Just last month, 21-year-old Kylie Jenner, the well-known youngest billionaire expanded her beauty empire by launching yet another brand under her name — Kylie Skin. She dropped six skin care products, and all of them sold out within 10 minutes. However, mounting critics cropped up before Kylie even launched her products. The main concerns from the public are about the two ingredients used in her product line – squalane and hydroxyacetophenone. The issues seem to be around the sourcing of these ingredients, which I don’t find to be a problem (read on). Instead, my only issue is the use of vitamin C and sodium benzoate in the Kylie Skin cleanser. But, one issue at a time!
Kylie Skin — Squalane and Hydroxyacetophenone Controversy
After reviewing multiple critiques about the issue, I want to take defense for Kylie Skin about these two ingredients. The official website and Kylie herself stated that all Kylie Skin products are vegan and cruelty-free. However, according to the widespread critiques, in Kylie Skin products’ ingredient list, squalane, which is found in both the Kylie Skin Vanilla Milk Toner and Kylie Skin Walnut Face Scrub, is derived from sharks; Hydroxyacetophenone, used in Foaming face wash and Vanilla Milk Toner, is derived from beavers. If this were true, that would make the ingredients the products decidedly un-“cruelty-free” since these are taken from animals.
However, it’s important to know that there are alternative ways to obtain these ingredients, and such alternatives can make Kylie’s products compatible with being vegan and cruelty-free. For instance, chemists used to derive solely squalane from shark liver oils, but they’ve now found ways to derive squalane from olives and sugarcane.
I actually just wrote a comprehensive blog post that explains the difference between these two types of squalane, and we found that both sugarcane-derived squalane and olive-derived squalane are high-quality and actually more economical to source than shark livers, especially sugarcane in the latter regard. In fact, most skincare products nowadays have already stopped using the shark-derived squalane, instead using plant-derived squalane. Think about it this way, if you can get the same quality of squalane from olives or sugarcane, why do you want to take it from sharks that are very costly and may make your brand nefarious to ever-increasing numbers of people who want cruelty-free ingredients? Besides, as Kylie clarified later, her squalane is from olives.
Another controversial ingredient was hydroxyacetophenone, which is used in the Kylie Skin Foaming Face Wash and Kylie Skin Vanilla Milk Toner. There are three types of hydroxyacetophenone: 2-Hydroxyacetophenone, 3-Hydroxyacetophenone, and 4-Hydroxyacetophenone. Of these, only the 3-Hydroxyacetophenone is from mature beavers and it can’t even be used as an ingredient in personal care products. According to Chemicalbook.com, 3-Hydroxyacetophenone is a hazardous chemical compound which may cause skin irritation, eye irritation, and respiratory irritation. It’s even recommended for lab researchers to wear protective clothing and wash hands thoroughly after handling this material due to its harm to skin. And unlike many ingredients that are warned about in only very high concentrations, small amounts of 3-hydroxyacetophenone can be a problem. As you can see, it’s quite obvious that this is not the type of Hydroxyacetophenone used in the Kylie Skin ingredients.
However, 4-Hydroxyacetophenone is the one that was used in Kylie Skin products — a completely different compound. 4-Hydroxyacetophenone is an ingredient that can be commonly used in pharmaceutical drugs, and it’s found in needles and mycorrhizal roots of Norway spruces, which makes it compatible with being vegan. It works with preservatives to boost its efficacy and prevent skincare products from corrosions.
My Actual Concern: Kylie Skin Foaming Face Wash
Rather than these two ingredients, I have more concerns about the formula used in Foaming Face Wash. The official websites describes this cleanser as “infused with ultra-nourishing kiwi seed oil, packed with Vitamin C and E to help maintain moisture and improve elasticity.”
However, in the ingredient list I’ve found a debating combination: Vitamin C and sodium benzoate. These two ingredients are known to create benzene together in the presence of light and air. Kylie Skin foaming face wash’ transparent package is apparently not enough to protect the contents from light, and may leave the product vulnerable to outside light, so I wouldn’t want to use it. Further, it’s a known fact that skin care products contain Vitamin C should be stored in opaque and airless containers. Kylie Skin did a great job on airless packaging as none of its product is stored in jars, but the transparent packages of face wash again can make the beneficial ingredients inside like vitamin C lose its potency due to the exposure to light.
Last but not least, walnut scrub is one product that receives a lot of critiques about its main ingredient: walnut shell powder. It’s scientifically shown to be impossible to make walnut shell particles smooth, and therefore may cause microscopic scrapes on skin during the usage. It does sound frightening, but it works pretty much the same way as all physical exfoliators do. Typically, physical exfoliators are more harsh, and more difficult to handle since some of them may bring irritation and sensitivities to skin. That’s why the majority of dermatologists recommend using chemical exfoliators instead, since chemical exfoliators are proven to work more effective and more gentle on skin. My recommendation for using the walnut face scrub is to use carefully and gently, use it less often than you did with other exfoliators, most importantly, pay attention to how your skin react and adjust your way of using it based on your skin conditions.
I like the Kylie Skin line overall, and do find it to be cruelty-free, despite the controversy you might read online elsewhere. But I would avoid the Kylie Skin Foaming Face Wash, if for no other reason than its combination of vitamin C and sodium benzoate, which I do not like.
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