5 Products Our Lab Team Doesn’t Spend Money On
In the last decade, laboratory technology and data processing have evolved to the point where the skincare industry’s worst nightmare has come true:
the effectiveness of all skincare ingredients can now be measured with 100% accuracy.
However, the skincare industry has continued operating as if this is not the case. Instead of testing all of their products with these new and affordable technologies to demonstrate and prove product effectiveness, skincare companies have doubled-down on telling big stories about exotic, expensive ingredients––which in some cases have already been proven to be clinically ineffective.
Our Lab Team is excited to share a couple of the major skincare product categories that have been proven ineffective in the recent years. We hope that you don’t see this as hating but as an exciting chance to use knowledge to save money and to focus on truly effective evidence-based products (some of which are hiding at the drugstore for $15! ).
But as we are also strong proponents of the self-care rule: “if it makes you happy, who cares what anyone else thinks.”
Products our Lab Team doesn’t spend money on:
1) Collagen Peptides
Collagen is what we’re all looking for at the end of the day. It’s the material that makes our skin full, firm and youthful––so of course it would make sense that we should apply it TO our skin right? Unfortunately, not. The analogy our Lab Team uses for this is:
Putting collagen ON your skin is like putting gasoline ON your car. It just doesn’t work that way.
Collagen molecules can’t penetrate the outer layer of the skin to get to where it needs to go the inner collagen and elastin complex is. The collagen must to be boosted from the inside, using the go-to collagen-boosting ingredients: Vitamin C and Retinoids.
It sounds crazy right? Especially since there are SO many product on the market from very large brands. But the explanation is simple and universally accepted by dermatologists! As Board Certified Derm. Dr. Leslie Baumann explains (summary):
“The claim by expensive moisturizers that collagen can replace the collagen lost during the aging process is unfounded. This is because most collagen has a molecular size of 15,000 to 50,000 daltons. Only substances with a molecular size of 5000 daltons or less can penetrate the skin’s outer layer.”
That said, our Lab Team IS a big fan of oral collagen supplements! These can have a big impact on appearance of hair, nails and skin.
2) Eye Creams
To our Lab Team, if a skincare company is pushing an expensive eye cream, it’s a pretty sure sign that the company does not have your best interest in mind.
The skin around your eyes is unlike any other part on your face. It’s thin, delicate and reactive to almost any active ingredient. Because of this, eye creams typically include “active” ingredients—like collagen peptides (see above)—that are unlikely to cause reactions but also are unlikely to do anything besides provide basic moisturizer. Other common ingredients include caffeine, plant substances or deactivated forms of Vitamin C etc. (see derivatives article). Caffeine is included mostly because of the faulty reasoning of making your eyes less “tired”-looking. It does have some mild antioxidant properties but only a fraction of what you can get from Vitamin C. Plant substances “packed full” of antioxidants, nutrients etc. may be valuable when ingested orally, but your skin does not have the same ability to extract these nutrients/antioxidants from plant forms. It’s always better to apply the pure forms of these elements topically.
Instead, our Lab Team applies to the eye area the same proven superstar ingredients you would apply to the rest of your face: vitamin C, retinoids and niacinamide. If you ease into application (every other day etc.) and dilute with a moisturizer, the skin around your eyes can slowly acclimate to application. This is certainly something to discuss with your dermatologist however.
If you do experience irritation, the good news is that best clinically-proven moisturizing elements (glycerin, dimethicone, ceramides etc.) are very inexpensive and available from drugstore brands in ideal clinical concentrations. Think Vanicream, Cerave,etc. (See our Lab Team’s favorite non-Protocol products here for more info.) Applying one of these will give you similar results to a $100 eye cream and at a fraction of the price.
3) Scrubs (!!!)
If you don’t buy our cleanser, just promise us you’ll never use a scrub again.
The idea of taking a material from nature like ground up apricot pits, bark or sand and using it as a perfect exfoliating agent the way nature intended it, is indeed a wonderful idea. But unfortunately, on the cellular level, it is also nothing short of pure violence to your skin.
The particles in scrubs are hundreds of times larger than the size of dead cells. So scrubs containing these materials essentially just scratch your face in randomly––too much in some places and not enough in others, leaving dead cells adhering to your face and potentially damaging healthy new cells. This can lead to dryness and even breakouts from the irritation.
Alpha hydroxy acid exfoliants on the other hand are chemically attracted to JUST the dead cells, which AHAs then target and remove with perfect precision––while leaving healthy new cells alone.
Counterintuitively, by removing just the dead cells, you allow your healthy youthful cells beneath to flourish, which can actually increase dermal thickness and increase your skin’s ability to retain water. In this way, exfoliating with AHAs can actually INCREASE hydration. Using scrubs does the opposite.
4) Stem Cell Products
The first big issue with stem cell products: Stem cells can’t survive outside of a controlled, laboratory environment. They are living organisms that need more nurturing than what a shelf-stable skincare formula could ever provide. So even if topical stem cells did have a valuable function for your skin, they are dead long before they reach your face through any product available on the market. Which is actually pretty gross if you think about it.
The second issue: Non-human (non-mammalian, more precisely) stem cells (apple stem cells, etc.) are unable to interact with human skin cells. Human stem cells that are injected into specific tissues in the human body can provide profound tissue healing and repair. This is one of the most easily observable phenomenon in a laboratory (in vitro) setting. Because of this, it’s also equally observable how human cells and non-human cells do not interact even in ideal scenarios. If apple stem cells made an impact on human cells, it would be universally known in the dermatology
Stem cell skincare products are some of the most expensive on the market, but, luckily, have no role to play in healthy youthful skin.
4) Anything Over $100
If a brand has a single product that is over $100, this is another pretty reliable sign that some big deception is going on.
With modern manufacturing techniques, almost every established skincare ingredient can be isolated in its purest, most potent form extremely easily and inexpensively. We know this because we use one of the most expensive ingredients in existence: vegan, cashew-derived hyaluronic acid. This is easily one of the most difficult and time-intensive skincare ingredients to manufacture and yet we are able to produce it in the US for under $50 per LITER.
There are more expensive materials that can be put into skincare, such as products containing gold or diamond particles (Google "diamond retinol"), orchid cellulose, stem cells etc. But these materials only serve to justify an astronomical price point, not lead to measured improvements in skin appearance and function. If they did this would be easily measurable and would be common knowledge in the dermatology community within weeks.
Feel free to reach out to our skincare consultant team anytime at our contact form if you'd like an evaluation on any products you use! We love giving honest feedback to help you find a cheaper drugstore version of the same thing or to tell you you've already got the best product available!
Further reading: 4 easy tips to shop skincare ingredients like a biochemist