Pure Block Water Bling Sun Balm
Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product.
It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water.
Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying.
One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time.
A super common, medium-spreading emollient ester that gives richness to the formula and a mild feel during rubout. It can be a replacement for mineral oil and is often combined with other emollients to achieve different sensorial properties.
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, 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).
When it comes to sunscreen agents, Zinc Oxide is pretty much in a league of its own. It's a physical (or inorganic) sunscreen that has a lot in common with fellow inorganic sunscreen Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) but a couple of things make it superior even to TiO2.
If physical sunscreens don't tell you anything, go ahead and read about the basics here. Most of what we wrote about Titanium Dioxide is also true for Zinc Oxide so we will focus here on the differences.
The first main difference is that while TiO2 gives a nice broad spectrum protection, Zinc Oxide has an even nicer and even broader spectrum protection. It protects against UVB, UVA II, and UVA I almost uniformly, and is considered to be the broadest range sunscreen available today.
It's also highly stable and non-irritating. So much so that Zinc Oxide also counts as a skin protectant and anti-irritant. It's also often used to treat skin irritations such as diaper rash.
As for the disadvantages, Zinc Oxide is also not cosmetically elegant. It leaves a disturbing whitish tint on the skin, although, according to a 2000 research paper by Dr. Pinnell, it's slightly less white than TiO2. Still, it's white and disturbing enough to use Zinc Oxide nanoparticles more and more often.
We wrote more about nanoparticles and the concerns around them here, but the gist is that if nanoparticles were absorbed into the skin that would be a reason for legitimate health concerns. But luckily, so far research shows that sunscreen nanoparticles are not absorbed but remain on the surface of the skin or in the uppermost (dead) layer of the skin. This seems to be true even if the skin is damaged, for example, sunburnt.
All in all, if you've found a Zinc Oxide sunscreen that you are happy to use every single day, that's fantastic and we suggest you stick with it. It's definitely one of the best, or probably even the best option out there for sun protection available worldwide.
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.
A clear, slightly yellow, odorless oil that's a very common, medium-spreading emollient. It makes the skin feel nice and smooth and works in a wide range of formulas.
Titanium Dioxide is one of the two members of the elite sunscreen group called physical sunscreens (or inorganic sunscreens if you’re a science geek and want to be precise).
Traditionally, UV-filters are categorized as either chemical or physical. The big difference is supposed to be that chemical agents absorb UV-light while physical agents reflect it like a bunch of mini umbrellas on top of the skin. While this categorization is easy and logical it turns out it's not true. A recent, 2016 study shows that inorganic sunscreens work mostly by absorption, just like chemical filters, and only a little bit by reflection (they do reflect the light in the visible spectrum, but mostly absorb in the UV spectrum).
Anyway, it doesn't matter if it reflects or absorbs, Titanium Dioxide is a pretty awesome sunscreen agent for two main reasons: it gives a nice broad spectrum coverage and it's highly stable. Its protection is very good between 290 - 350 nm (UVB and UVA II range), and less good at 350-400 nm (UVA I) range. Regular sized Titanium Dioxide also has a great safety profile, it's non-irritating and is pretty much free from any health concerns (like estrogenic effect worries with some chemical filters).
The disadvantage of Titanium Dioxide is that it's not cosmetically elegant, meaning it's a white, "unspreadable" mess. Sunscreens containing Titanium Dioxide are often hard to spread on the skin and they leave a disturbing whitish tint. The cosmetic industry is, of course, really trying to solve this problem and the best solution so far is using nanoparticles. The itsy-bitsy Nano-sized particles improve both spreadability and reduce the whitish tint a lot, but unfortunately, it also introduces new health concerns.
The main concern with nanoparticles is that they are so tiny that they are absorbed into the skin more than we want them (ideally sunscreen should remain on the surface of the skin). Once absorbed they might form unwanted complexes with proteins and they might promote the formation of evil free radicals. But do not panic, these are concerns under investigation. A 2009 review article about the safety of nanoparticles summarizes this, "to date, in-vivo and in-vitro studies have not demonstrated percutaneous penetration of nanosized particles in titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens". The English translation is, so far it looks like sunscreens with nanoparticles do stay on the surface of the skin where they should be.
All in all, Titanium Dioxide is a famous sunscreen agent and for good reason, it gives broad spectrum UV protection (best at UVB and UVA II), it's highly stable, and it has a good safety profile. It's definitely one of the best UV-filter agents we have today, especially in the US where new-generation Tinosorb filters are not (yet) approved.
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).
An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects skin in the UVB and somewhat in the UVA II range with a peak absorption of 304 nm. Its protection is not strong enough on its own but it is quite photostable (looses 10% of SPF protection in 95 mins) and is often used to stabilize other photo-unstable UV-filters, for example, Avobenzone. It is also often used to improve the water resistance of the products.
Octocrylene's safety profile is generally quite good, though a review study in Contact Dermatitis reports an "increasing number of patients with photo contact allergy to octocrylene." Mainly adults with ketoprofen-sensitivity and children with sensitive skin are affected, so if you have a small kid, it is probably better to use octocrylene-free sunscreens.
A synthetic emollient oil that leaves a soft non-greasy, non-sticky feel on the skin, absorbs fast and can be emulsified (mixed with water) very easily.
A solid emollient that melts at skin temperature and gives a silky but non-oily skin-feel.
A white, elastomeric silicone powder that gives a nice silky and powdery feel to the products. It also has some oil and sebum absorption capabilities.
Its INCI name is a bit of a mouthful, but Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine is worth recognizing it as it is one of the best sunscreen agents known today. Unfortunately, it's not FDA-approved so you will not find it in sunscreens coming from the US (not because it's not good, but because US regulations make it impossible for newer sunscreen agents to get approved), but it is widely available in other parts of the world like Europe, Australia or Asia.
It's broad-spectrum (covers the whole UVB and UVA range, 280-400 nm) with peak protections at about 310 and 345 nm and unlike older sunscreen agents, it's very photostable. It hardly deteriorates in the presence of UV light and it's also useful in stabilizing other less stable sunscreen agents, like the famous UVA protector, avobenzone.
It's a new generation sunscreen agent that was specifically designed for high SPF and good UVA protection and based on a 2007 study that compared 18 sunscreen agents available in the EU it really had the best SPF protection (they used the highest concentration allowed by EU regulations from each 18 sunscreens and Trinosorb S gave an SPF 20).
It is an oil-soluble, slightly yellowish powder that is not absorbed into the skin too much, and it has a great safety profile. Unlike a couple of other chemical sunscreens, Trinosorb S (and M) does not show estrogenic activity.
Overall, we think Trinosorb S is one of the best sunscreen options available today.
A so-called polymer microsphere, i.e. little spherical shaped particles from repeated subunits. Similar to other microsphere powders, it can scatter the light to give products a soft focus or blurring effect. It also works as a texture enhancer giving formulas an exceptional smoothness and a velvet touch.
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.
We love a cold slice of watermelon on a hot summer day and we love watermelon as a skincare ingredient. It's really full of good-for-the-skin stuff: it contains a bunch of vitamins (A, B, C and E), mineral salts (K, Mg, Ca and Fe), amino acids citrulline and arginine and antioxidant carotenoids and phenolics.
It's especially rich in potent antioxidant, lycopene (a type of carotenoid), the cool pigment that's responsible for the red color of the watermelon. According to manufacturer info, in-vitro (made in the lab not on real people) studies show that watermelon extract gives significant DNA protection against UV damage. The in-vivo (made on real people) study also confirmed this and the watermelon formula showed 25% increase in skin protection compared to placebo.
All in all, a cool fruit extract with potent antioxidant magic abilities.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
A nice yellow flower living in the mountains. It has been used as a herbal medicine for centuries, though its effect on skin is rather questionable. It's most famously used to treat bruisings, but there are some studies that show that it's not better than placebo (source: wikipedia). Also, some consider it to be anti-inflammatory, while other research shows that it can cause skin irritation.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
A goodie fruit extract coming from the lovely pineapple. It contains a bunch of good-for-the-skin stuff: bromelain and fruit acids have mild exfoliant properties, and fruit sugars and amino acids give the pineapple fruit nice moisturizing and soothing properties.
There is also a pineapple extract called pineapple ceramide on the market that's claimed to be loaded with a glucose linked ceramide derivative called glucoceramide. According to the manufacturer, glucoceramide is not only a skin moisturizer but it also helps to lighten the skin and make it more smooth.
Officially, CosIng (the official EU ingredient database) lists Aluminum Hydroxide 's functions as opacifying (making the product white and non-transparent), as well as emollient and skin protectant.
However, with a little bit of digging, it turns out Aluminum Hyroxide often moonlights as a protective coating for UV filter superstar Titanium Dioxide. Specifically, it protects our skin from the harmful effects of nasty Reactive Oxygen Species (free radicals derived from oxygen such as Superoxide and Hydrogen Peroxide) generated when Titanium Dioxide is exposed to UV light. Btw, chlorine in swimming pool water depletes this protective coating, so one more reason to reapply your sunscreen after a dip in the pool on holiday.
Other than that, Aluminum Hydroxide also often shows up in composite pigment technologies where it is used the other way around (as the base material and not as the coating material) and helps to achieve higher color coverage with less pigment.
A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It makes your skin feel nice and smooth (emollient), gives body to cream type products and helps to stabilize water and oil mixes (aka emulsions).
A silicone molecule that is half-way between Dimethicone and Methicone, meaning that some of the methyl (-CH3) groups are replaced with a hydrogen atom (in Methicone half of the CH3 groups are replaced). This makes Hydrogen Dimethicone a handy pigment bonding agent used for the hydrophobization treatment of powders as the H atoms can absorb traces of water from the surface of pigments.
It almost always comes stuck together with either Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide or Mica. In suncare products, it binds to physical UV filters to maximize their protection while minimizing any white casts. It also has good chemical stability with no irritation. In makeup, it is often paired with Mica where it offers nice hydrophobic properties and improves skin adhesion - meaning it will make it easier for products to stay where they should be.
A super versatile and common mineral powder that comes in different particle sizes. It is a multi-tasker used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product some light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent. Popular both in makeup and in skin care products.
A spherical texturizing powder that's used as a texture enhancer and soft focus agent. It's claimed to give silicone type softness to the formula and also works as a (temporary) wrinkle filler.
A silicone emulsifier that helps water and silicone oils to mix nicely together.
You might know licorice as a sweet treat from your childhood, but it's actually a legume that grows around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, central and southern Russia. It's sweet and yellow and not only used for licorice all sorts but it's also a skincare superstar thanks to two magic properties:
Nr. 1 magic property is that it has skin-lightening or to say it another way depigmenting properties. The most active part is called glabridin. The topical application (meaning when you put it on your face) of 0.5% glabridin was shown to inhibit UVB caused pigmentation of guinea pigs. Another study even suggested that licorice is more effective than the gold standard skin-lightening agent hydroquinone. All in all, licorice is considered to be one of the safest skin lightening agents with the fewest side effects.
There is just one catch regarding glabridin and licorice: the amount of glabridin in commercial licorice extracts can vary a lot. We have seen extracts with only 4% glabridin as well as 40% glabridin. The latter one is a very-very expensive ingredient, so if you are after the depigmenting properties try to choose a product that boasts its high-quality licorice extract.
Nr. 2 magic property is that licorice is a potent anti-inflammatory. Glabridin has also some soothing properties but the main active anti-inflammatory component is glycyrrhizin. It’s used to treat several skin diseases that are connected to inflammation including atopic dermatitis, rosacea or eczema.
Oh, and one more thing: glabridin seems to be also an antioxidant, which is just one more reason to be happy about licorice root extract on an ingredient list.
Bottom line: Licorice is a great skincare ingredient with significant depigmenting, anti-inflammatory and even some antioxidant properties. Be happy if it's on the ingredient list. :)
Adenosine is an important little compound in our body that has a vital cell-signalling role. Research on smearing it on our face is also promising and shows so far a couple of things:
- It can help with wound healing
- It’s a good anti-inflammatory agent
- It might even help with skin’s own collagen production and improve skin firmness and elasticity
- It helps with barrier repair and protection
- It might be even useful for the hair helping with hair thickness and hair growth
A clear, light yellow liquid that is used to coat pigments (such as inorganic sunscreen agents or colorants) in cosmetic products. The coating helps to stabilize pigments in the formulas and also helps them to spread easily and evenly on the skin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
CI 77491 or Iron Oxide is a super common colorant with the color red.
Exactly what it sounds: nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. Fragrance in the US and parfum in the EU is a generic term on the ingredient list that is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average (but it can have as much as 200 components!).
If you are someone who likes to know what you put on your face than fragrance is not your best friend - no way to know what’s really in it.
Also, if your skin is sensitive, fragrance is again not your best friend. It’s the number one cause of contact allergy to cosmetics. It’s definitely a smart thing to avoid with sensitive skin (and fragrance of any type - natural is just as allergic as synthetic, if not worse!).
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