Is rosehip oil better than marula oil?
Is lactic acid better than glycolic acid?
Is seaweed better than green tea?
I could go on and on. But you get the gist. I get asked what makes one skincare ingredient better than another all the time.
It’s a question that’s impossible to answer. You know why? Because “better than” doesn’t mean anything. Or better yet, it means whatever you want it to mean.
If you’re into natural skincare, you believe than plant extracts are better than anything made in a lab – no matter how many studies proving the opposite I show you.
If you’ve got oily skin, you’ll think hyaluronic acid is a better moisturiser than coconut oil because it doesn’t break you out – and yet, for someone else, coconut oil is the best moisturiser ever.
If you’re looking for instant results, you’ll think silicones are better than retinol because they reduce the look of your wrinkles straight away and without the irritation – even though once you wash them off, your wrinkles are still as deep a before.
In other words, what makes a skincare ingredient better than another is the wrong question to ask. The right one is, “What skincare ingredient is better for YOUR unique skin type and needs?”
The answer depends on a mix of science and personal preference:
The main criteria I use when deciding what skincare products to buy is effectiveness. Does the ingredient do what you want it to do and are there studies to prove it?
Let’s say you want to reduce wrinkles. Retinol is your best bet. There are thousands of studies showing it can slowly fade away wrinkles. It works by boosting collagen, fighting free radicals and speeding up the skin’s natural exfoliating process.
But silicones reduce wrinkles, too, in their own way. They work by falling into your fine lines, filling them in so they look smaller. Unlike retinol, their effect is only temporary.
So, which one is better: retinol or silicones? You could argue that retinol is the better one because it works long-term, but the answer isn’t so clear cut.
If you’re looking for a quick fix for your friend’s wedding, retinol won’t cut it. If you expect silicones to fade away your wrinkles for good, you’ll be disappointed.
Instead than comparing ingredients, ask yourself what results you want to achieve? Then, look for ingredients that can deliver that.
P.S. I personally believe that reducing wrinkles for good is better than masking them. But I know that takes time. So, I use both.
Related: The Complete Guide To Retinol: What It Is, What It Does & How To Use It
Just because a skincare ingredients can do something, it doesn’t mean it’s right for your skin type. Exfoliating acids are the perfect example here.
Both glycolic acid and lactic acid dissolve the glue that holds skin cells together, so they can slough off and reveal the brighter and smoother skin underneath.
Glycolic acid is a smaller molecule, meaning it does the exfoliating job better and faster than lactic acid. It follow that glycolic acid is better than lactic acid, right?
Not so fast. Glycolic acid may be more effective, but it’s also harsher. If you’ve got sensitive skin, it can irritate it real bad. How does that make glycolic acid better?!
It’s not just how well an ingredient performs. It’s how well your skin can tolerate it. Some ingredients are too harsh or comedogenic for certain skin types. Get to know yours, so you can avoid what it doesn’t like.
Related: How To Figure Out Your Skin Type (+ Free Test!)
If it’s expensive it’s better, right? Case in point, mineral oil vs Argan oil.
Argan oil is rare because it’s extremely expensive and time-consuming to produce. The price reflects that.
Mineral oil, on the other hand, is derived from petroleum. Even though it undergoes a strict purifying process to remove all toxic impurities, it’s still super cheap to produce.
That’s why you’ll find mineral oil instead than Argan oil in most moisturisers at the drugstore. But is one really better than the other?
If you’re on a budget and in need of a moisturizer for your dry skin, mineral oil will do the job just fine. Heck, it’s one of the most moisturizing substances on this planet!
If you can afford to splurge on a bottle of pure argan oil, go ahead. But don’t fool yourself – you’ll get the same results.
Expensive doesn’t equal better. Cheap ingredients can perform wonders, too.
Related: Are Drusgtore Skincare Products As Effective As High-End Products?
Sometimes, which skincare ingredient is better than another simply comes down to personal preference.
Maybe you don’t want to use ingredients that are derived from animals. Or you’re trying to be more eco-conscious and prefer to stick to natural ingredients. Or you simply may find certain oils and waxes too greasy for your tastes.
That’s totally fine. You shouldn’t compromise your values and preferences to take proper care of your skin. But that doesn’t mean the ingredients you like to use are better than the ones you avoid – they’re just better for YOU.
Related: 5 Myths About Skincare Products You Need To Stop Believing Right Now
What Makes One Skincare Ingredient Better Than Another?
So, how do you figure out which skincare ingredients are better for your own needs? Here’s a quick checklist:
- Effectiveness: Does the ingredient does what you want it to do and are there studies to prove it?
- Skin type: Is this ingredient suitable for your skin type?
- Price: Is this ingredient affordable or should you look for a cheaper alternative that works just as well?
- Personal preference: Do I feel good about using this ingredient?
If you can say yes to all these questions, that skincare ingredient is better than another. FOR YOU.
How do you choose which skincare ingredients are better for your needs? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Thank you for this article. I have fallen victim to asking the wrong question and trying products without really thinking about whether they suit my skin in the first place. It took me a long time before I asked the questions – what kind of skin do I have, what are my skin needs, what problems do I want to address, and what ingredients cause me problems.
GREAT article. As always.