We live in a world of comfort, where products are made to serve us or somehow make our life easier. This is definitely a theme that is starting to enter the beauty market too and…why not?
I’ve recently seen these Sephora swabs (or cotton buds) that are filled with make up remover and I imagine, they are meant to make your life easier and correct mistakes faster and more accurately.
So, I picked them up and put them to the test! Here’s my chemist’s verdict:
This little plastic box contains 20 swabs which are filled with a cleaning liquid. The swabs are normal size and standard quality with the exception that one side of the cotton buds has a blue line, which indicates the side you are meant to break them at.
All you need to do is hold the swab vertically, blue line top, white normal swab bottom and bend the top blue line swab to break (see video below).
I must admit, it took me a few goes to get it, as instinctively you try to bend the swab on the blue line. However, you will find it very difficult to bend it at that point as that’s not what you are meant to do!
The blue line only indicates the side of which cotton bud you are bending but you are meant to bend it at it’s bottom, where the cotton bud begins and is connected to the liquid containing tube. Once you bend the blue side bud down, the tube “vacuum”, difference in pressure or liquid tension (whichever one is at play here), is released and the liquid flows down to the white bud. The bud absorbs the liquid and becomes blue and wet with cleaning agent, ready for action!
Check out the video demonstration, it is actually quite satisfying!
Quite a few swabs were harmed during the making of this video.
Once you get the hang of it, it is very easy to do. However, not all of them worked as easily, some of them were just wasted, because they bent, but they didn’t fully break and therefore, didn’t allow the liquid to flow down. There was quite a high “wastage” factor and therefore, this small pack of 20 swabs would not last you for 20 corrections or long at all. This is actually not surprising as the tubes are made of plastic and would therefore, a lot of the time, bend first before breaking (this depends on the type of plastic of course, but these ones are quite bendy).
This bendyness means that these already expensive (for swabs) swabs are most likely not worth the cash. One pack costs $10 which is roughly £7.08. It is definitely much cheaper to just buy normal ear buds and dip them in the makeup cleanser of your choice, when you need them. Sure it’s not as fast or easy to do, than it is to use these Sephora liquid filled ones, but at least all of them would work and you won’t get any “break you stupid tube” type of frustration.
Other than that, the swabs are soft, look cute and do not smell of anything. As you’ve seen in the video, they work pretty well and they take off even the most stubborn eyeliner (see video demo).
The ingredients are not bad either, there was nothing that flashed up as a red flag. Most of them are skin conditioners, cleansing agents and formulation compounds, so nothing really interesting like in skin care products. However, I know that many of you like this type of analysis, so here’s a list of the ingredients and a general summary about them.
- Aqua (water)
Solvent, spreading agent, can help hydrate the skin.
2. Butylene Glycol
Solvent, controls viscosity, preserves moisture (=humectant), conditioning agent. It can sometimes be used as a fragrance and masking agent.
Safe. Can cause irritation to some.
3. Pentylene Glycol
Plasticizer (=makes things more plasticky), synthetic humectant (=preserves moisture), solvent, skin conditioner and preservative as it has antimicrobial properties.
Safe. Some people with sensitive skin have reported sensitisation.
4. Poloxamer 184
Surfactant, cleansing agent, solvent, emulsifier (=stabilises, prevents separation of mixtures of compounds that otherwise do not dissolve in each other, like for example, water and oil).
Safe. Some reported concerns over toxicity.
5. PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate
Skin conditioning agent, emollient, surfactant (=reduces surface tension), emulsifying agent, cleanser.
Safe. Concerns of 1,4-dioxane contamination. Limited concentration use in cosmetics. Suspected penetration enhancer. Limited evidence on organ toxicity.
Can enhance the penetration of other compounds into the skin.
Safe. Perhaps avoid it’s usage on broken or sensitive skin as it can accelerate the penetration of other compounds.
After water, it is the most frequently compound used in cosmetics. It is found naturally in the skin so when used in cosmetic products it can have restoring properties, as it can act as a replenishing agent.
Skin conditioning agent, improves the appearance of the skin’s smoothness and moisture content. It is a humectant (=preserves moisture) and has a naturally cooling effect on the skin. It is also a good hair conditioning agent and a solvent or viscocity controlling agent as it can decrease the viscosity (=thickness) of a product.
Only sticky at high concentrations. Often found in cosmetics up to 10%.
7. Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate
Humectant (=preserves moisture) and skin conditioning agent. It can also form films and help with skin hydration.
Preservative (=disinfectant) and stabiliser. It can also be used as a fragrance additive and as an insect repellent. Also used as a solvent.
Safe. Can cause irritation to some. Hazardous only by ingestion or inhalation.
9. Potassium Sorbate
A natural anti-microbial compound, used as a preservative. Often used as a paraben alternative and is effective against fungi, mold and yeast but less effective against bacteria.
Typically found in concentrations between 0.15-0.3% alone or 0.1-0.2% in combination with other preservatives.
10. Citric Acid
Often found in citrus fruit!
As the name suggests, this is an acid and is therefore used to adjust the pH of the formulation (= how acidic or basic the formulation is). It is also a natural preservative and can be used to even out the skin tone. It can also give a lemon like fragrance.
Safe. Some people with sensitive skin might experience irritation.
11. Tetrasodium EDTA
This is a chelating agent (=binder) that makes metals stay in the formulation and stops them from reacting with other ingredients or picks up metals found in the skin. It can be used to soften water, preserve formulas and prevent microbial growth.
It is valued in skin care applications because of its ability to weaken the natural skin barrier and allow deeper penetration of other ingredients.
Safe. Used in limited concentrations. Perhaps avoid it’s usage on broken or sensitive skin as it can accelerate the penetration of other compounds.
A form of vitamin B5.
Moisturiser, lubricant, hair conditioner, antistatic.
It has binding properties which allow it to coat and seal hair follicles, lubricating the shaft and making the hair appear shiny. It can improve hydration, reduce itching and inflammation and aid in the healing of wounds.
It is considered by some as a potential acne treatment and it has anti-inflammatory properties.
Safe. FDA food approved. CIR approved.
Most commonly used as a food additive and sweetener. It can bind other compounds and stabilize formulas, form films and act as a suspending agent.
Unilever has reported this compound to be an anti-ageing and anti-irritant compound.
Generally it can also act as an absorbent, binder, emulsion stabilizer, hair conditioning agent and skin conditioner.
Safe. It has even been approved by the FDA for use as a food additive.
14. Xanthan Gum
Binder, emulsion stabilizer, skin conditioning agent, surfactant, emulsifying agent, viscosity increasing agent and therefore, texture enhancer.
It holds water, enhances freeze-thaw stability and improves shelf life. It can stabilise a product and form gels.
15. Sodium Phytate
A chelating agent (=picks up metals) and oral care agent.
It is biodegradable and enables the formation of fine bubble foaming and therefore can improve cleaning.
16. Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide
A very potent water binder that hydrates the skin well. Due to the deep hydration it can offer temporary improvement of the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
A good skin conditioning agent and emollient. Some tests have shown that it mimics the activity of hyaluronic acid. It was also reported to function as an anti-inflammatory and a treatment for acne.
A fragrance, hair conditioning agent, skin conditioner, emulsifier and surfactant.
Safe. Concentration limited. FDA approved as an additive. CIR approved with limitations. Potential irritant at moderate doses.
18. PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil
Emollient, texture enhancer, surfactant, fragrance.
Too large of a molecule to penetrate the skin. However, it can sit at the top and prevent moisture from being lost.
Safe. PEGs are not considered to be irritants or sensitizers. CIR and FDA approved for use, but not on broken skin. Can increase the sensitisation from other ingredients. Some concerns over 1,4-dioxane contamination.
19. CI 61750 (Green 5)
A dye of green colour.
Safe. Contradicting information as some organisations have banned this or found it unsafe for use in ingredients.
20. CI 42090 (Blue 1)
A dye of blue colour.
Safe. Contradicting information as one or more studies showed evidence of toxicity and others didn’t.
Refers to a group of compounds, not a single molecule.
Emollient, cleansing agent, anti-foaming, antimicrobial, astringent, masking, viscosity controlling.
It is believed that the good alcohols for skin are the high molecular weight ones, whereas the bad alcohols (drying and sensitising) are the smaller ones with low molecular weight. It is believed that they can disrupt the skin’s surface levels and therefore, denature the skin. Sometimes this property can be used in advantage to deliver certain active ingredients.
Safe. Depends on actual alcohol/amount.
A binder, emulsion stabilizer, film former, viscosity increasing agent and preservative.
23. Centaurea Cyanus Flower Extract
A cosmetic astringent (=causes the contraction of skin cells) and skin conditioner. It also has anti-anti-inflammatory properties.
Anti-oxidant, hair conditioner, anti-inflammatory agent, anti-oxidant, anti-irritant, lightening agent, anticarcinogenic, and antiseptic.
It has been reported to stimulate the blood vessels and encourage hair growth.
Potential anti-cancer properties – research still on going.
25. Oleanolic Acid
Can be found in olive oil!
Skin conditioning, anti-oxidant, anti-flammatory agent.
26. Biotinoyl Tripeptide-1
Hair and skin conditioner and hair growth peptide.
That’s all the ingredients of the blue cleansing liquid. Each bud contains about 0.9mL of this stuff. They work well, with the exception of the bending-breaking issue and they don’t leave any sticky residues behind. The skin is left clean and doesn’t feel dry.
If it wasn’t for the price I would definitely have had them around my beauty dresser or perhaps even in my purse, for correcting red lipstick feathering on the go for example. However, I believe that they are just not worth the cash. The easiness they provide is not matched by an appropriate price tag and let’s face it, it is a fancy product that you don’t actually need. It is truly a shame as they are otherwise quite good.
Bear in mind that these are my personal opinions and that beauty is a very personal thing, we all have different skin, beauty requirements and biological build which can influence things. What worked for me might not work for you and vice versa. If you tried these please leave your comments below!
I am not affiliated with any company or brand. These are my views and experiences.
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