Fancl is known for its simplistic, no-frills approach to skincare, and the brand claims to be free of fragrance, as well as free of preservatives. As you can imagine, a key target of Fancl's audience is also people with sensitive skin, as the brand also claims to avoid ingredients that could irritate skin. Now, that sounds pretty cool, but I'm sure some of you are wondering - is this really all too good to be true? I mean, no preservatives? Wouldn't a product go bad without preservatives, and how does Fancl do that?
Fancl Moisturizing Lotion I: The brand sells its products in small sizes, with the claim that the products are preservative free
Well, we're about to answer some of these questions (and more) in the review, but I gotta caution you, it's going to be a long one. So strap in, and let's start at an obvious place to get some clues - the ingredients list!
Fancl Moisturizing Lotion I Ingredients List
The main ingredients in the product are water, and a whole slew of humectants (Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Betaine, Methyl Gluceth 10, Dipropylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol), some of which might also have double duty as being solvents or delivery systems for other ingredients. After this we have Raffinose, which is a trisaccharide (i.e. a sugar made up of galactose, glucose, and fructose), and in this case functions also as a humectant. Raffinose is used in concentrations ranging from 0.5% to 3%, so at this point, we roughly know that we've covered the bulk of the ingredients that make up the product.
So from the key ingredients, we can see this is really a very light lotion - it's basically water, and a whole bunch of humectants, with no occlusives or emollients. Basically, this product is going to be a super-light water-like humectant lotion, and is really meant to be followed up with a more emollient moisturizer or cream.
The rest of the product includes a bunch of extracts from plants and royal jelly (Royal Jelly Extract, Rice Ferment Filtrate, Lathyrus Odoratus Flower Extract, Mallow Flower Extract, Soybean Sterols), as well as more humectants (Succinoyl Atelocollagen, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucose), emulsifiers (Phytosteryl Isostearate), emollient (Hydrogenated Lecithin), thickeners (Sorbitol), a preservative (Ethylhexylglycerin), as well as a pH adjuster (Potassium Phosphate, Sodium Phosphate).
Fancl Moisturizing Lotion I: A humectant-heavy, emollient-light formulation makes this a very lightweight product
Here's where the review gets a bit more complex. You may recall that Fancl claims to be a preservative-free brand, and the brand keeps its products fresh by 1) using small product sizes, 2) hermetically sealed packaging, and 3) engineering the product so that it is as stable as possible without preservatives, as I reported last year. It turns out, the claim of being "preservative free" is kinda-sorta-maybe true, depending on how strict your standards are. If your main concern is parabens (which I've also blogged about here), then yes, none of the Fancl products have any parabens. And if you mean "no ingredients where preservation is the only function", then that's true for this particular product. But, if you mean "no ingredients where preservation is one of several functions", then that's not true in this case, as evidenced by the presence of Ethylhexylglycerin.
Here's why. Ethylhexylglycerin is an ingredient that, as a glycerin derivative, has both humectant and skin-conditioning functions, in addition to preservative functions. So I guess from a marketing perspective, you couuullllld kiiiindaaaa put it into a product and label it as "preservative free", because it also provides other non-preservative functions to the product. But, in practice, most products include Ethylhexylglycerin for their preservative function, not for their skincare benefits, which are probably easily replicable by just using Glycerin in most cases. So although this product truly 1) doesn't have parabens, and 2) doesn't have "only preservative" function ingredients, it does have an ingredient that also doubles up as a preservative among other things. I guess you could call that engineering the product so that it's also stable without preservatives (particularly parabens), but it's still in there regardless.
Fancl Moisturizing Lotion I: There is Ethylhexylglycerin, which functions both as a humectant as well as a preservative
At the end of the day, though, that's definitely 100% a good thing, although the idea of "preservative-free" skincare sounds sexy and desirable (and certainly Fancl isn't the only brand advertising themselves this way). This is because without preservatives, skincare products can easily grow mould, bacteria, and fungi - and if applied to the skin, can cause allergic reactions, acne and other bad, nasty stuff. This is especially the case products with water in them (which are lotions, creams, gels, cleansers, basically 90% of skincare, except products that are 100% oils). A good comparison is to take a glass of fresh milk (also a product that has water in it, comparable to a lotion or shampoo) and just leave it out on your table - it's going to go bad in a few days. That is what would happen if your skincare had absolutely no preservatives in it. And preservatives in used in very low concentrations anyway - less than 0.1% typically - so honestly, the risk of preservatives to your skin is way less than the risk of mouldy/bacteria-laden skincare. In fact, without preservatives, chances are that your skincare products would have gone bad by the time they are shipped from the manufacturing plant, to the distribution warehouse, and then to the store for you to buy, unless there is very fancy sealed packaging in place that 99% of products don't have.
That said, I do think that Fancl has come as close to the "no preservative" claim as you can possibly get (without having the consumer go through the horrible experience of opening a brand-new but already-spoiled product), as evidenced by the formulation of this product - there is just one preservative here. So while whether a product has preservatives or not isn't a big issue for me, if you are for some reason looking to minimize your exposure to preservatives of any kind, then this brand will be your best bet!
Fancl has also balanced out the comparative lack of preservatives with the packaging - it does indeed come in a small size (this 30ml bottle is the full size product), and it also is sealed hermetically. When I first opened the product, I actually couldn't figure how to get it open, because the bottle was all sealed up. Turns out, you have unscrew the cap and remove the ring around the bottle neck(you can see it in the photo above), then use the cap to puncture a hole in the seal, and then screw back on the cap. You can see from the photo below what a still-sealed bottle looks like - even when the lid is opened, there's a layer of plastic sealing up the bottle.
Fancl Moisturizing Lotion I: The lotion is sealed, and has to be opened by puncturing the seal
So, now that I've gone on a long, long explanation about the product's formulation and preservative-free-ness, how does it actually stack up when used? Basically, because this product is formulated to be very humectant-heavy and emollient-light, and because the product has no fragrance whatsoever, you end up with a product that looks like, feels like, and absorbs like water. So on the aesthetic side of the product, I don't have too much to report other than "watery". This "no frills" approach to skincare might require some adjusting for those who are used to very fragranced products with tackier textures, but I can imagine how for people with sensitive skins - one of Fancl's key audiences - a product like this would be better.
Over time, when I used it, it found that it did do a good job of basically hydrating the skin, which is what it was intended to do. I did appreciate that it had a light texture, but didn't contain any alcohol, so if you have oily skin, and want a lotion that works well without feeling too heavy, this would be a good product to try. Because it sinks in so well and leaves basically no residue on skin, it works pretty well under pretty much any other skincare product or makeup, and is easy to include in a skincare range. Because a bottle is just 30ml, it also gets used up pretty quickly. Fancl has said that the small product size is to ensure the product is used up before it goes bad, and I totally understand the rationale for it, but it still kind of made me a little sad to use up a bottle of lotion so quickly.
Lastly, I also pH-tested the lotion - because if you're going to advertise your product as suitable for sensitive skin, the pH better be agreeable with the skin's natural pH. Turns out, it passed with flying colours, with a pH5.5, which is the ideal pH for skincare! So again, +1 to the "suitable for sensitive skin" category, and kudos to Fancl for ensuring that a product marketed for sensitive skin is indeed suitable for sensitive skin.
Fancl Moisturizing Lotion I: A water-like lotion that also has an optimal pH of 5.5
So, would I recommend the Fancl Moisturizing Lotion I? Sure. It's generally a solidly formulated product, if you're looking for a basic first-step lotion. It has a good number of humectants, as well as a touch of plant extracts for those who like that sort of thing. And it's also the right pH, and also doesn't have any fragrance or otherwise potentially irritating ingredients. And while it's not totally preservative-free, it's probably as close to it as you can safely get, and I do like the very hygienic packaging too. The only downside is the small size of the product, which is just 30ml, and gets used up fast. But if you're looking for a simple, hydrating lotion that would work for sensitive skin, this could be worth looking it.
|Recommended?||Formulation||Packaging||Ease of Use||Effectiveness|
|Yes, for a simple hydrating lotion||8/10||10/10||9/10||8/10|
|The Bottom Line: The simply formulated Fancl Moisturizing Lotion I is a basic hydrating lotion with an optimal pH of 5.5, as well as a lack of fragrance and other irritants (although not quite preservatives).|