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One of the first things you should look at when choosing a product is the list of ingredients; usually they are itemised from the highest to lowest concentration. A good product should contain a number of antioxidants at high enough concentrations (listed in the top 5 ingredients) to actually create a benefit. Without question topically applied antioxidants are essential for healthy skin and there are many excellent ones that can, and do, show up in quality skin care products.


Antioxidants vary from different forms of vitamins A, C, and E, superoxide dismutase, beta carotene, glutathione, selenium, green tea, soy extract, grape extract, pomegranate extract, among dozens of others. Not surprisingly the more of these included in your skin care product, the better.

Antioxidants can:
Reduce or prevent some of the daily free-radical damage and inflammation that destroys skin over time. Boost the effectiveness of sunscreens and help skin resist environmental assaults. Help skin heal and produce healthy collagen.


These are another set of ingredients vital for good skin care.

Regardless of the source, skin irritation is a problem causing collagen breakdown that increases oil production, generates free-radical damage and affects the skin’s natural immune response. The breakdown of tissue under the surface of skin is continual and over time becomes visible as lines and wrinkles. For this reason anti-irritants are incredibly helpful because they allow the skin extra healing time, and can reduce the problems caused by oxidative and other sources of external damage.

Some common anti-irritants include acetylsalicylic acid, adenosine triphosphate, allantoin, aloe vera, alpha bisabolol, co-enzyme Q10, camomile, L-ascorbic acid and salicylic acid to name a few.

(Source: Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology, April 2003, pages 92-94; Skin research and Technology, January 2003, pages 50-58.)


Irritation and inflammation can be a terrible problem for skin, whether from the sun, free-radical damage, eating unhealthy foods, smoking or pollution. However even more problematic are skin care products that contain irritating ingredients that do irreparable damage resulting in collagen breakdown and the skin’s outer protective barrier being destroyed.

Skin care products shouldn’t contain any of the following commonly known irritants and are of particular concern if they appear near the beginning of an ingredient list.

Alcohol (except cetyl alcohol or stearyl alcohol which are completely non-irritating and safe to use), camphor, citrus juices and oils, eucalyptus, menthol, menthyl lactate, menthoxypropanediol, mint, peppermint, sodium lauryl sulphate, arnica, bergamot, cinnamon, clove, eugenol, grapefruit, lavender, linalool, wintergreen or ylang-ylang.

(Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558-563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124-135, and November-December 2000, pages 358-371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15-19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78-82; Mechanisms of Aging and Development, January 2007, pages 92-105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13-S22)


Packaging plays a significant role in the stability and effectiveness of skin care products because many of the state-of-the-art active ingredients, including antioxidants, are unstable in the presence of oxygen or UV light. Therefore a good product’s packaging will protect it from these elements. This is one of the great ironies in skin care marketing. Usually the more expensive the product, the more likely it is to be sold in a jar. Jars not only expose the product to air and light, the user more often than not applies the product using their fingers and in doing so introduces bacteria which further increases the rate of deterioration.

Airtight packaging is essential. You should also avoid any clear packaging, as light exposure will break down a number of the sensitive ingredients.

(Source: Free Radical Biology and Medicine, September 2007, pages 818-829; Aging Research Reviews, December 2007, pages 271-288; Dermatology Therapy, September-October 2007, pages 314-321)


Miracle ingredients

Contrary to everything you’ve heard in the skin care market, there is not one single star ingredient to enhance the skin’s appearance, or to improve a wrinkle, or solve any other skin complaint. Month after month we are told of the latest ‘breakthrough’ ingredient from some exotic plant found in a mysterious location that is the be all and end all of eternal youth. This is just marketing hype and should be seen as such.

Natural or organic

Many companies claim their products are all ‘Natural’ or ‘Organic’, however there is no substantiated research demonstrating these ingredients are better for skin than their synthetic counterparts. In fact, there are lots of natural ingredients that show up in skin care products that are either toxic (source: Toxicology In Vitro, June 2006, pages 480-489) or carcinogenic, or an irritant and, as mentioned earlier, irritation causes all kinds of havoc for skin (Source: Skin Research and Technology, August 2004, pages 144-148). And finally, when a plant of any kind is added to a skin care product and is preserved, stabilized and mixed with other ingredients, it loses most, if not all, of its natural orientation.

(Source: FDA Consumer magazine, May-June 1998 and revised May 1998 and August 2000)


‘Hypoallergenic’ or ‘Good for Sensitive Skin’ suggests a product is less likely to cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. However there are no standard testing restrictions or regulations for determining whether a product qualifies. This is also true for terms such as ‘Dermatologist-tested’ and ‘Allergy tested’. Any of these terms can be used on any product without any need for substantiation.

Fragrance free

This indicates the product contains no perfume or fragrant ingredients however, despite this labelling, many products use fragrant plant extracts that cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.

Essential oils

There is nothing essential about essential oils, in fact it’s a term given to fragrant oils to bestow an aura upon them of efficacy, where in almost every case none exists. It is well established and documented in scientific and dermatological journals that fragrance, whether natural or synthetic, is problematic for skin.

(Sources: Acta Dermato-Venereology, 2007 volume 87, issue 4, pages 312-316; Dermatology, 2002, volume 205, number 1, pages 98-102; Contact Dermatitis, December 2001, pages 333-340; and Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, May 2001, pages 172-178)

Mature skin

Many products on the market claim to be designed specifically for men who are in their 30’s, 40’s or over 50. But age is not a skin type. An older man can have the same skin issues as a younger man because acne, blackheads or oily skin can plague men in their 50’s or in their 20’s.

Expensive doesn’t equal better

The amount of money you spend has nothing to do with how your skin will look. What’s important are the ingredients in the product, it’s that simple. I believe great skin care should also be affordable, so if you’re paying more than $80 for a product it’s likely you’re paying too much.

Free from all known
skin irritants
Clinically Developed
Cosmeceuticals as skin care
Active Ingredients
No Animal Testing