It never fails. Each semester that I teach Create Your Skincare Professional Edition, I get asked this question: “How do I choose the right skincare ingredients when they all look amazing?” I get asked this question by multiple students, whether they’re first starting out or are seasoned formulators. It doesn’t matter if they are choosing ingredients for themselves, for their signature skincare line, or for their custom clients–the question comes up all the time.
Why is it so hard to choose the right skincare ingredients, especially since there are so many out there?
That in itself is a huge part of the problem. If you’ve ever shopped for herbs, carrier oils, clays, botanical extracts, butters, waxes, emulsifiers, preservatives, essential oils, etc. then you know what I’m talking about. You might go to a website like Mountain Rose Herbs (who I love because they’ve recognized Create Your Skincare as quality herbal education, and also give our students an exclusive discount) for one simple item. You find that item, and read the description, which often tells you what other herbs or oils that particular ingredient pairs well with. So you look that one up, and read about the benefits, and think “that sounds amazing–I need that too.” Before long, there are 20 items in your cart.
This doesn’t just happen with herbs, oils, and other whole plant ingredients. You could be browsing on one of my other favorite sites, Formulator Sample Shop, for things like emulsifiers (needed to bind oil and water together in creams and lotions) and preservatives (absolutely needed for any product that contains any form of water), and the same thing happens. This is for a more practical reason, because there’s no single go-to emulsifier or preservative that works perfectly for every single formulation. Different formulations need different functional ingredients, so it’s a great idea to keep a few different choices of each on hand as you experiment.
Let’s get back to the first reason though–the fact that there are just so many amazing plants and botanical ingredients that benefit the skin. How the heck do you choose the right skincare ingredients when so many of them offer similar properties?
Looking up which ingredients are right for each skin type won’t work.
Simply researching “which ingredients are best for oily skin/dry skin/sensitive skin/acneic skin/mature skin/normal skin/combination skin/etc won’t get the job done. There are several reasons for this. The main ones are that everyone’s idea of a skin type is subjective, and the research that determined these “types” is decades old and was based on animal studies. They have nothing to do with human skin, or how it changes due to things like stress, diet, sleep, air quality, age, or seasonal changes.
For optimal results, we need to figure out each person’s unique skin combination, and choose ingredients for that individual person. This is why I teach three proven ways to choose the right skincare ingredients for individuals and brands in Create Your Skincare Professional Edition.
Today, I wanted to offer you some of my best strategies for how to choose the right skincare ingredients:
1. Find Your Synergistic Skin Combination and Discover Your Ingredient Profile.
This was the first method I developed to help people choose the right skincare ingredients based on bio-individuality. It essentially looks at what you were born with, and how life has affected that. This combination gives you the skin you have today. I describe it as a past, present, and future approach to skincare. The goal is to help you choose the right skincare ingredients not just for the skin you have today, but also to help you get the skin you want in the future.
I love this method because it truly helps people connect the story of their skin in a very personal and loving way, and then makes ingredient selection easy. This is actually a method you can get started with outside of the main Create Your Skincare course, right here.
2. The “Elegant Eight” Herbal Method.
In the Herbal Skincare Summit, my friend and mentor, Maia Toll teaches about the importance of keeping herbal skincare formulations elegant; meaning simple and intentional. She cautions against using a ton of herbs just because you can, in “kitchen sink” formulations (I call these “laundry list” formulations).
Maia encourages us to limit our formulations to eight parts, choosing ingredients first to meet the needs of the person’s main concern. Then to support that main concern, and then a secondary concern. Then the next choice supports a tertiary concern, the secondary concern, and the primary. And so on.
She recommends to always leave one part for a “wild card” ingredient, because sometimes an herb, oil, or other ingredient just “wants” to be in the formula. Even if there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason for it to be there. This is our intuition guiding us, and in herbal skincare, we must allow room for both the science and the intuition.
3. Consider your roots–past and present.
In my holistic and functional nutrition education, I’ve learned about the importance of considering your ancestry, as well as your locality when choosing which foods belong in your diet. Multiple studies have shown the benefits of eating native diets, and also the adverse effects that occur when people eat in a way that’s vastly different from their native diets. The same theory applies to topical skincare, because the skin is the largest organ of the body. It is intimately interconnected with every other organ and system of the body.
In 2018, I began a study called the Skin Sequencing® Project, which is near conclusion, and has already shown the benefit of choosing skincare ingredients according to both ancestry and epigenetics. This study has provided evidence for the efficacy of the Skin Sequencing® Method that I teach exclusively in Create Your Skincare Professional Edition. So for now, start looking up herbal skincare ingredients that grow where your people are from, and also that grow where you live now, and try using those in your formulations.
4. Make a list and cross reference ingredients.
When researching herbal energetics, actions, chemistry, lore, and clinical research that fit your intention regardless of the method you choose, you will still come up with too many choices. So look at which ingredients share similar properties and choose only one of those for that particular intention. Look at which ingredients perform similar functions, and choose one or two of those.
But also look at which ingredients light you up, and make you excited to work with them. Those make excellent “wild card” selections if they seem like their benefits are similar to another. Also consider if any of the ingredients on your list don’t appeal to you for any reason. That’s a way your intuition is telling you to skip it for this formulation.
Intention is the number one compass that guides you to choose the right skincare ingredients.
If it doesn’t have a purpose, whether that purpose is pleasure or function, then it doesn’t belong in the formulation–even if logic says it “should” be included. So use research, and use your intuition–but always keep the intention for the client at the forefront of your mind!
Do you want to delve deeper into how to choose the right skincare ingredients?
Whether you are starting a new skincare line, growing from a few simple products to a full beauty brand, or want to custom formulate products for your clients, I can help. My online Create Your Skincare Professional Edition course gives you all the education, tools, group support, and private mentoring you need to start or grow the skincare business of your dreams.
Start or continue your herbal skincare business journey today with my free Skincare Business Crash Course!
Do you already make amazing skincare products?
What are your best tips for choosing the right skincare ingredients for your products or clients? Please share in the comments below!