Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion
Estee Lauder

Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion

A groundbreaking essence-in-lotion that activates and strengthens skin’s foundation to reveal a youthful-looking glow.
Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

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Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

It’s a probiotic ingredient that’s used in one of the most iconic serums in the world, the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair.

Based on manufacturer info it potently protects against UV-induced damage in the skin and helps with DNA repair. An Estee Lauder patent from 2009 also talks about DNA repair activity.

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As far as published research goes we could find one promising one. It showed that applying 10% bacterial extract to sensitive, reactive skin helped with better barrier function and decreased skin sensitivity

So all in all: definitely a promising ingredient, even for sensitive skin types but not the most proven one (yet).

A little helper ingredient that gives the formula a good slip and helps to solubilize other ingredients. It also has binding, softening and moisturizing properties. Comes in the form of water-soluble white powder.

Also-called: Zemea | What-it-does: solvent, moisturizer/humectant

Propanediol is a natural alternative for the often used and often bad-mouthed propylene glycol. It's produced sustainably from corn sugar and it's Ecocert approved. 

It's quite a multi-tasker: can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.  

BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.

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It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive. 

Betaine - goodie
What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A naturally derived amino acid with nice skin moisturization properties. Also helps to make the formula milder and gentler. 

A multi-functional, silky feeling helper ingredient that can do quite many things. It's used as an emulsion stabilizer, solvent and a broad spectrum antimicrobial. According to manufacturer info, it's also a moisturizer and helps to make the product feel great on the skin. It works synergistically with preservatives and helps to improve water-resistance of sunscreens. 

What-it-does: soothing

Lactobacillus ferment is an interesting probiotic ingredient with some promising properties. 

First, according to a 2009 Estee Lauder patent, it’s a DNA repair enzyme and it can help to protect the skin against environmental aggressors.

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Second, still according to Estee Lauder research but now from 2012 the ingredient has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and holds promise in the treatment of acne and rosacea. For the former one 5% was needed to show effectiveness, but for reducing skin sensitivity already 1% showed results. 

The anti-acne effect is confirmed also by US manufacturer, Barnet, that says that Lactobacillus ferment is helpful in killing harmful bacteria and creating a healthy balanced microflora. Compared to well-known anti-acne and anti-inflammatory salicylic acid the probiotic worked faster at reducing the size and redness of acne lesions. 

Bottom line: It’s not the most proven ingredient (yet) but definitely a very promising one especially if you have sensitive skin, acne or rosacea.  

Also-called: Argireline, Acetyl Hexapeptide-3 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, moisturizer/humectant

If you see a cosmetic product that claims that it has "Botox-like effect" then two things are almost certain: one, the product overpromises and two, it contains Argireline. 

So this one is the famous peptide that's marketed by its manufacturer as the "Botox in a jar". The basis for this claim is that it targets the same wrinkle forming mechanism (wrinkles caused by facial muscle movement) as Botox, but the way it works is very different. In addition, the extent to which it can prevent muscles from contracting (and to smooth wrinkles) is very different (otherwise why would anyone use still Botox?). 

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The manufacturer did several studies to prove that Argireline really works and it does (just not as well as Botox). In-vivo (made on real people) tests showed that using 10% Argireline solution around the eyes for 15 days decreased wrinkles depth by 17%. A Spanish University also did some research and found that Argireline increased the level of skin moisturization and decreased both the depth and width of wrinkles "significantly". 

This means, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 does have some ability to smooth wrinkles (but not as well as Botox - sorry, if we sound like a broken record). Also, we have to agree with TruthInAging, that it's not a collagen builder and not a preventer of structural aging (think vitamin C, AHAs or retinol); it's just a quick fix. If you are looking for one, this could be your thing. If you are more of a "let's treat this aging thing properly" type, then it's probably not your thing.

An amino acid sugar that can be found in the skin and does there good and important things. One of them is that it's a precursor for the biosynthesis of superstar moisturizer, hyaluronic acid. So acetyl glucosamine itself is also an important skin-identical ingredient and natural moisturizing factor.

But that is not all, acetyl glucosamine has two other great properties proved by double-blind clinical trials. First, it's a promising ingredient against wrinkles:  2% can improve wrinkles, particularly in the eye area.

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Second, the same amount can also fade - always stubborn - brown spots. (Do not expect magic, though - the photos from the study show the difference after 8 weeks of daily use. The difference is visible, but not that big. It's always good to have realistic expectations. :))  Combined with skincare superstar niacinamide the duo is synergistic and is more effective at improving hyperpigmentation, so if you are after the skin-lightening benefit look out for products that contain both. 

Trehalose - goodie
What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A type of sugar that has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMFhyaluronic acid (HA). If HA does not tell you anything we have a super detailed, geeky explanation about it here.  The TL; DR version of HA is that it's a huge polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) found in the skin that acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent. HA is famous for its crazy water holding capacity as it can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water.

As far as skincare goes, sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid are pretty much the same and the two names are used interchangeably. As cosmetic chemist kindofstephen writes on reddit  "sodium hyaluronate disassociates into hyaluronic acid molecule and a sodium atom in solution". 

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In spite of this, if you search for "hyaluronic acid vs sodium hyaluronate" you will find on multiple places that sodium hyaluronate is smaller and can penetrate the skin better. Chemically, this is definitely not true, as the two forms are almost the same, both are polymers and the subunits can be repeated in both forms as much as you like. (We also checked Prospector for sodium hyaluronate versions actually used in cosmetic products and found that the most common molecular weight was 1.5-1.8 million Da that absolutely counts as high molecular weight).

What seems to be a true difference, though, is that the salt form is more stable and much cheaper so it pops up more often on the ingredient lists. 

If you wanna become a real HA-and-the-skin expert you can read way more about the topic at hyaluronic acid (including some questions around penetration, the usefulness of low molecular weight versions and a bunch of references to scientific literature).

Also-called: Roman Chamomile Flower Extract | What-it-does: soothing

There are two primary types of Chamomile, the German and the Roman. Both has soothing properties, but the German one contains more anti-inflammatory actives (like chamazulene). The anti-inflammatory action of the Roman Chamomile is due to phenolic compounds and -  according to manufacturer info- it also has some nice skin toning properties.

It’s a handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel. At the same time, it also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives, such as the nowadays super commonly used phenoxyethanol

The blend of these two (caprylyl glycol + phenoxyethanol) is called Optiphen, which not only helps to keep your cosmetics free from nasty things for a long time but also gives a good feel to the finished product. It's a popular duo.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

It’s a handy white powder that magically converts a product into a nice gel formula. If you see gel in the name of a moisturiser type thing, chances are carbomer will be in the ingredient list. 

It’s not too common, but sometimes there is also a number after it. The reason for it is that carbomer in itself actually refers to a group of stuff and the number shows the weight and type of the molecule. 

A helper ingredient that can solubilize challenging oils and oil-loving actives into cleansing products. It also has emollient, emulsifying, and wetting properties.

Citric Acid - goodie
What-it-does: exfoliant, buffering

Citric acid comes from citrus fruits and is an AHA. If these magic three letters don’t tell you anything, click here and read our detailed description on glycolic acid, the most famous AHA. 

So citric acid is an exfoliant, that can - just like other AHAs - gently lift off the dead skin cells of your skin and make it more smooth and fresh. 

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There is also some research showing that citric acid with regular use (think three months and 20% concentration) can help sun-damaged skin, increase skin thickness and some nice hydrating things called glycosaminoglycans in the skin. 

But according to a comparative study done in 1995, citric acid has less skin improving magic properties than glycolic or lactic acid. Probably that’s why citric acid is usually not used as an exfoliant but more as a helper ingredient in small amounts to adjust the pH of a formulation. 

What-it-does: preservative

It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It’s not a strong one and doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. To do that it has to break down to its active form, sorbic acid. For that to happen, there has to be water in the product and the right pH value (pH 3-4). 

But even if everything is right, it’s not enough on its own. If you see potassium sorbate you should see some other preservative next to it too.

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BTW, it’s also a food preservative and even has an E number, E202.

What-it-does: chelating, buffering

A little helper ingredient that is used to adjust the pH of the product. It also helps to keep products stay nice longer by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water). 

What-it-does: buffering

It's a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of the products to be right. It has an alkaline pH and can neutralize acidic ingredients.

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

What-it-does: preservative

It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.

It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic. 

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Other than having a good safety profile and being quite gentle to the skin it has some other advantages too. It can be used in many types of formulations as it has great thermal stability (can be heated up to 85°C) and works on a wide range of pH levels (ph 3-10). 

It’s often used together with ethylhexylglycerin as it nicely improves the preservative activity of phenoxyethanol.

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