Good Housekeeping’s Top Beauty Products of 2014


The Good, the Bad and the Very Bad.

We see these beauty articles nearly every day: Reader’s Choice, Best Picks under $20, Beauty Editor’s Favorites, Best Eye/Lip/Anti-Aging (You name it.)


Every beauty publication out there is giving us endless lists of “Must-Have” products we need ASAP. It makes you wonder, what is the motivation for publishing these lists? The products on these lists change so frequently, what about the “Must Have” from the last list? Nowhere to be found… Gone forever. Are companies paying for these product placements? Are editors desperate to put out brand new content? Are thei really testing these products before they tell millions of readers to go purchase RIGHT NOW?

We decided to take Good Housekeeping’s Top Beauty picks of 2014, one of the most trusted household publications, and have Dr. Hannah Sivak analyze the actual ingredients in these so-called “Top Beauty Products.”

We looked at the claims they make, what are they promising? The name of the product is usually the main indicator of these promises, but do the ingredients back-up these claims? We had Hannah look at the INCI nomenclature of these products to determine if these claims were at all justified. (When we could find the true INCI lists, as many companies don’t allow them on their websites.) We asked Hannah what SAS products were similar to these product ingredient lists, and what SAS products could actually deliver the promises. (Interestingly, not always the same thing.)


Exuviance Age Reverse Day Repair SPF 30, $70

Active Ingredients: Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (Avobenzone) 3.0%, Ethylhexylmethoxycinnamate (Octinoxate) 7.5%, Ethylhexyl Salicylate (Octisalate) 5.0%

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Acetyl Glucosamine, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glyceryl Stearate, Butylene Glycol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, PEG-100 Stearate, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Nylon-12, Triacontanyl PVP, Retinol, Tocopheryl (Vitamin E) Acetate, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Coffea Arabica Fruit (Coffee Bush Berry) Extract, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Arginine, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Triethyl Citrate, Cyclohexasiloxane, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, BHT, PEG-75 Stearate, Ceteth-20, Steareth-20, Dimethiconol, Polysorbate 20, Xanthan Gum, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/ VP Copolymer, Methyldihydrojasmonate, Ethylene Brassylate, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, CI 19140 (Yellow 5), CI 17200 (Red 33).

Note: this is a sunscreen, so it is actually an “OTC” (over-the-counter medication) according to the FDA. For this reason, the ingredients that give the sunscreen it’s sun protection properties are listed separately.

Description: The SPF 30 is good. It is always a good idea to wear sunscreen. Acetyl Glucosamine is also a nice ingredient.

Claims: FAILED. This product will not “reverse age” or “repair,” but it will prevent further damage.

SAS: SPF 30 Advanced Protection to prevent sun damage.

SAS that can help “reverse age” (what this product promises): UV Repair Cream

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Chemistry: the difference between salicin and salicylic acid

From: Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany

More than one thousand years ago, humans in different continents discovered that the leaves and bark of the willow tree could alleviate aches and fevers. With the advent of modern chemistry, in 1828, salicin, the major salicylate in willow bark, was isolated by Johann Buchner. A few decades later, industrial production of synthetic acetylsalicylic acid, trade name Aspirin, was introduced in Germany by Bayer. In skin care, we use two chemicals of this family: salicin and salicylic acid.

The names of both chemicals originate in from the Latin “Salix”, willow tree, from the bark of which the substance used to be obtained. The salts and esters of salicylic acid are known as salicylates, and acetylsalicylic acid, a.k.a. aspirin, is one the them.

Salicylic acid belongs to a diverse group of plant phenolics, compounds with an aromatic ring bearing a hydroxyl group or a derivative. These ubiquitous chemicals are present in plants for reasons that have nothing to do with human headaches, but are related to the regulation of plant physiology and resistance to pathogens.

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Fermentation is a metabolic process that converts sugar to acids, gases, and/or alcohol. It occurs in yeast and bacteria, and also in oxygen-starved muscle cells, as in the case of lactic acid fermentation. Fermentation is a process that has been used by humanity to preserve foods, changing chemical structure and taste, for millennia. Pickles, wine, beer, bread and much more are made using fermentation.

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Natural or Synthetic?

Natural or synthetic? Can you tell? And, more important, does it matter?

A definition by the FDA:
From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDAhas not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

We have discussed this subject many times, but it keeps re-appearing in emails and questions. Probably as a result of social media and advertising, there is the misconception that natural is better than synthetic.

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Solvents: propylene glycol, water and more

A solvent is a liquid used to dissolve a powder, or, in a more precise definition from Wikipedia: “A solvent (from Latin solvō , “I loosen, untie, I solve”) is a substance that dissolves a solute (a chemically different liquid, solid or gas), resulting in a solution.” The solute dissolves because its molecules interact with the molecules of the solvent. Example: water will dissolve sugar but oil will not.

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Special – Free with orders of $50 or $150

Vitamin C Serum with Cranberry 

Our Skin Actives lab scientists have designed a special cranberry version of our superb Vitamin C Serum. We used our Dermagen with Hydrolyzed Collagen and Hyaluronic Acid as the base to preserve moisture and supply amino acids to the skin. This version is 20% Ascorbic Acid, so this serum is quite strong. Please use it carefully as it might not be suitable for individuals with sensitive skin.

The acidity of Ascorbic Acid (L) will exfoliate and promote skin renewal. Also in humans, ascorbic acid is the major water-soluble antioxidant that can reduce radicals from a variety of sources. Vitamin C will help restore elasticity to aging skin, promote collagen synthesis, protect against UV damage, reduce redness, promote wound healing, suppress melanin synthesis, and more.

Ingredients: Water, Sea Kelp (Lactobacillus/kelp ferment filtrate) Bioferment, Glycerin, Ascorbic Acid (L), Sodium PCA, Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) Juice, Ferulic Acid, Phloretin, Hydrolyzed Collagen,  Hyaluronic acid , Porphyridium extract, Fucoxanthin, Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) extract, Pomegranate Seed (Punica granatum) Oil, Tocotrienols, Vitamin E Oil (Alpha-D-Tocopherol), Astaxanthin, Lycopene, Lutein, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Beta Carotene, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Sorbic Acid.