preservative.
3. The reason why cosmetic preservatives have received a bad wrap, is mainly because some companies use too much in order to have a long shelf-life or use a harsher preservative, which in turn can cause skin irritation.
4. In most cases (depending on formula), a cosmetic preservative used in 1 percent or less is enough to provide a shelf-life of at least one year and provide a wide spectrum of coverage for bacterial, mold, and yeast growth in products. The spectrum of coverage is based on what type of preservative is used.
False Claims about Preservative Use:
So why do some companies make false claims that their products have no preservatives and how legally can they make these claims?
Companies that manufacture oversees or outside of the U.S. can be subject to different labeling regulations and therefore this provides in some cases a “legal loophole” to disguise the use of preservatives. This isn’t to say there are many companies that use this legal loophole, but some could use them to make false claims about their products in order to create a competitive edge.
One way a company can disguise the use of a preservative and make a false claim is by using the preservatives trade name as opposed to it’s scientific (INCI) name. Since it’s mostly manufacturers that are familiar with trade names for cosmetic ingredients, a spa professional or someone in the general public reading the label of this product could not pick out that the trade name is actually a preservative. For example; a popular preservative used in cosmetic formulas is Germaben II. This is the trade name for the preservative complex that consists of a few different preservatives. Germaben II is actually a combination of the following preservatives; Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben. These are the INCI names of the preservatives and this is what would actually be listed on the label based on labeling regulations.
In the U.S., label regulations require that most retail products list every ingredient used in their products on the packaging. For companies that manufacture outside of the U.S. their labeling regulations may be different enabling them to list the trade name only or not list the preservative at all on the labels!
Tip: If a company makes claims about not needing preservatives yet their products have a shelf-life and are composed of water or water based ingredients, do some additional research to ensure their claims are validated before spending your money!
As I mentioned, there is nothing wrong with using preservatives in fact it is often necessary and mandatory. What is most important is that the right percentage is used to avoid any negative effects to the skin, and that the company is upfront and honest about what their products contain.
Myth #2: “Organic Ingredient based products are a better choice”
While generally organic ingredients such as; fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, etc. can be better choices when consuming them, one needs to ensure that just as with any other cosmetic product that the right preservation system is used.
Tip: When selecting a product line that contains a high amount of organics, determine how those ingredients are extracted and preserved.
Myth #3“All Seaweed and Mud/Clay based products are beneficial for cellulite and detoxification”
The reality is that while in general seaweeds, mud's, clays are beneficial to the skin, the extent to which they are beneficial are reliant on 1. the source and quality of the initial raw ingredient 2. how they are extracted.
For example; Many companies use methods that begin by drying or dehydrating seaweed which sometimes involve the use of high temperature and pressure during the process. In turn, the seaweed loses some or most of its nutritional value.
For mud and clay based products, most contain particles only small enough to penetrate the surface layers of the skin to remove impurities and exfoliate.
In order for mud or clay based products to be truly detoxifying they should contain particles that are small enough to penetrate into the inner layers of the skin and tissues and effectively draw out toxins and excess fluid while reducing inflammation.
Tip: If you are looking for a marine based product, find out how they process their seaweed used in the formulas and if it is picked at the source (direct from the Ocean beds). If the seaweed is dried or dehydrated realize that you may be selecting a product line where the seaweed used will not provide the same benefits as 100 percent pure seaweed would offer.
It would be helpful to also ask the supplier if the particles of the clay or mud used in the products is small enough to penetrate into the inner layers of the skin. Conduct some independent research to determine additional information on this subject so you can make the right choice.
Myth #5 “All vitamins and antioxidants used in skin care products provide benefits to the skin.”
Some companies use synthetic forms vs. natural forms of vitamins to cut costs. In turn you are not getting the true benefit of that vitamin. For example; Pure vitamin E is called d alpha Tocopherol however on some labels you may see d l Alpha Tocopheryl which is a synthetic form of vitamin E.
Tips for finding the best vitamin and antioxidant based products:
1. If you are looking for a product containing vitamin C the best choice is to select a product created with Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate. This is documented to be the most stable form of vitamin C in a cosmetic formula and it offers a wider range of anti-aging benefits to the skin.
2. The benefits antioxidants and extracts such as; grapeseed, green tea, etc. provide to the skin are based on 1. The percentage used in the product. 2. The quality of the raw ingredient. 3. The extraction process.
3. Some companies use solvents during extraction that can irritate the skin such as; alcohol and propylene glycol. Also, some skin care products may contain only a miniscule amount of an extract that in that low percentage may not offer any benefits to the skin.
Tip: Don’t Believe the Hype!
1. A quality product isn’t determined by the “buzz” created from heavy advertising, or expensive creative marketing materials. Some of these companies may truly have good quality products, however base your decision not on the amount of dollars they spend on marketing and promotions but on the quality and results the products provide. In other words Don’t believe the Hype… find out for yourself!
2. Walking a trade show floor at a spa show, you often see large posters at booths of before and after pictures depicting “25 percent reduction in wrinkles” for example. In order to determine if these stats are accurate, find out how many people were involved in the test, what specific products were used and for how long. Often the after picture may look much better as the client is photographed in a better light, with make-up and hair done to help show a more dramatic difference.
The message in this article is to increase awareness on the importance of conducting proper research when selecting a product line for your spa business. If you are aware of common false claims used by companies, myths, and truths you are more likely to make the best choices that in turn will benefit your clients and enhance your spas bottom line. Remember that a key to selecting the right product line is to ensure they are created in a proper licensed facility and that creation of stabilized products is the company’s priority.