Skin & Tonics : A Skincare Blog

Skincare guides & product reviews for beauty enthusiasts & ingredient connoisseurs

Skin & Tonics Rating System

Product rating systems are something I’ve agonized over since I began blogging, and I’ve worked very hard to develop a system that successfully balances scientific data and personal experience in the final score. Part of what has made devising a system so complicated, especially for skincare products, is not just the variation in skin types and sensitivities, but also the variation in ingredient safety and comedogenicy data available, as different sources offer different numbers on those items.

In addition to not being standardized, individual ingredient safety, comedogenicy, and irritation ratings do not take into account the context in which an ingredient is used. For example, sodium hydroxide has a high irritation and hazard score, which is 100% accurate for sodium hydroxide on its own, but when it’s used in a product formula to balance the pH of a product, it has already been reacted and is completely harmless – in fact, its chemical properties no longer resemble that of the original ingredient at all. By law, however, the ingredients in their original form are what must be listed for a product, not what the ingredient becomes once it’s been integrated into a formula. One of my goals with this new system is to take these types of instances into account.

For the new rating system, I decided to use CosDNA as my standard reference source. My reason for this is that it has a fairly complete INCI database, and pulls its numbers from a few different sources. I’ve had a few people ask me why I never mention EWG/SkinDeep as a source, and the reason is that EWG is not the reliable source it was in its infancy. These days, EWG has political ties and receives funding from sources with ulterior motives, so much so that their non-profit status has been challenged. Additionally, EWG ingredient lists are inaccurate up to 50% of the time, and they consistently misinterpret, misrepresent, and misread key ingredient data. CosDNA, on the other hand, is politically agnostic and does not have any specific corporate ties.

My new rating system has taken into account the variables surrounding ingredient safety, comedogenicy, and sensitivity. As for variables for different skin types –those aspects are based on my own experiences because that’s what I’m most informed about.

Here’s a detailed breakdown my rating system:

Overall:

Each product will receive a total numeric score with 100 point cap, based on the sum of the scores from each subcategory. Additionally, each product will receive a corresponding letter grade based on the following system:

A+: 97-100
A: 93-96
A-: 90-92
B+: 87-89
B: 83-86
B-: 80-82
C+: 77-79
C: 73-76
C-: 70-72
D+: 67-69
D: 63-66
D-: 60-62
F: 0-59

Skincare Products

20 point cap for each category, for a maximum total numeric rating of 100.

Efficacy: Product results, with an emphasis on performance to claims, unexpected benefits, and damages

– 3 point deduction for every claim not fulfilled
– 3 to 8 point deduction (depending on severity)  for each instance of skin damage, such as irritation, scarring, decrease in skin quality, increase in acne, increase in inflammation, or long-term redness, depending on severity

Ingredients: Quality, safety, efficacy, sensitivity, and comedogenicy

– 1 point deduction for every ingredient with a rating of 2 or 3 on CosDNA as a potential irritant or acne trigger
– 2 point deduction for every ingredient with a rating of 4 or 5 on CosDNA as a potential irritant or acne trigger
– 2 point deduction for level 1 hazard based on CosDNA scale
– 3 point deduction for level 2 hazard based on CosDNA scale
– 3 point deduction for using a disproportionately high number of cheap or ineffective ingredients

Application: – Absorbency, spreadability, comfort

– 3 to 6 point deduction (depending on severity)  for poor absorbency relative to product expectation
– 3 to 6 point deduction (depending on severity)  for spread difficulty
– 3 to 6 point deduction (depending on severity)  for discomfort, scratchiness, pulling, etc.

Wear: Overall sensation, weight, finish, as well as texture compatibility with other products

– 3 to 6 point deduction (depending on severity)  for unpleasant sensation, such as unpleasant burning, stinging
– 3 to 6 point deduction (depending on severity) for rinse difficulty for products such as masks, cleansers, and scrubs
– 3 to 6 point deduction (depending on severity)  for excessive feeling of heaviness
– 3 to 6 point deduction (depending on severity)  for unpleasant tactile finish relative to product expectation
– 3 to 6 point deduction (depending on severity)  for interference with application of other products due to texture or absorbency issues (does not apply to issues with incompatible ingredients)

Packaging: Preservation of product integrity, hygiene, ease-of-use, and craftsmanship

– 3 point deduction for each aspect of packaging that compromises shelf life
– 3 point deduction for each aspect of packaging that makes it difficult to dispense product
– 3 to 6 point deduction (depending on severity)  for each aspect of poorly made packaging, including packaging that is flimsy, degrades easily, or breaks due to lack of craftsmanship

 

Makeup Products

25 point cap for each category, for a maximum total numeric rating of 100.

Pigmentation: Product appearance on the skin

– 3 point deduction for every instance of coverage or pigmentation not performing as advertised
– 4 point deduction for each instance of skin damage, such as scarring, decrease in skin quality, increase in acne, increase in inflammation, or long-term redness
– 2 point addition for unexpected/unadvertised benefits

Ingredients: Quality, safety, efficacy, sensitivity, and comedogenicy

– 1 point deduction for every ingredient with a rating of 2 on CosDNA as a potential irritant or acne trigger
– 2 point deduction for every ingredient with a 3 or CosDNA higher rating as a potential acne or irritation trigger
– 2 point deduction for level 1 hazard based on CosDNA scale
– 3 point deduction for level 2 hazard based on CosDNA scale
– 3 point deduction for using a proportionally high number of cheap or ineffective ingredients
– 2 point addition for an unusually high number of skin beneficial ingredients

Application: Ease of spreading, blending, accuracy etc.

– 2 to 6 point deduction for each aspect of difficult application, relative to product expectation and depending on severity
– 2 point deduction for every application claim not fulfilled

Wear: Overall sensation, weight, finish, and longevity

– 2-6 point deduction for shorter than expected wear time, depending on severity
– 2 point deduction for every wear-related claim not fulfilled (such as moisture, skin improvement, etc.)
– 3 point deduction for unpleasant sensation, such as unpleasant burning, stinging
– 2 point deduction for excessive feeling of heaviness
– 2 point deduction for unpleasant tactile finish relative to product expectation
– 2 point deduction for interference with application of other products due to texture or absorbency issues (does not apply to issues with incompatible ingredients)
–  2 point deduction for rinsing difficulty for cleansers or masks
–  3 point deduction for leaving behind unwanted film or residue for cleansers or masks

 

Beauty Tools

25 point cap for each category, for a maximum total numeric rating of 100.

Performance: Product results, with an emphasis on performance to claims, and damages

– 2 point deduction for every claim not fulfilled
– 2 – 6 point deduction for each instance of skin damage, such as irritation, scarring, decrease in skin quality, increase in acne, increase in inflammation, or long-term redness, depending on severity

Use: Application, handling

– 3 point deduction for every instance of awkward handling due to size, weight, or other form factors
– 3 point deduction for discomfort, relative to product expectation (e.g. a hair removal device has different expectation of comfort from a makeup brush)
– 3 point deduction for uneven or inconsistent application

Craftsmanship:  Sturdiness, quality of build, overall finish

– 3 point deduction for each aspect of poor overall finish
(e.g. uneven hair in a makeup brush)
– 3 point deduction for each instance of poor construction, including flimsy construction, and construction that breaks or degrades easily

Materials: Quality, safety, efficacy

– 2-6 point deduction for every instance of unsafe or potentially damaging materials or mechanisms, depending on severity
– 2 point deduction for use of cheap, underperforming materials
– 2 point deduction for use of environmentally or ecologically harmful materials
(e.g. hair from an endangered species)