Shopping for beauty can be a daunting and expensive task. The aisles are flooded with products that claim to do everything from clearing your complexion to completing your taxes. The worst bit? There’s no ‘return with tags’ option for an opened pot of cream that hasn’t worked well with your skin type. To save you undue stress, we borrowed the infinite wisdom of cosmetic chemist Terri Vinson. Here, the savvy scientist and founder of Australian cosmeceutical superbrand Synergie Skin gives us the lowdown on shopping for skincare like a pro and dispels some major ingredient myths.

Don’t Buy Into Hype Products and Ingredients

We get it, it’s exciting to hear about the latest buzz ingredients and feel that familiar urge to jump on a waiting list to grab the miracle product that will transform your skin… But don’t assume that what might work for one person, is necessarily going to work for you. “There’s a lot of hype and misinformation in the beauty industry regarding the latest ‘it’ skin care product or ingredient,” says Terri. “A perfect example of this is Hyaluronic acid, a total buzz word in the market right now. I love this ingredient as a surface hydrator but many companies tout it as an intense and deep hydrator even though it’s actually too large to penetrate to the deeper levels of the skin having no effect at a cellular level.” The best way to navigate through the bombardment of buzz words and ingredients? Ask for introductory kits. Most are at a lower price point with smaller sizes of multiple products. This allows you to have the experience of how a skincare regimen will work together without committing to a huge financial expense.

Research, research, research.

We can’t stress enough the importance of understanding what is going onto your skin. Of course, we all have our preferences – cosmeceuticals or organic and natural? Ultra-hydrating or anti-ageing? But, within those preferences still lies a plethora of products and ingredients. And almost everything we need to know about each is literally at our fingertips. “We simply cannot afford to ignore the power of the internet. We are now able to source almost all of our information and education [on skincare] online,” says Terri. “My advice is to keep up to date with reputable sites, journals and blogs written by experienced professionals. I like Zoe Drealos, MD, Dermatology Consulting Services – Zoe’s articles focus on dermatology issues and over the counter products; Dr Leslie Baumann. M.D. Cosmetic Dermatologist, she is known as the Queen of Cosmetic Dermatology and I still reference her book today; and EWG (Environmental Working Group) – it’s a website that sheds light on individual ingredient safety profiles. It’s a useful general reference for understanding skincare ingredient lists. Also, why not choose one product from your regimen and spend some time researching and educating yourself of what you are putting on your face every day?” Terri suggests looking for ‘clean science’ formulations that are free of ‘questionable ingredients’ but have a good amount of research behind them (so… maybe not that Snakes Bite Serum that infomercial is swearing by.)

Know your ingredients labels

It’s great to know the ingredients that you want in your skincare, but Terri advises that it’s equally as important to know what you don’t want included as it is for what you do want. For this, we’ve made it easy – two cross-reference lists for future product purchasing for you to screen grab. “Ingredients don’t necessarily have to be high up on the ingredient list to be effective,” adds Terri. “It really depends on the dosage required to achieve result. A peptide may still be potent at 1% in the formulation.”


–  SLS / Sodium Lauryl Sulphate

–  Isopropyl Alcohol

–  MEA, DEA ,TEA (Monoethanolamine /Diethanolamine / Triethanolamine)

–  PEG (Polyethylene Glycol)

–  Mineral Oil / Petrolatum

–  Synthetic Colour (look for D&C or FD&C Dyes)

–  Parabens (methyl, ethyl and propyl)

–  MDM Hydantoin (formaldehyde)

–  Urea (Imidozolidinyl Urea or Germa)

–  Methyl Isothiazoline

Aim for:

–  Stabilised retinol

–  Niacinamide

–  Antioxidants such as L-ascorbic acid, Green tea, Hydrolyzed tomato skin

–  Peptides such as Oligopeptide-34, Acetyl hexapeptide 5, Tripeptide-10

–  Marine extracts such as Alteromonas Ferment Extract


Understand Skincare Myths

There are a lot of myths around beauty products, especially skincare, and Terri is eager to clear them up for you, as they can be doing more harm than good to your complexion. For one, collagen as a topical ingredient may not be as effective as you might think. “Collagen is a large complex protein. It is too large to penetrate the surface of the skin into the living cell layer,” says Terri. “It is only effective when it is in the deep dermis of the skin and it is preferable to use ingredients that penetrate the skin and stimulate the cells that actually make its own collagen from within the skin.” Another myth is that moisturiser is the most important skincare product. “The most important skincare product is sunscreen. UV protection prevents both the potential to develop skin cancer as well as the acceleration of premature ageing.” The final big myth to dispel? That toners shrink pores and are essential in skin regimes… “There are very few topical ingredients that are able to reduce the diameter of a pore. Rather, toners clean out the surface grease to give the illusion of a smaller pore. Witch Hazel is a better alternative as it’s anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.”

Story by Rikki Hodge-Smith.

In Association with Synergie Skin

Comment (6)

  1. December 14, 2017

    Great article and interview . Very informative and honest. Thankyou! Sophie x

    1. April 16, 2018

      Always a pleasure! x

  2. December 14, 2017

    Thanks for the informative article!

    I also used to use EWG for my reference point but I’ve now switched to ingredient analysers like skincarisma and cosdna before I buy a skincare product.

    Another ingredient to add to look for is something like Hyaluronic acid, which is extremely moisturising.

    1. April 16, 2018

      Welcome! So glad you enjoyed the article – Terri is a wealth of knowledge.

  3. April 19, 2019

    I have read your articles on Synergie Skin and this appears to be very well researched and informative. My bathroom cupboard is chocked full [and I mean full] of skin care ingredients/products, lotions, potions, gels] you name it, I have it. I cannot imagine the amount of money spent – always searching for that special something that will make a difference. But, alas, none do – so the spending continues.

    Can you tell me much about Synergie? I am looking for a great SPF to go under makeup that will not make me oily. I am also on the hunt for a good foundation. Does Synergie offer smaller trial size products so that I can see how my skin acclimates to it? I look forward to hearing from you. best wishes….