How we test skincare and cut through the marketing BS

How we test skincare to see if it lives up to its claims

27th April 2020 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

Here at mamabella, we’re keen to help you find the very best beauty products money can buy. It’s a fallacy that you need to spend a fortune to get the highest-quality ingredients and results. We’ve found some incredible cheap makeup and are constantly on the hunt for makeup and skincare swaps. 

One of the biggest problems, however, is that so many creams, moisturisers, oils, serums, face masks and more seemingly contain the same – or very similar – ingredients. And they each promise to shrink your pores, brighten your appearance, reduce wrinkles and fine lines, smooth your skin and give you a glow. 

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What’s more, marketing suggests that the more expensive a product, the better it is and many of us may reach for luxury and premium skincare when we don’t need to. So when faced with a sea of ingredients and claims, how the hell do we know which is the best? 

Since we launched, we’ve been on a mission to bring a little more science into our testing process, in an attempt to qualify the claims being made and to justify the costs involved. This should hopefully help you realise that our lists of Best Buys are built around considered and informed choices and you can trust our recommendations. 

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Best BB cream | Best moisturiser | Best tinted moisturiser  | Best toner | Best primer | Best cleanserBest eye cream | Best night cream| Best anti-ageing cream | Best face mask

How we test skincare

Whether it’s an eye cream or a face mask, every facial skincare product we test for mamabella is run through a series of tests using the HiMirror Mini Premium X smart beauty mirror alongside the HiSkin scanner. 

HiMirror Mini Premium X

HiMirror Skin analyserMamabella

As its name suggests, the HiMirror is a mirror with a built-in computer and camera. Think of it like a large Android tablet with a mirror instead of a standard touchscreen. This screen is framed by LED lights and a camera at the top of the “screen” is used to take photos (or make video calls, more on that later). 

Using the Skin Analysis tool, HiMirror captures an image of your face and analyses it based on seven criteria: pores, red spots, dark spots, wrinkles, fine lines, roughness and dark circles. It then presents you with a score for each, presented both as a percentage (see image above) and mapped on top of the photo (see image below). Clicking on each of the seven criteria brings up more information, about whether your skin has scored poorly or excellently for the skin concern in question. 

HiMirror PoresMamabella

It shows where your pores are their largest, where your wrinkles and fine lines are, if you’ve got areas of redness and how big your dark circles are. We’ll be honest, it’s not the most confidence-boosting, inspiring gadget we’ve ever used! 

Its standout feature though, and the feature we rely on when testing skincare, is that it uses AI to plot changes over time. Recording them on a graph. 

The mirror additionally has five lighting options, an AR-powered virtual makeup studio and it doubles up as a screen that lets you watch makeup tutorials and make video calls over Wi-Fi.

HiSkin Analyser

Hiskin-Analyser-screen-shotsmamabella | mamabella

In addition to the photos taken using the HiMirror, we use an accompanying HiSkin analyser to plot changes in hydration and pigmentation. This little gadget uses electronic and diffusion photon engineering to analyse five skin areas: forehead, eyes, upper cheek, lower cheek, and neck.

Hydration can be tracked in this way by analysing how your skin’s cuticles retain moisture. The higher the capacity of a part of the skin called the stratum corneum (which, in layman’s terms is the fancy name for the outer layers), the higher its hydration level. It also looks at how light diffuses on the skin to check for areas of pigmentation.

The testing process

When testing toners, cleansers, moisturisers, night creams, anti-ageing creams, eye creams – as well as serums and facial oils – we keep every other element of our skincare routine the same (and our diet as close to normal as possible…which has been a struggle on lockdown!) and replace the relevant products in our traditional skincare lineup with the product being tested. 

Face mask testingMamabella

We do this for four weeks at a time – which is why sometimes our testing takes a little longer than other beauty sites – to give the products the chance to bed in and show their true colours and benefits.

This also means that even if our diet, water levels, sun exposure or sleeping habits fluctuate, over the course of a month these should balance themselves out. 

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For face masks, or products that promise instant results, we test them on four separate occasions and aggregate their readings.  

We take an initial reading on the HiMirror and HiSkin before we start using the product and plot changes on the HiMirror on a weekly basis.

We then record the before and after measurements. Only the very best products, which actually work as they promise, are then included in our Best Buys lists. We also have a number of testers, meaning we can test multiple products at once. 

We will soon be posting standalone reviews of the products we’ve tested, in addition to our Best Buys lists, and we’ll include scores where we think it’s relevant to the review. We’ll also be adding scores or result details to our lists of Best Buys where relevant, so you know the recommendations can be trusted. 

We hope this clarifies things a little, and we know it’s not entirely foolproof but it goes someway towards being able to categorically say which are the best skincare products.

We’re very keen to set a challenge to beauty brands, too: if you think your products really do live up to your marketing claims, let us put them to the test.

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