What’s Under the Cap of Your Skincare Products? [Part 1]

June 19, 2019

What’s Under the Cap of Your Skincare Products? [Part 1]

It’s easy to reach for what you see in the grocery store or local pharmacy without thinking too much. The same is probably true when you used to eat fast food and buy clothes at ‘fast fashion’ spots before learning about artificial ingredients and poor labour practices.

When it comes to skincare/beauty, we were curious about why some oils have silicones added to them, or how ‘plant-derived’ can be used so loosely it’s analogous to a crisp being considered a veggie.

Many of you have asked us to do an ingredients break-down, and we have to make it clear we don’t really believe there is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ list. The adage “if you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not good” isn’t always true, especially when ingredients are listed using INCI names and something ‘innocuous’ like Shea Butter is listed as Butyrospermum Parkii.

Our goal at Talisman is to keep you as informed as possible in this changing and (often confusing) industry, so you can make your own decisions. Once you know what’s what, it’ll be a lot easier to find brands and products that align with how you want to live your life.

We’ll be doing a weekly series of ‘under the cap’ product details. Let us know in the comments below what you’d like to see reviewed next!

Some general truths:

  • Ingredient lists on products are in order of highest to lowest % of the total formulation. Some ingredients are only necessary in small quantities to be effective, otherwise they can cause irritation or be harmful to our skin.
  • Ingredients lists typically don't include the quality or way in which the ingredients were processed (though standards like organic, and other certifications might help), so you have to dig a bit deeper or try something out to really test quality. Similar to buying bread from a fuel station vs. a local bakery; the ingredients might be the same, but you know they taste very different.
  • Skincare research, dermatology and formulation techniques are constantly evolving. No matter the hype, you have to try things for yourself and decide what works for you.


Bar of Dove soap: A staple in most households, and an amazing marketing campaign behind this Unilever-owned brand. But what about the 25 ingredients in there? Soap is a lot trickier than it might seem – the technical definition refers to the combination of a strong alkali (for e.g. Lye - a chemical made from salt) and fatty acids to create what we commonly know as soap.

Because of strict FDA regulations around ‘soap,’ Dove Soap (and many others) is technically known as a synthetic detergent.

It’s important to remember that soaps often have a high pH level that throw off the balance of the skin's outside layer called the acid mantle (refer to the balance section of this post for more nerdy details). It’s fine to use a harsh soap on your body as the skin thickness is different than your face, but you might find the skin on your face gets overly dry or irritated when using soap as a face wash.

If this is the case, check the label and swap out for an actual face wash that has more gentle ingredients.

Stay tuned for next week’s ‘Under the Cap!’

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