What’s in Your Product?

Believe it or not, some people pay upwards of $1000 for less than 2 ounces of face-firming cream. We’re going to go on record here and say we think spending thousands on a single product is a bit excessive. While high-quality ingredients and the research that go into developing products are costly, such extravagant prices are generally more about vanity than beauty.

True value comes down to ingredients. Some are true skin-changers. Some don’t do much more than add fragrance or texture. So what should you be looking for when you plunk down your hard-earned cash?  If you think of it, it is likely that most over the counter products would tend to have a low active ingredient deck for two reasons, first is if the product contained high active ingredients, you would be more likely to possibly be sensitive to it (so cannot sell to mass and should be a recommended product). The other factor is that a drug can alter a biological function, a cosmetic cannot.  So, short of it, not all ingredients like retinols really indicate that it is in the same form as a prescription reinol.


These are the free-radical fighters that protect skin from the UV and environmental damage that breaks down collagen and harms DNA. They play a critical role in protecting skin from premature aging. Look for ingredients like vitamins A, C and E, polyphenol rich plant extracts including green tea and grape seed extracts.


Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A prized for their ability to clear away dull skin, accelerate cell turnover, and boost collagen and elastin production to reveal a smoother, healthier complexion. The strongest is Retin-A®, available only by prescription. Its strength makes it an irritant for many. Milder forms are available over the counter, but they are not all equal. Vitamin A propionate, developed and patented by Dr. Fulton, provide the most effective result with the least irritation. Because of its smaller molecular size, it works on multiple levels of the skin where it stimulates cellular repair. Other retinoids like Vitamin A Palmitate have a larger molecule and do not work as effectively because they only sit on the skin’s surface.


There are many different kinds of peptides that have different jobs to do.  Peptides are short molecular chains of amino acids, theyI waI wa are the building blocks of protein, and protein is the building block of collagen and elastin. Peptides work by stimulating protein synthesis in the fibroblast cells to boost collagen and elastin and help skin look younger, fuller and more resilient. Some, like zinc peptides, do double duty as antioxidants as well.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

These workhorse tone and texture transformers are derived from plant and food sources. They work by dissolving the glue-like structure that binds dead skin cells causing them to slough off and reveal brighter, smoother skin. Higher quality can be more costly, but the main factor affecting the price of products with AHAs will be percentage. Products at the lower end of the price band generally have smaller concentrations and are consequently less effective.

Marine Minerals and Bioactives

Still a relatively new area of discovery, marine minerals and bioactives have been gaining star status as skin care ingredients over the last couple of decades, but supply and technical challenges to harvesting them have kept them on the pricey side. On the plus side, sea proteins and minerals tend to be rich n antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, polysaccharides, and micronutrients like iodine, iron and zinc, all of which are highly beneficial to skin health, elasticity and suppleness so they tend to be worth a little splurge.

Take Note: 
I was walking in a drug store and saw a product that said 70% Hyaluronic Acid Complex.  When looking at the ingredient deck the acid was the last on the list.  Watch the verbiage, as what they did was mix the acid with other ingredients and called it a complex that made up to a 70% of the jar.. Cheap price tags probably means the product doesn’t have the highest quality ingredients, or it may have them, but in amounts too small to really make a difference. Remember that ingredients are listed in order of most to least. Additionally, a bargain product may use fillers to add heft and texture to their product without adding cost. Cheaper products tend to have more of these ingredients, which have little benefit and can often be pore-clogging offenders. And of course, if the package looks like it belongs with the crown jewels, it’s a good bet you’re overpaying for what’s inside.  The best products will use higher quality ingredients in higher concentrations, and they will have science to back up their claims.