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What’s The Difference Between All These Skincare Products?

Sometimes it seems like there’s a whole new category of beauty products born every month. Essences, ampoules, water ampoules, colour correctors, on and on. It can be tricky figuring out what products do what, and where they best fit into your skincare routine. So instead of trying to fit each one into a nice little box, I think it makes more sense to understand them in terms of how they are formulated and created.

It’s important to understand that there are few legal or industry rules for what you call label a product. In the US for example, most rules apply to just soap and drugs. In the case of soap, the US FDA regulates that only fats treated with strong alkali can be called soap. If a cleanser doesn’t use soap based cleansers, you’re free to call it a cleanser, a cleansing ampoule, a removing water, a micellar water, or anything you can dream up. Marketers can get really creative, and sometimes quirky and mysterious names are due to poor translations and overreaching copywriters.

Most skincare products are designed to deliver a functional ingredient through a vehicle to the skin. In a cleanser for example, that vehicle is often water, and the functional ingredients are cleansing surfactants. In a moisturizer the vehicle may be thickened water, and the functional ingredient may be moisturizers like hyaluronic acid, plant oils, and other lipids like ceramides. In an oil product, the functional ingredient may be the oil itself, or, if the oil is being used to deliver antioxidants (like from a plant extract), then the oil is the vehicle and functional ingredient, and the antioxidant is also a functional ingredient.

So instead of getting caught up in the names of the products, look at what the functional ingredients are instead—they’re often more expensive, and highlighted on the packaging. The vehicle will determine how light, heavy, oily, or dry the product feels. The order you should apply your products will vary depending on who you ask, but I personally prefer to use products with the greatest amount of ingredients that are volatile (can evaporate) first, then less-volatile products after. For example, I’d use a product that was mostly water with some functional ingredients, then a product that was water emulsified with lipids and functional ingredients, and finally a product that was completely or mostly lipids. However you choose to order your routine, it’ll still take about three months to notice a significant difference and you’re probably going to see results regardless of the order you use your products in. Consistency is much more important when it comes to skin care.

It can sometimes feel like there are so many different rules to follow when it comes to skincare, but in most cases it’s miles more important to be consistent and to enjoy your routine!

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