The ingredients are key!

ingredients poison

The ingredients within a product will tell you the real truth – including how safe it is, how unsafe it is, how effective it may be, how it’s going to work, what it’s designed to achieve (eg. anti-aging, acne, etc), possible side effects, and the list goes on. Basically, you can decipher what the products intended use is without even looking at the label.

It’s very important to note that not all skincare, is skin caring. Not all ingredients in a product are going to support your skin so understanding them is vital. This doesn’t just go for skincare, either – packaged food is another extremely important aspect whereby knowing the ingredients reveals a lot about what you’re about to consume and any benefits (if any) you’re going to gain. But food is another topic for another day.

Choosing a product based on a brand name alone – believing that because it’s currently popular, trendy, some celebrity is endorsing it, the manufacturer tells you it’s fantastic and safe, a doctor has stuck their name on the bottle or because a friend is using it, could result in quite literally poison on your skin and potentially in your body. It the kind of poison that does it’s damage slowly. You generally wont notice anything in the beginning but the longer you use it, the more damage occurs.

You might think that is an outrageous statement but when was the last time you researched each and every ingredient in your skin care product? Have you ‘ever’?

You might be very surprised by what you find because the fact is, there is a severe lack of regulation in Australia (and many other countries) surrounding the use of ingredients in cosmetics (among many other products). You need look well beyond fancy packaging and attractive product names. Things that come wrapped in gold foil or in pretty boxes with a ribbon with with words like ‘biomolecular’ and ‘radiance anti-aging mask’ are all potential red flags. These things look expensive (and may even be expensive), sound extremely promising but generally offer nothing of great benefit and more often than not, are a big waste a money.

You’ll may get that quick-fix result and a few days later, your skin will be back to normal and perhaps even worse.

Skin care doesn’t need to be complicated. You shouldn’t need 10-12 products a day. You shouldn’t need this gold foil wrapped hydrating radiance anti-aging mask with gold flakes. 

The Ingredients Deck

dermaviduals ingredient deck
Example Ingredients Deck

This is the list of all ingredients within a product and you should learn to understand it. There are so many different questions you need to be asking while researching your list of ingredients – some of which might include:

  • Are key ingredients listed at the top or near the bottom of the deck?
  • If a key ingredient is at the bottom, why?
  • Are all those ingredients beneficial to your skin? If not, why?
  • Is there some kind of delivery system/vehicle, such as a liposome?
  • Does it contain perfumes, fragrances, emulsifiers or other irritants?
  • How about artificial colours?

Some of these questions may seem difficult to answer at first sight, but as you research each of your ingredients, you’ll find most of the answers.

We are constantly researching and trying to keep up to date with some of the most common ingredients but sometimes it can seem like a losing battle. Many ingredients go by multiple names making the job much more difficult. Thankfully we have the knowledge and resources to uncover the potentially dangerous ingredients and educate you on their side effects.

TIP: Ingredients found first (at the top of the deck) make up the highest percentage of the contents.

Think of all the ingredients within the product totalling 100%. If the product contains 5 ingredients, then the percentages might look something like this:

  • Ingredient 1 – 50% (in a lot of cases, this will be Water / Aqua)
  • Ingredient 2 – 25%
  • Ingredient 3 – 15%
  • Ingredient 4 – 5%
  • Ingredient 5 – 5%

The above is a rough guide only. Sometimes key ingredients are better off (or need to be) near the bottom of the deck rather than at the top. For example, depending on the form of Vitamin A being used, it could be closer to the bottom then the top because it may be a more potent form of Vitamin A. This isn’t a bad thing but knowing why requires some experience.

An example is Retinaldehyde (Retinal) vs. Retinyl Palmitate. If all ingredients were identical in a product but you swapped Retinyl Palmitate for Retinal, Retinal will most likely be closer to the bottom due to its potency.

Delivery Systems/Vehicles

In terms of a delivery system – if you’re purchasing a Vitamin A product, then it must have some sort of effective and safe delivery system. If it doesn’t, that ingredient (Vitamin A) will sit on the surface of the skin and do nothing at all (or very little), except perhaps irritate the hell out of you. Furthermore, it could increase photosensitivity which in turn can accelerate aging and also increase the risk of pigmentation.

Advanced delivery systems cost a lot of money and require some very advanced science and technology. A lot of skin care lines simply don’t have the resources to achieve this OR simply have no interest in ‘real’ skincare but rather mass producing and mass selling. Unfortunately, while a delivery system is necessary in some cases, if it’s combined with other ingredients that aren’t desirable (fragrances, synthetic colours, etc) these can find their way into the deeper layers of skin as well.

Cheap products turn to cheap ingredients to help enhance penetration by breaking down the skin barrier. This is how they can get away with making claims such as being capable of reaching the deeper layers of skin, such as the dermis. While it’s technically true, it’s done in a damaging way. These ingredients include disodium EDTA, PEGs (polyethylene glycols), Cetereath-20, Phenoxyethanol and more. If you see any of these ingredients in your products, put it back on the shelf. If you’ve already purchased it, throw it out!

Skincare that contains ingredients like those above will most likely be used in conjunction with exfoliants such as AHA’s and BHA’s, multiple times a week – perhaps even daily. This further aids in the removal of your skin barrier increasing the chances of ingredient penetration/absorption; in turn increasing skin sensitivity, photosensitivity, pigmentation, accelerated aging and more.

How Many Ingredients?

The number of ingredients in a product can also tell a story but it’s important to note that less doesn’t necessarily mean better.

The product with only 10 ingredients may contain nothing but artificial and synthetic garbage. The one with 20 could be packed full of incredible ingredients – all supportive of the skin and very beneficial. It’s not always wise to make a choice based on the number of ingredients.

We’ve seen skin care lines that contain as few as 5 ingredients but everything with the exception of Water/Aqua you probably wouldn’t give to your worst enemy. Then there are those products with 20-30 ingredients – but most (if not all) are incredible, well formulated and extremely effective.

Hide and Seek!

Ingredients that go by multiple names.

A prime example is ‘parabens’. Hydroxybenzoate is a fancy word for ‘paraben’. Methyl Hydroxybenzoate, Propyl Hydroxybenzoate and Butyl Hydroxybenzoate may take the place of the word ‘paraben’. Parabens are quite simply not needed in skincare – period. They serve no purpose whatsoever and there is plenty of research to support their detrimental effects.

Manufacturers will hide well known ingredients behind others names to make it more difficult to identify them. But it doesn’t stop there. Just incase you are a little more switched on, there are other ingredients that can take the place of parabens all together – one such ingredient being Tetrasodium ETDA. This ingredient is said to be a known carcinogen and is formaldehyde-releasing in its function. It is also used as a penetration enhancer by breaking down your skin’s protective barrier.

Today, we have much more intelligent, less toxic ways to deliver safe, active ingredients.

Professional Products

Unfortunately in this often neglectful and heavily unregulated industry, products found within the professional industry generally contain ingredients that get a result, and get it fast. They do a great job of getting that result but as we keep saying – just because you can see a result, that doesn’t mean it’s a good one.

For the most part, the name of the game is ‘quick-fix’.

The ingredients used are not designed to treat the source of the concern or for skin health – they are designed to get a result as quickly as possible. They accomplish this by compromising your skin’s health and by covering up/masking any signs of the concern. In  lot of cases, they don’t actually ‘treat’ / remedy anything and the moment you stop using them, the concerns will return. On the flip-side, the longer you use them, the more your skin will start presenting with others issues.

Hydroquinone is one popular, well known ingredient used to mask/hide pigmentation. It gets the job done quick but it comes with many risks and potential side-effects.

Commercial Products

When it comes to commercial skincare found in your local supermarket or department store, we strongly recommend you keep far away from it. The cost of it can sometimes be appealing (it’s usually very cheap). We also know they can look and smell very pretty – but that is nothing more than the manufacturer playing on two very powerful senses – sight and smell. For the most part, it’s chemical laden garbage!

Commercial skincare is well known to contain an array of fragrances and synthetic colours (among lots of other undesirables) all of which serve no purpose whatsoever.

You’ve probably done it yourself – walked into a department store, picked up a product and had a good smell. You buy for that reason – because it smells really nice.

Fragrances are often the leading cause of allergy and sun sensitivity (hello, pigmentation!) and are one of those things better of avoided.

Celebrity Endorsements

Just avoid them! It’s highly unlikely the celebrity is actually using it anyway. They are being paid by a company to put their name to it. It doesn’t make it good, nor safe. If it was really that good, it wouldn’t need a celebrity behind it.

Time and time again these celebrity endorsements pop up and never once have we come across one that we would even remotely consider recommending. They are cheap and generally targeted towards the younger generation. The best time in your life to start looking after your skin is when you’re young and these manufacturers pray on those most vulnerable. If you’re experiencing breakouts and acne which a large percentage of teens do, they’ll be drawn into whatever their favourite celebrity is using at the time.

Don’t fall for this dodgy, misleading and deceptive marketing tactic.

Lack of Regulation

The Australian Department of Health’s ‘National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme’ does not maintain a list of chemicals prohibited or banned for use in cosmetics. More disturbingly, current legislation allows (certain) chemicals to be used in everyday household items like toothpaste, face wash, shampoo & conditioner, skincare creams, hair care products, baby care products, sunscreen and many more items – even when science has proven direct links to adverse health issues. Reference.

Forget the celebrity that posts selfies on Instagram raving about how good a product is – they are paid for that – and probably aren’t using it anyway. Forgot the doctor who may be endorsing it. Forget about being ‘trendy’ and using what is most popular. Forget the brand name.

Don’t be an ignorant consumer. A simple check of the ingredients can be the difference between happy, healthy skin and a disaster.

Seeing a skin expert and purchasing quality products can sometimes be expensive. The price you pay for choosing cheap skincare in the long-term will always be more.


Research the ingredients. It may take a few hours to get through them all but it could be the best few hours you’ve ever spent. In the long term, it will be worth every minute of your time. If you feel overwhelmed or confused, please talk to us. If you’re not in the area, then reach out to us and we will find you a reputable clinic in your area. We know some really great ones that will have your best interests in mind.

Regardless of whether you’re buying professional, commercial or otherwise – some ingredients may be banned in certain countries while others will have scientific studies directly linking them to adverse health issues. Some of these ingredients can be found in professional skincare products located within skin clinics and salons, so you can only imagine the destructive nature of the ingredients found in supermarket brands, departments stores, and those endorsed by celebrities.

When it comes to ‘real’ skincare, the ingredients deck will reveal the ‘real’ truth behind the product.

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