Within the last year, controversy over the famed South Korean skincare brand (with an amassed international following of 79k loyal supporters through their positioning as “clean” K-beauty), Purito. The brand worked hard to hit the most famous notes in the clean beauty repertoire, leading up to the investigation and allegations of falsified SPF test results and claims against Purito’s product Centella Green Level Unscented Sun until now, which seemed to resonate well with their customers. But just how wrong are these claims, who’s to blame, and what does it mean for sunscreen users and others like it?
After all, nearly everyone is aware of the adverse effects of too much sun, from aesthetic consequences like early signs of aging to serious health issues like melanoma. Even leaving aside the harmful effects of the sun, if you want to protect your skin from the sun and purchase a product intended to do just that, you should be able to trust that it will. Of course, that also applies to other claims that skincare ingredients list and highlight such as “hydrating,” “firming,” or “instant results.” But do the products live up to these claims? Or is the list of skincare ingredients simply lying to you?
The Complexity of Skincare, Safety, and Science
The most recent scandal about skincare products not containing the amount of SPF they claim isn’t new. A few years ago, a study on actual sunscreen products also found that over 40% still needed to live up to their claims. How does this happen? There are several ways this can happen. First, it could be the public’s worst fear in these situations – a greedy corporation (or whole industry) making unsupported claims to rake in cash from trusting consumers. However, there are other options.
One can be a discrepancy in testing or the interpretation of results between different groups of resources. For example, one manufacturer test assumed the wearer hadn’t gotten wet in the sunscreen case, while the independent researchers got test subjects wet. That could explain discrepancies in the results, but this brings into question the water-resistance claims that some products have. In the case of SPF-based skincare, perhaps the brand intended and even believed their product contained SPF.
Still, either the SPF source or the manufacturer mixed the product and misrepresented the final results to the brand, which then passed the misrepresentation onto the customer. Or it could simply be an accident – a bad batch that needs to be recalled or a mistake in the manufacturing process that needs to be rectified. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. And this is the lowest-stakes scenario: it affects a limited number of products, can be fixed, and doesn’t have to involve any active deception on the part of anyone.
But, unfortunately, this last scenario is also the hardest for consumers to avoid. Figure out if a company is lying to you or if a manufacturer is untrustworthy; thus, companies that use that manufacturer may be suspect. But it’s tough to predict an actual accident, especially if there’s no history of negligence. So you may have to accept that bad batches and recalls happen sometimes. But you don’t have to accept deception. Let’s explore some of the various ways to help you effectively decode your products’ list of skincare ingredients.
Understanding Skincare Ingredients
Ingredients lists tend to follow a specific format. They start with the product’s ingredients and work their way down. Items under 1% concentration don’t usually have the percentage listed. So even if a specific portion isn’t available, you know that the product contains more of whatever is listed on the top and less of what is listed on the bottom.
This is helpful if you know what you’re looking for. Some active ingredients must only be present in small percentages to be beneficial. But if you’re looking for hydrating skincare and all of the ingredients that provide hydration are listed at the end, consider using a product with higher amounts of hydrating ingredients.
Decoding Skincare Ingredients and Product Labels
The people who develop labels and marketing campaigns are experts at avoiding lying and making you think the way they want you to consider. You can’t be faulted for not recognizing this when it happens – it’s their whole job to do that, and you’re just trying to buy your skincare and get onto the next thing on your daily list. But once you understand these labels’ wording, you’ll be less likely to fall for them.
For example, let’s say you purchase a product that contains 15% of the super ingredient. If you see “15%” and “super ingredient” on the label, your brain might pick out those terms and think nothing more of it. However, there’s a big difference between “contains 15% of the super ingredient” and “contains 15% of the super ingredient-containing compound.”
The difference is that the latter wording probably does not contain 15% of the actual ingredient that you want. Recognizing this and reviewing skincare ingredients listed on products will help you make better decisions. It would be best if you also looked for labeling claims including (but not limited to):
- “Instant results” — While this claim may be instant, remember that doesn’t mean the instant results will last.
- “Firming” — This claim is essential because it can be challenging to measure. It may work for you, but it may not be universally true that it’s firming. There’s no objective lab test to ensure that something is more or less firming than something else.
- “Clinically proven” — You should also be wary of packing or branding being marketed as medical products or making medical-sounding claims. They may or may not work for you, but they’re not medicined if they weren’t given to you by a doctor.
- “Patented technology” — This claim, for example, doesn’t mean anything. Getting a patent doesn’t mean the product is good or does what it says it will. It means the patent holder is protected from someone else using their idea.
- “FDA-approved” — For products considered cosmetic, this claim means that it’s safe to use according to the instructions, not that it will work.
Understanding the potential pitfalls in product manufacturing and learning to read labels can help you make better skincare decisions. Furthermore, so can using skincare products that are best for your skin type, which differs from person to person. Ciel Spa can help you discover the skincare products that are right for you.