How To Spot This Sneaky Skincare Industry Secret
Ever wondered if the $200 anti-ageing serum available at the fancy makeup store is just the same as the $30 one from the chemist? Well, you are on to something friend… We don’t mean to be the bubble-bursting bearer of bad news, but we want to share this industry secret that we’ve come across firsthand: a lot of expensively branded serums and creams are just bottled-up stock formulas made overseas. *gasp* Yes, you read that right!
Here's how it works:
Supplier A creates a formula that’s mostly made up of water and glycerine, with some nice sounding botanicals added in so it sounds fancy, innovative and life changing. This formula is then sold by the kilogram to Brand B who only needs to bottle it up and slap their own label on it before on-selling it to customers. Supplier A gives a marketing brochure to Supplier B when they buy this pre-made formula so Supplier B will know what claims they can make when they market the products to their audience aka you.
So, how do you know if this the case for products you’re thinking about buying? Just Google the ingredient list and see what brands come up. As a skincare brand, it’s very tempting to do this as it means you can skip all the arduous research and development work that comes with making a new product. While this isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing, we much prefer being part of the development process, starting from scratch all the way to the finish line, and everything in between. But what really floats our boat is the result and satisfaction we get from having created something new and innovative for our customers and have something unique in the market.
Why we have an issue with on-selling:
The main issue we have with these bulk blends is that the claims they make often don’t stack up. Like we mentioned, most of the formulas are made up of water and glycerine, with only traces of useful ingredients so they can make the big marketing claims, but they often don’t put in enough of the good stuff to make much of a difference to your skin. Boo!
While we love botanicals, the scientific evidence for their efficacy can be weak compared to concentrated extracts like Bakuchiol and Peptides, or synthetic ingredients like Retinol. That’s why we create all our formulas using the same percentages of active ingredients as are used in clinical studies so we know the ingredients will make a difference. When we say a product will do something, we prefer to be realistic about what can be achieved, and we also want to make sure we can live up to your expectations, so we don’t embarrass ourselves, you keep coming back for more and tell all your friends about it.
On top all that, many ingredients also need an effective delivery system to make sure they get into your skin, something not often considered when buying stock formulas from overseas. Ensuring all the ingredients you’re paying for end up where they need to be (in your skin), rather than sitting on the surface doing not a whole lot, only to end up being washed down the drain at the end of the day. This can be very expensive and time-consuming and is probably not that financially savvy because most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But we insist on doing the hard yards so that at least after all the work we do, we end up with something truly good and effective for us and our customers, who hopefully know and understand that quality is what drives us – not just profit!
BONUS: Beware of Smoke & Mirrors
Another thing to look out for are ingredients that just make you feel like the product is doing something. See the “Menthol” in the formula example below? That’s in there to give you the “Oh I can feel it working!” tingle on the skin (or lips), but it doesn’t provide any real benefit. We’ve seen ingredients like this popping up in scalp care products as of late, so the tingling lets you know it’s “working”, which makes you wonder why we think a tingling feeling is a good thing... The funny part about all this is that these kinds of ingredients can also sensitise the skin (or scalp) and further irritate skin conditions, making them a real party pooper in the long run, and achieving the exact opposite intention. Anyway, there’s a few things to think about next time you’re strolling down the skincare aisle wondering what to scoop up next.
Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Alcohol Denat., Saccharum Officinarum (Sugarcane) Extract [Extrait de canne à sucre], Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit/Leaf Extract, Triethanolamine, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Arbutin, Polyporus Umbellatus (Mushroom) Extract, Menthol, Phenoxyethanol.