animation of someone applying makeup

‘I’ve tried to go from being completely cynical to just sceptical,’ no-nonsense beauty expert Caroline Hirons tells us.

She’s known for cutting through the noise and telling her fans what’s what when it comes to all things skincare.

In the last two years, interest in skincare has surged (though it was already growing) as over various lockdowns people found themselves with more time to research and understand ingredients.

Caroline Hirons has been a go-to source of information for many.

While speaking to, it’s clear she’s a stickler for certain things when shopping for beauty products.

So, this Boxing Day while you hunt the sales, keep these things in mind – they’re the difference between a good beauty buy and a potentially needless spend.

Clinical trials vs clinical studies

This is important to look out for when a brand is making a claim about what a product can do to your skin.

It’s common to see claims made around reducing wrinkles and fine lines, for example.

Notice the wording brands use – the term ‘clinical trials’ is what you want to spot.

Caroline says: ‘Has the brand done a clinical trial? I’m not interested in user studies or clinical studies. If I see that my eyes glaze over.’

A user or clinical study is when product is given out to consumers who then provide feedback on how their skin feels after use for a certain number of days.

It’s quite subjective.

She continues: ‘Anecdotal evidence is fine, but for big brands to be doing this when they have the money to be doing clinical trials, it brings out the distrust in my mind.

‘On TV it will say: “We did a clinical study” – did you do a trial though? There’s a big difference.’

A trial involves applying new products to skin and actually testing it in a measured way, in an independent lab using scientific equipment – rather than through feedback.

You should also keep this in mind with TikTok ‘experts’ – do they have the training and knowledge to make claims on products?

Formulation over individual ingredients

While we all know about key active ingredients – such as retinol, acids and vitamin C – we need to learn more when it comes to formulations.

An ingredient might be great on its own, but what about in combination with everything else in the mix?

Often we’ll see a star ingredient mentioned on a product and think “check”, and in the basket it goes.

But you need to consider the concentration of that ingredient and how it’s been formulated.

It’s like looking at one part of a puzzle and neglecting the thing in its entirety.

Caroline says: ‘Don’t come at the general public telling me about this new wonder ingredient if you haven’t backed it up with the science.’

She compares it to cooking. ‘You can have the best flour, the best yeast, the best water, put it together and then say “this bread is proven to be a better bread than others” because all those ingredients separately are superior,’ Caroline adds.

‘But if you haven’t put it together and tested it as its own original formula, then I’m not interested.

‘Is this wonder ingredient proven to work in that product, rather than just in isolation?’

Sometimes lab tests will be conducted on a singular part of the formula, which is different to testing the efficacy of the product overall.

Similar to the point above, be careful with marketing language.

Beauty fridges

Instagram made beauty fridges a ‘thing’ some time ago.

While they might look aesthetically pleasing, they’re not necessary.

‘Why do you need a skincare fridge? Do you not have a fridge for your food? They’re the same thing,’ Caroline humorously says.

‘By all means if you want one and like the ritual and keeping your skincare cold, knock yourself out.

‘But in some cases you might not be doing your skincare all that good by keeping it that cold.’

Products are generally tested at room temperature, as this is the environmental circumstance they’re designed to withstand.

Save your money and put it into your products instead.

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