The Ingredients List series

Our Ingredients List series is way more than just a list of ingredients. It’s a set of articles that’ll dive into every active and filler used in skincare – whether you find them in Re-Dox or not – so you can better understand how, when and why they work, see through the myths about them, and create a routine that is effective for you.  

Skincare can be a tricky business. 

With so many products on the market and so many ingredients, it can be hard to know which ones are actually beneficial for your skin – and which ones are doing all the work.

You may have heard of active ingredients and fillers in skincare before, but do you know the difference between them?

Here’s a brief guide to active ingredients and fillers in skincare, so you can make informed decisions when selecting products for your skin: 



Active ingredients are the key components of skincare products that are responsible for improving the overall health of your skin.

Common active ingredients used in skincare products include alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), retinol, antioxidants, peptides, and hyaluronic acid.

Although most of these ingredients are naturally occurring, they are often incorporated into your skincare routine at concentrations much higher than you would find in nature.



For example, 6 drops of a 15% vitamin C + 1% salicylic acid serum is equivalent to half a medium-sized orange and 5 apricots. In a standard 30 mL bottle, that’s 50 oranges and 500 apricots! So just like medicines, dosage matters in skincare.


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Fillers are exactly as they sound – substances added into skincare (or other products) to bulk up the volume, improve the texture, or stabilise the formula, but often they don’t provide any real benefit to your skin.

Almost all skincare products contain some fillers – some necessary, many not. Higher quality brands are focused on reducing or even eliminating unnecessary fillers, to provide a skincare formulation that is more effective – both for your skin and your hip pocket.


Natural extracts - spray and pray 

Some filler ingredients will be naturally occurring, and let's be clear, natural extracts do have their place in skincare.

Notable examples include rosemary extract (better known for its ability to stabilise vitamin c formulations than impart any real effect on skin health) or witch hazel extract used to impart a constricting effect on the skin due to high tannin content -- think temporary skin tightening.

There are many others that have scientific evidence for their wound healing abilities, anti-inflammatory and/or antioxidant effects. 



However, how they are formulated can place them in the territory of 'fillers'. Here is an example of a popular skincare product that has been slightly altered to preserve the identity of this brand.


‘Water, Ascorbic Acid, Pentylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Acetyl Glucosamine, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Spiraea Ulmaria Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Camellia Japonica Flower Extract, Epigallocatechin Gallate, Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Allantoin, Lecithin, Pullulan, Panthenol, Silica, Xanthan Gum, Sclerotium Gum, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Phytate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xanthan Gum.’


There are at least 6 different plant extracts underlined.

So, what's the problem?

Dosage is critical even with the most powerful drugs -- this truth applies especially to skincare when we are dealing with the skin barrier. Such a long list of extracts means they are likely so diluted, there simply isn’t enough of any one ingredient to have an effect.

Without scientific research, we move into an arena of skincare where things get very murky. It is equivalent to 'Spray and Pray' -- wishfully praying that if you use all these different extracts, something will work.

The more likely reason for including so many plant extracts is marketing.

Nowadays, skincare users see straight past the front packaging and look towards the ingredient list, hoping to find something they recognise from ‘that’ article or Insta post – and marketing capitalises on this desire for ‘natural’, ‘safe’ ingredients.

In short, extracts not used in abundance likely do nothing as they have no likely important/useful effect and can be considered a filler.

However, single extracts used at high enough concentrations are more likely to be effective and thus are not considered a 'filler'.



This is an easy one as aesthetics very clearly fit into the definition of a filler.

Aesthetic ingredients enhance the 'feel' of your product and these are usually synthetic. Although they are safe, they add no real value to your skin, and many have been demonised by a skincare industry working hard to make a ‘natural’ play.

Examples of fillers include waxes, petrolatum, mineral oil, silicone, and talc. Often, aesthetic fillers need another ingredient to support their own stability or solubility, and this goes down a path of adding more ingredients. 



Most fragrances would fit the bill as a filler, though it should be noted the concentration of most fragrances is quite low -- probably in the order of 0.1%.

As a result of their low volume, they are unlikely to displace sufficient enough volume of your product that could otherwise be occupied by an active ingredient.

Fragrances are known to be more problematic for some of you who have skin sensitivities, so it’s important you patch test before use, when you see them on the ingredient list. 

Notable exceptions are some naturally-occurring fragrances that have biological activity (erhm, bornyl acetate, vanillin, etc.) such as limonene and others. 


Penetration enhancers – not fillers!

Although other blogs may tell you differently, penetration enhancers are NOT fillers -- they are instead, vital. Without these, most skincare actives are useless as they are simply insoluble in water or are unable to get deep enough into the skin to have any meaningful effect.

This includes glycols (propylene glycol/propanediol, ethoxydiglycol etc), some surfactants, alcohols and nanoparticles of all types (lecithin, cyclodextrins etc). They should not be considered fillers, as without them, your product is simply ineffective. 

A better definition of fillers is ingredients that, if absent, would neither increase nor decrease the effectiveness of a product. 


Why formulation matters – to skincare brands and users

Every component of a formulation is deliberate, whether it improves the effectiveness of the product or just the marketability..

When we buy or make selections based on the way products smell, feel or spread, or marketing gimmicks (‘6x plant extracts’), the potential to compromise effectiveness is significantly increased, and you likely end up with a product that makes you feel good, rather than look good.


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