Basic Classification of Skincare Products
by Eydie Kerfoot LE, Simply Healthy Skin
All skincare products can be grouped into four basic categories or some combination thereof:
1. Sensory – Those that are formulated to smell good & feel good.
2. Immediate results -Those that give quick but temporary results.
3. Good intentions -Those that are concerned with ingredients and their effects on the skin.
4. Knowledgeable -Those that understand and combine ingredients with science, making sure they can be effectively utilized by the skin
Sensory products are about engaging the senses. This also includes Do It Yourself (DIY) products. Great smells, textures, & pretty packages. These spend little effort on what the ingredients actually do for the skin. They may contain “proven” ingredients (today’s popular “buzz” words) but, pay little attention to the actual studies – rarely including the “proven” ingredient in the effective ratio, form, or combinations that get the results proven in the study. Some even combine ingredients that counteract the desired result. These consist largely of cheap “filler” ingredients with a small amount of the good stuff. Rarely is any consideration given as to whether or not ingredients will clog pores, promote acne or damage the long-term health or important immune function of the skin. Many are full of preservatives in order to support a long shelf life and they are produced in mass quantities as well. The pretty packaging is often costlier than the product it holds. Often the very ingredients that make them pleasing to the nose can irritate the skin causing it to become more sensitive over time. These types of products are typically found on the shelves in your local stores. They have been bottled and boxed, sitting in warehouses, for months and even years before arriving at the store.
Immediate results products are for those who want results immediately without giving consideration to what the product is really doing to the skin nor the long-term effects of using such ingredients. They play to the “I want it now” mentality. These products contain ingredients that cause inflammation in the skin, making it plump to push out fine lines and wrinkles. The inflammation is caused by the skin’s negative reaction to the ingredients which, in turn, creates the plumping action. As the skin heals from this trauma, it is often in worse shape than it was prior to using the product. When the skin is fighting to preserve itself, all available resources are engaged in fighting the irritating ingredient. The skin diverts nutrients and resources normally used in producing collagen, elastin and new cells in an attempt to regain the immune function of the skin’s outer barrier. When the use of these types of products stops and the skin is able to heal, it has less collagen and elastin because energies and nutrients have been utilized for damage repair. People do not realize the extent of the damage they are inflicting. Companies love these types of ingredients because it guarantees continued use.
Good intention products are those that the formulators (including many DIY) are really trying to create products that are good for the skin, containing nutrients and avoiding negative effects. They look at studies and incorporate appropriately, paying attention to long-term side effects. Where they are lacking is a deeper knowledge of how the skin utilizes ingredients. We can put all kinds of wonderful ingredients on the skin yet if they cannot reach the lower layers, where they can be utilized, they do very little good or at least much less than their potential, should more reach the proper cells. It is commonly taught that “the skin is like a sponge and absorbs everything”. This is far from the truth.
Absorption of substances through the skin depends on a number of factors including the skin’s condition, concentration, duration of contact, and molecular weight and size.
Chemicals are primarily absorbed through the epidermis passing through seven layers of cells before entering the dermis where they can enter the bloodstream or lymph system and circulate to other areas of the body. The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the epidermis and the rate-limiting barrier in the absorption of an agent.  Thus, how quickly something passes through this thicker outer layer determines the overall absorption. The skin is designed as a protector of the body and, when healthy, does a great job, albeit not perfect. 
Knowledge-based products are those that are formulated for the big picture. Formulations are based on science (matching study specifications) and a solid understanding of how the skin works, its nutritional needs, how to get the ingredients into the proper cells where they can effect change, as well as how to support its function and connections to the rest of the body. By supporting the skin within its natural processes, they are able to positively affect the overall health of the skin. These products use quality ingredients in combinations that benefit the skin. Every ingredient has a specific purpose, none of which is “filler.” Products are made in small batches rather than mass produced and contain minimal preservatives. The goal of the formulator is to improve the skin’s overall healthy now and in the long term. The major cost of these products are the quality ingredients rather than marketing or multiple layers of compensation. This and shorter shelf lives are a big reason they are not sold in stores or by MLM groups. Licensed professionals generally purchase directly from the manufacture and sell directly to the end user. Only truly professional products (sold only by licensed professionals) fall into this category.
 Baynes, RE and Hodgson E. Absorption and Distribution of Toxicants. in Chapter 6 of A Textbook of modern toxicology. 3rd edition. 2004, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
 Morganti, P., Ruocco, E., Wolf, R., & Ruocco, V. (2001). “Percutaneous absorption and delivery systems.” Clin Dermatol. 19: 489-501.
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