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A.H.C Ahc Natural Perfection Fresh Sun Stick Spf50+/Pa++++

Ahc Natural Perfection Fresh Sun Stick Spf50+/Pa++++

Carry with you and apply frequently to areas that require UV protection (face and body).
Uploaded by: celina on

Ingredients overview

Dimethicone, Vinyl Dimethicone/​Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Polyethylene, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Homosalate, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Hydrogenated Poly(C6-14 Olefin), Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Ozokerite, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Litsea Cubeba Fruit Oil, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Camellia Japonica Flower Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Water, Centella Asiatica Extract, Water, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Stem Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Vanilla Tahitensis Fruit Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil Unsaponifiables, Sea Water, Lactobacillus/​Soybean Ferment Extract, Dioscorea Japonica Root Extract, Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract, Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract, Chamaecyparis Obtusa Leaf Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Cinnamomum Cassia Bark Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Nymphaea Alba Flower Extract, Epilobium Fleischeri Extract, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Bark Extract, Nephelium Lappaceum Branch/​Fruit/​Leaf Extract, Litchi Chinensis Fruit Extract, Garcinia Mangostana Peel Extract, Gardenia Taitensis Flower Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, (-)-Alpha-Bisabolol, Lauryl PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Dehydroacetic Acid, Water, Carbonated Water, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Dipropylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Xylitylglucoside, Anhydroxylitol, Capryloyl Glycine, Sodium Palmitoyl Proline, Hexylene Glycol, Xylitol, Sarcosine, 1,2-Hexanediol, Citric Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Oxygen, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tocopherol

Highlights

#alcohol-free
Alcohol Free

Other Ingredients

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Dimethicone emollient 0, 1
Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer viscosity controlling
Polyethylene viscosity controlling
Cetyl Ethylhexanoate emollient
Homosalate sunscreen
Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate sunscreen 0, 0
Dicaprylyl Carbonate emollient
Hydrogenated Poly(C6-14 Olefin) emollient, viscosity controlling
Ethylhexyl Salicylate sunscreen 0, 0
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate sunscreen goodie
Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate sunscreen goodie
Ozokerite viscosity controlling
Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil perfuming icky
Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil perfuming icky
Litsea Cubeba Fruit Oil perfuming
Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract antioxidant, soothing superstar
Camellia Japonica Flower Extract emollient
Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Water
Centella Asiatica Extract soothing, antioxidant, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Water solvent
Opuntia Ficus-Indica Stem Extract soothing goodie
Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract
Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil antioxidant, emollient goodie
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract soothing, emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract
Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract soothing, antioxidant, perfuming goodie
Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil emollient, perfuming 0, 4 goodie
Vanilla Tahitensis Fruit Extract
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil Unsaponifiables soothing, skin-identical ingredient, emollient goodie
Sea Water moisturizer/​humectant, solvent
Lactobacillus/Soybean Ferment Extract
Dioscorea Japonica Root Extract
Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract soothing, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract
Chamaecyparis Obtusa Leaf Extract
Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract soothing goodie
Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Portulaca Oleracea Extract soothing, antioxidant goodie
Cinnamomum Cassia Bark Extract
Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Nymphaea Alba Flower Extract
Epilobium Fleischeri Extract
Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Bark Extract antimicrobial/​antibacterial, antioxidant, emollient, moisturizer/​humectant, perfuming
Nephelium Lappaceum Branch/Fruit/Leaf Extract
Litchi Chinensis Fruit Extract
Garcinia Mangostana Peel Extract
Gardenia Taitensis Flower Extract
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil emollient 0, 0 goodie
(-)-Alpha-Bisabolol soothing goodie
Lauryl PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Dehydroacetic Acid preservative
Water solvent
Carbonated Water
Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Dipropylene Glycol solvent, perfuming, viscosity controlling
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Xylitylglucoside moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Anhydroxylitol moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Capryloyl Glycine surfactant/​cleansing
Sodium Palmitoyl Proline
Hexylene Glycol solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/​cleansing 0-1, 0-2
Xylitol moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Sarcosine goodie
1,2-Hexanediol solvent
Citric Acid buffering
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Potassium Sorbate preservative
Oxygen
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie

A.H.C Ahc Natural Perfection Fresh Sun Stick Spf50+/Pa++++
Ingredients explained

What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Probably the most common silicone of all. It is a polymer (created from repeating subunits) molecule and has different molecular weight and thus different viscosity versions from water-light to thick liquid.

As for skincare, it makes the skin silky smooth, creates a subtle gloss and forms a protective barrier (aka occlusive). Also, works well to fill in fine lines and wrinkles and give skin a plump look (of course that is only temporary, but still, it's nice). There are also scar treatment gels out there using dimethicone as their base ingredient. It helps to soften scars and increase their elasticity. 

As for hair care, it is a non-volatile silicone meaning that it stays on the hair rather than evaporates from it and smoothes the hair like no other thing. Depending on your hair type, it can be a bit difficult to wash out and might cause some build-up (btw, this is not true to all silicones, only the non-volatile types). 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

This bamboozling INCI name is given to a spherical silicone powder that has an elastic silicone rubber inner part and a harder silicone resin outer part.

It gives formulas a uniquely soft, silky feeling, and has a mattifying and soft focus effect. It is available in different particle sizes and the larger the particle the more line/pore filling effect the powder has. 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

Polyethylene is the most common plastic in the world. It is a super versatile polymer (molecule from repeated subunits) and when it comes to cosmetics, it is often referred to as microbeads. Well, it used to be referred to as microbeads, as it was banned in 2015 in the " Microbead-Free Waters Act" due to the small plastic spheres accumulating in the waters and looking like food to fish. Well done by Obama. 

But being versatile means that polyethylene does not only come as scrub particles but also as a white wax. In its wax-form, it is still well, alive and pretty popular. It thickens up water-free formulas, increases hardness and raises the melting point of emulsions and water-less balms. It is particularly common in cleansing balms and stick-type makeup products due to its ability to add body, hardness and slip to these formulas. 

What-it-does: emollient

An odorless and colorless emollient ester (cetyl alcohol + ethylhexanoic acid) that gives a velvety and silky feel to the skin. It has great spreadability and a non-oily feel. It's a popular ingredient in makeup removers.

What-it-does: sunscreen

An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects the skin from UVB (295-315 nm) with a peak protection at 306 nm. Homosalate is not a strong UV filter in and of itself (gives only SPF 4.3 protection at max. allowed 10% concentration) and it is not photostable (looses 10% of its SPF protection in 45 mins) so it always has to be combined with other sunscreens for proper protection. Its big advantage, though, is that it is a liquid and is excellent for dissolving other hard to solubilize powder sunscreen agents, like the famous Avobenzone.

Regarding Homosalate's safety profile, we do not have the best news. In-vitro (made in the labs) studies have shown that it might have some estrogenic activity. Do not panic, these studies were not conducted on real humans under real world conditions. Still, if you are a 'better safe than sorry' type, be careful when using Homosalate containing sunscreens long-term and full-body.

As of 2020, Homosalate is permitted to be used up to 10% in the EU and 15% in the US, but the EU is currently considering restricting it to only 1.4% (probably taking effect from 2022).  

Also-called: Octinoxate, Octyl Methoxycinnamate | What-it-does: sunscreen | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A clear, oil-soluble, "cosmetically-elegant" liquid that is the most commonly used chemical sunscreen. It absorbs UVB radiation (at wavelengths: 280-320 nm) with a peak protection at 310nm. 

It only protects against UVB and not UVA rays (the 320-400 nm range) – so always choose products that contain other sunscreens too. It is not very stable either, when exposed to sunlight, it kind of breaks down and loses its effectiveness (not instantly, but over time - it loses 10% of its SPF protection ability within 35 mins). To make it more stable it can be - and should be - combined with other sunscreen agents to give stable and broad-spectrum protection (the new generation sunscreen agent, Tinosorb S is a particularly good one for that).

Regarding safety, there are also some concerns around Octinoxate. In vitro (made in the lab not on real people) and animal studies have shown that it may produce hormonal (estrogen-like) effects. Do not panic, the studies were not conducted under real life conditions on real human people, so it is probably over-cautious to avoid Octinoxate altogether. However, if you are pregnant or a small child (under 2 yrs. old), choose a physical (zinc oxide/titanium dioxide) or new-generation Tinosorb based sunscreen, just to be on the super-safe side. :) 

Overall, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is an old-school chemical sunscreen agent. There are plenty of better options for sun protection today, but it is considered "safe as used" (and sunscreens are pretty well regulated) and it is available worldwide (can be used up to 10% in the EU and up to 7.5% in the US).

What-it-does: emollient

A clear, colorless, almost odorless oil that spreads nicely and easily and gives a velvet dry skin feel. It is good friends with sunscreen agents and helps to solubilize them. Also, it makes sunscreens feel lighter and spread easier. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Octyl Salicylate, Octisalate | What-it-does: sunscreen | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A colorless to light yellowish oily liquid that works as a UVB (280-320nm) sunscreen filter with a peak absorbance at 306 nm. It's not a strong filter in itself, it's always used in combination with other sunscreen agents to further enhance the SPF and to solubilize other solid UV filters.

It has a good safety profile and is allowed to be used at a max concentration of 5% both in the US and in Europe (10% is allowed in Japan).

Also-called: Vitamin E Acetate | What-it-does: antioxidant | 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. 

Also-called: Uvinul A Plus, DHHB | What-it-does: sunscreen

Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate is a new generation, chemical sunscreen agent (not available in the US due to impossible FDA regulations) that's designed for high UVA protection and high photostability. It gives sun protection in the whole UVA range (320-400 nm) with peak protection at 354nm. It can be used up to 10% worldwide except for the US and Canada. 

Also-called: Uvinul A Plus, DHHB | What-it-does: sunscreen

Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate is a new generation, chemical sunscreen agent (not available in the US due to impossible FDA regulations) that's designed for high UVA protection and high photostability. It gives sun protection in the whole UVA range (320-400 nm) with peak protection at 354nm. It can be used up to 10% worldwide except for the US and Canada. 

A hydrocarbon wax consisting mainly of saturated straight chain hydrocarbons with C18-90+ carbon chain length. It has a high melting point (58-100 C) and it is used mainly in stick type products, such as lip balms to keep the product nice and solid.

Also-called: Orange Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the sweet orange. In the case of orange (and citruses in general), the essential oil is mainly in the peel of the fruit, so it's pretty much the same as the orange peel oil (also has the same CAS number - a unique ID assigned to chemicals).

Its main component is limonene (up to 97%), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer). 

Also-called: Mandarin Orange Oil, Tangor Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the peel of the mandarin orange or tangor. In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (77-86% for mandarin peel), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer).  Apart from smelling nice (and thus being a popular natural fragrance alternative), Mandarin Orange Oil also has significant antioxidant properties that's comparable to synthetic antioxidant BHT or oil-soluble antioxidant big shot vitamin E

On the con side, the fragrant components of citrus peels might irritate sensitive skin and citrus peels also contain the problematic compound called furanocoumarin that makes them (mildly) phototoxic. Orange mandarin peel contains less from it than some other citruses (like bergamot or lime), but still, be careful with it especially if it's in a product for daytime use.  

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Green Tea | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing
  • 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 >>

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Lavender Flower Water

In general, flower waters are diluted versions of essential oils meaning they contain pretty much the same components but in much-reduced concentrations. So lavender flower water is a highly diluted version of lavender essential oil. According to manufacturer claims, it's traditionally used as bath water or wash water and might be useful for acne-prone or oily skin thanks to lavender's antibacterial properties.

We wrote in detail about lavender essential oil and why we prefer it not to have in skincare products (in short, it not only contains fragrant components but research shows it might be cytotoxic even at low concentrations) so we would also be cautious with the lavender water. It's much more diluted - so less effect and less side effect - but why risk it? 

Also-called: Gotu Kola, Tiger Grass | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, moisturizer/humectant

Centella Asiatica - or gotu kola as normal people call it  - has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years. It’s traditionally used to improve small wounds, burns and scratches and it’s also a well known anti-inflammatory agent for eczema.

Recently science has taken an interest in Gotu Kola as well and it turns out it really has many active compounds with several benefits. Just for hard-core geeks, the main biologically active compounds are pentacyclic triterpenoid saponins called asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic and madecassic acid (also called centellosides).

One of the biological activities of the centellosides is to be able to stimulate GAGs  (glycosaminoglycans - polysaccharides that are part of the liquidy stuff between our skin cells), and especially hyaluronic acid synthesis in our skin. This is probably one of the reasons why Centella Asiatica Extract has nice skin moisturizing properties that was confirmed by a 25 people, four weeks study along with Centella's anti-inflammatory effects.

Madecassoside can also help in burn wound healing through increasing antioxidant activity and enhancing collagen synthesis. Asiaticoside was shown to increase antioxidant levels on rats skin when applied at 0.2%. 

Centella Asiatica also often shows up in products that try to treat cellulite or striae. Of course, it cannot make a miracle but it might have some effect via regulating microcirculation and normalizing the metabolism in the cells of connective tissues. 

Bottom line: Gotu Kola is a great plant ingredient with proven wound healing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Nice to spot on any ingredient list.  

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. 

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: Prickly Pear, Nopal, Indian Fig | What-it-does: soothing

The extract derived from Prickly Pear, a cactus native to Mexico. It is well-known for its soothing and hydrating properties. Read our shiny explanation about Opuntia Ficus-Indica here >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Argan Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

When it comes to cosmetic oils and hype, argan oil is for sure leading the way. Dubbed as the "liquid gold of Morocco", we have to admit we have some trouble determining why this oil enjoys such a special miracle status. Not that it's not good, it is good, even great but reading the research about argan and a bunch of other plant oils we just do not see the big, unique differentiating factor (though that might be our fault not reading enough, obvs.)

So, argan oil comes from the kernel of the argan fruit that comes from the argan tree that grows only in Morocco. The tree is slow growing and getting the oil is a hard job. The traditional process is that the ripe argan fruits fall from the tree, then goats eat them up and poop out the seeds. The seeds are collected and smashed with a stone to get the kernels inside. This part is the hard one as the seeds have extremely hard shells. Once the kernels are obtained, the oil is pressed out from them (the kernels contain about 50% oil).

As for skincare, argan oil is loaded with lots of skin goodies (but so are many other plant oils): it contains 80% nourishing and moisturizing unsaturated fatty acids, mainly oleic (38-50%), linoleic (28-38%) and palmitic (10-18%). It also contains a relatively large amount of antioxidant vitamin E (600-900 mg/kg, about twice as much as olive), small amounts of antioxidant phenols (including caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and epicatechin), as well as some rare sterols with soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Thanks to all the above goodness in argan oil, it can greatly nourish and moisturize the skin and hair. It's also claimed to be able to neutralize collagen-damaging free radicals, help reduce scars, and revitalize and improve skin elasticity. You can even read that argan might help acne-prone skin, but being a high oleic oil, we would be careful with that

All in all, argan oil is a real goodie but we do not fully understand the special miracle status it enjoys.

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.

Also-called: Orange Fruit Extract

We have to start by writing that there are about 900 citrus species in the world, and plenty of them are used to make different kinds of extracts used in cosmetics. This particular one, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Fruit Extract is a very common ingredient, however, the species "Citrus Aurantium Dulcis" seem to exist only on ingredient lists and the real world calls this guy Citrus Sinensis or, you know, orange. 

To complicate matters further, there are lots of varieties and lots of extraction methods, so it is a bit hard to know what you are getting with this one, but we will try our best to summarize the possibilities. 

A very common scenario is that  Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Fruit Extract is on the ingredient list for its mild, natural exfoliant properties. It contains mainly citric acid and some malic acid, AHA exfoliants known for their skin renewing properties. If that's the case, it is usually combined with other AHA containing fruits such as bilberry, sugar cane, lemon, and sugar maple in a super popular ingredient mix trade named ACB Fruit Mix.

But orange fruit is loaded with lots of other active compounds with a wide variety of possible effects. A well-known one is the antioxidant vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, but the dosage will vary based on the extraction method, and it’s possible that some of the ascorbic acid content will degrade before extraction process even takes place. If you want vitamin C in your skincare, that is smart, but do not rely on orange fruit extract for it.

Flavonoids (hesperidin, naringin, luteolin, and ferulic acid) are also nice active compounds with possible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and vasoprotective effects. Some of them (namely hesperidin and luteolin) might even have skin brightening activity by inhibiting tyrosinase, the famous enzyme needed for melanin production.

The orange extract also contains carbohydrates, aka sugars (mostly glucose, fructose, and sucrose, but also some bigger polysaccharides such as pectin) giving the ingredient some moisturizing properties.

Some essential oil content is usually also present in citrus fruit extracts, which means a nice scent and antibacterial properties, but also some questionable compounds such as fragrance allergen limonene or phototoxic compound bergaptene. If the amount is big enough to worry about is questionable, probably not, however, the same question applies to all the nice beneficial compounds. 

Overall, we think that the orange fruit extract is a very complex ingredient with lots of potentially good things in it, but we could not find proper in-vivo (made on real people) studies made with standardized extracts to validate what it really does or does not under real-world use cases. 

Also-called: Calendula Extract, Marigold Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, perfuming

The extract coming from the popular garden plant Calendula or Marigold. According to manufacturer info, it's used  for many centuries for its exceptional healing powers and is particularly remarkable in the treatment of wounds. It contains flavonoids that give the plant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

Also-called: Coconut Oil | What-it-does: emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 4

There is definitely some craze going on for coconut oil both in the healthy eating space (often claimed to be the healthiest oil to cook with but this is a topic for another site) and in the skin and hair care space. 

We will talk here about the latter two and see why we might want to smear it all over ourselves. Chemically speaking, coconut oil has a unique fatty acid profile. Unlike many plant oils that mostly contain unsaturated fatty acids (fatty acids with double bonds and kinky structure such as linoleic or oleic), coconut oil is mostly saturated (fatty acids with single bonds only) and its most important fatty acid is Lauric Acid (about 50%).  Saturated fatty acids have a linear structure that can stack nice and tight and hence they are normally solid at room temperature. Coconut oil melts around 25 °C so it is solid in the tub but melts on contact with the skin. 

The saturated nature of coconut oil also means that it is a heavy-duty-oil ideal for dry skin types. A double-blind research confirmed that extra virgin coconut oil is as effective in treating xerosis (aka very dry skin) as mineral oil. Another study found that coconut oil is more effective than mineral oil in treating mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (aka eczema) in children.

So when it comes to dry skin, coconut oil is a goodie, no question there. The question is if it is good or bad for acne-prone skin. Its main fatty acid, Lauric Acid has some research showing that it is a promising ingredient against evil acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes but at the same time, both Lauric Acid and coconut oil have a very high comedogenic rating (4 out of 5). Though comedogenic ratings are not very reliable, anecdotal evidence (i.e. people commenting in forums) shows that people have mixed experiences. While some claim that it worked wonders on their acne others say that it gave them serious blackheads and zits. Try it at your own risk. 

As for hair care, coconut oil has pretty solid research showing that it can penetrate into the hair very well (better than mineral oil and sunflower oil) and it can prevent hair protein loss as well as combing damage.  If you have problems with damaged hair, split ends, coconut oil is worth trying as a pre- or/and post-wash treatment.  Labmuffin has an awesome blogpost explaining in more detail why coconut oil is good for your hair.

A couple of other things worth mentioning: coconut oil might help with wound healing (promising animal study), it has some antifungal activity (against dermatophytes that cause the thing known as ringworm) and it also works as an insect repellent against black flies. 

Overall, coconut oil is definitely a goodie for the hair and dry skin. If that warrants for the magic oil status it enjoys, we don't know. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Sunflower Oil Unsaponifiables | What-it-does: soothing, skin-identical ingredient, emollient

The unsaponifiable part of sunflower oil. It's the small part of the oil that resists saponification, the chemical reaction that happens during soap making.

If you want to understand saponification more, here is a short explanation (if not, we understand, just skip this paragraph): Oils are mostly made up of triglyceride molecules (a glycerin + three fatty acids attached to it) and during the soap making process a strong base splits the triglyceride molecule up to become a separate glycerin and three soap molecules (sodium salts of fatty acids). The fantastic Labmuffin blog has a handy explanation with great drawings about the soap-making reaction. 

So, the triglyceride molecules are the saponifiable part of the oil, and the rest is the unsaponifiable part. In the case of sunflower oil, it's about 1.5-2% of the oil and consists of skin nourishing molecules like free fatty acids (fatty acids not bound up in a triglyceride molecule, it contains mainly (48-74% according to its spec) barrier building linoleic acid), tocopherol (vitamin E) and sterols.

According to manufacturer's info, it's an oily ingredient that not only simply moisturizes the skin but also has great lipid-replenishing and soothing properties. The clinical study done by the manufacturer (on 20 people) found that a cream with 2% active increases skin moisturization by 48.6% after 1 hour, and 34.2% after 24 hours. Applied twice daily for 4 weeks, the study participants had a major improvement in skin dryness, roughness, and desquamation (skin peeling) parameters.

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A biotechnologically derived ingredient that is produced by the fermentation of a marine bacteria living in the cold Antarctic Ocean. According to the manufacturer's info, it seems to have two different sets of magic properties: 

The first set includes skin-protecting and anti-aging abilities: it can help to protect the skin from dryness and redness due to cold weather and it also promotes skin regeneration and smoother skin surface by stimulating protein synthesis in the skin.  More specifically, these proteins are type I and IV collagen and elastin, all super important stuff for wrinkle-free, young looking skin (though these results came only from in-vitro tests and might or might not apply to living human skin). 

As for in-vivo (tested on real people) efficacy, 1% Antarcticine (the trade name for the diluted version of the Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract) cream increased skin hydration by 14.8% in cold weather and 5% Antarcticine cream decreased the depth of wrinkles by 44% around the eyes.

The second set of magic properties are all about oily skin regulation, such as reducing sebum production, shininess, and pore size. It acts through reducing Melanocortin 5 receptor, a protein important in sebum production. According to the in-vivo tests of the manufacturer, it both immediately reduces skin gloss as well as significantly reduces the number of active follicles and their total surface with ongoing use (by 9.5% and 27.2% after 28 days).

Overall, an interesting, multifunctional ingredient both for anti-aging as well as oily skin control purposes.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: White Willow Bark Extract | What-it-does: soothing, astringent

The extract coming from the bark of the White Willow, a big (25 m/80 ft.) tree that likes to live on riverbanks. It's famous for containing anti-inflammatory natural salicylates (this powder, for example, is standardized to contain 53-65%), a close chemical relative to famous exfoliant salicylic acid.

Thanks to its salicin content, willow bark is often touted as a natural alternative to salicylic acid, though it's quite questionable how effective it is as a chemical exfoliant in the tiny amounts used in cosmetics. Apart from soothing salicin, it also contains flavonoids and phenolic acids that give willow bark tonic, astringent, and antiseptic properties.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

polysaccharide (a big sugar molecule) coming from the edible fruit bodies of the Silver Ear mushroom in China. It's claimed to be an awesome moisturizer with slightly greater water-holding capacities than HA. We wrote more about Tremella here >> 

Also-called: Purslane Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant

Portulaca Oleracea is a nice succulent with bright yellow flowers and edible nutritious vegetables. It's a famous plant in Korean traditional medicine to treat infection and irritated skin.

Modern research confirms that it's loaded with skin-goodies: it's the richest green plant source of omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid), contains NMFs (polysaccharides and amino acids),  vitamins (β-carotene), minerals, and antioxidants (yellow betaxanthins and reddish betacyanins). Thanks to all its beneficial components, Purslane Extract has several magic properties: it's a great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent and also has wound healing abilities

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Skullcap Root Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial, astringent, moisturizer/humectant

A traditional Chinese herbal medicine loaded with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids such as baicalin, baicalein, and wogonin.

If that would not be enough, Skullcap Root is also claimed to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties (also against P.acnes and Malassezia furfur) as well as some skin-brightening activity. A multi-functional skin-goodie.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Sunflower Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Sunflower does not need a big intro as you probably use it in the kitchen as cooking oil, or you munch on the seeds as a healthy snack or you adore its big, beautiful yellow flower during the summer - or you do all of these and probably even more. And by even more  we mean putting it all over your face as sunflower oil is one of the most commonly used plant oils in skincare.

It’s a real oldie: expressed directly from the seeds, the oil is used not for hundreds but thousands of years. According to The National Sunflower Association, there is evidence that both the plant and its oil were used by American Indians in the area of Arizona and New Mexico about 3000 BC. Do the math: it's more than 5000 years – definitely an oldie.

Our intro did get pretty big after all (sorry for that), so let's get to the point finally: sunflower oil - similar to other plant oils - is a great emollient that makes the skin smooth and nice and helps to keep it hydrated. It also protects the surface of the skin and enhances the damaged or irritated skin barrier. Leslie Bauman notes in Cosmetic Dermatology that one application of sunflower oil significantly speeds up the recovery of the skin barrier within an hour and sustains the results 5 hours after using it.

It's also loaded with fatty acids (mostly linoleic (50-74%)  and oleic (14-35%)). The unrefined version (be sure to use that on your skin!) is especially high in linoleic acid that is great even for acne-prone skin. Its comedogen index is 0, meaning that it's pretty much an all skin-type oil

Truth be told, there are many great plant oils and sunflower oil is definitely one of them.

Also-called: Alpha-Bisabolol;Bisabolol | What-it-does: soothing

It's one of the active parts of Chamomile that contains about 30% of bisabolol. It's a clear oily fluid that is used in skincare as a nice anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient. 

The snappily named Lauryl Peg-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone is a silicone emulsifier fluid whose main thing is being a good dispersant for powders such as mineral UV filters or color pigments. 

According to the manufacturer Kobo, this partly water- and partly oily soluble form of dimethicone helps filters like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide disperse more evenly and thus provide better UV protection while also minimizing any white-cast that often comes hand-in-hand with mineral filters.

This is why it can also be found in makeup products like eyeshadows and concealers, as it helps disperse color pigments in the same way.

Also-called: Geogard 111A | What-it-does: preservative

A helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi and has only milder effect against bacteria. 

It is Ecocert and Cosmos approved, works quite well at low concentrations (0.1-0.6%) and is popular in natural products.

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. 

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. 

This ingredient name is not according to the INCI-standard. :( What, why?!

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid is a low molecular weight, chemically chopped up version of the naturally big molecule and current IT-moisturizer, Hyaluronic Acid (HA). 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 sponge helping the skin to retain water, making it plump and elastic. As HA is a polymer, the subunits can be repeated many times (as a high-molecular-weight version), or just a few times (as a low-molecular-weight version).

We wrote in detail at HA about how different molecular weight versions do different things both as a component of the skin and as a skincare ingredient, so click here and read about all the details. Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid can also come in different molecular-weight versions with different properties:

  • 100-300 kDa version: apart from moisturizing, this size might also help the skin to repair itself by increasing its self-defense. It is also claimed to boost the wound healing process and is especially helpful for sensitive skin types (acne, rosacea, inflammation-related skin diseases). 
  • 50k Da version: this is the size that is claimed to be able to absorb into the skin and plump up wrinkles, so it is used mainly as an "anti-aging ingredient" 
  • below 50k, around 10k Da version: there is a Japanese version trade named Hyalo-Oligo that has only a 10k molecular weight and is claimed to penetrate the skin very well, have a unique touch and give deep and long-lasting moisturization. Based on the Evonik-research and the natural role of LMW-HA in the body working as a pro-inflammatory signal molecule, this ultra-low molecular weight version is a controversial ingredient

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

A clear, colorless liquid that works as a solvent and viscosity decreasing ingredient. It also has great skin-moisturizing abilities. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | 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.

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. 

Glycerin - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • A super common, safe, effective and cheap molecule used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but knows much more: keeps the skin lipids between our skin cells in a healthy (liquid crystal) state, protects against irritation, helps to restore barrier
  • Effective from as low as 3% with even more benefits at higher concentrations up to 20-40% (around 10% is a good usability-effectiveness sweet spot)
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

The main part of a moisturizing complex called Aquaxyl. Comes from two water-binding plant sugars, glucose and xylitol. According to the manufacturer, Aquaxyl is close to a magic moisturizer that not only simply moisturizes, but can "harmonize the skin's hydrous flow".

This means that on the one side it can optimize water reserves by increasing important NMFs (natural moisturizing factors - things that are naturally in the skin and help to keep it hydrated) - like hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate -  in the skin. On the other side, it also limits water loss by improving the skin barrier with increased lipid (ceramides and cholesterol) and protein synthesis. 

In vivo (made on real people) tests show that 3% Aquaxyl not only increases the water content of the outer layer instantly and in the long run but it also visibly improves cracked, dry skin and smoothes the skin surface after a month of treatment.

The hydrating effect of Aquaxyl was also examined in a comparative study in the Journal of cosmetic dermatology. The hydrogel with 4% Aquaxyl performed as well as the well-known moisturizer, urea and somewhat better than the formula containing NMF components or hydrating plant extract called Imperata Cylindrica

All in all,  Aquaxyl is a goodie and if you have dehydrated, dry skin it's something to look at. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A sugar derived moisturizer that's part of a moisturizing trio called Aquaxyl. You can read more about its magic properties at xylitylglucoside

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 0-1 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable. 

Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® HPO, where it helps the effectiveness of current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol

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

A type of sugar that's part of a moisturizing trio called Aquaxyl. You can read more about its magic properties at xylitylglucoside

Sarcosine - goodie

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: solvent

A really multi-functional helper ingredient that can do several things in a skincare product: it can bring a soft and pleasant feel to the formula, it can act as a humectant and emollient, it can be a solvent for some other ingredients (for example it can help to stabilize perfumes in watery products) and it can also help to disperse pigments more evenly in makeup products. And that is still not all: it can also boost the antimicrobial activity of preservatives

What-it-does: 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. 

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. 

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: 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.

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative, deodorant

If you have spotted ethylhexylglycerin on the ingredient list, most probably you will see there also the current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol. They are good friends because ethylhexylglycerin can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too.

Also, it's an effective deodorant and a medium spreading emollient

Tocopherol - goodie
Also-called: Vitamin E | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0-3 | Comedogenicity: 0-3
  • Primary fat-soluble antioxidant in our skin
  • Significant photoprotection against UVB rays
  • Vit C + Vit E work in synergy and provide great photoprotection
  • Has emollient properties
  • Easy to formulate, stable and relatively inexpensive
Read all the geeky details about Tocopherol here >>

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