Prev page Next page Back to Blog
Miracle ingredients in skin care? The skin expert explains
In the first episode of "Skincare myth or truth with Eva Röse", we dive deep into the subject of "miracle ingredients" or rather so-called "story ingredients", which is a well-known concept in the skin care industry. These are ingredients that are mainly added to products to create an exciting story or to give a sense of innovation – it is therefore pure marketing. Some ingredients you may have doubted yourself might be, for example, diamond powder, gold particles or snail slime - so what are these substances really like, do they work or are they just a good story? Together with our skin expert Dr. Johanna Gillbro, we sort this out.

Story ingredients lead to new products – but do we need them?

What characterizes these miracle ingredients or story ingredients is that there must be news value or something unique/unusual about the subject that allows you to build an interesting story and communication around it. Companies in the skin care industry are constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ingredients that they can build an exciting story around, because of course that gives them a good reason to create another product to sell. These miracle ingredients can differ somewhat from each other, but usually the story is based on the fact that the ingredient was prepared in a special way, has been used in traditional medicine, has an origin from a specific place (usually exotic) or comes from a unique plant, for example. Perhaps you have come across products marketed with communications such as:

" Diamond powder is the latest in research that has been shown to counteract signs of skin aging"

" Volcanic ash gives a calming effect and extra energy to the skin's surface, which makes the skin look younger"

" Snail slime repairs and protects the skin, stimulates collagen production, soothes irritation and supplies important vitamins and minerals" .

" 24k Gold and colloidal gold have a lifting and firming effect, have a smoothing effect, brighten and add luster to the skin"

"An advanced, rich face cream that combines bee venom and stem cell technology with a nurturing blend of moisturizing ingredients to deliver firm, plump and hydrated skin."

Of course, this can sound enticing and the more unique the story, the more exciting it can seem to us consumers - but is the ingredient there because it has an effect on the skin, or solely to sell the product with a unique communication?

"There is an abundance of products and ingredients in the skin care industry, but there is often a lack of well-conducted studies showing that they actually produce the desired effect..."
Dr. Johanna Gillbro

How do you know if an ingredient actually produces an effect?

In order for an ingredient to be used in a skin care product at all, you must be able to show that the substance is safe to use on the skin, and you get that knowledge through various types of tests*. There are several different tests a substance can undergo, however, far from all raw materials have all the data or even proof that the tests have been done, even less that the substance has the intended effect on the skin. So many times the risk is high that the ingredients of these unique and exciting stories are no more than just that – a good story. But it is clearly difficult to figure out if an ingredient is only added for the story or if there is an essential and good effect. The reason for this is that the amount of data that is available and the quality of this information varies. For some ingredients, there is publicly available information in the form of scientific articles, but it can often be difficult as a consumer to understand and interpret the information. When you take a closer look at ingredients that clearly seem to be so-called miracle ingredients, there is rarely much support to show that the promised effect comes from the miracle ingredient.

In other cases, it may instead be that the concentration used in the final product is so low or that absorption through the skin is minimal so that it has been shown to be ineffective in studies. But, what is important to understand as a consumer is that as long as the miracle ingredient is on the ingredient list, it can be used in product communication. Of course, you may still experience that the effects promised about the product may well be true, but this is usually because the product contains other ingredients that have similar or the same effects as communicated for the miracle ingredient. For this reason, it is difficult for a consumer to determine if a specific ingredient does what is communicated or if it is just a marketing ploy.

* Tests used to ensure the efficacy and safety of cosmetic ingredients include acute toxicity, long-term toxicity, irritation and sensitization. These tests are important to assess whether the ingredient may cause adverse effects upon repeated exposure, skin irritation or hypersensitivity in users.

Choose products with good ingredients - our best tips

These are our best tips to avoid story ingredients and instead choose products with ingredients that are good for your skin - and that (preferably) have a scientifically proven effect.

1. Ensure the entire product's communication
When a product is marketed with a focus on highlighting a specific ingredient that the product contains, it can be reasonable to be critical of it. Of course, there are a lot of skin care ingredients that are clearly better than others, but usually they are not new ingredients, but ingredients that have been around for a long time and for which there is therefore scientific support. Having said that, of course there is a lot of innovation and new ingredients with effective properties for the skin are continuously developed. Our tip is that when you choose skin care products, please look at the entire product's communication, i.e. that the product should have a good and documented effect and not only be highlighted in the communication with a focus on a specific miracle ingredient.

2. Look for skin-friendly ingredients
At Skinome, we recommend above all one category of ingredients - skin-specific ingredients. These ingredients are substances that the skin itself produces and that we therefore know the skin needs. No miracle ingredient will be better than the substances found naturally in the skin. Examples of skin-friendly ingredients are squalane, glycerin, urea, calcium, ceramides, niacinamide and retinol.

"Over several hundred thousand years, the skin has succeeded in creating a completely unique composition of substances from which it feels best. The skin is already a super-competent system and it is the dream of every skin care company to be able to imitate this skin-specific composition, but an incredible challenge"
Dr. Johanna Gillbro

3. For yourself with a little more time - do research.

For those of you who have the interest and time to do the research yourself, there is a public research database where you can search for different ingredients called . On the one hand, you can search for different ingredients and see how many public studies have been done on the ingredient to get a sense of how well studied an ingredient actually is. We also recommend that you read some of the studies to get a better picture of the ingredient as it e.g. there are a lot of studies on snail slime that can speak for it being well studied (and thus good), but when you look a little closer, there are not many studies where the effect has been studied directly on the skin. Instead, it concerns mechanistic studies where ingredients from snails are tested for different skin care properties where the aim is to understand the effect of individual extracts or substances in extracts or in different models. It is reasonable to ask what cosmetic effect snail slime actually has on the skin.