My job is to create beauty products for a living. Here are the 3 most important things to look for in a product

August 21, 2019 at 09:38PM by CWC

I’m a sucker for beauty products with eye-catching aesthetics. To be honest, packaging is probably the number-one thing I look for when my bathroom vanity is want for a brand-spankin’-new cleaner, moisturizer, or serum. After speaking with cosmetic chemist Stephen Alain Ko, however, I’ve realized that my priorities are completely—how to put this?—wack. When you’re deciding which products to buy and which to leave on the shelf, the expert (who literally concocts said formulas to earn his bread and butter) says only three things actually matter.


Open up a new Notes tab in your phone and tap this in! Ko says his top label requirement has to do with sunscreen. He strongly emphasizes that sun protection featuring the UVA Circle logo (which contains the “UVA” looped in a circle) is the only kind of sun protection you want to buy. “This means that the UVA protection is at least one-third of the SPF,” he explains. “In some countries, it’s not required to list the actual UVA protection of a sunscreen, but the presence of the UVA Circle logo can at least give you a rough estimate of the UVA protection offered.” All other sunscreens are cancelled—at least from your beauty routine.

You try on clothes before you commit, so why not do the same with your skin-care wardrobe?

Second, try before you buy. Ko isn’t a big fan of swiping your credit card and hoping for the best. Instead, ask for a sample whenever you can, and have a fling with, say, an eye cream before committing to it. “Most department stores will offer you a sample if you ask, and sometimes you can receive samples of drugstore products in magazines or online,” he says. Really, it makes sense: You try on clothes before you commit, so why not do the same with your skin-care wardrobe?

Kate Spade Autumn/Winter Sale

Ko’s final nugget of wisdom is this: Make sure that product you’re considering has an expiration date (because, weirdly, not all are required to have one). “[An expiration date] will give you a good indication of how long you can keep the product for,” says Ko. (Plenty of perfectly good products won’t have one—so if you sample it, love it, but can’t find a MM/DD/YYYY in sight, that’s okay. This is a “try your best” kind of recommendation.)

That’s all, folks. A cosmetic chemist has spoken. Now go forth and break the beauty bank with your newfound knowledge.

Some buzzy beauty ingredients of the moment are moringa and cherry, FYI. 

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Author Kells McPhillips | Well and Good
Selected by CWC