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What Are You Paying For? Understanding the Ingredients in Your Skincare Products


Are beauty products prices determined by they’re branding and packaging or is there more to it? Do the ingredients of some of our favourite products, both affordable and luxury dictate the prices?

First here are some tips to understanding the ingredients on your products.

  1. The list of ingredients begin with the ingredient present in the largest concentration and moves down to trace elements.
  2. Water is often present in the highest concentration as it is used as a suspension for the other elements. Water (or any other suspension) usually makes up for 75%-95% of your product.
  3. Any element that is present in less than 1% can be listed in any order. But these elements can still have enough of an impact to change the appearance of your skin. Collagen-boosting peptides are effective at low levels.
  4. The first five ingredients on the list make up the bulk of the product, so are more likely to make large impacts.
  5. Don’t fear the long, multi-syllable words, but do try to understand them. Just because a word looks unpronounceable doesn’t mean its bad. Often these are the active ingredients that will help your skin the most like collagen-stimulating ingredient acetyl hexapeptide-8.
  6. Know ingredients can come in multiple forms, and a higher concentration of a weaker form does not mean you will get greater results. This is often the case with products with retinal, retinol, or retinyl palmitate.

We compared the first five ingredients in some of our favourite high end and affordable products:

La Mer – Crème de la Mer

This iconic rich moisturiser, used by the likes of Cher, comes with an equally legendary price tag.

Miracle Broth – Developed by La Mer’s Dr Huber, taking 12 years to perfect. Miracle broth which inspired by marine life, especially the self-regenerating properties of giant sea kelp is essentially La Mer’s own form of seaweed extract.  Using the power of fermentation Dr Huber developed this time-intensive craft – lasting 3 to 4 months, which captures the power and efficacy of sea kelp, vitamins and minerals by using light and sound energies to amplify activity. This unique method gives way to the skin-soothing, energy-boosting Miracle Broth which is the key element to  Crème de la Mer.

Lime Tea– This all natural ingredient is also known as ‘Kaccha nimbu‘ and its used to treat dark circles, treat acne and blemishes, gently removes dead skin with its citric acid, makes skin glow and is proven to have anti-ageing qualities.

Seaweed Algae Extract– This ingredient has been used in skin care for thousands of years and is dubbed the “miracle ingredient”  Used for its ability to instantly hydrate skin and maintain hydration. It is also used for its abilities as an antioxidant.  It will protect your skin from free radicals that cause premature ageing.

Mineral Oil\Paraffinum Liquidum\Huile Minerale– Most commonly known as Mineral Oil, derived from petroleum (fossil fuel). Petroleum is made from the residue of plant and animal life (plankton and algae). This is a controversial ingredient and there have been debates over its effectiveness. This is an incredibly cheap ingredient compared to the others in this cream. Mineral oil is a thick ingredient. It takes time to absorb. It also sits mostly on the top layers of skin. The fact that mineral oil is high on Crème de la Mer’s ingredients list is a likely reason for its usage instructions; …”Crème de la Mer must be warmed for a few seconds between the fingers until it becomes translucent, then pressed gently into the skin.”This is also the technique described for our affordable pick, however that does not contain this controversial ingredient.

Petrolatum- This is a very similar ingredient to Mineral Oil. It works in the same way of forming a ‘second barrier over skin‘, to stop skin from losing any moisture and stops potential irritants from entering the skin but this is a jelly rather than an oil. It is best known for being the key ingredient in extremely affordable beauty favourite Vaseline.

Weleda – Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream

This all-natural multi-tasking product. It can be used anywhere on your body but is a cult favourite for offering intensive moisture to your face and neck. A favourite of Celebrity Make-Up Artist Katie Jane Hughes who is famous for her glowly complexion.

Water– Used as a vehicle for water-soluble ingredients in the product, and also for texture and consistency.

Sunflower Seed Oil–  High in Vitamin E Sunflower Seed Oil helps the skin retain its moisture. While also acting as an antioxidant. Helping reduce signs of ageing by intensely hydrating and healing skin.

Wool Wax– Also known as Lanolin. The wax from raw sheep’s wool gives the skin a soft, smooth appearance.

Sweet Almond Oil– This is an incredibly beneficial and versatile ingredient. Full of vitamin E, vitamin A, monosaturated fatty acids, protein, potassium, and zinc. It acts as an antioxidant, helps boost collagen, prevents blackheads, can help in fighting acne and on top of that helps your skin look smooth, soft, and free of fine lines.

Beeswax –  This natural and non-toxic ingredient can act as a thickening agent for products, giving Skin Food its signature thick texture that melts into the skin when worked. It also has protective benefits, beeswax forms a protective barrier that helps protect it from environmental assaults, while also holding in moisture and reducing dryness.


Omorovicza – Blue Diamond Eye Cream 

This eye cream that states Diamond Peptides as one of its key ingredients which helps to prolong the healthy life of skin cells and to protect their DNA. Also helps to diminish dark circles and puffiness and reduce the depth of lines and wrinkles.

Aqua (Hungarian Thermal Water) – A key element of Hungarian Omorovicza’s branding is their use of Hungarian Thermal Water. Using this mineral-rich water as their binding agent for the ingredients of the product is meant to enhance the products healing abilities and revitalise the skin’s appearance.

Glycerin – A natural component of healthy skin and can be derived from plant or animal sources, or made synthetically. Its key role is to hydrate skin and help it hold on to moisture but can also strengthen the skins moisture barrier, allowing your skin to feel softer for longer.

Aqua (Water) – Two of the top five ingredients of this product being a form of water would lead us to believe the concentrations of the other ingredients are not high.

Ethylhexyldodecanol – A synthetic, non-drying alcohol used as an emollient and skin-softening agent. Despite being a non-natural product, it is considered safe and beneficial by dermatologists.

Squalane – A natural substance produced by our bodies, however, its concentrations may go down as we get older. Often derived for olive oil. Squalane oil fights off skin-damaging free radicals that contribute to the signs of ageing. It balances oil production, providing just enough moisture to keep the skin hydrated throughout the day. It offers the delicate under eye area the light moisture it needs.

Super Facialist – Vitamin C Dark Circles Eye Cream 

This high-performance eye cream by amazing affordable brand Super Facialist, which is available at Boots. Combining natural extracts with high-performance scientific ingredients to deliver healthy, beautiful and youthful looking skin.

Aqua (Water) – Binding agent.

Cetearyl alcohol – A mixture of gentle cetyl and stearyl alcohols. There is a myth that all alcohols are harmful to your skin. This is untrue, fatty alcohols like Cetearyl and Ethylhexyldodecanol are good for your skin and can make your skincare products more effective.

Passiflora edulis (Passionflower) seed oil – This is a great plant oil that can improve the look and feel of dry skin. It is a light oil, suitable for your under eyes.

Glycerin – Also found the Omorovicza eye cream.

Ethylhexyl stearate Decreases the thickness of products, lessening any dragging on your delicate undereye area when applying it.


Dr Barbara Sturm – Hyaluronic Serum

A favourite of Victoria Beckhams, this brands focus is anti-ageing. Dr Sturm focuses on non-surgical methods of anti-ageing that rejuvenate, without altering your natural look using molecular medicine.Dr. Sturm’s anti-ageing concept includes a range of minimally invasive therapies with different focuses such as skin quality, skin structure, facial contours and skin firming, which complement each other perfectly

Water – Binding agent.

Butylene Glycol – Another controversial ingredient as it is too derived from petroleum. It is added to skin care products to increase penetration by other ingredients in the formulation. This will increase the effectiveness of the active ingredients in the product.

Lactobacillus/Portulaca Oleracea Ferment Extract – Extracted from the Purslane succulent plant. Rich in antioxidants that fight free radicals that damage DNA,  contributing to ageing by breaking the skin’s natural protective barrier. Making this a key ingredient to this product’s anti-ageing properties.

Phenoxyethanol – Another ingredient that is considered controversial, however, is widely used across anti-ageing products. This synthetic preservative that has global approval for use in all cosmetic products in concentrations up to 1%, The negative research about phenoxyethanol is not about the cosmetics-grade version.  It is highly effective in preventing the growth of fungi, bacteria, and yeast that could cause your skincare products to spoil.

Sodium Hyaluronate – The namesake ingredient of the product. Sodium Hyaluronate has become an extremely popular ingredient in anti-ageing products for its ability to penetrate the skin and hold onto water. Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in the skin making it even more appealing as a skin care ingredient. As it will be accepted into the skin easily and as people are increasingly looking for products that contain natural ingredients. Popular in anti-ageing products for giving the skin volume by holding onto small amounts of water to give the appearance of youthful fullness. A natural alternative to injectable fillers.

The Ordinary – Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

This is a different type of skincare brand, offering extremely affordable products at their purest form. Giving you the quality ingredients and allowing you to design your own regimen with exactly the solutions you need. All Ordinary skincare formulas are vegan and cruelty-free, plus free of parabens, sulphates and mineral oil. This is the most versatile Hyaluronic product you can get.

Water –  Binding agent.

Sodium Hyaluronate – Also found in Dr Sturm Hyaluronic Serum.

Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer – This helps maintain the moisture absorbed by the Sodium Hyaluronate. Restoring the skins plump appearance for longer. 

Panthenol – Found naturally in skin, this ingredient will help the serum penetrate deep into your skin, allowing the product to work effectively. It also has hydrating benefits to your skin, which will help your skin absorb the other ingredients.

Ahnfeltia Concinna Extract – This is the extract from red algae. Used for its brightening effects, this ingredient will help reduce any discolouration on your skin. Much like other seaweed and algae extracts, Ahnfeltia Concinna Extract is also an antioxidant and will help fight free radical and their ageing effects.






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