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Ingredients 101.
Author.
Emma Stuart

Image.
Erin Jancauskas

 
When the back of a moisturiser bottle can sound like a foreign language, it can be hard to decipher the good ingredients from the bad. We’ve donned some lab coats and set out to debunk the myths surrounding those ingredients you’re adamant you want to avoid, and a couple that you definitely shouldn’t ignore. We debunk the myths surrounding those ingredients you’re adamant you want to avoid, and a couple that you definitely shouldn’t ignore.
 
PARABENS

What Are They?
Simply put, parabens are a group of chemicals that act as preservatives to stop products growing bacteria or mould. You’ll usually see them listed as butyl-, ethyl-, isobutyl-, methyl- or propyl-paraben. Preservatives will be found in almost all products, from hair pomades to shaving creams.

The Facts
Parabens got a pretty bad reputation after a 2004 research study [P. Darbe 2004] stated that parabens were prevalent in 99% of breast cancer tissue studied. The media panic that ensued led many brands to remove parabens from their ingredient line-up. However, what the study failed to look at was whether non-cancerous cells also contained parabens, therefore proving the research entirely inconclusive. Australia has one of the strictest cosmetic chemical regulatory systems in the world - the TGA - and they state that there is not enough evidence to prove parabens are hazardous in small doses. The majority of products contain as little as 0.01% to 0.3%, whilst it’s actually deemed safe in percentages up to 25%.

The Bottom Line
With research still so inconclusive, if you’re worried about the effects of parabens then it won’t hurt to take the ‘better safe than sorry’ route - there’s plenty of paraben-free options available these days. If you are choosing paraben-free products, be sure to look at what they’ve been replaced with - some ‘natural’ brands use synthetic preservatives as an alternative, including Phenoxyethanol, which pose their own health concerns.

Product Recommendation
Taylor of Old Bond Street Organic Shaving Cream Bowl - This organic cream is made with 95% raw materials and is free from preservatives and fragrances.


SULPHATES

What Are They?
Commonly known as Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Ammonium Laureth Sulphate (ALS), sulphates are surfactants that provide you with that thick, foamy lather in shampoo, shave cream, body washes, soaps and toothpaste. 


The Facts
Sulfates are known to cause scalp conditions such as dryness or irritation, and can also fade coloured hair and clog pores. 


The Bottom Line
If you have coloured hair, dry hair, or your scalp is irritated after washing, then it’s a good idea to opt for a sulphate-free shampoo. Many people claim that sulphate-free shampoos don’t work as we have a tendency to believe that it’s the lather doing all the hard work, but don’t let that put you off — natural shampoos can cleanse just as effectively as their chemical counterparts. 


Product Recommendation 
Triumph & Disaster Shampoo - T&D’s sulphate-free shampoo uses a combination of plant based extracts (Acacia Concinna, Desert Date and Gypsophila Root Extract) to gently foam and naturally cleanse.


NIACINAMIDE


What Is It?

Also known as Vitamin B3 or Nicontinic Acid, Niacinamide is a potent antioxidant with a wealth of benefits for ageing skin or those suffering with acne. 


The Facts

Niacinamide will improve skin elasticity, help to erase discolourations and revive skin’s healthy tone and texture. Not only good for ageing skin, this anti- inflammatory has also been found to help alleviate red marks caused by acne. 


The Bottom Line

A safe but powerful cosmetic ingredient, Nicinamide is suitable for all skin types and will provide outstanding results for both the young and young-at-heart, but particularly those with ageing or acne-prone skin. 


Product Recommendation 

Jack Black Clean Break Oil-Free Moisturiser -The ideal moisturiser for those with oily skin, Niacinamide helps to improve skin tone and texture and Sodium Hyaluronate retains and replenishes moisture without the use of heavy oils. 


ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS (AHAs)


What Are They?

A group of natural acids, also referred to as fruit acids, that originate from milk and fruit sugars. The two most common AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid, as studies have shown they penetrate the skin best, but you might also see malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid. 


The Facts

The thought of covering your face in acid might sound alarming, but these fruit acids are great for your skin. AHAs work to gently exfoliate and remove dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin.These multi-benefit go-getters are also used to smooth fine lines and surface wrinkles, improve skin texture and tone, and unblock and cleanse pores. 


The Bottom Line

A much gentler alternative to scrubs or cleansing brushes, AHAs are deemed safe to use and good for the skin. Some people have found fruit acids can cause irritation, so if you find that to be the case then switch to a product with a lower percentage of acids, stop using it, or consult a dermatologist. Oily skin should consider products containing Salicylic Acid (a BHA) instead, as it penetrates more easily through oil- clogged pores to deep clean. And don’t forget to always use a sunscreen, as AHAs can increase your risk of sunburn. 


Product Recommendation
Jack Black Line Smoother 8% Glycolic Acid Treatment -The inclusion of Glycolic Acid actively removes dead surface cells and smoothes skins texture while you sleep. 


BETA HYDROXY ACIDS (BHAs)


What Are They?

BHAs will appear as Salicylic Acid towards the middle or bottom of an ingredients list—commonly found in products targeted at treating acne or breakouts. 


The Facts

BHAs helps to unclog pores, remove dehydrated or dead skin and calm redness.The acid deep cleans inside the pores as well as the skin’s surface to prevent breakouts from reoccurring. Particularly useful for those with oily or acne-prone skin, it’s also proven to improve skin thickness and collagen production, making it an all-round good guy. 


The Bottom Line

Due to its similar molecular structure, anyone allergic to aspirin should steer clear.Those with oily or acne-prone skin will get the most benefit from products containing BHAs, but the exfoliating actions are also good for treating ingrown hairs in all skin types, and anti-inflammatory properties will help to calm sensitive, reddened skin. For best results, BHAs need to be absorbed into the skin so look for it in products that won’t be washed off straight away; such as a toner, moisturiser or exfoliant. As with AHA products, make sure you always apply a sunscreen before leaving the house because your risk of getting burnt increases with the use of BHA products. 


Product Recommendation 
Menscience Advanced Acne Pads - This prescription-grade concentration of Salicylic Acid prevents and clears blackheads and breakouts.


ALCOHOL


What Is It?

Not the stuff you want to be drinking, cosmetic grade alcohol is a diverse ingredients family that will appear under various names, but you’ll most likely find it displayed as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, denatured alcohol (alcohol denat. / SD-Alcohol), ispropyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol or cetearyl alcohol. 


The Facts

Alcohol is divided into three different categories: Simple, Fatty and Aromatic: 

The simple alcohols include Ethyl Alcohol, SD Alcohol and Alcohol Denatured.These can be potentially drying or irritating on the skin, but in the right quantities and combined with a cocktail of other moisturising ingredients, they shouldn’t be written off completely. You’ll find them in many products, including fragrances and aftershaves. Fatty alcohols include cetyl, stearyl and cetetearyl. They have a waxy consistency and are used as emollients and thickeners. ‘Alcohol-free’ claims are really saying ‘free from ethanol’ (the simple alcohols), so there’s no need to be alarmed if your so called alcohol-free product contains fatty alcohols in the ingredients listing—they’re completely harmless and can actually be moisturising for the skin. 


The Bottom Line

Treat cosmetic alcohol as you would an evening tipple—it’s fine in moderation, but drink in too much and there could be ill-effects such as dryness or irritation. If you have particularly dry, irritated or sensitive skin then we’d recommend choosing ‘Alcohol-Free’ products from the get-go. Fans of the classic aftershave lotion should consider following with a balm or moisturiser for an extra boost of moisture. 


Product Recommendation 
Menaji Power Hydrator Aftershave - Menaji’s alcohol-free aftershave balm contains Aloe Vera, which has anti- inflammatory and moisturising properties to rehydrate skin and soothe razor burn. 


MINERAL OIL


What Is It?

A colourless and odourless oil derived from petroleum that can also appear as liquid petroleum, paraffinum liquidum or white mineral oil. 


The Facts

Mineral oil has long been used as a lubricant in engines and other mechanical devices, but that’s vastly different to the refined mineral oils you’ll find in everything from hair pomades to moisturisers.There’s been plenty of debate for and against the use of mineral oil in skincare. The ‘For’ team argue that it’s a superb moisturiser and one of the most non-irritating skincare ingredients on the market, while the ‘Against’ team say that although it may not cause a huge amount of harm, it doesn’t really do a whole lot of good either. Mineral oils don’t contain any good nutrients for your skin and they’re water repellent, not water soluble. So while the oil seals moisture into your skin, leaving the appearance of being hydrated, it’s actually trapping the pores and could prevent good ingredients from getting inside and allowing your skin to breathe. 


The Bottom Line

We always like to take the ‘prevention over treatment’ route, which means loading your skin up with potent, skin- penetrating ingredients that work to provide healthy and balanced skin long term. If you want to use mineral oils, try to do so infrequently so that your skin also gets time to breathe. Anyone with oily skin or conditions such as acne and rosacea should avoid the oil as it could aggravate skin further. 


Product Recommendation
Jack Black Cool Moisture Body Lotion - Free from Mineral Oil, this body lotion is fuelled only by the good stuff; Glycerin, Vitamin E and Jojoba Oil. 

 

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