How We Rate Skin Care Products

I started GoodGlow in 2018 with the singular goal of helping people clear their acne through proper nutrition. In the last three years, GoodGlow has helped thousands of people achieve healthy, clear skin just by altering their diet and lifestyle habits. Before I started GoodGlow, I spent thousands of dollars buying every acne product, soap, and moisturizer you can possibly imagine. None of these products cleared up my acne, and many of them irritate my sensitive skin.

Because I was able to clear my acne completely through nutrition, I was hesitant to write product reviews anywhere on the blog over the last three years despite the hundreds of blog comments and emails I received asking for recommendations for specific skincare products. GoodGlow is first and foremost and an informational resource, and we do everything in our power to avoid bias when talking about skincare.

However, most people use soaps, moisturizers, and makeup daily regardless of whether or not our team will talk about it. The truth is some soaps and moisturizers are much better for your skin than others. Most people would agree that you need to use some sort of soap to have healthy skin.

To be completely transparent with our community, we have created a strict set of guidelines for product reviews. Our goal is to explain our product review criteria to demonstrate our commitment to data-driven research and genuine desire to help anyone suffering from acne for free. We may earn a small affiliate commission from some products reviews. But no matter what we review we promise to be objective based on the below criteria.

Below we have included the 11 ranking criteria we use to review every product on our site, from most important at the top to least important at the bottom.

1. Personal Testing

The #1 rule we will follow when reviewing products is that someone on the team must have personally tested the product. Many blogs nowadays take images off the internet and write a generic review. We promise never to do this.

All of our reviews will be genuine and authentic. Regardless of the quality of ingredients, cost, or manufacturer, we will give you honest feedback on our personal experience with the product. This is the most important information we can offer you.

2. Anti-inflammatory products

At its core, acne is a type of inflammation. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) contains many pro-inflammatory foods like processed carbs and sugar. The entire GoodGlow system is based on eating foods to decrease inflammation throughout the body. This is why so many members of our community have reported less joint pain and more energy in addition to clear skin when following the program. However, food is not the only thing in your life that can increase or decrease inflammation.

Everything your body interacts with can trigger or reduce inflammation. This includes your phone, clothes, sheets, air temperature, climate, furniture, grooming products, toothpaste, soaps, and perfumes. One of the first things we will look at before reviewing a product is the ingredients, as we aim to recommend anti-inflammatory products. This is challenging to achieve across every cosmetic category, but we will make you aware of any inflammatory properties in the products we review.

3. Active ingredients

In skincare, active ingredients are any ingredient that is added to target a particular problem through a topical application. This can include acne, psoriasis, eczema, cuts, burns, dermatitis, as well of dozens of other skin conditions. According to the FDA, “active products” have been scientifically proven to help achieve a specific outcome.

Some of the most popular active ingredients in acne products are Alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, Benzoyl peroxide, Hydroquinone, Ceramides, and, Retinoids. These “active ingredients” are all frequently sold “over the counter,” but the FDA requires that they are disclosed as an “active ingredient” on the packaging. When we review products, will we be sure to disclose if anything we recommend contains an active ingredient. While some ingredients work quite well, they can irritate people with sensitive skin.

4. Comedogenic (Pore-Clogging) Ingredients

For those unfamiliar comedogenic means pore-clogging. Typically pores are clogged by a combination of dirt, dead skin cells, and sebum oil produced by the body. However, in the cosmetics industry, there are lots of products that contain comedogenic properties.

There are thousands of comedogenic ingredients, but a few of the most popular ones are beeswax, coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, mink oil, and cottonseed oil. Whenever we review products, we check the ingredients to make sure there are no comedogenic ingredients. If there are, we will disclose it in the review.

5. Preservatives and Price

Many people automatically think of preservatives as evil when it comes to consumable products. The truth is preservatives are a beneficial technology that makes our modern supply chain possible. Preservatives also allow many commercial companies to make products in bulk, which allows their products to be sold at a lower price point. This is a really big deal for people who are struggling financially or unable to spend hundreds of dollars on skincare treatments every month. The most common preservatives in skincare products are parabens, formaldehyde, organic acids, and glycol ethers.

We recommend avoiding products that contain these preservatives. Parabens, in particular, can alter hormone production. Other preservatives like glycol ethers can irritate sensitive skin. Because of this, our product reviews will prioritize natural products that are free of any preservatives. Unsurprisingly, skincare products free of preservatives are typically expensive. We want to be inclusive of everyone reading the content, so we may include products with preservatives as a budget-friendly option.

6. Cruelty-Free

We firmly believe the world would be a much better place if there was no experimenting on animals. No matter what I buy, I always try to make sure I purchase cruelty-free products. However, there are multiple definitions of what “cruelty-free” really means. For GoodGlow reviews, we use the FDA’s definition of “cruelty-free” for consistency purposes.

If cosmetic products are sold internationally (particularly in China), there is a requirement for their products to be tested on animals. This is why many large brands like Cerave do not have cruelty-free status. Because so many large brands are forced to do animal testing in order to sell their products in China and other countries, we will occasionally review products that are not cruelty-free. However, our product ranking criteria will always prioritize cruelty-free brands.

7. Cost

Cost is important to a lot of people, especially me. Over the last ten years, I have wasted thousands of dollars on products that did nothing to help my acne. I started this website to keep other people from making the same mistakes. Currently, I spend less than $50 a month on my regular skincare routine, and I own an acne website! Because of this, affordability will be an important ranking factor for all product reviews. We will always make sure to include a “budget-friendly” option in all of our product reviews to be inclusive of all our readers.

8. Organic

Contrary to popular belief, the FDA does not regulate or enforce the term “organic” for cosmetic products. The USDA does this. According to the USDA, for a skincare product to be classified as “organic,” it must be made up of 95% organic ingredients. Furthermore, the USDA has four separate categories of organic products. Understanding what “organic” really means is confusing.

The simple version is that the USDA must approve skincare products to say “organic” in the United States. I like to use organic products when available, but I believe avoiding preservatives and comedogenic ingredients is more important than making sure you buy organic. Because of this, “organic” status will be a small, positive ranking factor for the products we review.

9. Vegan / Plant-Based

As the name probably suggests, plant-based skincare products contain no animal products or by-products. This includes everything from mink oil to unfertilized eggs. While brands being cruelty-free is a significant ranking factor for the products we review, vegan products are not a huge ranking factor. For example, chickens lay eggs every day. Is it better for the eggs to be thrown away or used for something beneficial? Additionally, sheep need their wool cut every few months. Throwing it away would be a waste when there are so many uses for it.  

We support everyone’s opinion, but there are lots of non-vegan products that do a lot to help animals and wildlife. Because of this, vegan status is not a significant ranking factor for us. We will never support companies that mistreat animals, but many non-plant-based companies make great products and support all kinds of animals. However, because some of our audience is vegan, we will feature our top “plant-based” pick when applicable.

10. Manufacturer History

We will thoroughly analyze the manufacturer for every product we review. If manufacturers have a history of recalls or poor quality products, we will note this in our review, so you are aware of their history. Additionally, if a manufacturer has a history of producing quality products, we will let you know this as well.

11. Made in the United States

Where a product was manufactured is our least important ranking factor. However, this is still extremely important. When you buy a product produced in the United States, there is a guarantee that it meets specific safety criteria. Additionally, with all the global supply chain issues, it is challenging and expensive to get products from overseas. Because of this, we prioritize products made in the United States. However, our goal is always to feature the best products available. If we believe that a good product exists overseas, we will do what we can to review it, giving you access to the most reliable information possible.

Originally Published: December 11, 2021

Need more help? Ask our team!

I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their acne naturally. If you cannot easily find an answer to your question on the website, please reach out to me by email ([email protected]) or send me a message on Instagram or Twitter. I will reply within 24 hours.

sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood

Hi, I’m Sam Wood, the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach at GoodGlow, as well as a best-selling author for one of the top acne books on Amazon. I struggled with acne for over 10 years, and began studying the effects of diet on skin quality while pursuing a degree in Nutrition Sciences at the University of Missouri. After shifting from mainstream skincare trends to in-depth research in medical journals, I experienced significant personal success in managing my acne. This inspired me to start GoodGlow, where I simplify complex scientific findings into easy-to-understand advice. With over 10 years in the field, I’ve helped more than 2,500 people achieve clearer skin through natural, holistic methods, and I’m dedicated to personally assisting those seeking guidance on their acne journey.

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