The Shady 'Fairy Dusting' Trick You Need To Be Aware Of When Skincare Shopping

Amidst a worldwide lockdown, people were given the time to slow down and take care of themselves at home. Also, with a global crisis hanging over everybody's heads, self-love was very much needed. One form of this self-care manifested in an obsession with skincare routines. According to Business Insider, COVID-19 encouraged a major boost to the skincare industry's sales. With this newfound interest, people started doing their research.

Rachel Horsefield, chief executive of THG Beauty, tells Vogue Business, "We saw searches for ingredients start to climb rapidly, particularly within the skincare category, growing over 229% year on year." People are no longer convinced by catch-all phrases promising improved skin. They know how to target their specific issues and want the ingredients that are scientifically proven to improve them. However, these high-quality ingredients are expensive, and brands have been cutting corners to meet demands with a practice known as "fairy dusting."

What fairy dusting is

Vogue Business explains that ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide are at the top of consumers' shopping lists right now. To save money on these pricey substances, skincare brands will only use trace amounts of them in their products. Meanwhile, they will create misleading branding that emphasizes the ingredient. Per Real Simple, this is a practice known as "fairy dusting," and apparently, it's much more common than most shoppers are aware of.

Shuting Hu, PhD, cosmetic chemist, revealed to Well + Good, "It's a recognized term within the cosmetics and skin-care industry." According to the publication, the Food and Drug Administration's primary concern is around safety. Most of their restrictions on ingredients are surrounding toxicity and poison. Therefore, there are few regulations surrounding ingredient advertising. Just like fairy dust, these products promise magical results. However, no magic is delivered. Luckily, there are ways to avoid getting duped by this marketing trick.

How to know your product isn't fairy dusted

The ingredients that these companies are fairy dusting are known as "actives." They are "ingredients that are backed by lab research to exert a desired effect on the skin," Jessie Cheung, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, tells Well + Good. According to Real Simple, "Fruit extracts, oils, antioxidants like vitamin C, and lactic acid" are the ingredients that are most likely to be falsely advertised and "fairy-dusted" into a product. Shuting Hu tells Real Simple that additionally, "Peptides and hyaluronic acid are also pretty common since it's very popular but expensive."

Real Simple provides a general rule of thumb for evaluating the skincare products you purchase. They advise you look at the ingredient list and take note of the order they are listed in. The ingredients are placed in order of quantity. If the ingredient you are lookin for is towards the bottom, this means that it only accounts for 1% of the product. However, different ingredients require different quantities in order to be effective. So, before you judge a brand for fairy-dusting because your ingredient is at the end of the list, make sure you know how much you need.