Beauty,  Beauty and Fashion

Worth the Hype? FENTY SKIN: Harmful Ingredients?

 

Rihanna recently launched her skincare range, Fenty Skin. Very popular and spoken about everywhere, the range is marketed as suitable for all, environmentally friendly, approachable and packed with benefits.  Are the products worth it? What is the quality of the ingredients? What is skin sensitizing in them? This article will objectively look at the properties of the products and analyse all the ingredients. 

 

Total Cleans’r Remove-it-all Cleanser 

 $25

 

AquaWater
Sodium Cocoyl GlycinateCleansing agent that is considered to be mild and non-drying.
Sodium CocoamphoacetateCleansing agent with mild conditioning properties. 
Cocamidopropyl BetaineCleansing agent that is gentle and mild. May cause contact allergies and contact dermatitis in some individuals. 
Sodium ChlorideCommonly known as table salt. Used as a binding agent, sometimes as an abrasive scrub. It can also thicken the water in non-soap face washes.
Polyglyceryl-10 LaurateSkin softening emulsifier but can also work as a cleansing agent.
GlycerinNaturally found in the skin, it is skin-replenishing and skin-restoring, helping to maintain moisture levels.
Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate CrosspolymerTexture enhancer
Glycol DistearateThickening agent and emollient
SucroseHas hydrating properties to the skin
Malpighia Punicifolia (Acerola) Fruit ExtractIt is rich in antioxidants and hydrating polysaccharides, which have been shown to help with oxidative damage of the skin. Also referred to as Barbados Cherry. 
Chaenomeles Sinensis Fruit ExtractHas Anti-aging properties 
Camellia Sinensis Leaf ExtractType of Green Tea plant. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Ficus Carica (Fig) Fruit ExtractIt is an antioxidant and it is believed that it prevents the loss of moisture from skin. However, this ingredient can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure.
Ginkgo Biloba Leaf ExtractAntioxidant
Tocopheryl AcetateIt’s a form of vitamin E and an antioxidant.
Coconut AcidFatty acid found in coconut oil. Cleansing agent. Skin irritant in some people.
Sodium CocoateA red flag ingredient. It is a cleansing agent primarily used in soap. It is skin sensitizing and drying. 
Sodium MetabisulfiteA potentially red flag ingredient. It is used as a preservative and it also has antioxidant properties, but it can sensitize skin. 
Polyquaternium-7Texture enhancer. Can create a plastic film layer on the skin, increasing water-binding properties. 
Sodium Benzotriazolyl Butylphenol SulfonateUV absorber 
Butylene GlycolTexture enhancer
Caprylyl GlycolPreservative
Sodium Benzoate Preservative
Phenoxyethanol Preservative. Can cause contact allergies and contact dermatitis. It is limited to 1% of the finished product if used as a preservative. However, if used according to the regulations it should not cause any harmful effects. 
Parfum/FragranceLeading source of skin irritation. Oftentimes under the one word ’fragrance’ there is a long list of individual chemical components. 
Benzyl Salicylate A red flag ingredient – fragrance (See above)
Blue 1 (CI 42090)Colouring Agent (blue). Purity criteria controlled by the EU regulations.
Red 40 (CI 16035)Colouring Agent
Titanium Dioxide A natural mineral used as a thickening, whitening and sunscreen ingredient. It protects from both UVB and UVA radiation. It is considered to be gentle and poses no threat of irritation. 

 

Analysis

 

The description of this cleanser says it removes it all like a breeze, including long wearing makeup. Just from analysing the list of ingredients, I doubt it is powerful enough to do that, but it all remains to be experimented with with the actual product. I think it should be used in tandem with another product more suitable for removing makeup or sunscreen, especially when speaking of water resistant products.

While wash-off products like cleansers do not sit on the skin long enough to cause irritation, it is still important for the product not to have potential irritants. This product has some red flag ingredients, such as Sodium Cocoate, which could sensitize the skin and dry it out. Sodium Metabisulfite is another red flag ingredient, which could sensitize skin. This product also contains fragrance and colouring agents, which are two redundant ingredients in a face wash. However, as this is a wash off product, it could be considered that the red flag ingredients are not as irritating to the skin as a cream that would get absorbed into the skin. 

This product does contain some hydrating ingredients, like Glycerin and Sucrose, which should help counteract the drying feeling of a cleanser. It also contains several antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging ingredients, as mentioned in the table above. However, the same with the issue of fragrance, these beneficial ingredients might not sit on the skin for long enough to actually make a difference. 

In my opinion, the product is also not affordable for a face wash, with many other options on the market for the same price, without any of the red flag ingredients. 

 

Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum

$28

Aqua

Water

Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water

Rich in tannins, which are potent antioxidants. It is sensitising to the skin if used repeatedly. Witch Hazel also contains the fragrance chemical eugenol, which can further sensitise skin.

Butylene Glycol

Texture enhancer

Niacinamide

One of the best ingredients to be found in skincare, it is vitamin B3 and has multiple benefits to the skin.

It has skin-soothing, skin-restoring and antioxidant properties. It is very often used especially in acne-fighting products, as it can help with enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, dullness and signs of aging.

Polysorbate 20

Cleansing Agent

Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate

Preservative 

Backhousia Citriodora Leaf Extract

Australian Plant of which essential oils produced from the leaves are believed to have antiseptic properties. However, solvent extractions have not been rigorously looked into regarding antiseptic properties. 

Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract

Type of Green Tea plant. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cereus Grandiflorus (Cactus) Flower Extract

Antioxidant. It also has astringent properties and can contribute to cell renewal. However, there is not a lot of information on this ingredient.

Ficus Carica (Fig) Fruit Extract

It is an antioxidant and it is believed that it prevents the loss of moisture from skin. However, this ingredient can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure. 

Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract

Antioxidant

Hovenia Dulcis Fruit Extract

Skin Conditioning. Not much information was found on this ingredient.

Malpighia Punicifolia (Acerola) Fruit Extract

It is rich in antioxidants and hydrating polysaccharides, which have been shown to help with oxidative damage of the skin. Also referred to as Barbados Cherry.

Glycerin

Naturally found in the skin, it is skin-replenishing and skin-restoring, helping to maintain moisture levels

Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer

Texture Enhancer 

Citric Acid

Used to adjust the pH of products, is an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) and so can exfoliate skin if used in the right amount within a product. It can also whiten the skin, so it could help with uneven skin tones. 

AHA does make the skin more sensitive to sun exposure.

Sodium Hydroxide 

Also known as lye. It maintains the pH of a product. It potentially poses a high risk of irritation to the skin. Its concentration is highly controlled by the European Commission. 

 

However, it is a base that interacts with an acid and thus becomes a sodium salt, which is more soluble and easier to use. If the quantity of Sodium Hydroxide is not left in excess after these reactions, it should not be an irritant – it is all based on quantity.

Benzoic Acid

Preservative. It has restrictions regarding its concentration in products. 

Potassium Sorbate

Preservative. It has restrictions regarding its concentration in products. 

Phenoxyethanol 

Preservative. Can cause contact allergies and contact dermatitis. It is limited to 1% of the finished product if used as a preservative. However, if used according to the regulations it should not cause any harmful effects. 

Parfum/Fragrance 

Leading source of skin irritation. Oftentimes under the one word ’fragrance’ there is a long list of individual chemical components. 

Red 33 (CI 17200)

Colouring Agent

 

Analysis

 

This is the product from the Fenty Skin range which is presented to be the magic one. A two-in-one product, both toner and serum, is described to hold all these incredible claims – that it helps to reduce oiliness and dark spots, that it refines pores and it evens out your skin tone. Funnily enough, among the benefits of this product its fragrance is also listed: ’Smells like a sweet blend of cherry and sun-kissed fig’. This is amusing because fragrance in a skincare product is a well-known sensiting ingredient. Fragrance has no benefit to the skin, on the contrary, it can cause irritation and aggravate skin issues, especially if used repeatedly in most products.

Many skincare products on the market still have fragrance in them, because the truth is, many people criticise a product if it does not smell appealing. That being said, the general feel Fenty Skin gives is of an environmentally friendly, well thought of, for-all skincare range. Since care was put in not needing cotton pads for this toner/serum, to reduce waste, surely details like fragrance being problematic should have been considered as well. It is a shame for a product that would have otherwise performed so well for someone to contain an ingredient like fragrance, which is redundant and brings no added benefit. 

Another redundant ingredient is the red pigment in the product, which has no benefit to the skin. 

Witch Hazel is another problematic ingredient, and it is the second on the list. This means that after water it is the second most prominent ingredient in this product. Witch Hazel is often found in skincare, believed to bring many benefits. This ingredient does justify the claim that the serum helps reduce oiliness. However, this ingredient only solves the issue superficially, by drying out the skin. It is not a solution for the long term and it can sensitize and irritate skin. 

There are other ingredients which could cause contact dermatitis and irritation, as mentioned in the table above. 

Among the good ingredients we have niacinamide, which is a very popular ingredient and is present in most skincare nowadays, including the very affordable ranges. There are also a multitude of antioxidants, which are believed to fight against pollution, wrinkles, to help make skin more firm and that they help to brighten up your complexion. 

Overall, this product seems of average quality. The multiple antioxidants in it certainly sound good, but the presence of witch hazel, perfume and sodium hydroxide could potentially raise some questions. For $28 you could probably find a similar alternative on the market with the antioxidants and beneficial ingredients, but without the problematic ones. Also, the fact that it is a toner / serum product, should not hinder your searches, as toners are becoming a thing of the past and are not necessary in our routines anymore.

Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturiser  Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen

$35

 

Active Ingredients 

Avobenzone 3%

Sunscreen active. Protecting from UVA rays.

Homosalate 9%

Sunscreen active. Protects mainly from UVB rays. It is considered an irritant ingredient, because it can cause a rash or pustules in the hair follicles. 

It is restricted to a maximum amount of 10% in cosmetic products. 

Octisalate 4.5%

Sunscreen active. Protects mainly from UVB rays.

 

 

Water

Water

Glycerin

Naturally found in the skin, it is skin-replenishing and skin-restoring, helping to maintain moisture levels.

Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Oleosomes

A plant extract that has antioxidant properties. It can diminish signs of dry skin.

Pentylene Glycol

This is a skin conditioning agent, antioxidant, and texture enhancer. Some sources evaluate it as being a potential irritant to the skin, especially when used regularly, other sources say it is safe to use and does not irritate, but its potential irritating qualities still remain a concern.

 

‘Data showed that the irritation potential of MPG is concentration-dependent and dependent on exposures under occlusive conditions, suggesting that irritation may be related to local dehydration of the skin.’ – Source

In conclusion, it is safe for use, but it has a potential of causing skin irritation when used in different concentrations. 

Butylene Glycol

Texture enhancer

C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate

Texture enhancer

Niacinamide

One of the best ingredients to be found in skincare, it is vitamin B3 and has multiple benefits to the skin.

It has skin-soothing, skin-restoring and antioxidant properties. It is very often used especially in acne-fighting products, as it can help with enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, dullness and signs of aging.

Zea Mays (Corn) Starch

Used as an adsorbent in cosmetics instead of talc.

Hyaluronic Acid

Considered a fantastic ingredient in skincare, it is a component of skin tissue. It replenishes and moisturizes the superior layers of skin. It is also an antioxidant. 

Sodium Hyaluronate 

Considered to be a more efficient form of hyaluronic acid with skin restoring and replenishing properties.

Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon Seed) Extract

Watermelon seed is a rich source of antioxidants. 

Adansonia Digitata Pulp Extract

The baobab tree has many known benefits and it is known to be rich in antioxidants, with anti-microbial properties. However, not much information was found on research regarding its use in skincare.

Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice  

Aloe Vera is a common ingredient in skincare for its soothing, antioxidant qualities. It is also hydrating to the skin. It can be irritant in some individuals.

Tocopheryl Acetate 

It’s a form of vitamin E and an antioxidant.

Gluconolactone 

It is a polyhydroxy acid (PHA), considered to be a fantastic exfoliant. Can also function as an antioxidant. It is believed to be more gentle to the skin than AHA.

Sorbitan Oleate 

Emulsifier and cleansing agent. May cause rash or hives in some people.

Acrylates/ C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer 

Texture enhancer

Sodium Acrylate/ Sodium Acryloyldimethyl 

Texture enhancer

Taurate Copolymer 

Texture Enhancer

Dimethicone 

Silicone that creates a permeable film on your skin to prevent moisture loss. Also gives the impression of smooth skin. 

Isohexadecane 

Texture Enhancer

Ethylhexyl Methoxycrylene 

Photostabilizer that helps with the effectiveness of UV filters.

Polysorbate 80

Cleansing Agent

Xanthan Gum 

Used to stabilise emulsions (oil and water), thickening agent and texture enhancer.

Sodium Hydroxide 

Also known as lye. It maintains the pH of a product.  It potentially poses a high risk of irritation to the skin. Its concentration is highly controlled by the European Commission. 

 

However, it is a base that interacts with an acid and thus becomes a sodium salt, which is more soluble and easier to use. If the quantity of Sodium Hydroxide is not left in excess after these reactions, it should not be an irritant – it is all based on quantity.

Citric Acid 

Used to adjust the pH of products, is an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) and so can exfoliate skin if used in the right amount within a product. It can also whiten the skin, so it could help with uneven skin tones. 

AHA does make the skin more sensitive to sun exposure.

Potassium Hydroxide 

pH control. Can be harmful and irritant. 

Tocopherol 

Vitamin E, an excellent antioxidant 

Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate 

Helps to neutralise the metal ions in the formula of the product.

Ethylhexylglycerin 

Skin softening agent, also used as a preservative.

Sodium Benzoate 

Preservative. It has restrictions regarding its concentration in products. 

Potassium Sorbate 

Preservative. It has restrictions regarding its concentration in products. 

Phenoxyethanol 

Preservative. Can cause contact allergies and contact dermatitis. It is limited to 1% of the finished product if used as a preservative. However, if used according to the regulations it should not cause any harmful effects. 

Fragrance 

Leading source of skin irritation. Oftentimes under the one word ’fragrance’ there is a long list of individual chemical components.

Benzyl Salicylate 

A red flag ingredient – fragrance (See above)

Citral 

A red flag ingredient – volatile fragrant oil. Can cause irritation. (See above)

Hexyl Cinnamal 

A red flag ingredient – fragrance. Can cause irritation. (See above)

Limonene

A red flag ingredient – fragrance. Can cause irritation. (See above)

Linalool

A red flag ingredient – fragrance. (See above)

Red 33 

Colouring Agent

 

Analysis 

 

This is a chemical sunscreen, meaning that it contains UV absorbents that absorb the UV rays and reduce their energy. The claim that this product does not cause flashback and that it looks ‘invisible’ comes from the fact that it does not contain reflective materials that reflect the ultraviolet rays away – commonly found in physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens are also sometimes linked to potentially causing issues for sensitive skin. However, these ‘invisible’ chemical sunscreens can be preferred by individuals. They are more suitable for darker skin tones and are preferred by makeup lovers or by people that appear in photography.

The three ingredients listed as active ones, are the three ingredients containing UV filters. Avobenzone is very sensitive to light. To increase its duration of action and stability, photostabilizers are added to the product. The photostability of Avobenzone is believed to be increased when used in conjunction with antioxidants, which are many in this product. However, it is difficult to tell how effective the use of Avobenzone is in this product.

Homosalate is also not photostable so it usually needs to be combined with other sunscreens in order to be effective. Homosalate is also linked to some concerns regarding skin irritation. Octisalate is another sunscreen which is considered to be a not very strong UV filter, which is why it is mainly used in conjunction with other sunscreens. 

On top of all these, sunscreen products made in the US are generally perceived as weaker than their counterparts made in Europe for example. This is because sunscreens are regulated under national laws and some countries are better at researching and investigating sunscreen ingredients than others. The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has currently only approved 16 active ingredients for sunscreens. Especially when talking about UVA filters, the US seems to be behind other countries in accepting effective and more modern ingredients in sunscreens. You can certainly read more about this issue online, with many resources explaining why buying a sunscreen product from the US is not the best option. 

Because of all the reasons mentioned above, this product is already not the best in terms of sunscreen, as its use of chemical filters could be significantly improved. It also seems weak in protecting you from UVA radiation. For $35 is expensive considering that you do not get the best sun protection out of this product. 

There are several red flag ingredients, as stated in the table above. The product contains an abundance of fragrance, which can cause irritation and issues. The fact that this product has so many fragrance ingredients listed is discouraging.

In terms of beneficial ingredients, we have some hydrating ingredients and antioxidants. However, the truth is that when choosing a sunscreen, you first have to check the active ingredients in it that give you protection from UV radiation. Because of all the previous reasons mentioned above, this product is already a weak one, just by looking at the active UV filters in it. The good side is that by being a chemical sunscreen only, it could perform beautifully under makeup. However, there are better chemical sunscreens on the market (in the US, if not in shops, then online). In terms of hydration and antioxidants, most sunscreen products for the face contain some ingredients towards this direction. 

 

The general issues with Fenty Skin

 

Unfortunately using fragrance in products is not obsolete in today’s skincare market. Many brands, including expensive ones, still use fragrance in their products. It is the choice of the consumer if they venture to use products with fragrance in them or not. Overall, we all have at least one or two products in our collection that contain fragrance – if not in our skincare regime, certainly in our body care products. That being said, for a brand like Fenty Skin that stressed so much importance on the environment and the effects these cosmetic products can cause, it seems rather ironic that they skipped the mention of fragrance partially being a main irritant in skincare. The fragrance is listed as one of the ‘benefits’ of the products.

Other than fragrance, we also have the use of colouring agents which are redundant and bring no benefit to the products. 

Other potentially irritating ingredients were also used, as mentioned in the analysis above,  which does raise a question mark regarding this range. However, some are only irritating to some individuals, so it all depends on one’s particular skin concerns and predispositions. 

Another general issue that I wanted to mention in the overall conclusion of this ingredient analysis, is the use of many plant and fruit extracts. While I do not doubt some of them have amazing benefits to the skin, my issue with exotic plants and fruits being used in skincare is that there is often not enough research to clearly state the benefits of those ingredients in topical products. Some might have studies on their efficiency and benefits if ingested, others might have limited research into their topical use. How well do they absorb into the skin? What is the concentration needed for them to be effective? What is their impact when used topically? These are all questions to which some of the ingredients in these products might not have a complete answer.

 

Is it worth the hype?

 

While the range is vegan, gluten free and has environmentally friendly packaging and ideals, the skincare market is filled with products and choices, and there are so many other products better than these, for a better price, with the same ideals. Fenty Skin does also contain many antioxidants and beneficial ingredients, so it all depends on what you are looking for in an essential, three-step skincare routine. 

This article has looked at the products objectively, by only analysing the ingredients. However, there is a lot more to be discovered, in terms of how well the three products interact with each other, when used together, how is makeup performing and wear on top, as well as how does each individual’s skin react to them. 

 

Sources Consulted

 

Antczak, S. and Antczak, G., 2001. Cosmetics Unmasked. London: Thorsons.

Bio-Botanica, Cactus Grandiflorus Flower In Glycerin – Personal Care & Cosmetics. Available here. [Accessed 5 August 2020].

Burke, I., 2016. The Nature Of Beauty. London: Ebury Press.

Cock, I., 2013. Antimicrobial activity of Backhousia citriodora (lemon myrtle) methanolic extracts. Pharmacognosy Communications, 3(2). Available here. [Accessed 4 August 2020]

Cosmetics Info, Various Pages, Available here. [Accessed 06 August 2020] 

Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, 1997, Available here. [Accessed 04 August 2020]

Drugbank. n.d. Ethylhexyl Methoxycrylene. [online] Available here. [Accessed 6 August 2020].

Facts, G., n.d. Homosalate. [online] Safe Cosmetics. Available here. [Accessed 6 August 2020].

Fenty Skin, Various Pages, Available here. [Accessed 03 August 2020] 

Fiume, M. M., Bergfeld, W. F., Belsito, D. V., Hill, R. A., Klaassen, C. D., Liebler, D., … Andersen, F. A. (2012). Safety Assessment of Propylene Glycol, Tripropylene Glycol, and PPGs as Used in Cosmetics. International Journal of Toxicology, 31(5), Available here. [Accessed 06 August 2020]

Fowles, J., Pottenger, L., A toxicological review of the propylene glycols, Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 43(4), April 2013, Available here, [Accessed 06 August 2020]

INCI Decoder, Decode Ingredients – Various Pages, Available here. [Accessed 04 August 2020]

Itoh, S., Yamaguchi, M., Shigeyama, K. and Sakaguchi, I., 2019. The Anti-Aging Potential of Extracts from Chaenomeles sinensis. Cosmetics, 6(1). Available here [Accessed 4 August 2020].

Kamatou, G., Vermaak, I. and Viljoen, A., 2011. An updated review of Adansonia digitata: A commercially important African tree. South African Journal of Botany, 77(4). Available here. [Accessed 07 August 2020]

National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information. n.d. Avobenzone. [online] Available here [Accessed 6 August 2020].

 National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information. n.d. Ethylhexyl Methoxycrylene. Available here. [Accessed 6 August 2020].

Paula’s Choice, Ingredient Dictionary, Available here. [Accessed 05 August 2020]

Paula’s Choice, Top 5 Reasons To Add Antioxidants To Your Skin Care Routine | Paula’s Choice. [online] Available here. [Accessed 3 August 2020].

Paula’s Choice, Why Witch Hazel Is A Problem For Skin | Paula’s Choice. Available here. [Accessed 3 August 2020].

Paula’s Choice Why Witch Hazel Is A Problem For Skin | Paula’s Choice. Available here. [Accessed 3 August 2020]

The European Parliament and the Council of European Union, 2009. REGULATION (EC) No 1223/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 30 November 2009 on cosmetic products. Official Journal of the European Union, [online] L 342/59. Available here [Accessed 5 August 2020].

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. n.d. Sunscreen: How To Help Protect Your Skin From The Sun. [online] Available here. [Accessed 6 August 2020].

 

Disclaimer

 

The author of this article is not a chemist. This article is for informational purposes only. The description and analysis of ingredients is by no means exhaustive, and it serves more of a basic outline. Always do your own research regarding ingredients in skincare and patch test the product before using. To read full Disclaimers click here.

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