From animal fats to venom, the beauty industry is always on the lookout for a new “it” ingredient.
But before we start smearing beef fat all over our skin, we checked in with dermatologist Doris Day to tell us which of these bizarre ingredients we should actually be working into our beauty routines.
“People are very creative,” Day told TODAY.com. “I have an open mind, but I’m a natural skeptic, because I need facts to back up claims … we just have to be careful about the hype.”
Here, she separates fact from fiction when it comes to these trendy ingredients:
There are entire companies built around donkey milk, like Donkeys & Co. and Donkey Milk Beauty, which both promote soaps and face creams that minimize wrinkles and moisturize. Fans say the vitamins and enzymes in donkey milk benefit the skin.
“It’s milk fat,” Day said. “It can be hydrating, and depending on what you feed the donkey, you may be able to get some of those benefits, but you need studies to prove it and to look at the formulations. Also, a lot of people have milk protein allergies, so be careful.”
This odd ingredient (a processed form of beef fat) is a favorite of the DIY beauty crowd, who often uses it in moisturizing balms and creams.
“That’s just basically lard,” Day said. “It’s like applying Crisco, which is probably cheaper. Crisco works really well as a moisturizer. That’s been around forever.”
Placenta is another ingredient that keeps popping up in skincare brands. This New Zealand company is one of many that uses sheep placenta for its “anti-aging and anti-wrinkle properties.”
Day said the nutrient-packed placenta is of great use inside the body, but outside? Not so much.
“I think we have more powerful, and more reliable, ingredients to apply to our skin than placenta,” she said.
Snail slime has taken off in Asia, where beauty brands boast the unusual ingredient’s moisturizing properties thanks to hyaluronic acid.
“[Hyaluronic acid is] a common ingredient,” Day said. “It’s naturally found in the skin and its job is to hold water. If you drink more water, it’s the hyaluronic acid in your skin that will hold and absorb that water and give your skin more vibrancy, and make it seem plumper or healthier looking.”
“Hyaluronic acid is one molecule that hasn’t really changed through evolution,” Day added. “So whether you get it from snails or any other source, doesn’t make any difference.”
Day points out that the it's not just hyaluronic acid that stands out when it comes to snail slime. A certain snail species, Cryptomphalus aspersa, might boast even more skin-boosting ingredients, and at least one brand using snail secretion, Tensage skincare, is backed up by clinical research.
The horse oil you’re hearing about in beauty products is really just rendered horse fat. Similarly to beef fat, it’s another popular ingredient for moisturizing creams and lotions.
Safe to use and effective? Sure, if you don’t mind rubbing animal fat on your body.
Bee venom purportedly has a Botox-like effective when used topically on the skin in masks or creams.
But it could also cause “pure irritation and swelling,” Day warned.
She said there’s a chance bee venom could affect SNAP-25, the same protein that is affected in Botox procedures, and “may offer some version of a tightening effect,” but notes that more testing is needed.
Anyone who’s browsed the anti-aging skincare aisle knows “collagen” is a good thing. “The thing about pig collagen is that it seems to be the most similar to human collagen,” Day said.
But does putting the stuff in beauty products really make us look younger? Maybe. Until more testing is done, it’s hard to say. Until now, it at least makes a good moisturizer, she noted.