I have good news and bad news.
The good news? These days, almost everyone is at least taking the time to glance over a skincare product’s ingredients before adding it to their cart (thank goodness).
The bad news? This can be an overwhelming task, especially if you don’t know which ingredients to use and which ones to avoid. And the confusion doesn’t stop there.
For example, let’s say you’re at your local Sephora. You pick up a product to peek at its ingredients, and—whoa! That’s a short list, you think to yourself. You even recognize almost everything on the bottle! That must’ve been easy to make.
Well, think again.
Formulating a product with fewer ingredients, no fillers and only using clean, recognizable ingredients is extremely difficult. That being said, I never started Otto just for it to be an average skincare brand. In fact, we even took it a step further. We’re also obsessed with the experience—the texture, the scent, and, most importantly, the efficacy.
And if I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t easy. Formulating our products was very time consuming, expensive and, well, the most important part of starting our brand.
The Otto Skin Goods Difference
Fact: Most brands formulate one base for their entire line of skincare, only to swap out just a few ingredients, depending on each product.
I’m so not cool with that.
So, I formulated each product with its own unique set of ingredients and purpose. First, I started with the active ingredients—aka, the ones responsible for those life-changing, brag-worthy results you’ve been longing for—because those are at the heart of everything we create. But it doesn’t stop there. Once I figured out which active ingredients I wanted to use, I focused in on percentage, pH, and the most appropriate time of day to use them.
These powerhouse active ingredients included:
- Stabilized Vitamin C
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
Next, I concisely chose our purposeful plant-based extracts—ones that help the actives work to their best potential. However, what most people don’t understand is that many natural ingredients have a high percentage of causing allergies and irritation. That’s exactly why these ingredients were chosen to suit even the most sensitive skin types.
Finally, we chose a broad-spectrum preservative to keep the product free of bacteria, mold and yeast and allow at least a two-year shelf life (psst...here's why preservatives are extremely important when it comes to your skincare). Minimal ingredients were added to improve texture and scent, so it was well worth the diligent effort for every ingredient positioned in our products to pass such a rigorous test. If an ingredient caused the texture to feel sticky or smell terrible, it was eliminated.
It took multiple revisions to get this just right—and even then, all of the products still had to undergo safety and stability testing to ensure that the formulas would withstand temperature changes, exposure to light and air, and that the preservative system was robust.
Most importantly, we never repeat active ingredients in any of our products. If these powerful ingredients are used correctly in one product, you shouldn’t need to layer it on with another. We call this process Single Note Formulating, and we think it’s the only way to formulate skincare that’s simple, yet effective.
What the Heck Is Single Note Formulating and Why Is It So Important?
- Active ingredients are at the forefront of each and every one of our formulations. Quick recap: active ingredients are what makes a product super effect (think: vitamin C, niacinamide, fruit acids, hyaluronic acid and antioxidants). Not only do we believe in using skin actives at their optimal percentages, we also believe in the concise placement of them, too. Here’s what we mean by that: If you’re using a skincare active ingredient correctly, it should NOT be found in any other part of your routine. Take niacinamide, for example—a calming ingredient responsible for improving mild breakouts, redness and sun damage. Since niacinamide is the active ingredient found in our Multitasker Night Serum, you won’t find this ingredient repeated in any of our other products.
- Skincare actives should be used at just the right time of day. You know how your one friend claims to be a total night owl, while another one is a self-proclaimed early bird? Skincare actives are sorta like that. For example, let’s look at fruit acids. These mildly exfoliating, naturally occurring alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) help remove dull and damaged skin cells, making your complexion highly sensitive to light. That’s why you’ll want to use them at night, to avoid direct sun exposure. Hyaluronic acid, on the other hand, is best used in the morning to hydrate and plump (psst...that’s why we call it our Go-Getter Day Serum!). Seems like a lot of stuff to remember, huh? No sweat. We did the work for you by placing actives in all of our products based on optimal time of day they should be used.
- Certain plant-based extracts are proven to enhance the effects of active ingredients, as long as they complement each other well. Our plant-based extracts are only added if they help the specific active ingredients within each product achieve better results. Even then, we’re still super picky about them—we’ve vetted each and every plant-based extract for low-irritant and allergy potential! Here’s the thing: Just because something is from nature or plant-based doesn’t always mean it’s safe. The fact is, your skin is sensitive, and we really care about that. That’s why combining effective active ingredients with the safest and best plant-based ingredients is very important in our formulating process.
- Skincare has gotten too complicated. 21-step routines? Over it. We believe all skin types can benefit from brightening, clarifying and hydrating ingredients at all times, without alternating products based on season or skin issue. The truth? Most of us struggle with breakouts, discoloration or dehydration at some point or another. The secret is staying consistent with the products and active ingredients you use—whether you haven’t had a breakout in months, or you’re still struggling to clear up hyperpigmentation. A consistent routine with the right skincare actives is essential to keep your skin healthy and fresh.
- Safety means more than just avoiding certain ingredients. At Otto, skincare safety involves a complex process comprised of correctly utilizing active ingredients, vetting plant-based ingredients for irritation potential, properly preserving our products, using sustainable packaging, refusing to test on animals and making your every day a little easier with a simplified routine. It’s not an easy process, but well worth the effort.
Looking at where we are today, I’m surprised that Otto passed the initial phase of formulating. From start to finish, it took about one year for our initial three serums. That being said, I am so proud of what we’ve created. Our formulation process is what Otto is all about. Every single product serves a unique purpose, as well as each and every ingredient. Because you deserve to reveal your best skin yet in the safest, most effective way possible.