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THE SKIN JOURNAL

We want to help you understand your skin, so that you know what’s going on with it, what to put on it, and how to care for it. Sciency stuff that answers so many of your skin questions, written in a clear and simple way. Penned by our founder, Ee Ting Ng.



Ace of Base - The Power of Complete Customisation II

11 April, 2019

Ace of Base - The Power of Complete Customisation II

Products are made out of actives and functionals. Although actives get all the attention, functional ingredients largely affects the overall performance of the product as they make up most of the formula.

The following shows the main types of functionals required to create various products.



Take formulating a cream for example, the chemist has to select the most compatible ingredient from every functional group required to form the product, along with the desired actives. Every single ingredient must be very carefully adjusted into a perfect balance to form an aesthetically pleasing/acceptable, stable and safe product. This formula gets mass-produced, and that’s the development process for all off-the-shelf products.


Complete Custom Formulation vs Customised products

With complete custom formulation, both the formulation and production process have to be done from scratch, one by one, for every single product. This is what we do at hop & cotton to ensure that every ingredient is perfectly chosen according to your skin’s existing condition. We have to take some time to understand your skin before your personal chemist starts formulation, then finally putting the raw materials together in the manufacturing process.

Isn’t it tedious? Yes indeed, which is why some people take a shortcut. Formulating and manufacturing from scratch every single time can be avoided by using readily available standard or stock bases that has been pre-formulated. These stock bases are commonly used in many customized products currently in the market. For a ready-to-go standard base, only selected actives/fragrance/colour need to be added to create a ‘personalised and customised’ product.

Although standard bases simplify the production process significantly, they heavily limit the extent of how fully effective a product can be as most, if not all, of the functional ingredients are already pre-determined in those stock bases.




Why it is all about that base

Why is it so important to have total control over all the functional ingredients present in a formula? Because most product incompatibilities occur as a result of unsuitable functional ingredients. In fact, many of you experience them from your current products*. The following are common examples of product incompatibilities

  • Breakouts and congestion
  • Breakouts and congestion are mostly due to unsuitable functionals such as emollients (e.g. plant oils/butters/waxes) and oil thickeners (fatty alcohols, fatty acids). They are included in creams/serums/masks to reduce water loss and impart rich, thick textures but can also encourage the growth of acne-causing bacteria and occlude clog-prone skins, perpetuating blemish formation.

  • Too dry! Too oily!
  • When a cleanser makes you uncomfortably tight after washing, it’s due to its surfactants not being properly balanced with emollients for your skin, making its overall cleansing action too strong as it removes much of your skin’s natural oils along with the unwanted oil.

    When moisturisers are not hydrating enough or too greasy, their humectants/emollients are insufficient or too much for you.

  • Irritation
  • Other than fragrances**, preservatives are the most common cause of skin irritation. Preservatives that are very strong (e.g. methylisothiazolinone, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea) are great in preventing unwanted microbial growth, but their robust anti-microbial action can inflict rashes, stinging or acne-like lesions in sensitive and reactive individuals.

    Of course, reactions can also occur from actives such as AHAs, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Even though such actives are generally considered ‘good’, if their potency is at a level your skin cannot tolerate, that product then becomes inappropriate for you. This reiterates the power of custom formulation as it allows precise inclusion of the right type and amount of actives to be used.

Why complete custom formulation

I know that I’m laboring this point, but it is imperative to understand that skin complications cannot be resolved until the right actives are combined with the right functionals. Otherwise, it will be a never-ending vicious cycle of issues triggered by products which should theoretically work because they have the right actives, but do not because of their functionals’ incompatibility for you.

No matter how arduous complete custom formulation is, we will not have it any other way, as creating something entirely from scratch is the only way to deliver 100% compatible formulas, and the best possible results for you.


* from your hop & cotton skin tests.
** artificial or natural from essential oils; both are composed of fragrance components such as linalool, citral, limonene, cinnamaldehyde etc