Pure Active Serum
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.
It's a type of glycol that - according to the manufacturer - is an extremely good replacement for other glycols like propylene or butylene glycol. Its main job is to be a solvent, but it has also very good antimicrobial properties and acts as a true preservative booster. Also helps with skin hydration without stickiness or tacky feel.
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.
A clear, colorless, low viscosity, volatile (does not absorb into the skin but rather evaporates from it) silicone fluid that has excellent spreadability and leaves a light, silky and smooth feel on the skin.
According to manufacturer info, its big advantage is that it's compatible both with other silicones and with natural plant oils, so it's a great ingredient to formulate products with good-sounding, consumer-pleasing vegetable oils but still maintain a cosmetically elegant, non-greasy and non-tacky feel.
- It’s the most researched AHA with the most proven skin benefits
- It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin
- It can help skin’s own collagen production that results in firmer, younger skin
- It can fade brown spots caused by sun damage or PIH
- Choose a product where you know the concentration and pH value because these two greatly influence effectiveness
- Don’t forget to use your sunscreen (in any case but especially so next to an AHA product)
- Slight stinging or burning with a stronger AHA product is normal
- If your skin is very sensitive, rosacea prone choose rather a BHA or PHA product
- Mandelic acid is an AHA that comes from bitter almond
- It can gently lift off dead surface skin cells and make the skin more smooth and even
- It has antibacterial properties
- It’s promising against acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- It’s light sensitive, so choose a product with opaque packaging
It's a helper ingredient that helps to thicken up formulas and form a nice gel texture. It leaves a rich, elegant feel with a velvety finish on the skin and works over a wide pH range.
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.
A super common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. It comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. It’s a nice ingredient that just feels good on the skin, and it’s also easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular.
- 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
A molecule that is naturally present in the bran of rye and other cereals. It has been used for a long time in the food industry as an "anti-browning agent" for fresh-cut fruits or shrimps.
It turns out that Hexylresorcinol works as an "anti-browning agent" also in cosmetic products. It is a pretty well-researched molecule with significant tyrosinase (the famous enzyme needed to produce melanin) inhibiting abilities. The clinical study of the manufacturer showed that 0.5% Hexylresorcinol has a comparable skin-lightening effect to gold-standard, 2% Hydroquinone.
Even better, a 12-weeks, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 65 volunteers confirmed the effectiveness of our skin-lightening molecule and it measured an average of 88% skin-lightening improvement. The study also included before and after photos (always a good sign!) and the skin-lightening was indeed visible and significant (though the pigmentation spots did not completely disappear, just so you have realistic expectations).
- It's one of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin
- It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores
- It's a potent anti-inflammatory agent
- It's more effective for treating blackheads than acne
- For acne combine it with antibacterial agents like benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid
It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMF, hyaluronic 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).
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.
A type of oil soluble vitamin F that is used as an emollient. Read more at ethyl oleate.
A sugar derived moisturizer that's part of a moisturizing trio called Aquaxyl. You can read more about its magic properties at xylitylglucoside.
A type of sugar that's part of a moisturizing trio called Aquaxyl. You can read more about its magic properties at xylitylglucoside.
A fancy name for sugar. Luckily when you put it on your skin it's good for you not like when you eat it. :) It has water-binding properties, which means that it helps to keep your skin nice and hydrated.
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.
The sodium salt of lactic acid. It's a great skin moisturizer and also used to regulate the pH value of the cosmetic formula. It's a natural ingredient approved by both ECOCERT and COSMOS.
A clear liquid with a camphor-like odor that is used as a solvent.
The unfancy name for it is lye. It’s a solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amounts to adjust the pH of the product and make it just right.
For example, in case of AHA or BHA exfoliants, the right pH is super-duper important, and pH adjusters like sodium hydroxide are needed.
BTW, lye is not something new. It was already used by ancient Egyptians to help oil and fat magically turn into something else. Can you guess what? Yes, it’s soap. It still often shows up in the ingredient list of soaps and other cleansers.
Sodium hydroxide in itself is a potent skin irritant, but once it's reacted (as it is usually in skin care products, like exfoliants) it is totally harmless.
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.
Copy and paste into your blog
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | solvent|
|irritancy, com.||0, 1|
|what‑it‑does||exfoliant | antimicrobial/antibacterial|
|what‑it‑does||anti-acne | soothing | buffering|
|what‑it‑does||exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||buffering | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||perfuming | solvent|