What Ingredients Actually Do

Is there a trustworthy source of information about what different ingredients actually do?
For ex., I'm reading that gardenia stem cells help boost collagen and elastin. How do I know if that's true? Thx. 


  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    You can assume claims about natural ingredients are probably not true. In fact, any claim about any ingredient that sounds impressive is probably not entirely true.  

    You also have to learn how to read claims.  The phrase "help boost..." can mean pretty much anything, so it really means nothing.

    The most trustworthy sources are the ones from people who are 

    1.  Not trying to sell you a product with the ingredient
    2.  Not trying to sell you the ingredient
    3.  Not trying to scare you & convince you to donate to their cause

    Incidentally, no it is not true that gardenia stem cells will have some kind of noticeable benefit on skin.
  • Thank you, Perry. 
  • The best way to support a claim for your finished product (cosmetic) is via a test either  in-vitro or in vivo:small panel tests of 30 people will tell you consumer perceived attributes while in-vitro such as Franz cell for skin penetration will support the science.Most often one has to do both.
  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    Some ingredients work. We have before / after results with pea polypeptides that show dramatic results. Our clients evidently agree because we get a lot of repeat orders.
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • I have had the same experience with polypeptides in cosmetics--good consumer feedback followed by high purchase--re-purchase.
  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    Our A/B comparison tests with Vitamin C came out that the polypeptide product worked better.
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • Pea polypeptides to... build collagen?
  • When designing a product... I need it to do particular things. There is no encyclopedia or database approved by some cosmetic association that tells the truth about what substances do what?
    (maybe one of you should create such a source and make some $$$ off it...)
  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    Yes. As usual I tried it on myself at first. I applied the formula but without it, to one side of my face, and the same but with, to the other side. In about 7 days my face became rather obviously weird, people noticed immediately.

    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @SheilaInBoston - it would be nice to have but I doubt anyone could make much money off it. It would also be a bit complicated by the fact that not everyone agrees with what "truth" means when it comes to ingredients.

    For example, I'm of the opinion that very few natural (and synthetic) ingredients work, at least to a degree that any consumer would notice. Certainly, many companies have devised experiments that do demonstrate a theoretical effect on lab samples, but few studies are published reflecting real-life conditions that a consumer would experience. Under these conditions, I doubt you can show much effect of anything. However, I can be convinced.

    To convince me, I would like to see double-blind, placebo controlled, in-use data on a large enough group of subjects to get statistically significant effects. For the vast majority of ingredients these studies do not exist. I am not convinced by anecdotal evidence or even by my own personal experience. It's just too easy to fool oneself. 

    However, as you can see in this discussion thread, there are formulators who find different standards of evidence convincing. @Belassi & @DRBOB@VERDIENT.BIZ believe that certain polypeptides have a great effect. I'm a bit more skeptical.

    So, in putting together such a database you would have to decide whose opinion of an ingredient's effectiveness would be include. You'd have to figure out what level of proof is acceptable. The differences in these choices is why you find such different advice about ingredients & also why there is no one definitive source of information.   
  • Perry, one could include all of those levels of proof. 
    I would ask you tho... have you chosen a profession that you consider to be a fraud?
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @SheilaInBoston - Interesting question.

    No, I do not think the cosmetic industry or my profession is a fraud. 

    Cosmetic products work. They solve people's problems. They make people happy. How could that possibly be bad?  

    Unfortunately, the technology can't solve many of the consumers most pressing problems and companies don't have a way to differentiate their products from the standpoint of technology.  

    So for various reasons most consumers need a story. Purchasing products that work is just not a compelling enough reason to buy products. These stories will invariably focus on some technology that has a hint of effectiveness. It also gives a company a way to stand apart from the crowd. If everyone can make a product just as good as yours, you need to find some way to stand out.  

    Of course, this desire to stand out has led many cosmetic companies to over promise, mislead their customers, unnecessarily scare consumers, and propagate false information. 

    On my other website The Beauty Brains I attempt to arm consumers with information they can use to see through this marketing BS and to develop a reasonable view of what products can do.  

    Cosmetics work (for what they can do). And they make people happy.  I think that's a good thing.

    But it's somewhat unfortunate that consumers need stories & marketers are all too ready to stretch the truth to create those stories that get people to buy products.

    The bottom line is that as a scientist I think it is important to not fool yourself. If something works, we should be able to prove it.  If it doesn't, we should be able to admit that.  And if we don't know, we should be able to say that too.  This doesn't always line up with what the marketing department of your company would want.
  • Perry - I see what you're saying - thanks. I'll check out The Beauty Brains. 

    I'm getting ready to make a topical blend of the same old stuff, solving a problem that nobody has cared much about. Loan people said they want a patent, I explained that nothing is proprietary and anyone can mimic it with a slight substitution. They knew but still want a patent. I'm trying to be all "natural" which I've learned means, for example, using a plant that is rich in EFA's, instead of just using EFA's. Etc. 
  • Have you all heard that the "crepe skin" cream -- sold by a subscription only -- is a farce?  It has a secret ingredient that is looking like cocoa and shea butter....
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    It's sold by subscription only ... that should tell you all you need to know about whether it's a farce or not
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals & Clean Beauty arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program/Clean At Sephora/Credo Clean guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • Regarding our cosmetic science profession,"counterfeiters exist only because there is real gold". We have to separate the real/valid gold from fools gold:it is that way in most all of life.
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