Debunking the top consumer beauty concerns

Spate and DECIEM (The Abnormal Beauty Company) are excited to announce they have partnered in support of science and transparency to explore some of the biggest concerns facing beauty consumers today, to bring some clarity to the conversation. By combining efforts across the different sciences (from skin to data science), the two companies provide insight into some of the most searched ingredients, concerns, and questions that pop up in the beauty industry.

For the purpose of the report, Spate analysed over 20 billion search signals across the beauty and ingredient categories in the United States (June 2021). Using machine learning, Spate classified top trending ingredients and related search data to determine ingredient trends and the concerns that consumers are associating with those ingredients. This report reviews the findings from the data, and gathers the expert perspectives from the DECIEM Lab.

When it comes to concerns around safety and toxicity, the below ingredients were found to be the most searched. However, DECIEM believes most of these ingredients are perfectly safe when used properly and are only of concern due to clean beauty marketing.

“DECIEM was founded on principles of authenticity and transparency, and the unclear definition of 'clean beauty' directly contradicts these values by encouraging marketing to lead over very clear science,” the company said.

“As we all move towards a more transparent future, it’s important that we continue to question the ways in which the beauty industry communicates with us. At DECIEM, we question the safety of our ingredients with the same energy that we apply to investigating their efficacy. In both cases, we turn to our fellow scientists for evidence, never settling for one single source, or buckling under the pressure of inaccurate claims propagated by fear-mongering.”

To help debunk concerns and shine a light on some of these ingredients (including the pros and cons), this is what DECIEM had to say about the top ingredients of concern.


What it is: 

"Retinoids" (aka retinol) is a term referring to ingredients that are vitamin A derivatives. Retinoids are recognised as highly effective ingredients when applied topically as cosmetic products or drugs.

Should consumers be concerned about the safety of retinol?

Although evidence of the listed side effects is slim, the skin benefits observed with usage of retinols do not come without issues, according to DECIEM. They can be difficult to formulate and to stabilise in aqueous formulations, as well as having some irritation potential on the skin.

“Various studies have assessed skin dryness and erythema that can be associated with retinol use, however, most of the studies have reported minimal effects of dryness overall with retinol compared to retinoic acid and tretinoin. Skin dryness that was observed did not persist. For most, by 12 weeks of use, the dryness had reverted and overall improvements in skin texture, tone and hyperpigmentation was observed.”

BD recommends: The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in SqualaneElla Baché Retinol Night Treatment Serum and StriVectin® Advanced Retinol Eye Cream.


What it is:

Zinc is a chemical element belonging to the metals group and is considered an essential trace element required for the human body to properly function. In cosmetic products, zinc oxide and zinc salts are used as functional or active ingredients. 

Should consumers be concerned about the safety of zinc?

"The safety of zinc oxide (ZnO) as it is intended for use in sunscreen products has been extensively examined by expert bodies and regulatory authorities,” DECIEM said. “Health Canada, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the European Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food Products Intended for Consumers (SCCNFP) have all assessed the use of zinc oxide in sunscreens and determined that there are no concerns associated with use levels of up to 25%.”

BD recommends: Banana Boat Simply Protect Sensitive Body SPF50+La Roche-Posay Serozinc and Kiehl's Treatment & Concealing Stick for Blemishes.

Hyaluronic acid

What it is:

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a natural polymer composed of repeating units of D-glucuronic acid and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine - disaccharide (type of sugar molecules) derivatives. HA polymers can vary in molecular weights with each having slightly different effects on skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkle depth. 

Should consumers be concerned about the safety of hyaluronic acid?

According to DECIEM, there have been some concerns revolving around the potential of low molecular weight HA inducing skin inflammation. While there are studies that measure the relationship between low molecular hyaluronic acid and inflammation, they were not conducted to specifically examine the effect of topical application of low molecular HA on inflammation. 

“Generally speaking, the ability of HA to function as either a pro- or anti-inflammatory is dependent on its molecular size, the environment it is in and the physiological condition. From a theoretical standpoint, a compound with a molecular weight lower than 500 Da can surpass the skin via passive diffusion down a concentration gradient. 

As a polymer, HA has much larger molecule size (even the low molecular weight fragments) and thus remains within the superficial regions of the skin upon topical application.”

BD recommends: LYCON SKIN Deep Hydration Hyaluronic MaskBOOST LAB 2D Hyaluronic Acid Hydro Boost Serum and Dr. LeWinn’s Line Smoothing Complex Hyaluronic Acid Hydrogel Eye Masks.

To find out more and to read the full report, click here.