Death by INCI series: formulation myths - part 3 "filler" ingredients

Posted by Natasha Dauncey on

NB. This is part 3 (of a 4-part series) of my rather ranty series on various formulation topics and formulation myths which I posted on Instagram back in October 2019 and wanted to share here. Enjoy!

Formulation myth: "you should avoid products with lots of "fillers"" 🤦🏾

Water is NOT a filler - it's frustrating seeing so many brands perpetuate this myth as a means to sell anhydrous products. The reality is anhydrous products are easier to develop and make, as without the water-content, they don't generally require preservatives (unless the anhydrous product is likely to come into contact with water when used by a consumer), nor the additional preservative efficacy testing (PET) which is needed for water-based products. Water is a very important solvent for a lot of the lovely actives that you want in your skincare and you generally need quite a lot of it in many formulations (emulsions, serums, toners etc)! Hydrated skin is happy skin - humectant ingredients help keep the skin hydrated and all of the most common ones like glycerin and hyaluronic acid are soluble in water! Other skin loving ingredients like niacinamide and panthenol are also water soluble - who wouldn't want these in their products?! Furthermore, water itself might be cheap but many of the ingredients that are dissolved/mixed into it certainly aren't (especially for a small indie brand!)- so the presence of a high water content shouldn't necessarily indicate a "cheap" product. What some people consider as "fillers are actually known as "inactive" ingredients. Whilst they may not sound important, inactive ingredients are used to support the overall formulation,  improve texture/stability and/or act as a solvent. They are certainly not "fillers" and without them a product may not feel, look or perform how it's supposed to.

Think of a formulation like a team. A team has a leader and team members. The leader may be instrumental to the success of a good team but they are nothing without the support of a well formed team! Similarly, ingredients work together in a formulation and a good formulation will be more than the sum of its parts. You might have leading/star ingredients, but they are no good without the necessary supporting ingredients in a formulation! 😉

Part 1, part 2, part 4

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