If there’s one question out-shining the rest of our customer inquires and popping up regularly in our Instagram DM’s, it’s asking for ingredient inclusion levels in our range of products. And with several brands using the percentages of their active ingredients as part of their branding and product promotion, it stands that you might start to wonder a little more about how much Niacinamide, for example, you’re using on your skin.
But this has not always been the case. Previously those discussions stemmed from the pharmaceutical sector where doctors and patients have very good reason to know exactly what they’re working with. But a new wave of skintillectuals – super savvy beauty consumers who desire to be highly educated on all things skincare - has ushered in a new desire for complete transparency, especially when it comes to ingredients.
Let’s talk about the INCI (or International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) for a second. A uniform system of displaying the cosmetic ingredients of a product which can be internationally recognised, the INCI requires each ingredient to be listed in order of concentration. Once you get to the 1% concentration mark, there’s no more need for correct ordering.
Our new desire to understand the INCI led to something known as the 5 ingredient rule, whereby you could determine what made up the bulk of the formula, and which ingredients were actually going to have any effect on your skin, by the first five ingredients listed. It sits along the same line of thought as disregarding anything below the 1% mark as ineffective. This however is a myth, which gives us a poor impression of how the product is actually working.
At Q+A, we take our formulas seriously. It is not so much about throwing a bunch of buzzy ingredients into a bottle, but knowing exactly how different ingredients work with each other, at what level are they effective, how to minimise risk of reaction or sensitivity, as well as look and feel. Not only that, but there are recommendations and guidelines for cosmetic ingredients based off clinical trials and studies which we can turn to for reference. There is a reason you may see more ingredients on that INCI than you were expecting – it’s an art!
And contrary to popular belief, you can have too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to skincare! If 0.5% of a specific ingredient is enough to make a positive impact on your skin without any adverse side effects, what is the logic in promoting an inclusion level of 10, or even 20%? Just like how ten to twenty minutes of sunlight can give you your daily Vitamin D dose, a few hours can seriously damage your skin with sunburn!
I asked our Founder, Freddy, to weigh in on the Q+A philosophy on inclusion levels, and why we don’t promote percentages on our product packaging…
For each formula, we consider the desired skin effects, skin type and safety. We do not promote inclusion levels on our product packaging, as I feel they can be misleading, however that information is available on our website and on request. Ingredients come at different purities due to how they are extracted and created, and who has manufactured them, so is 10% of one ingredient with low purity, better than 1% of an extremely pure extraction?
You may find that products with extremely high levels of a particular active ingredient doesn’t agree with your skin, and it may take time for the body to adapt, putting you at risk of developing sensitivity issues. Our goal at Q+A is to strike a balance to between performance, efficiency and safety. We want skincare to be about promoting healthy skin, body positivity and long-term efficiency. We also never compromise on quality and the science behind our actives, which are unique, diverse and effective.
This is why we’re asking you to strike a balance between research, and trust. Besides tuning in to our blog each week, there are some great tools out there for understanding and breaking down the INCI list, such as INCIdecoder. But we’re also encouraging you to align yourselves with a brand which shares your values and dedication to quality, well-formulated skincare. And finally, trust the products which work well for you!
Of course, if you'd like to know the inclusion levels of any of our products, my email is always open for anyone with more product inclusion level questions!
Until next week,
Amy @ Team Q+A
Online community coordinator at Q+A and bibliophile
Thank you to everyone who continued the discussion with us and provided some feedback! We have updated some sections of this blog for more clarity. We are currently working on providing technical information to all of our customers on this topic, as this Q&A aimed to shed some light on the industry and our decision making, rather than discouraging anyone from learning and understanding the complexities of ingredient inclusions.