As a spa professional, you want to
provide the best possible treatment for your clients. Providing the best treatment
is reliant on 50 percent technique and 50 percent product. In aesthetic or massage
therapy school, often the emphasis is put more on learning the right technique
and less about teaching the basics of natural ingredients and how to select
quality products for your business. In turn, once you complete your studies
you are left to learn about products from independent research and through suppliers.
Unfortunately, the information skin care companies provide to you can in some
cases be based on false claims the company is making to sell their product.
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.
“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
- 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, or 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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
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.
“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.
When selecting a product line that contains a high amount of organics, determine
how those ingredients are extracted and preserved.
“All Seaweed and Mud/Clay based products are beneficial for cellulite
The reality is that while in general seaweeds, mud’s, and clays are beneficial
to the skin, the extent to which they are beneficial is reliant on:
- The source and quality of the initial raw ingredient
- 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
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.
“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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Don’t Believe the Hype!
- 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!
- 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.
Sherina Jamal is the founder and creator of Ancient Secrets Inc. She began the
company in 1995 determined to provide people with natural alternatives to many
of the chemically based products on the market. Sherina began her company educating
people on the many benefits of natural ingredients for skin care Vs the use
of products created with harsh cosmetic chemicals. She has been a speaker and
educator in the health and skin care industry for almost 10years, providing
her knowledge via health/wellness trade shows, magazines, television shows,
and courses offered at local colleges. She has written articles for top spa
and health magazines. She along with her experience product development team,
have combined the healing power of age-old ingredients with modern technology
to bring forth unique spa products that bring results. Ancient Secrets is launching
their New Age Effective Body Spa line in early 2004. All products are made in