It seems like every day brings with it a new beauty ingredient we, as a civilization, must know about. (Cue: Eva Longoria over-pronouncing “hy-a-lur-on-ic acid” at us on repeat!) But every now and then, a substance comes along worth really, truly knowing. Hyaluronic acid is certainly one of them — particularly for anyone who favors a hydrated complexion without an oily, slick feel — but what we’re here to focus on right now is a slightly more old-school ingredient enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in the beauty world of late: squalane.
“Squalane is a saturated and stable hydrocarbon. It’s a form of squalene oil (which is a natural component of human skin sebum), which means it’s not subject to auto-oxidation, so that makes the shelf-life longer,” explains Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist at Day Dermatology & Aesthetics in New York City. In other words, squalane is a more stable ingredient derived from less-stable squalene, just in case you were about to Google “what is the difference between squalane and squalane?” Got that?
In the past, both ingredients have typically been derived from shark liver oil (like, from actual sharks), but most formulas now rely on cruelty-free, vegan (and much more sustainable!) alternatives made from olive or rice bran oil. It’s these innovative new formulas that have reinvigorated the industry’s interest in squalane, particularly as consumers seek out vegan and cruelty-free products (not to mention dewy, hydrated aesthetics that rely on intense moisture).
Dr. King notes that squalane “has emollient properties which make it a good moisturizer, able to help skin barrier function and prevent loss of hydration that impairs dermal suppleness.” She recommends it for a range of different skin types and concerns, beyond just those associated with moisture. “It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help soothe inflammatory skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and inflammatory acne.”
Cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson agrees there are many benefits associated with squalane in skin care: “It is a great product for all skin types to provide moisture; at high enough levels it has anti-wrinkle properties,” she says. She also notes that while many squalane formulas are thick oils and creams, there are also other options for those who don’t want to feel greasy. “It can be made to feel lighter or heavier on the skin depending on what it’s mixed with. It’s a versatile ingredient,” says Wilson, who also notes that there are few risks associated with it on the whole.
Not all experts are fully sold on the ingredient for every skin type, though. “It can be used across almost all skin types, but I am cautious in recommending it to people with acne because it may contribute to breakouts,” notes dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
Dr. King also points out that there are times when squalane itself may not be enough, particularly for those coping with severely parched skin. “If the skin is very dry and the environment is very dry, a stronger, heavier occlusive may be needed in addition to or instead of the squalane to lock in the moisture and ensure that hydration is not evaporating from the skin,” she advises.
Following the success of Rihanna’s game-changing makeup brand, Fenty Beauty, everyone has been on the edge of their seats for a skin-care counterpart. Now, one year after filing a trademark for Fenty Skin, the line is dropping — and reviews are already pouring in from the influencers who were lucky enough to get their hands on the three products (cleanser, serum-toner, and moisturizer) first. So, what’s the consensus for a line Rihanna promised would work “on all skin tones, textures, and types?”Short answer: It’s complicated.
One of the first and most-shared reviews on Twitter came from licensed esthetician Tiara Willis, who runs the account @MakeupForWomenOfColor. The skin-care professional says that while she loved the ingredients, packaging, and texture of the products, she claims that her skin reacted to the fruity-floral fragrance included in all the formulations. “Fragrance can cause you to have a reaction now (which happened to me) or it can happen overtime with continued use. I have always been sensitive to fragrance on my face, so the Fenty Skin products broke me out in small red bumps and my face stung,” she tweeted. Willis emphasized that her experience is personal as she has dry, sensitive, and acne-prone skin, and despite long supporting Rihanna and Black-owned businesses, she felt a responsibility to share her honest experience with the products.
Other fans with sensitive skin expressed concern over the fragrance, as well as astringents like witch hazel in the serum-toner. “Waking up to the news that all three of the new Fenty products have fragrance AND the toner’s second ingredient is witch hazel is upsetting me,” wrote one Twitter user. YouTuber Keamone F., who tried the products in advance, also expressed some reservations, particularly with the toner: “I love me a hydrating toner, and this is not that,” she says, clarifying that if you’re a fan of witch hazel, then you might prefer it. “I still think we need to have our toner and our serum separate,” she added. The YouTuber did stress that the toner-serum could be a good option as a mattifying primer for makeup.
I also received the products ahead of the launch, and when I tested all of them (and applied them as directed over a few days), I noticed that my own skin started to react with inflamed, red bumps on my cheeks. Like Willis, I have sensitive, acne-prone skin as well as rosacea, and fragrance and astringents are typically an irritant for me. The one product I would keep in my arsenal is the cleanser, which truly lives up to its promise and removes every trace of makeup without stripping my skin dry. While it does have a scent, it’s much lighter than the rest of the formulations, and I’m more comfortable using it since it comes in contact with my skin for a shorter amount of time.
In a video on YouTube, Rihanna directly addressed the fragrance component. “We never use more than one percent of a synthetic fragrance, and if we do, we don’t hide it. You will always know about it,” said the founder. “We’re a clean brand; we’re a very honest brand.” According to the video, the fragrance is specific to each product, and is intended to create a sensorial effect.” She also shared on Twitter that she has super sensitive skin and kept that top of mind when creating her line. Rihanna certainly isn’t the first or the last to use fragrance in cosmetics, which is often added to products to mask unpleasant smells, to serve as aromatherapy, or to make a formula more appealing to the consumer — and many people can tolerate it with no problem.
Among them are the influencers who have posted glowing reviews with zero signs of irritation. YouTuber Nicol Concilio claims to have used the Fenty Skin products for 17 days and found that they worked to even out her complexion. She praised the cleanser for removing all of her makeup, too. Senior Beauty Editor at Glamour, Lindsay Schallon — who shared that she typically finds “fragranced skin-care products too overpowering and irritating” — spoke to her positive experience with the products, calling the toner-serum the star of the lineup. One Twitter user compiled all the reviews in one place for people to make the decision for themselves.
Most early testers, and even those who haven’t gotten their hands on the products, do agree on one detail: the packaging. Not only do people love the functionality of the twist-open bottles and the neutral packaging hues, but they’re also buzzing about the brand’s mission to be environmentally conscious. The streamlined packaging uses post-consumer recycled (PCR) bottles that can be continuously recycled, the moisturizer is refillable, and there is no shrink wrap or unnecessary boxes. These efforts are pertinent to the discussion around the beauty industry’s role in environmental waste, with the personal care industry reportedly creating 120 billion units of packaging every year.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that skin care is personal to everyone. It’s up to every individual to determine what fits their needs and preferences and to test out formulas for themselves. If you’re looking to get your hands on the anticipated Fenty Skin line, the Total Cleans’r Remove-It-All Cleanser, Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum, and Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen became available at fentyskin.com on July 31.
What are parabens, and why are they used in cosmetics?
Parabens are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products. Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, in order to protect both the products and consumers.
The parabens used most commonly in cosmetics are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.
Product ingredient labels typically list more than one paraben in a product, and parabens are often used in combination with other types of preservatives to better protect against a broad range of microorganisms.
What kinds of products contain parabens?
Parabens are used in a wide variety of cosmetics, as well as in foods and drugs. Cosmetics that may contain parabens include makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, and shaving products, among others. Many major brands of deodorants do not currently contain parabens, although some may.
Cosmetics sold to consumers in stores or online must have a list of ingredients, each listed by its common or usual name. This is important information for consumers who want to find out whether a product contains an ingredient they wish to avoid. Parabens are usually easy to identify by their name, such as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or ethylparaben.
Does FDA regulate the use of preservatives in cosmetics?
FDA doesn’t have special rules that apply only to preservatives in cosmetics. The law treats preservatives in cosmetics the same as other cosmetic ingredients.
However, it is against the law to market a cosmetic in interstate commerce if it is adulterated or misbranded. This means, for example, that cosmetics must be safe for consumers when used according to directions on the label or in the customary way, and they must be properly labeled.
FDA can take action against a cosmetic on the market that does not comply with the laws we enforce. However, to take action against a cosmetic for safety reasons, we must have reliable scientific information showing that the product is harmful when consumers use it according to directions on the label or in the customary way.
Why are parabens thought to be bad for us?
While the FDA continues to conduct research regarding the effects of various Parbens on our health, other organizations have conducted their own studies to come up with the following conclusions.
‘Parabens allow products to survive for months, even years, in our bathroom cabinet; however when you use these products, they can also enter your body through your skin’, explains Tom Oliver, Nutritionist & Personal Trainer.
In 2004, a British study found traces of five parabens in the breast tissue of 19 out of 20 women studied. The study didn’t prove that parabens can cause cancer but identified that the parabens were able to penetrate the skin and remain within tissue.
Parabens are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking oestrogen. Too much oestrogen can trigger an increase in breast cell division and growth of tumours, which is why paraben use has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues.
Why are parabens bad for the environment?
Parabens aren’t just bad for humans, they impact the environment too. ‘A scientific study reported that parabens have been found for the first time in the bodies of marine mammals’, reveals Tom, ‘Researchers believe that it is likely these parabens come from products we use that are washed into the sewage system and released into the environment.’
So we should stop using parabens ASAP, right?
Don’t panic. It’s important to note that the percentage of preservative in a formulation is generally very small.
‘It’s difficult to say if parabens are categorically “bad” for us,’ says Michelle, ‘but there are many other preservatives now available so it’s no longer necessary to use them.
‘Manufacturers are creating new and effective preservatives all the time so there is a greater choice currently available.’
Some people assume that paraben-free and natural products are simply not as effective. ‘Paraben is cheap to mass-market,’ explains Tom, ‘but there are so many synthetic-free products on the market that are just as effective, I don’t see the need of using artificial ingredients which can cause irritation and stress, especially to sensitive skin types.’
The conclusion? Make an educated decision about what you put on your skin.
The term ‘paraben-free’ isn’t always the final answer.
Tom warns that we should remain sceptical. ‘Although it looks as though many beauty companies are responding to the public’s concerns about parabens, some may be merely “greenwashing” – a term used when a “paraben-free” company markets themselves as a natural alternative, when in fact they contain other synthetic ingredients that may cause harm or irritation to the skin.’
In general, never take marketing and adverts at face value. With so much information available, it’s easy to educate ourselves on the label content of our beauty products.
For an approved preservative listing, refer to ECOCERT – a certification body for the development of standards in natural and organic cosmetics.
Few brands have revolutionized the way we shop for skin care the way The Ordinary has. Before the Canadian brand burst onto the scene, accessibility to cheap high-quality products had mostly been restricted to makeup. Even with so much innovation among drugstore skin-care brands, few affordable options really rival what luxury serums and moisturizers have to offer.
That’s why buzz for the best The Ordinary products refuses to die down. The brand takes a clinical, science-based approach to skin care and specializes in single-ingredient-driven products that deliver targeted results. The best part? Nothing costs more than $20. In fact, the majority of it clocks in for less than $10. This is largely in part thanks to The Ordinary’s dedication to transparency, resulting in prices that aren’t significantly marked up.
But despite its low price point, the brand can be intimidating. Because the names of the products refer to skin-care ingredients–not results—they all sound like something out of an advanced medical textbook. Meaning you’re left trying to decipher what the hell ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate (a vitamin C derivative) or epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside (an anti-inflammatory compound in green tea) does.
GLAMOUR editors went through hundreds of dollars of The Ordinary skin-care products to help explain the cryptic descriptions of each and narrow down what’s actually worth adding to our medicine cabinets.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
For true, deep moisture, you’re supposed to use a serum or acid that can penetrate deeper than your standard emollient. Enter hyaluronic acid. It provides a healthy glow, leaves the skin dewy but not oily.
Yes, part of this product’s appeal is that it looks like you’re doing an at-home blood facial, but the results are just as Instagrammable. The mix of AHAs and BHAs deeply exfoliates to clear up congestion, dead skin, and hyperpigmentation. The skin looks brighter and smoother after one use—with no irritation to sensitive skin.
Apply a pea-size dollop once every day for a week after washing the face. The moisturizer comes out with a sunscreen-like consistency, but it blends in with the skin in seconds. After a week of using it, the cheeks would be plump and flake-free, probably because it has hyaluronic acid, which helps skin cells retain moisture. With such noticeable results for a low-maintenance moisturizer, we can count on this for the winter months.
The first noticeable thing about The Ordinary’s High-Adherence Silicone Primer is its texture, which feels just like a creamy moisturizing lotion. Once applied, it makes the skin feel so soft that you almost don’t want to put on makeup for fear of losing the silkiness. The makeup goes on smooth and stays matte throughout the day.
Pycnogenol is an extract derived from pine trees that has the ability to boost collagen and elastin production in your skin. Plus, it’s a great hydrator. The skin looks and feels healthier after using it.
The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil
It’s great for moisturizing and nourishing the skin, yet it still feels lightweight. Using it in tandem with a retinol can significantly fade post-acne hyperpigmentation, and it definitely makes a difference in the glow factor. It has a slightly earthy smell.
In reality, chemical exfoliants are much gentler and better than physical exfoliants, like face scrubs or loofas. This glycolic acid visibly resurfaces the skin, and it’s pretty gentle—though you shouldn’t use it more than every other night. Plus it’s affordable and lasts forever.
I’ve always been curious about azelaic acid, since I’ve heard it can treat both acne and dark spots while being safe enough to use even during pregnancy. The texture is super luxe and absorbs nicely, can provide an improvement on a stubborn breakout, and make post-acne dark spots look less opaque.
While it doesn’t help with dark circles (sadly, not much will), the lightweight serum instantly de-puffs and smooths out any baggage. It brightens the eyes in seconds, and makes it look like you got a full eight hours of sleep.
This is an incredibly gentle retinol option. The serum is an almost milky consistency, and after a month of using it, users report that they’ve started to see a few lines on their foreheads fade. It’s also a wonder for smoothing out the texture of the skin.
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Perfect for a pre-bedtime ritual, it’s is only $5; plus, it can be mixed with your other favourite serums to reduce its somewhat gritty texture. If you’re looking to fight wrinkles and even out your skin tone, this one is a great bet.
Squalane is a fantastic hydrator—it’s nonsticky, fast-absorbing, and has humectant (meaning, moisture-drawing) properties that work in tandem to make your skin look crazy plump. The downside is that it’s traditionally derived from animals. But that’s not the case with this serum. Instead, it’s powered by plants, so you feel even better about using it when you see dewy, bouncy skin.
The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F
The name of this sounds insane (and impossible to pronounce), and I’ll admit that, going in, I had no idea what it did. After a little research and a test-drive, though, I’m sold. It’s basically a form of vitamin C (which helps brighten and even out your skin tone), while vitamin F is a fatty acid rich in omega-6 that helps maintain your skin barrier (when it’s disrupted, all kinds of things like acne and redness occur). You notice a major difference in the condition of the skin after just one use—it is noticeably smoother, firmer, and overall much brighter and more radiant.
It’s lower-strength and delivered with squalane, so it’s a bit less irritating than other ones out there. Start by using it one to three times per week, use it only at night, and know that if you don’t wear sunscreen after using it, it will damage your skin.
Mandelic acid is really slept on—and hard to find—so it’s exciting to see this hyperpigmentation-fighting superstar available at a lower price point. It’s super gentle yet has helped reduce some of the acne as well as the scars it leaves behind.
This pocket-sized, super-affordable charcoal-colored mask is the only thing that’s been helping with my quarantine breakouts. I rate it highly for both skintertainment and effectiveness. It gives me a bright, exfoliated glow without irritating my skin. There is simply nothing more I want from a product.
Whether you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation, skin dullness, dark marks, or sagging skin, seeking out the best vitamin C serum is likely important to you. “I look at vitamin C as that little black dress in your closet. It’s definitely one of those things you must have. It works to boost circulation, amplify the skin’s complexion and stimulate collagen production,” founder of Dermasaa and in-house esthetician at Brooklyn Face & EyeSamantha Mims tells Vogue.
For those reasons, Mims has a few go-tos that she recommends to her clients: Epi.logic’s Daily Dose Serum, Skin Regimen’s 15.0 Vitamin C Booster, and the Solavedi Organics Rx Remedy. “Each treatment serum is developed to address concerns associated with aging,” she notes. Mims adds that there’s not necessarily a right or wrong way when it comes to applying the serum– what’s more important is what you do afterwards. “Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from environmental factors such as pollution and UV light. So whether you’re deciding to use your serum in the morning, evening or both, it’s important you’re following up with a layer of broad spectrum sunscreen daily.” Celebrity esthetician Vanessa Marc, of Vanessa Marc Spa—who counts Jasmine Tookes, Alton Mason, and Justine Skye as clients—recommends Teami Blends Vitamin C Serum because “it has hibiscus and vitamin C in it. This product is all natural which makes it vegan, plant-based, and cruelty free.”
As for Paula Bourelly, MD, a dermatologist at Olney Dermatology Associates, she recommends products with ingredients like arbutin and ubiquinone, as they both have “brightening properties which help to lighten brown spots, and as antioxidants the ascorbic acid and tocopherol add another layer of defense to traditional sunscreens.” Citrix C Pro-Collagen, Brightening Serum by Topix is her favorite product to recommend to her patients who struggle with hyperpigmentation issues like melasma and freckling. She suggests using it in the morning before applying SPF 30 or higher.
Please seek expert advise from a dermatologist or a skincare expert if you feel conflicted with all of the different product reviews, or have specific skin needs/concerns.
Give a new product enough time to see results – sometimes it might take from 1-3 months to see the results of a new product in your skincare routine.
Cleanser – should see results immediately – up to 4 weeks, pay attention to skin texture and moisture levels.
Toner – should see results immediately – 2/3 weeks, pay attention to skin texture and hydration benefits.
Serums – should see results in 3-5 weeks if it’s a hydrating/anti-aging product, 2-3 months if it’s a skin brightening/hyperpigmentation product, 1-3 months if it’s an acne-targeted but not prescription product.
Eye creams & Sunscreens – should see and feel immediate results. Pay attention to improvements in fine lines and texture.
Don’t overuse physical exfoliants – rubbing in the beads can cause irritation and skin sensitivity, make sure you’re gently gliding the product over your skin or use a chemical exfoliator on a cotton round instead.
Don’t remove clay masks with a cloth – the skin will look red and feel irritated when removing a dried-out clay mask. Instead, keep removing it with water until it’s gone.
Rinse off the micellar water – especially cheaper products are formulated in a way that can cause dryness and clog pores. Also, make sure the micellar water is not your only makeup-removing step.
Don’t rely on popular skincare websites to check skincare product ingredients – they’re not a trustworthy source, they list all of the ingredients and give them a rating. But we have to look at the formulation as a whole with dominant and recessive percentages, “it’s the dose that makes the poison” (referring to alcohol in products being seen as a drying agent). Also, the ingridients are mostly uploaded by users, not companies, which can be misleading.
You might not need to use a specific product at all – understand what all active ingredients are doing for your skin and whether you need it or not. Figure out what you need for your personal skin concerns and benefits you want to see.
Remember that skincare can only do so much – don’t rely on skincare alone to fix your concerns, take into account your diet, exercise, water intake, genetic conditions, and always seek professional help if you feel the need to.