I will start by telling what's working and what's not and listing the ingredients you should look for and the one who are just filler or "label dressing". Label dressing is known in the industry as ingredients used in the product which will not arm and often have no proven benefits but got extensive publicity by their manufacturers. They add some perceived value to the products or just make it look and sound expensive by adding exotic names and almost always unnecessary raw materials in the final product. Their name on the label and on the product advertising material will incite the unaware customer to buy it.
A good example was in the 1960's some giant company came up with the Idea to use the waste material from the login industry (Small branch, twigs and leaves) and extract the chlorophyll out of it. So they built a big extracting plant on the Canada US border and started the extraction process. When they extracted millions of tons of Chlorophyll and did some researches they found out that Chlorophyll is very useful for plants to photosynthesize the sunlight but has no other redeemable values. But by that time hundred of million of Dollars where invested in the process that was to be recovered in one way or another. So they hired a marketing company and pretty soon every body was chewing gum with Chlorophyll wearing shoe sole with chlorophyll smoking cigarette with Chlorophyll and the list goes on. Very soon the stock pile of Chlorophyll was sold out, the extracting plant was reconverted and Chlorophyll disappeared fro our life just like magic.
That's marketing at is best! Do you know: Marketing for big cosmetic company can be as much as 90% of the final cost of the product? What are they trying to sell you? A famous saying in marketing is: sell the sizzle not the steak. The problem with this picture is that: the sizzle has no nutritional values.
The cosmetic industry has a long history of using waste material from other industries.
Now, about the raw materials you should stay away from:
Mink oil, is a by product of the mink farmers. After they removed the pelt the rest of the animals are wasted, but it contains a lot of fat. In order to maximize the revenues they must found a market for it. Again some good marketing made and the cosmetic industry was eager to use it.
Emu's oil is a byproduct of the Emus Farmers after removing the feathers and the skin. All the fancy animal fat can be replaced by Olive oil in my opinion by far the best emollient on the market. It contains Squalane previously extracted from Shark's liver. Please make sure when you buy your Skin Care product the Squalane comes from Olive oil and not from sharks. The fishing industry did a good job promoting Squalane from Sharks. Again uses the rest of the animal which is fished essentially for Japanese and Chinese fish fins soup.
Caviar that's a good one too! Do you know that broken Sturgeons eggs cannot be sold? So ... some good marketing and again the cosmetic industry is there to absorb it. One can argue that fish eggs contain vitamins, marine's lipids (another fancy name for fat). But again Algae extract and vegetable derived vitamins and Olive oil can easily replace it.
Caviar is expensive, so it must be good on your skin. In my opinion Caviar might have a place on toast if you like exotic, expensive, greasy, fishy, tasting stuff. It has no useful purpose on your skin. But it sure makes the product sound expensive if nothing else.
To sum all this up let me give you my opinion about a good Skin Care product: It must contain
Peptides, Olive oil or Squalane and some plant extract, but are careful not all plant extracts are the same! For example some vitamins B5 (Niacin amide) is a good one as is vitamin C and don't forget the fatty one.
Vitamin A, B, E, and F also contains in the oil, if virgin Olive oil is used. Also a good manufacturer whom stands up to their motto: No hype No fuss Quality first!
To ponder about botanical Extracts and other ingredient on your skin care products.
Few useful guidelines are: Do not buy product which contain animal by product. They usually are waste material from other industry!
Furs & leather industry their waste is: mink oil and Emus oil.
Fishing industry their waste is: Shark liver oil, Squalane and Caviar.
Squalane is good for your skin but it is also extracted from Olive oil, and that's good Squalane!
Also beware of "label dressing" some manufacturers will put an extensive list of ingredient on their labels but there is only so much room in the formula for those ingredients.
On your Skin Care label the first ingredient is almost always water. The water content of Cosmetics is between 40% and 90%. Most of the large manufacturers are averaging between 70% and 80% water. More active ingredients in the formula higher the risks of break down the formulator may encounter. Their motto is: keep it safe. Then you need some emulsifying products they can be a mixture of three, five or more different ingredient for a total of 10% to 15%, then some oil to finish the emulsion. Oil is used as emollient and account for 5% to 20% of the total formula.
Let say a product contain 70% of water (low average) 10% of emulsifier 1% of preservative this leave 19% for all other ingredients (high average) and 10% of oil and emollients. (Stay away from mineral oil and petrolatum) If they use 10% of oil and they list 10 different oils you know that 99% of those 10% is the cheapest one and the more expensive 9 others account for only 1% of those 10%. This goes for the botanical extract too!
Now all extracts are not the same. You can buy an extract from one supplier witch contain 10% of the active ingredient from the botanical and 90% water, for say $50.00 a pound or an extract which contain 100% of the active ingredients for $500.00. Which extract you think most manufacturer will use? Remember their motto "keep it safe" The most disconcerting part of it all is that: according to the INCI rules the low active ingredient extract will be in the same place than the high content one in the descending order of ingredients in the label, because the manufacturer as to prove how much of the extract he put in is formula but nothing about the potency of the extract.
We are observing a significant increase of gel products. Those products contain Carbomer or Polymer (same difference) as the thickening agent and allow the formulator to formulate product with 95% to 98% water. Now you understand why the manufacturing of skin care goes toward the direction of using gel as a safer product. Be reassured the next time you buy some eyes gel, gel and gels can be considered completely safe as they are mostly water!
After all to create and maintain personal beauty takes time, effort and preparation.