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Crash Course | Anatomy of Skincare Products

Crash Course | Anatomy of Skincare Products


5 minute read

A skincare product contains a few essential components in order for it to homogenize and have all its ingredients function holistically otherwise you might be caught with a product that is the wrong pH and can seriously damage your skin, or just not work at all - and poof, money not well invested. So below we’ll go through a few definitions, tips on what to look out for, and what other brands won’t tell you about their products. Let’s get right into some basic definitions and components in the anatomy of a skincare product. 

Emulsifiers (or surfactant) - These components help keep a product from separating. They usually include alcohol but these are waxes with an OH group attached to the compound so not the typical alcohol you are thinking that is harsh on the skin and dries it out like ethanol.

Preservatives - These are important components of any product. And deserving of a little more explanation. Without them, there would be no shelf life as bacteria and fungal growth would most definitely infect the product and in turn, your skin. Try to look for good preservatives that are natural and effective. Make sure to never use ureas, and parabens as it’s a cancer risk. Look for natural (but can be also made in a lab) preservatives like sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. 

Stabilizers - These prevent discoloration, and acidity of oils, and provide metal ion protection that can mess up the chemistry of any formula. They also stabilize the pH of the product.

Emollients - Smoothing ingredients like squalane. Many other brands use silicones which are not good.

Thickeners - Thickens water or oil-based formulas.

Surfactants -Used for cleansing, foaming, thickening, emulsifying, solubilizing, penetration enhancement, antimicrobial effects, and other special effects. 

Solvents - They dissolve active ingredients and may help with absorption.

Ph adjusting ingredients - The pH of the skin in healthy people varies from 3.0 to 7.0, depending on the body part. There is a misconception that skin’s pH is 5.5 but that number is just the average.

The pH of cosmetic products should remain in a certain range so that the color, viscosity, skin feel, and physicochemical stability remains intact during their shelf-life and during their application. In any case, all skincare products (unless they perform special functions) should have an acidic pH.

Fragrance - These are used to add a pleasant odor, mask the inherent smell of some ingredients - basically to enhance the experience of the product. This could be an essential oil blend as there have been studies that show they alleviate stress.

What other brands won’t tell you: If you see fragrance or parfum listed at the top of the ingredients list, just be mindful that your product could contain harmful toxins. I personally am not a fan of ingredients labeled as ‘fragrances’ for this very reason.  If there is an essential oil scent it should be labeled as an essential oil blend. 

Water Added: Although aqueous solutions need water to mix, other brands dilute the product even further to 70-90% water content. 

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So, how Are skincare products made?

A lot goes into formulating the perfect product. And it’s worth knowing as the more you know about the formulation and process, the more you can save by only looking for the highest quality made products. Firstly, active, or proprietary ingredients are made in a special lab with all other extracts, etc. and shipped to the main lab where they are further processed into the full formula. Sometimes ingredients take months to process as they go through fermentation, extraction, or even synthesis [like algae farms]. Ingredients are then added in a huge stainless steel drum for mixing.

Dissolution, Heat & stirring, Homogenization, cooling

This is where aqueous and oil-based ingredients mix separately first then heated together and stirred to allow them to dissolve into one solution. Every ingredient has its own boiling point and optimum mixing temperature so we have to be careful not to deactivate expensive ingredients 🤯. After the solutions cool, those heat-sensitive active ingredients are added for a second final round of dissolution.

We then discharge the product from the drum and inspect it for a final formula quality check. If the components are ready, we inspect each bottle and then fill it in an airtight, sterile room. Products are then inspected again, packed, and shipped to a fulfillment center where it gets dolled up just for you.

From ingredient research to fulfillment, we’re always locking down the best on every phase of manufacturing - which gives us the upper hand in providing the best quality for our members. Learn more about GOA’s quality in its 6-product routine, the Anti Aging Face Collection [AAFC-90]. 

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