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African Botanics Nutritive Molecule Serum

Nutritive Molecule Serum

African Botanics Nutritive Molecule Serum is an extremely rejuvenating serum that incorporates advanced biotechnology to supplement and support skin. This natural serum works to improve the appearance of skin’s texture and brightness while providing a nourishing blend of 3 types of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Ferulic Acid, Tannic Acid, Niacinamide, Superoxide Dismutase, Resveratrol, Green Coffee and Yeast. Non-toxic and lightweight this serum is enriched with botanical peptides and works to retain an abundance of moisture while helping to combat damage due to age, urban pollution, and dryness.
Uploaded by: jaabrown on

Ingredients overview

Aqua (Deionized Water), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Glycine Soja Protein (Soy Peptides), Superoxide Dismutase, Oxido Reductases, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Yeast Beta-Glucan, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein (Di- And Tripeptides), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Bulbine Frutescens*, Myrothamus Flabellifolius (Resurrection) Plant**, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) Seed Oil**, D-Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Glycerin, Panicum Miliaceum (Millet) Seed Extract, Tannic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Potassium Sorbate, Honeybush Leaf Extract*, Carbomer, Citrullus Lanatus (Kalahari Melon) Seed Oil**, Rosa-Senensis (Hibiscus) Extract, Panthenol (Pro Vitamin B5), Azelaic Acid, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Seed Oil**, Allantoin, Aspalathus Linearis (Green Rooibos) Tea Extract*, Malus Domestica Fruit Cell Culture (Swiss Apple), Xanthan Gum, Lecithin, Aloe Ferox Leaf Extract*, Acetamide Mea, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hyaluronic Acid, Phytic Acid, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil, Linoleic Acid, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Butylene Glycol, Sorbitol, Ascorbyl Methylsilanol Pectinate (Vitamin C), Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Extract, Hydrocotyl (Centella Asiatica) Extract*, Chamomile Matricaria Extract*, Chlorella Vulgaris (Green Algae) Extract, Hydrolyzed Algin, Sea Kelp, Aminomethyl Propanol, Arnica Cordifolia (Arnica) Extract, Moringa Oleifera (Moringa) Seed Oil**, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Ethyl Ferulate (Ferulic Acid), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Resveratrol, Disodium Uridine Phosphate, Green Coffee Bean Extract, Helichrysum Angustifolium (Everlasting/​Immortelle) Flower Extract*, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol

Highlights

#alcohol-free #fragrance & essentialoil-free
Alcohol Free
Fragrance and Essential Oil Free

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Aqua (Deionized Water) solvent
Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Glycine Soja Protein (Soy Peptides) emulsifying
Superoxide Dismutase antioxidant goodie
Oxido Reductases
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) cell-communicating ingredient, skin brightening, anti-acne, moisturizer/​humectant superstar
Yeast Beta-Glucan viscosity controlling
Hydrolyzed Rice Protein (Di- And Tripeptides)
Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C) antioxidant, skin brightening goodie
Bulbine Frutescens*
Myrothamus Flabellifolius (Resurrection) Plant** moisturizer/​humectant
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C) antioxidant, anti-acne goodie
Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) Seed Oil** emollient goodie
D-Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E) antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Panicum Miliaceum (Millet) Seed Extract
Tannic Acid
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Potassium Sorbate preservative
Honeybush Leaf Extract* moisturizer/​humectant
Carbomer viscosity controlling 0, 1
Citrullus Lanatus (Kalahari Melon) Seed Oil** emollient
Rosa-Senensis (Hibiscus) Extract moisturizer/​humectant
Panthenol (Pro Vitamin B5) soothing, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Azelaic Acid anti-acne, soothing, buffering superstar
Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Seed Oil** emollient goodie
Allantoin soothing 0, 0 goodie
Aspalathus Linearis (Green Rooibos) Tea Extract*
Malus Domestica Fruit Cell Culture (Swiss Apple)
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling
Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Aloe Ferox Leaf Extract*
Acetamide Mea moisturizer/​humectant, surfactant/​cleansing, viscosity controlling
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Hyaluronic Acid skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Phytic Acid chelating
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil emollient, moisturizer/​humectant
Linoleic Acid skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/​cleansing goodie
Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil* emollient 0, 0-2 goodie
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Sorbitol moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0
Ascorbyl Methylsilanol Pectinate (Vitamin C) antioxidant, viscosity controlling
Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract soothing
Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Extract soothing, emollient
Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Extract soothing, emollient goodie
Hydrocotyl (Centella Asiatica) Extract* soothing, antioxidant, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Chamomile Matricaria Extract* soothing, antioxidant 0, 0 goodie
Chlorella Vulgaris (Green Algae) Extract
Hydrolyzed Algin
Sea Kelp
Aminomethyl Propanol buffering
Arnica Cordifolia (Arnica) Extract
Moringa Oleifera (Moringa) Seed Oil** emollient goodie
Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract* soothing, antioxidant, perfuming goodie
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil* emollient 0, 0 goodie
Ethyl Ferulate (Ferulic Acid) antioxidant
Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract* antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Resveratrol antioxidant goodie
Disodium Uridine Phosphate goodie
Green Coffee Bean Extract
Helichrysum Angustifolium (Everlasting/Immortelle) Flower Extract* perfuming
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Phenoxyethanol preservative

African Botanics Nutritive Molecule Serum
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Water | 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: Witch Hazel Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial, astringent

Witch hazel is a smallish tree (up to 5m) that's native to North-America, has nice yellow flowers and is similar to the hazelnut bush (hence the name).  

As for skincare, it's loaded with active components that have a bunch of magic properties, like astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial. It's also a well-known vasoconstrictor (it makes the blood vessels narrower) and promotes the healing of broken skin by tightening up the skin proteins and thus creating a protective covering.

The complication, however, is that different extracts and distillates can be made from different parts of the plant (bark, twigs, and leaves are typically used) and different extraction methods from different parts produce different results. So if you see only Witch Hazel Extract or Witch Hazel Water on the ingredient list, it's a bit hard to know what you're actually getting but we will try to summarize the possibilities to give an idea.

The main biologically active components in Witch Hazel are hamamelitannin (a potent astringent and antioxidant), catechins (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant) and gallic acid (antibacterial). The bark extract contains by far the most hamamelitannin and it has the most gallic acid and catechins. The twigs contain fewer catechins, less gallic acid, and much less hamamelitannin (4.77% vs 0.18%). The leaves contain hardly any tannins (0.04%) or catechins and contain a medium amount of gallic acid (compared to the bark and twigs).

Witch Hazel also contains tiny amounts of the essential oil and fragrance component eugenol, but the amount is so small that it's probably not significant for the skin.

Apart from the differences in active components in different parts of the Witch Hazel bush, the extraction methods also vary. Witch Hazel Distillate contains 14% added alcohol according to the USP specifications  and alcohol is, at best drying, and at worst skin-damaging. Luckily, there are also alcohol-free distillates, so if you prefer no alcohol check the ingredient list carefully. Witch Hazel Extracts can also be made in different ways: browsing Ulprospector, we could find hydroglycolic, hydroalcoholic and glicerine/water based extracts.

Well-known skin care expert, Paula Begoun rates witch hazel as poor and says,  "depending on the form of witch hazel, you’re exposing your skin either to a sensitizing amount of alcohol or to tannins, or both." This might be the case if you are dealing with an alcoholic witch hazel bark water or extract, but looking at CosIng (the official INCI name listing of the EU), witch hazel bark water or witch hazel bark extract are not listed ingredients. Bark and leaf or bark and twig or all three are used together to create extracts, so the chance that there is too much hamamelitannin in the final cosmetic ingredient seems small. Also alcohol-free extracts and distillates exist; actually, the majority seem to be alcohol-free nowadays. So all in all, we think "Hamamelis Virginiana Extract" on the ingredient list is nothing to worry about.

We even found a German study that compared the efficacy of Hamamelis ointment to panthenol ointment for soothing the skin in children (from 27 days to 11 years old). They observed 309 children and concluded that both ointments were similarly effective but the one with Hamamelis was even better tolerated (98.2% vs. 92.3% tolerated well the ointments in the two groups).

All in all, Witch Hazel Extract is a sloppy INCI name (btw, not in the CosIng listing), and you do not really know what you're getting. Most probably though, you are getting a goody with nice astringent, soothing, antibacterial, and even antioxidant properties.

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: SOD | What-it-does: antioxidant

Superoxide Dismutase - or in short SOD - is the body's smart antioxidant enzyme that protects the cells from highly reactive, cell-damaging superoxide radicals (O2−).

You have probably read the terms "free radicals" and "antioxidants" a thousand times, and you know that free radicals are the evil guys, and antioxidants are the good guys. So superoxide radical is a very common free radical that can cause all kinds of cell damages and superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of superoxide radicals into molecular oxygen and hydrogen peroxide (btw, this one has to be further converted by other antioxidant enzymes, called catalases).

The extra nice thing about SOD is that it remains intact during the neutralization process and can continue its magic, while non-enzymatic antioxidants (like vitamin E) are used up during neutralization.

The efficacy studies of topical SOD are promising. In-vitro (made in the lab) tests show that SOD is a more effective antioxidant than vitamin E, green tea extract, and MAP. There is also an in-vivo (made on real people) study that measured how SOD can reduce the redness caused by UV rays and it was much more effective than vitamin E (pure or acetate form) and ascorbyl palmitate

All in all, SOD is a really potent antioxidant and slathering it all over yourself is a great way to give the skin a little extra help in protecting itself from all the bad environmental things out there. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: vitamin B3, nicotinamide | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, skin brightening, anti-acne, moisturizer/humectant
  • A multi-functional skincare superstar with several proven benefits for the skin
  • Great anti-aging, wrinkle smoothing ingredient used at 4-5% concentration
  • Fades brown spots alone or in combination with amino sugar, acetyl glucosamine
  • Increases ceramide synthesis that results in a stronger, healthier skin barrier and better skin hydration
  • Can help to improve several skin conditions including acne, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Niacinamide here >>

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C, Ascorbyl Isotetrapalmitate, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, ATIP | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a stable, oil-soluble form of skincare big shot Vitamin C. If you do not know, why Vitamin C is such a big deal in skincare, click here and read all about it. We are massive vitamin C fans and have written about it in excruciating detail.

So now, you know that Vitamin C is great and all, but it's really unstable and gives cosmetics companies many headaches. To solve this problem they came up with vitamin C derivatives, and one of them is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (let's call it ATIP in short).

It's a really promising candidate (see below), but while reading all the goodness about it in a minute, do not forget that derivatives not only have to be absorbed into the skin but also have to be converted to pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid or AA) and the efficacy of the conversion is often unknown. In addition, vitamin C's three magic properties (antioxidant, collagen booster, skin brightener) are all properly proven in-vivo (on real people), but for the derivatives, it's mostly in-vitro studies or in the case of ATIP, it's in-vitro and done by an ingredient supplier.

With this context in mind let's see what ATIP might be able to do. First, it is stable (if pH < 5), easy to formulate and a joy to work with for a cosmetic chemist.

Second, because it's oil-soluble, its skin penetration abilities seem to be great. So great in fact, that it surpasses the penetration of pure vitamin C threefold at the same concentration and it penetrates successfully into the deeper layers of the skin (that is usually important to do some anti-aging work). There is also in-vitro data showing that it converts to AA in the skin. 

Third, ATIP seems to have all three magic abilities of pure vitamin C: it gives antioxidant protection from both UVB and UVA rays, it increases collagen synthesis (even more than AA) and it has a skin brightening effect by reducing melanogenesis by more than 80% in human melanoma cell cultures.

So this all sounds really great, but these are only in-vitro results at this point. We could find Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate mentioned only in one published in-vivo study that examined the anti-aging properties of a silicone formula containing 10% AA and 7% ATIP. The authors theorized that the 10% AA is released slowly from the silicon delivery system and probably stays in the upper layer of the skin to give antioxidant benefits, while ATIP penetrates more rapidly and deeply and gives some wrinkle-reducing benefits. The study was a small (10 patients), double-blind experiment, and the formula did show some measurable anti-aging results. However, it is hard to know how much pure vitamin C or ATIP can be thanked.

Bottom line: a really promising, but not well-proven vitamin C derivative that can be worth a try especially if you like experimenting (but if you like the tried and true, pure vitamin C will be your best bet).

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Resurrection Plant;Myrothamnus Flabellifolia Extract | What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C, SAP | What-it-does: antioxidant, anti-acne

The sodium salt form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. If you do not know what the big fuss about vitamin C is, you are missing out and you have to click here and read all the geeky details about it.

Pure vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid, AA) is great and all, but its lack of stability is a big challenge for the cosmetics industry. One solution is to create stable derivatives that can be absorbed into the skin, convert there to AA and do all the magic AA is proven to do (which is being an antioxidant, a collagen booster, and a skin brightener).

SAP (the vit C derivative, not the enterprise software, obvs) is a promising derivative that has great stability up to pH 7. The challenge with it though is skin penetration. Unfortunately, it seems to be limited, or to quote a great article from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology "topically applied ascorbyl phosphate salts are, at very best, poorly absorbed in comparison with AA". Regarding conversion to AA, there seems to be no data about it, so we can neither deny nor confirm it.

We have better news regarding the three magic abilities of vitamin C: there is in-vivo (tested on real people) data showing that SAP does have photo-protective (aka antioxidant) properties, though less than pure AA. SAP might also aid collagen boosting; in-vitro (made in the lab) data shows that it works, but is less effective than another vitamin C derivative, called MAP (that seems to be as effective as pure AA). As for skin-brightening, there is a trade publication with in-vivo data showing that SAP can fade brown spots

Another thing SAP might be able to do is to help with acne. A 2005 study showed in vitro (in test tubes) that 1% SAP has a strong antimicrobial activity on evil acne causing P. acnes and it also showed in vivo (on real people) that 5% SAP can strongly improve the inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions of acne vulgaris. In fact, the results were comparable or even slightly better than with 5% benzoyl peroxide. 

And there is even more regarding SAP and acne. A nice double-blind study from 2009 showed that  5% SAP reduced the inflammatory lesions by 20.14% and 48.82% within 4 and 8 weeks respectively and when combined with 0.2% retinol the results were even better. With this combination treatment, the improvement was 29.28% after 4 weeks and 63.10% after 8 weeks of application. 

Aside from research studies, anecdotal evidence also supports SAP being a promising vitamin C derivative. One of the best-selling (vitamin C) serums in Sephora is the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, while on Amazon it's the OzNaturals Vitamin C 20 Serum. Another popular choice is the Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum, and all of these contain vitamin C in the form of SAP. 

Overall, we think SAP is a goody!  In terms of anti-aging, it's probably not as effective as pure Ascorbic Acid, but it's totally worth a try. However, if your skin is acne-prone, SAP is your form of Vitamin C and it's a must-try.

Also-called: Baobab Seed Oil;Adansonia Digitata Seed Oil | What-it-does: emollient

Baobab is a really big, iconic tree native to Africa (here is a nice image of it). It's the largest succulent plant in the world and almost all parts of it have traditional medicinal uses in Africa. 

The seed oil, similar to other plant oils, is loaded with things that are good-for-the-skin: it contains skin regenerating vitamin A, antioxidant vitamin E, and vitamin D3 that helps with calcium absorption. It's rich in nourishing fatty acids oleic (30-40%), linoleic (24-34%) and palmitic (18-30%).

Its moisturizing benefits are impressive, it absorbed into the skin quickly and might even improve skin elasticity. A great oil for drier skin types and excellent for eczema and psoriasis

Also-called: Vitamin E;Tocopherol | 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 >>

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 >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: astringent

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 sponge helping the skin to hold onto water, being plump and elastic. 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". 

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, easier to formulate and 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 penetration-questions, differences between high and low molecular weight versions and a bunch of references to scientific literature).

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.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

A big molecule created from repeated subunits (a polymer of acrylic acid) that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula.  It usually has to be neutralized with a base (such as sodium hydroxide) for the thickening to occur and it creates viscous, clear gels that also feel nice and non-tacky on the skin. No wonder, it is a very popular and common ingredient. Typically used at 1% or less in most formulations.

Also-called: Watermelon Seed Oil;Citrullus Lanatus Seed Oil | What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Pro-Vitamin B5 | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

An easy-to-formulate, commonly used, nice to have ingredient that’s also called pro-vitamin B5. As you might guess from the “pro” part, it’s a precursor to vitamin B5 (whose fancy name is pantothenic acid). 

Its main job in skincare products is to moisturise the skin. It’s a humectant meaning that it can help the skin to attract water and then hold onto it. There is also research showing that panthenol can help our skin to produce more lovely lipids that are important for a strong and healthy skin barrier. 

Another great thing about panthenol is that it has anti-inflammatory and skin protecting abilities. A study shows that it can reduce the irritation caused by less-nice other ingredients (e.g. fragrance, preservatives or chemical sunscreens) in the product.

Research also shows that it might be useful for wound healing as it promotes fibroblast (nice type of cells in our skin that produce skin-firming collagen) proliferation. 

If that wasn’t enough panthenol is also useful in nail and hair care products. A study shows that a nail treatment liquide with 2% panthenol could effectively get into the nail and significantly increase the hydration of it.

As for the hair the hydration effect is also true there. Panthenol might make your hair softer, more elastic and helps to comb your hair more easily. 

Azelaic Acid - superstar
What-it-does: anti-acne, soothing, buffering
  • Superstar ingredient with antibacterial, skin cell regulating, anti-inflammatory and skin-lightening magic properties
  • It is especially useful for acne-prone or rosacea-prone skin types (in concentration 10% and up)
  • It is a prescription drug in the US but can be freely purchased in the EU in an up to 10% concentration
Read all the geeky details about Azelaic Acid here >>

Also-called: Marula Seed Oil;Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil | What-it-does: emollient

If you have an interest in elephants and Africa, you have probably heard of elephants getting drunk from the fruit of the Marula tree. Though this seems to be only a legend, what is true is that the Marula fruit is really nice (and elephants do love to eat it) and there is a stone in it with several oil-rich kernels inside. 

So the Marula oil - similar to many other plant oils - is a really nice nourishing and moisturizing oil that can improve skin hydration and smoothness and it can even reduce skin redness. It's traditionally used in South Africa to massage babies with and as a body lotion for face, feet, and hands.

As for its composition, it's loaded with skin goodies: it's very rich in fatty acids, including oleic (73%), palmitic (15%), and linoleic (9%) acids. It also contains some natural antioxidants, including Vitamin E and the oil shows an outstanding oxidative stability. 

If you have dry skin that needs some pampering, Marula oil is a good choice. 

Allantoin - goodie
What-it-does: soothing | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. 

It's not only soothing but it' also skin-softening and protecting and can promote wound healing.

Also-called: Rooibos Tea;Aspalathus Linearis Leaf Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Liposomal Preparation of Apple Stem Cells

If you have already heard of the "plant stem cells trend" in beauty products you probably know about this guy as it was the first ingredient based on plant stem cells on the cosmetic market. It's a liposomal preparation of apple stem cells but not just any apples. It comes from the rare swiss apple called "Uttwiler Spätlauber" (btw, the manufacturer is also Swiss) and the stem cells are claimed to be rich in epigenetic factors and metabolites, which might support the longevity of skin cells.

As for now, we only have the claims of the manufacturer and those are also largely based on in-vitro tests (made in the lab and might or might not translate to real skin). Mibelle (the Swiss manufacturer) did one in-vivo (made on real people) study with 20 women that found that a 2% Malus Domestica Fruit Cell Culture cream applied twice daily decreased wrinkle depth of the crow's feet area by 15% in 4 weeks. 

It's one of the most commonly used thickeners and emulsion stabilizers. If the product is too runny, a little xanthan gum will make it more gel-like. Used alone, it can make the formula sticky and it is a good team player so it is usually combined with other thickeners and so-called rheology modifiers (helper ingredients that adjust the flow and thus the feel of the formula). The typical use level of Xantha Gum is below 1%, it is usually in the 0.1-0.5% range. 

Btw, Xanthan gum is all natural, a chain of sugar molecules (polysaccharide) produced from individual sugar molecules (glucose and sucrose) via fermentation. It’s approved by Ecocert and also used in the food industry (E415). 

Lecithin - goodie
What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A very common ingredient that can be found in all cell membranes. In cosmetics it's quite the multi-tasker: it's an emollient and water-binding ingredient but it's also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A chemically chopped up version of wheat protein that consists mainly of amino acids (the building blocks), peptides (a couple of amino acids together), and proteins (lots of amino acids together). 

It has moisturizing and film-forming properties and  might be able to counteract the irritating effects of cleansing agents in cleansers and shampoos. It can also condition and repair damaged hair leaving it soft, silky and smooth.

  • It’s naturally in our skin and behaves there like a sponge
  • It can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water
  • It is a big molecule from repeated subunits (polymer) so different molecular weight versions exist (unfortunately there is no way to determine MW from INCI list only)
  • High-molecular-weight-HA (>500 kDa) is an excellent surface hydrator, skin protectant and can act as an osmotic pump helping water-soluble actives to penetrate deeper into the skin
  • Low-molecular-weight-HA (< 500 kDa) can hydrate the skin somewhat deeper though it is still a big molecule and works mainly in the epidermis (outer layer of the skin)
  • Low-molecular-weight-HA might also help the skin to repair itself by increasing its self-defense (~ 200kDa used in the study)
  • Ultra-low-molecular-weight-HA (<50kDa) is a controversial ingredient and might work as a pro-inflammatory signal molecule
Read all the geeky details about Hyaluronic Acid here >>

What-it-does: chelating

Though its name says acid, it's not really an exfoliant. It's a plant extract with some antioxidant properties. Its main thing in cosmetic products is to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.  It's a natural alternative to sometimes bad-mouthed chelating agents, EDTAs.

Also-called: Wheat Germ Oil | What-it-does: emollient, moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Linoleic Acid - goodie
Also-called: LA, omega-6 fatty acid, 18:2 cis-9,12, Form of Vitamin F | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/cleansing

The famous omega-6 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-6 fatty acids in our body. It is a so-called polyunsaturated fatty acid meaning it has more than one (in this case two) double bonds and a somewhat kinky structure that makes LA and LA-rich oils a thin liquid.

It is also an essential fatty acid meaning our body cannot synthesize it and has to take it from food. This is not hard at all as plenty of nuts (such as flax, poppy or sesame seeds) and vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower) are rich in LA. The hard thing seems to be eating enough omega-3-s, more specifically eating a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, but that is a topic for a what-is-good-to-eat-site and not for us. 

As for linoleic acid and the skin, LA is a really important little guy found naturally in our skin. It is the most abundant fatty acid in the epidermis and it serves as a structural precursor for important skin lipids called ceramides. Knowing this, it will not come as a surprise that Linoleic acid has a central role in the structure and function of stratum corneum permeability, aka healthy skin barrier.  LA deficiency leads to an impaired more permeable skin barrier and the topical application of LA-rich sunflower oil can fix this issue rapidly (while oleic-rich olive oil did not have the same barrier repairing effect).

LA is not only important for dry, barrier damaged skin types but also for acne-prone skin. Research shows that problem skin has lower levels of linoleic acid (and higher levels of oleic acid) than normal skin. So LA-deficiency in the skin seems to be connected not only to an impaired skin barrier but also to acne and smearing LA all over your face might help with your problem skin. A double-blind study using a 2.5% LA gel for 4 weeks found a 25% reduction in the size of microcomedones, the tiny blocked pores that can later lead to acne.

If that was not enough, we have one more thing to report about LA.  It lightens hyperpigmentation (aka UVB caused sun spots) both by blocking the melanin production of melanocytes (the skin cells that make the pigment melanin) and by enhancing the desquamation of melanin pigment from the upper layers of the skin.

Overall, linoleic acid is a multi-functional skin goodie with barrier repairing, acne-reducing, and skin-lightening magic abilities. It's a nice one to spot on the ingredient list pretty much for any skin type. 

Also-called: Jojoba Oil;Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

Jojoba is a drought resistant evergreen shrub native to South-western North America. It's known and grown for jojoba oil, the golden yellow liquid coming from the seeds (about 50% of the weight of the seeds will be oil).  

At first glance, it seems like your average emollient plant oil: it looks like an oil and it's nourishing and moisturizing to the skin but if we dig a bit deeper, it turns out that jojoba oil is really special and unique: technically - or rather chemically - it's not an oil but a wax ester (and calling it an oil is kind of sloppy). 

So what the heck is a wax ester and why is that important anyway? Well, to understand what a wax ester is, you first have to know that oils are chemically triglycerides: one glycerin + three fatty acids attached to it. The fatty acids attached to the glycerin vary and thus we have many kinds of oils, but they are all triglycerides. Mother Nature created triglycerides to be easily hydrolyzed (be broken down to a glycerin + 3 fatty acid molecules) and oxidized (the fatty acid is broken down into small parts) - this happens basically when we eat fats or oils and our body generates energy from it.

Mother Nature also created wax esters but for a totally different purpose. Chemically, a wax ester is a fatty acid + a fatty alcohol, one long molecule. Wax esters are on the outer surface of several plant leaves to give them environmental protection. 25-30% of human sebum is also wax esters to give us people environmental protection. 

So being a wax ester results in a couple of unique properties: First, jojoba oil is extremely stable. Like crazy stable. Even if you heat it to 370 C (698 F) for 96 hours, it does not budge. (Many plant oils tend to go off pretty quickly). If you have some pure jojoba oil at home, you should be fine using it for years. 

Second, jojoba oil is the most similar to human sebum (both being wax esters), and the two are completely miscible. Acne.org has this not fully proven theory that thanks to this, jojoba might be able to "trick" the skin into thinking it has already produced enough sebum, so it might have "skin balancing" properties for oily skin.

Third, jojoba oil moisturizes the skin through a unique dual action: on the one hand, it mixes with sebum and forms a thin, non-greasy, semi-occlusive layer; on the other hand, it absorbs into the skin through pores and hair follicles then diffuses into the intercellular spaces of the outer layer of the skin to make it soft and supple.

On balance, the point is this: in contrast to real plant oils, wax esters were designed by Mother Nature to stay on the surface and form a protective, moisturizing barrier and jojoba oil being a wax ester is uniquely excellent at doing that.

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. 

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

It's a sweet tasting sugar substitute that helps your skin to hold onto water when used in cosmetic products. It also helps to thicken up products and give them a bit more slip. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: astringent, soothing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Horsetail Extract | What-it-does: soothing, emollient, astringent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Cucumber Fruit Extract;Cucumis Sativus Fruit Extract | What-it-does: soothing, emollient

Cucumber is a nice, non-irritating plant extract that’s known for it’s soothing and emollient properties. It’s not something new to put it on our face: even Cleopatra used it to “preserve her skin”.

It’s commonly believed that cucumber is the answer to puffy eyes, but there is no research confirming this. What research does confirm is that it contains amino acids and organic acids that’s helpful for the skin’s acid mantle. There is also an enzyme (called shikimate dehydrigenase) in the pulp that’s shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Also-called: Gotu Kola, Tiger Grass;Centella Asiatica Extract | 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: German Chamomile Flower Extract;Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Chamomile probably needs no introduction as it's one of the most widely used medicinal herbs. You probably drink it regularly as a nice, calming cup of tea and it's also a regular on skincare ingredient lists.

Cosmetic companies use it mainly for its anti-inflammatory properties. It contains the terpenoids chamazulene and bisabolol both of which show great anti-inflammatory action in animal studies. On top of that chamomile also has some antioxidant activity (thanks to some other active ingredients called matricine, apigenin and luteolin).  

Though chamomile is usually a goodie for the skin, it's also not uncommon to have an allergic reaction to it. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

What-it-does: buffering

An alkaline (high pH, aka basic) material that is used to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to the right value

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Moringa Seed Oil;Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil | What-it-does: emollient

The oil coming from the seeds of the Moringa tree, a big white-flowered tree native to India. It's a yellow oil similar to olive oil. It's rich in nourishing and moisturizing fatty acid, oleic (75%) and also contains behenic acid (up to 8%) that makes moringa very stable and gives the oil a long shelf life

It blends easily with essential oils and can also help to stabilize scents so it's a popular oil in the perfume industry. 

Also-called: Calendula Extract, Marigold Extract;Calendula Officinalis Flower 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: Sunflower Oil;Helianthus Annuus Seed 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.

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Rosemary Leaf Extract;Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial

The extract coming from the lovely herb, rosemary. It contains lots of chemicals, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and diterpenes. Its main active is rosmarinic acid, a potent antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. It has also anti-bacterial, astringent and toning properties. 

The leaves contain a small amount of essential oil (1-2%) with fragrant components, so if you are allergic to fragrance, it might be better to avoid it. 

Resveratrol - goodie
What-it-does: antioxidant

If you are looking for a reason why red wine is good for you, good news, you have found it! Resveratrol, aka the "red grape antioxidant" is the thing that's suspected to keep the French from coronary heart disease despite their not so healthy eating habits (such as high saturated fat intake).

So resveratrol, found in the seed and skin of the red grape (and berries), is a pretty well-known and well-studied molecule that has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic abilities. Most of the studies were done examining resveratrol's promising anti-cancer properties, but as for skin care, it shows a potent protective effect against UV-caused oxidative stress as well as promising effects against multiple types of skin cancer including the most severe one, melanoma (as an adjuvant therapy). 

When it comes to skincare and antioxidants, "the more the merrier", so resveratrol is definitely a nice addition to any skincare routine.

Also-called: Part of Celligent

Disodium Uridine Phosphate is a nucleotide (the building blocks of DNA and RNA) precursor that's claimed to support DNA repair in the cell, in particular, the process of nucleotide excision repair.

If you are wondering what the heck this means, let's back up: DNA is the super important big molecule in all our cells that serves as the recipe or template from which everything inside us is built. It is super important to have a flawless DNA as a messed up template will result in messed up biochemical molecules and all kinds of diseases. 

Changes to DNA can happen just spontaneously (luckily super rare) or due to some external thing, such as UV light. Because a flawless DNA is so important, the body has repair mechanisms that can fix most of these changes. Due to UV light,  sometimes faulty lesions (called pyrimidine dimer) appear on the DNA strand and that can be fixed by nucleotide excision repair, where DNA repair enzymes cut out the faulty part, create the new, correct fragment and put it back in. 

So our guy, Disodium Uridine Phosphate might be able to help with this super useful repair process, though the manufacturer data we have seen examined only the whole "Celligent" complex that also has other antioxidants in it. The whole complex was found in-vivo (with 20 volunteers) to reduces erythema (redness) and promote the regeneration of skin damaged by UV irradiation but it's hard to know what specifically Disodium Uridine Phosphate contributed. 

 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

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

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. 

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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