Priming Moisturizer
Glossier

Priming Moisturizer

Immediately on application, this plumps skin up with moisture to create cushiony bounce and an even texture, which helps minimize the appearance of pores, minus any heavy blurring ingredients. The anti-redness complex soothes and evens skin tone, leaving a clean, dewy, balanced finish.
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. 

Also-called: Aloe Leaf Extract | What-it-does: soothing, emollient, moisturizer/humectant

The extract coming from the juice containing leaves of the Aloe vera plant. It's usually a hydroglycolic extract (though  oil extract for the lipid parts also exists) that has similar moisturizing, emollient and anti-inflammatory properties as the juice itself. We have written some more about aloe here.

What-it-does: emollient

A clear, colorless oily liquid that works as a medium feel emollient. It absorbs very quickly into the skin, leaves no shine and gives a nice, velvety after-feel.

What-it-does: emollient

An emollient ester (basically an oil like liquid) with a light, elegant and silky feel. It gives a matte finish to the products.

It often comes together with two other esters (called Tridecyl Stearate and Tridecyl Trimellitate) as the three of them can be blended so that they mimic very closely the aesthetic and textural properties of controversial, but nice feeling mineral oil.

What-it-does: emollient

A viscous, thick liquid emollient that gives lubricity and cushion at low use levels. It's great for night creams, eye area products, and skin treatment products due to the substantive film forming ability. 

What-it-does: emulsifying, emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It helps water and oil to mix (emulsifier), it makes your skin feel smooth (emollient) and can help to thicken up products.

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: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A fatty acid that can be found naturally in the skin. In fact, it's the most common saturated fatty acid found in animals and plants.

As for skincare, it can make the skin feel nice and smooth in moisturizers (emollient) or it can act as a foam building cleansing agent in cleansers. It's also a very popular ingredient in shaving foams. 

What-it-does: emulsifying | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 3

It’s an oily kind of ingredient that can magically blend with water all by itself. This is called self-emulsifying and SE in its name stands for that. 

Other than that it’s a nice emollient that gives a smooth and soft appearance to the skin.

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We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Hyaluronic Acid - goodie
  • It’s naturally in our skin and behaves there like a sponge
  • It can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water
  • Awesome moisturizer and has other important biological functions
  • Different molecular weight versions exist and that raises questions
  • Skin penetration abilities of high-molecular-weight HA is debated (see geeky details for more info)
  • Usefulness of low-molecular-weight HA is also debated (see geeky details for more info)
Read all the geeky details about Hyaluronic Acid here >>

Also-called: Shea Butter | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient

Unless you live under a rock you must have heard about shea butter. It's probably the most hyped up natural butter in skincare today. It comes from the seeds of African Shea or Karite Trees and used as a magic moisturizer and emollient.

But it's not only a simple emollient, it's considered to be an NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor) that regenerates and soothes the skin and also protects it from external factors (such as UV rays or wind). If that would not be enough it's also rich in antioxidants (among others vitamin A, E, F, quercetin and epigallocatechin gallate). If you are looking for rich emollient benefits + more, shea is hard to beat. 

Glycerin - goodie
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • Super common, used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but plays an important role in keeping the stuff between our skin cells healthy
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

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. 

Also-called: Silver Ear Fungus Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, moisturizer/humectant

polysaccharide (a big sugar molecule) coming from the edible fruit bodies of the Silver Ear mushroom in China. Legend has it, imperial Concubine Yang Kuei-fei - the most beautiful woman in Chinese history - used it for her facial care.

So Tremella Extract is a big molecule (more than 1M Da molecular weight) with sugar constituents of Mannose, Xylose, and Glucuronic acid (20%). The last one is the most important one, as Glucuronic acid is also a major component in hyaluronic acid (HA). Thanks to this, Tremella is claimed to be an awesome moisturizer with slightly greater water-holding capacities that HA itself. This is quite a big deal as HA is known for its crazy water-holding capacity (up to 1000 times its own weight).

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Not only that but Tremella also seems to have some antioxidant effect, it's not sticky (humectants do tend to be sticky) and it leaves skin moist and smooth. No wonder, Concubine Yang Kuei-fei liked this mushroom.

Also-called: Green Tea | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial
  • Green tea is one of the most researched natural ingredients
  • The active parts are called polyphenols, or more precisely catechins (EGCG being the most abundant and most active catechin)
  • There can be huge quality differences between green tea extracts. The good ones contain 50-90% catechins (and often make the product brown and give it a distinctive smell)
  • Green tea is proven to be a great antioxidant, UV protectant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial
  • Because of these awesome properties green tea is a great choice for anti-aging and also for skin diseases including rosacea, acne and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract here >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Indian Frankincense Extract | What-it-does: soothing

The extract coming from the Indian Frankincense, a medium sized tree native to India. Mostly the gum-resin is used that is obtained  from the incision made on the trunk of the tree.  It contains about 30-60% resin, 5-10% fragrant essential oil,  and the rest is made up of polysaccharides (mostly arabinose, galactose, xylose).

The biologically most active components of the resin are boswellic acids that have anti-inflammatory propertiesAccording to manufacturer info, the boswellic acids rich resin extract is also a potent inhibitor of elastase (an enzyme that breaks down proteins, including collagen) and has antiGAGase activity (protecting the important natural moisturizing factors, glycosaminoglycans in the skin) meaning that it can help the skin to stay firm for a longer time.

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The reason why we did not award Boswellia Serrata Extract a goodie status is that this INCI name is not clear enough on the type of the extract. It might be a boswellic acids rich, anti-inflammatory extract (that is a goodie) or it might be a fragrant essential oil rich extract used in perfumery or aromatherapy that can be a problem for sensitive skin types. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Tetrapeptide-14 - goodie

A peptide designed by a small company (Helix Biomedix) specializing in developing small proteins aka bioactive-peptides. Tetrapeptide-14 is claimed to be a soothing, redness reducing peptide that works by down-regulating a pro-inflammatory signal molecule (called interleukon-6) to prevent inflammation.

The peptide is combined with plant extracts (green tea, boswellia) and honey and is sold under the trade name Granactive AR-1423. According to the manufacturer of the complex, 5% of the active reduced rosacea associated redness by 50% over a 4 weeks study.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

It's an ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that belongs to the "retinoid family". The retinoid family is pretty much the royal family of skincare, with the queen being the FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient tretinoin. Retinol is also a very famous member of the family, but it's like Prince William, two steps away from the throne. Retinyl palmitate will be then little Prince George, quite far (3 steps) away from the throne. 

By steps, we mean metabolic steps. Tretinoin, aka retinoic acid, is the active ingredient our skin cells can understand and retinyl palmitate (RP) has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to actually do something. The conversion is a 3 step one and looks like this:

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retinyl palmitate --> retinol -- > retinaldehyde --> all-trans-retinoic acid

As we wrote in our lengthy retinol description the problem is that the conversion is not terribly effective. The evidence that RP is still an effective anti-aging ingredient is not very strong, in fact, it's weak. Dr. Leslie Baumann in her fantastic Cosmetic Dermatology book writes that RP is topically ineffective

What's more, the anti-aging effectiveness is not the only questionable thing about RP. It also exibits questionable behaviour in the presence of UV light and was the center of a debate between the non-profit group, EWG (whose intentions are no doubt good, but its credibility is often questioned by scientists) and a group of scientists and dermatologists lead by Steven Q. Wang, MD,  director of dermatologic surgery at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. 

Dr. Leslie Baumann wrote a great review of the debate and summarized the research available about retinyl palmitate here.  It seems that there is a study showing RP being photo protective against UVB rays but there is also a study showing RP causing DNA damage and cytotoxicity in association with UVA. 

We think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we agree with Dr. Baumann's conclusion: "sufficient evidence to establish a causal link between RP and skin cancer has not been produced. Nor, I’m afraid, are there any good reasons to recommend the use of RP". We would add especially during the day!

Bottom line: If you wanna get serious about retinoids, RP is not your ingredient (retinol or tretinoin is!). However, if you use a product that you like and it also contains RP, there is no reason to throw it away. If possible use it at night, just to be on the safe side.

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C | What-it-does: antioxidant, vitamins

A form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. (If you do not know what the big deal with vitamin C is then you are missing out. You must go and read our geeky details about it.) 

So ascorbyl palmitate (AP) is one of the attempts of the cosmetic industry to solve the stability issues with vitamin C while preserving its benefits - but unfortunately, this guy is pretty much a failure, hence our icky rating.

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So what's the problem?

First, it's stability is only similar to pure ascorbic acid (AA), which means not really stable. A great study in Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology compared a bunch of vitamin C derivatives and this derivative was the only one where the study said in terms of stability that it's "similar to AA". Not really good.

Second, a study that examined skin absorption of vitamin C found that ascorbyl palmitate did not increase the skin levels of AA. This does not mean that ascorbyl palmitate cannot penetrate the skin (because it can, it's oil soluble and skin likes to absorb oil soluble things) but it means that it's questionable if ascorbyl palmitate is converted to pure vit C in the skin. And if it's not really converted, then it cannot do all the magical things pure AA can. Again, not good.

Third, another study that wanted to examine the antioxidant properties of AP was surprised to find that even though AP does have nice antioxidant properties, following UVB radiation (the same one that comes from the sun) it also promotes lipid peroxidation and cytotoxicity. Also not good. 

The only good thing we can write about Ascorbyl Palmitate is that there is an in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) study showing that it might be able to boost collagen production. And more collagen means fewer wrinkles.

Regarding the skin-brightening properties of pure vitamin C, this is another magic property AP does not have, or at least there is no data, not even in-vitro saying anything about it.

All in all, we have to say that AP seems to be the worst of the vitamin C derivatives. Luckily, there are several other ones that all seem to be better, so click here, look around and choose rather one of them.

Also-called: Vitamin E Acetate | What-it-does: antioxidant, vitamins | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the most commonly used version of pure vitamin E in cosmetics. You can read all about the pure form here. This one is the so-called esterified version. 

According to famous dermatologist, Leslie Baumann while tocopheryl acetate is more stable and has a longer shelf life, it’s also more poorly absorbed by the skin and may not have the same awesome photoprotective effects as pure Vit E. 

It's a film-forming polymer (a large molecule composed of many repeated subunits) that comes to the formula usually as part of an emulsifier, thickener trio (with C13-14 Isoparaffin and Laureth-7). This trio is an easy-to-use liquid that helps to create nice, non-tacky gel formulas

Also-called: Fermented Radish Root | What-it-does: antimicrobial/antibacterial, preservative

It's an alternative, natural preservative that comes from radishes fermented with Leuconostoc kimchii, a lactic acid bacteria that has been used to make traditional Korean dish, kimchi. During the fermentation process, a peptide is secreted from the bacteria that has significant antimicrobial properties

It is one of the more promising natural preservatives that can be used even alone (recommended at 2-4%), but it's not as effective as more common alternatives, like parabens or phenoxyethanol

Phospholipids - goodie

A type of lipid that's the major component of all cell membranes. As for skincare, it works as an emollient and skin-identical ingredient. It's also often used to create liposomes.

Also-called: Beeswax | What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling

It's the yellow, solid stuff that you probably know from beeswax candles. It's a natural material produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb.

As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. It's super common in lip balms and lipsticks. 

A common functional ingredient that helps to keep the other ingredients together, stabilizes and thickens the products. It also helps water to mix with oils and dirt - a useful thing for cleaning the skin and hair.

If you are a chemist geek you might want to know that it’s made from the mixture of Cetearyl alcohol (a fatty alcohol - the nice type of alcohols) and ethylene oxide. The numerical value at the end of the ingredient name marks the average number of ethylene oxide molecules added. 20 seems to be a common choice.

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It’s normally used at 1-3% concentration.

A not-very-interesting helper ingredient that is used as an emulsifier and/or surfactant. Comes from a coconut oil derived fatty alcohol, lauryl alcohol.

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: chelating

A helper ingredient that helps to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water) so it stays nice longer. The special property of this particular ingredient is that it's more effective against more problematic ions, like Cu (copper) and Fe (iron) compared to less problematic ones like Ca (calcium)  and Mg (magnesium).

What-it-does: emollient

A white, waxy emollient that gives "body" to skincare formulas. Comes from coconut or palm kernel oil. 

It's a petroleum derived emollient and thickener. It often comes to the formula as part of an emulsifier, thickener trio (with Polyacrylamide and Laureth-7). This trio is an easy-to-use liquid that helps to create nice, non-tacky gel formulas. 

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. 

What-it-does: buffering

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Japanese Honeysuckle Flower Extract | What-it-does: preservative

A white-flowered honeysuckle that contains a natural form of paraben called parahydroxy benzoic acid (PHBA) and serves as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial preservative. Yep, it's paraben in disguise. We have written about it more at the Italian Honeysuckle.

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