If you’ve ever wondered whether or not drugstore makeup is on par with department store makeup, here’s some food for thought: I recently discovered two foundations that have virtually identical ingredient lists! One is from Dolce and Gabbana and retails for $66. The other is from CoverGirl and retails from anywhere between $5 and $10, depending on the seller.
Ingredients for the Dolce and Gabbana and CoverGirl Foundations
Based on packaging, here is the ingredients list for the Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) Perfect Matte Foundation SPF 20.
Active Ingredients: Ensulizole 3%
Inactive Ingredients: Water, cyclomethicone, propylene glycol, talc, dimethicone, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, sodium chloride, PEG/PPG-18/18 dimethicone, PVP, benzyl alcohol, phenoxyethanol, sodium hydroxide, ethylene/methacrylate copolymer, arachidyl behenate, trihydroxystearin, tocopheryl acetate, silica, methicone, sodium benzoate, HDI/trimethylol hexyllactone crosspolymer, synthetic wax, polyglyceryl-4 isostearate, cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 dimethicone, hexyl laurate, isopropyl titanium triisostearate, ethylene brassylate, polyethylene, iron oxides, titanium dioxide
Based on the packaging, here is the ingredients list for the CoverGirl (CG) Outlast Stay Fabulous 3-in-1 Foundation SPF 20.
Active Ingredients: Ensulizole 3%
Inactive Ingredients: Water, cyclopentasiloxane, propylene glycol, talc, dimethicone, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, sodium chloride, PEG/PPG-18/18 dimethicone, PVP, benzyl alcohol, phenoxyethanol, sodium hydroxide, ethylene/methacrylate copolymer, trihydroxystearin, arachidyl behenate, methicone, silica, synthetic wax, sodium benzoate, hexyl laurate, polyglyceryl-4 isostearate, cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 dimethicone, isopropyl titanium triisostearate, ethylene brassylate, behenic acid, polyethylene, iron oxides, titanium dioxide.
I have highlighted the ingredients that differ in the two formulations. As you can see, they are few in number. Every other ingredient is exactly the same, though some of them—particularly the ones toward the end of the lists, are not in the same order. However, note that because the FDA allows for ingredients that are present in <1% to be listed in any order, it is logical to conclude that that is the case here, given the numerous other similarities. But before we simply write off or ignore the meager differences, and claim these two products to be identical, let’s see if we can draw further similarities and narrow the margin of doubt, because that’s what (we; yes you, too!) good scientists do.
Cyclomethicone and Cyclopentasiloxane
For the majority of people, it’s difficult to recognize that some ingredients are not made up of one distinct compound, while others are. In our case for example, the box of the D&G foundation states that the second ingredient present is cyclomethicone, while that of the CG states that the second ingredient is cyclopentasiloxane. At first glance, it would appear that these are two different ingredients.
However, cyclomethicone is actually a blend of cyclopentasiloxane (~75%) and cyclohexasiloxane (~25%)! It’s likely that because a majority of cyclomethicone consists of cyclopentasiloxane, the latter was chosen to display on the packaging of the CG item. D&G obviously chose to retain the less specific ingredient name.
Tocopheryl Acetate and Behenic Acid
Okay this time around, these two ingredients are indeed completely different compounds. However, their functions are rather similar. In cosmetic products, both vitamin E acetate and behenic acid have smoothing and emollient properties that improve moisturization. It is likely that D&G chose to substitute behenic acid with tocopheryl acetate because antioxidants are all the rage; it’s what consumers want to see in an expensive product. Furthermore, it may allow D&G it to make additional claims based off of the inclusion of vitamin E.
HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer
For this ingredient however, I have no concrete rationalizations for why it was included. Its function is that it acts as an anti-caking agent whose microspheres help blur pigments. But really, the silicone content already does that. Perhaps D&G chose a complicated-sounding ingredient to impress potential buyers into thinking that the formulation is sophisticated. Or maybe some people associated HDI with HDMI, so they’ll think that HD-anything means better. I don’t know. I’m pretty much grasping at straws here.
Anyways, this is the sole discrepancy between the two ingredient lists for which I cannot substantively account.
Conclusion: Why the Minor Changes?
Unfortunately, the reason behind these miniscule alterations is unclear. Since I’ve been musing and theorizing for a good portion of this post, I might as well do a bit more. It may be because the people behind D&G wanted to create distance so people would think that while the two formulations are similar, theirs is superior; it plays on people’s ingrained tendency to believe that, “You get what you pay for.”
Furthermore, it makes sense to deduce that CG manufactured the formulation and sold it to D&G, who basically repackaged and rebranded the foundation. This theory is supported by the fact that the CG foundation was launched more than two months before the D&G version. Finally, because D&G is a significantly less-impacting and smaller niche brand, it may not have had the appropriate operating budget to formulate an original formulation in a cost-efficient manner. Buying an existing formulation, changing it slightly, and then selling it for a hefty profit, would be the more attractive option.
Ultimately, it is up to the you whether or not the VERY slight differences in ingredients—primarily the HDI/trimethlol hexyllactone crosspolymer content, is worth the comparatively exorbitant price tag of the D&G foundation. I for one will definitely NOT be trying it. (Please note that I have not tried either foundation, but I hear that the CG is a light-medium coverage, matte-finish foundation, whose shades tend to run more pink than yellow.)
What about you guys? What are your thoughts on this comparison? In general, what do you think about drugstore foundations versus department store ones?
Oh, and two more “coincidences” that support this buying and selling theory? Both (D&G and CG) foundations have fourteen shades, and as a reader (Anne) pointed out: both brands are subsidiaries of P&G.
And please don’t hesitate to play Devil’s advocate and argue against me! As seen with Nicki’s review of the Perricone MD Blue Plasma and mine of the same product, two individuals can interpret the same data very differently, which is an intriguing notion! So discuss away!
John Su describes himself as eccentric—you might find him having a conversation with himself. He’s a stickler for accuracy, so you might find him correcting one thing or another! His goal is to answer questions and provide unbiased, meaningful, and insightful information when it comes to skin care. His underlying motivations stem from a need to inform people who have doubts, questions, or even prayers for solutions to their problems. He has his own skin care blog, The Triple Helixian.View all John Su posts.
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