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.
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.
A clear, yellowish liquid that works as a cleansing agent. It has so-called amphoteric structure meaning that its head contains both a positively and a negatively charged part (surfactants are most commonly anionic meaning their head has a negative charge). Its structure makes Sodium Cocoamphoacetate very mild with great foaming properties. It's popular in baby products.
- It's a helper ingredient that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products
- It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer
- It has a bad reputation among natural cosmetics advocates but cosmetic scientists and toxicology experts do not agree (read more in the geeky details section)
It’s probably the most common cleansing ingredient of all. It’s usually the Chief Bubble Officer responsible for beautiful bubbles in cleansing products.
As for mildness, it goes somewhere in the middle. It’s often confused with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), but they are absolutely not the same. SLES is milder and much less irritating and considered ok in the amount used in cosmetic products.
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.
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.
A helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi.
It’s pH dependent and works best at acidic pH levels (3-5). It’s not strong enough to be used in itself so it’s always combined with something else, often with potassium sorbate.
- It's one of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin
- It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed)
- It's a potent anti-inflammatory agent
- It's more effective for treating blackheads than acne
- For acne combine it with antibacterial agents like benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid
Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt.
It’s a common little helper ingredient in cosmetics that helps to increase the volume of a product (bulking), to disguise any unpleasant smell (masking) or to thicken up a formula (viscosity controlling). Sometimes it’s also used as a scrub.
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