The 5 questions to consider before purchasing new skincare.
It seems there is more skincare in the world now than ever before. Every week there’s a new brand, an expanded product lineup and reformulations bombarding us with endless choices - it’s seriously overwhelming! As a skincare addict, I have personally used my face as a testing ground for countless products over the years and I’ve learnt that to get the best out of your skincare purchases, you need to know what you want and be incredibly fussy! To make sure your purchasing decisions have your best interests in mind (and your skin’s) here are the 5 questions to ask before you buy that new serum. This failsafe checklist will save your skin, wallet and bathroom shelfie - it’s also the checklist I use to curate our collection of incredible products at The Formula. Every product on the site has ticked these boxes and you’ll find the answers to these questions on each product’s page to make things easy for you!
1. What’s in there (and what isn’t)?
The ingredients list (or INCI list) is your first stop when it comes to deciding whether a product is worth your time and money. Of course, it’s not the whole story but it reveals the major characters and some of the plot. This list will reveal the potential for the product to target any specific skin concerns you want to address, as well as common irritants or ingredients you know your skin doesn’t get along with. If there’s a hero ingredient highlighted in the name, consider the percentage that’s in there and remember that more isn’t always better, so take your skin’s needs into consideration. There’s often an incredibly different message being delivered on the front of the packaging when compared to the back and the ingredients list is a valuable tool for cutting through the marketing guff and making you a smart skincare shopper.
2. Is the pH level correct?
How acidic or alkaline a skincare product is, is pretty important when it comes to making sure the ingredients are in an optimal environment to be effective and actually able to benefit your skin. For most ingredients, we know that they like to be within a certain pH range and you’ll want to make sure you’re buying an effective product that will do what it promises on the label. PH plays a major role here; for example, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is the most bioavailable at a pH below 3.5 and niacinamide (vitamin B3) is most effective at a pH between 5-7. Our skin’s natural pH falls around the 5.5 mark and this is important to keep in mind when cleansing so as to not strip or dry out your skin. Look for ‘low pH’ or ‘pH balanced’ cleansers that are close to your skin’s level and will respect its precious barrier.
3. What’s the texture like?
If a product doesn’t feel nice to apply and isn’t comfortable on your face throughout the day, it’s not the product for you. Consider your personal preferences; do you hate the feel of oily serums but absolutely love the texture of gel-creams? It’s also important that the product layers well and plays nicely with the other members of your skincare routine - does that serum make your moisturiser pill when you apply it over the top or is that eye cream so thick it just doesn’t sink in? Take into account the finish on the skin as well, as a product can be dewy or matte and could change the look and feel of your skin. Along this line of questioning lies the matter of fragrance; can you only tolerate unscented products or is it important to you that your sunscreen smells like coconut? These are all tell-tale signs that you might either love or hate a product.
4. Does the packaging make sense?
Whether the product is in a jar, tube or bottle really matters when it comes to keeping your skincare fresh, effective and user-friendly. If your product has active ingredients that can degrade with exposure to light or air (like retinoids and vitamin C) then look for airless pumps and light-proof packaging. The idea of applying an antioxidant to your skin is going to be null and void if it has already oxidised before you get it onto your face! If it’s in a jar, don’t panic! Remember there are some special technologies and delivery systems available to formulators like microencapsulation which helps an ingredient stay stable until it enters your skin so look out for claims like this (brands normally shout this from the rooftops if they’ve invested in it). The viscosity of the product normally dictates the kind of mechanism it’s housed in, but sometimes brands can get this wrong - have you ever tried to squeeze out a cleansing balm that has solidified in the tube because it should’ve been in a jar? Lastly, if you know that branding and design is important to you then keep this in mind when shopping. Personally, orange isn’t my favourite colour but my addiction to vitamin C serums trumps my aesthetic preferences every time :)
5. Is it worth your money?
Ultimately in skincare, you don’t always get what you pay for and this works both ways; amazing products for a steal or useless pricey patented formulas.
With so much competition amongst skincare brands, there’s always alternatives available that will offer similar results and comparable formulas across a multitude of price points. Make sure you’re not being overcharged for what the product delivers. If we’re talking cleansers, any anti-ageing claims or fancy ingredients will most likely not be on your skin long enough to make a difference. If it’s a simple hyaluronic or hydrating serum, there’s nothing going on there to warrant a whopping price tag (Dr Barbara Sturm I’m looking at you). You’ll need to consider whether the majority of the cost of the product is due to the ingredients, clinical testing and formulation versus the packaging, profit and marketing (aka Eva Longoria’s cheesy grin). If a luxury brand name or beautiful glistening jar adds value for you, then go ahead and make your purchase with conviction. It’s only a waste if it’s not used or enjoyed. Acknowledging your long term budget is important though because it’s pointless to fall in love with an eye cream you simply can’t afford to keep investing in.
If you ask yourself these questions before splashing your cash you’ll make sure to avoid buyers’ remorse and you’ll get the ultimate results and enjoyment from your skincare routine. Happy shopping!
Julia (Co-Founder / The Formula)
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