Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Introduction: The Beginning and The Ratings (editorial)

Let me just preface this post by saying that I'm not a scientist, so I have not conducted my own scientific research into any of the ingredients or products I review on this blog. What I go by on is many years of personal experience, trial and error and the copious amounts of other people's research found on the internet – from a variety of sources, so as not to be one-sided – and the opinions of some of my favourite beauty hounds such as Sarah Stacey and Jo Fairley, the authors of the brilliant Beauty Bible (and it's 'Green' version), which are both definitely worth a read.

 Do you know what's in your cosmetics? © 2012 dieprince © 2008 Egahen

The Beginning

I started worrying about cosmetic ingredients, and comparing and contrasting rival products, when I was a teenager. I was suffering from excessively oily skin and the occasional break-out and I couldn't figure out why my facial wash - especially formulated for blemished teenage skin - actually made my skin's oil levels worse! It was a strong, gel cleanser with exfoliating beads which dried out my skin, and I thought that's exactly what I needed. But the more oil I scrubbed away the more my skin produced. At one point I was using an aggressive cleanser, a toner so alcoholic it stung like a bee and I covered my face in witch hazel gel. I avoided moisturisers like the plague because I assumed they'd make my skin worse.  It was a vicious cycle, so I did some in-depth research.

One article I read suggested I don't use anything on my face but water. Well, I dismissed that out of hand; I knew I had to properly cleanse to remove the day's build-up of grime and sebum, I just didn't know what kind of cleansing was best. Other articles suggested bi-weekly facials, but that's not realistic unless you're an A-List celebrity.  I compiled a big dossier of different skincare expert's tips, and one particular theme kept cropping up: that of gentleness.

Gentle, yet thorough, cleansing was a concept I wasn't familiar with. I'd spent so long stripping my skin of that 'nasty' oil and feeling giddy at the overwhelming stench of antiseptic lotion that the thought of using a cleansing cream sounded utterly mad. But what did I have to lose? I ended up buying a simple cleanser, which I massaged carefully but thoroughly into my skin morning and night and removed with a warm flannel. I swapped my paint stripper facial toner for simple rosewater and sparingly used a light, oil-free moisturiser, studiously avoiding the t-zone. In just over a week my angry, oil-slick face had started to rebalance itself and I was left with skin that stopped feeling uncomfortably tight and started looking healthy!

This got me thinking about ingredients. I'd come to the (fairly obvious) conclusion that alcohol was drying, and it wasn't doing my skin any good at all. Harsh detergents seemed to be making my skin's oil-producing glands work overtime to compensate for their dehydrating effects, too. So, what were the rest of the ingredients doing? Which ones are beneficial? Which ones are questionable? And that's when my love of cosmetics developed into something more profound. I didn't just want good results, I wanted good ingredients. And studying higher level biology and learning in great detail about the skin, it's amazing functions and what it has to put up with, cemented my desire for excellence in skincare even further. The fact that I was rubbing in lotions and potions with some unpronounceable artificial ingredients into what is the body's biggest organ worried me. It was time to educate myself.

I'm not going to claim to be an organic devotee, which is what you might have been expecting from the sentimentality in the previous paragraph.  Don't misunderstand me, I will always choose the purer product if given a choice, but I happily use artificial make-up bases, hair dyes, perfumes (very few are made with natural ingredients) and I even experimented with self-tan once. The less said about that the better! For me it's all about balance: because the vast majority of the products I use are of a natural persuasion, I reason with myself – rightly or wrongly – that the six or seven hair dye treatments per annum aren't the end of the world. I don't feel you can live your life panicking about the parabens in a lip balm you bought on the spur of the moment, or that the sunscreen you picked up at the airport has mineral oil in it. I feel the same about food. Yes, a low fat, organic, tofu and whole-wheat pasta salad is ideal, but if I happen to find myself scraping the bottom of a tub of double chocolate chip cookie-dough ice cream every once in a while, I try not to beat myself up about it.
The Ratings

And this attitude is how I came to scoring the products I review. It's not a fail-safe, scientific grading system. It's my general opinion on a product.  For the natural score I keep an eye out for certain suspicious ingredients, which I've gone into more detail about in Ingredients You Might Like To Avoid, Part 1. Also, is the product good value for money when taken in context? That is to say, £50 for an advanced anti-ageing serum is more acceptable to me than £25 on a bottle of designer shampoo. Some things, to my mind at least, are just worth spending more on. And the efficacy score? Well, if I like it and it does what it promises (or more!) then I'll grade it highly – plus as  packaging is particularly relevant for perfumes, the bottle and box design will affect the score, too. If a product has flaws, I'll make a note and reduce the score appropriately. You may very well disagree with me, and that's fine. Everyone has different standards and expectations and I'd love it if you told me your views.

Because everyone wants different things from their products, I decided to keep the three areas – effic acy, value and naturalness – separate so you can prioritise products on your own terms.  Whoever is reviewing, efficacy and value are the two areas where everyone is in agreement.  At Beauty Insignia we hate wasting money on products that don't work, and grade products in these two key areas in the same way.

General guide to scores...

Efficacy Rating
5 = Performs brilliantly; exceeds expectations
4 = Performs very well; does exactly what it promises
3 = Performs adequately
2 = Performs worse than expected
1 = Performs in a very disappointing way
0 = Performs badly with no redeeming features

Value Rating
5 = priced very competitively bearing in mind product type and effectiveness
4 = priced fairly competitively bearing in mind product type and effectiveness
3 = priced at a typical amount bearing in mind product type and effectiveness
2 = priced poorly bearing in mind product type and effectiveness
1 = priced badly bearing in mind product type and effectiveness
0 = priced at a rip-off level bearing in mind product type and effectiveness
Ecology Rating
5 = made with natural ingredients and no artificial ones; certified organic
4 = made with mostly natural ingredients and a very few artificial ones
3 = made with lots of natural ingredients and some artificial ones
2 = made with few natural ingredients and lots of artificial ones
1 = made with hardly any natural ingredients and mostly artificial ones
0 = made with no natural ingredients and all artificial ones

Now, for those of you who couldn't care less about natural this or eco that, there's Richard! He's a beauty hound who's joining me on Beauty Insignia not just because he's a long-term friend but because he knows his stuff, and I have faith in his opinions.  Richard worries less about artificial ingredients than I do and is a fan of scientific methods and formulas.  He isn't afraid to spend money on the best products, and is particularly familiar with some of the world's biggest designer brands.  Richard's reviews will only add to the depth and variety of reviews on this blog, but if that isn't enough we also have guest reviewers lined up, so keep your eyes peeled!

I want to finish this - lengthier than intended - post with a quote from Dr Barbara Olioso, a chemist who founded Organatural, and now dedicates her life to the pursuit of natural and organic beauty products.  Her philosophy matches mine; they are wise words indeed:

Enjoy the blog!

No comments:

Post a Comment