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.
Simply alcohol refers to ethanol and it's a pretty controversial ingredient. It has many instant benefits: it's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial. No wonder it's popular in toners and oily skin formulas.
The downside is that it can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list.
Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion. If you wanna know more, we wrote a more detailed explanation about what's the deal with alcohol in skincare products at alcohol denat. (it's also alcohol, but with some additives to make sure no one drinks it).
It's the flower water coming from the flowers of bitter orange (which is the sister of the sweet orange we all know and eat). In general, flower waters (also called hydrosols) are diluted versions of essential oils coming from the same plant. They contain the same components but in far less of a concentration.
So - similar to its essential oil big sister - orange flower water contains a lot of fragrant components and has a nice, sweet scent. It has some skin toning properties and can help to relax the body.
If your skin is super sensitive, it's a good idea to choose products without fragrant floral waters.
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!).
The essential oil coming from the leafs of the lovely herb, rosemary. It contains several fragrant components, including the well-known irritant, camphor (around 15%). It has a nice smell, is a potent antioxidant and it's also an antimicrobial agent.
If your skin is sensitive, it's probably a good idea to avoid it.
An inorganic salt that has strong astringent properties. It's also a deodorant (there are deo sticks consisting only of potash alum) and is often used in aftershave products as it can stop the bleeding from minor shave cuts.
- 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
The essential oil coming from steam distillation of freshly harvested, flowering peppermint sprigs. Its major component is menthol that gives the oil its well-known refreshing and cooling properties. Peppermint oil is traditionally used as an inhalant for cold and coughs and there is also some clinical data validating its use against headaches by rubbing a peppermint oil cream on the forehead.
As for skincare, other than the nice grassy-minty smell and the refreshing sensations, we cannot write good things. It can be a skin irritant, so much so that it is a well-known counterirritant for muscle pains creating mild surface irritation to make things better in the deeper layers. But for everyday skincare, counterirritation is not something you wanna do, so we think that peppermint oil is better to avoid, especially if your skin is sensitive.
The resin extract coming from a small, nice tree with white flowers living in South-East Asia. The resin has a nice sweet vanilla-like aroma (contains vanillin) and is used in perfumes as a fixative agent (it can help to slow down the evaporation of the other fragrant components making the scent more long lasting).
It contains potential allergen components benzyl benzoate and benzyl cinnamate, so it's best to avoid if you have sensitive skin.
A yellow-brown viscous liquid with a balsamic smell. It's a natural antiseptic, astringent and disinfectant. As an antibacterial, it might help acne prone skin and greasy hair. As a strong fragrant gum, it is also a potential skin irritant.
The essential oil from the leaves of lemon balm. It has a sweet, fresh, citrus-like fragrance that is lovely to smell but when it comes to skincare, it's a mixed bag. Thanks to its tannin and polyphenol components, it has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal effects. In-vitro (made in the lab, not on people) studies have also shown that it has high concentrations of antioxidants.
The downside is that 50-70% of the oil consists of fragrant components (citronellal, geranial, and neral) that might irritate sensitive skin.
We are big fans of all kinds of roses as ornamental plants but when it comes to skincare, it is a mixed bag. Before we list out the good and the not so good, here is an interesting thing.
The oil content in rose is very, very low so distilling rose essential oil requires huge amounts of rose flowers. It has such a wonderful scent that there are no comparable synthetic alternatives. You can probably guess that this means rose essential oil is expensive.... very very expensive.
So the good things: thanks to its wonderful scent the high-end perfume industry loves rose oil. Also, we (humans :)) love rose oil. We love its scent so much that it can heal headaches, depression, stress, and even grief.
Rose oil contains more than 95 compounds, among them flavonoids, anthocyanins, vitamin C, and quercetin that are all known for their medicinal properties and great antioxidant effects. Similar to many other essential oils, it has antimicrobial properties too.
When it comes to grape and skincare, the seed extract and the seed oil steals most of the show. The reason for that is that the seed contains the majority of the skin goodies, the antioxidant superstar polyphenols.
The fruit also contains some, but it's less potent. However - according to manufacturer info - the fruit extract is not only an antioxidant, but it's also a soothing, moisturizing and nourishing agent.
- 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
It’s a common fragrance ingredient that smells like lemon and has a bittersweet taste. It can be found in many plant oils, e.g. lemon, orange, lime or lemongrass.
It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.
A super common and cheap fragrance ingredient. It's in many plants, e.g. rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and it's the main component (about 50-90%) of the peel oil of citrus fruits.
It does smell nice but the problem is that it oxidizes on air exposure and the resulting stuff is not good for the skin. Oxidized limonene can cause allergic contact dermatitis and counts as a frequent skin sensitizer.
Limonene's nr1 function is definitely being a fragrance component, but there are several studies showing that it's also a penetration enhancer, mainly for oil-loving components.
All in all, limonene has some pros and cons, but - especially if your skin is sensitive - the cons probably outweigh the pros.
Linalool is a super common fragrance ingredient. It’s kind of everywhere - both in plants and in cosmetic products. It’s part of 200 natural oils including lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, jasmine, geranium and it can be found in 90-95% of prestige perfumes on the market.
The problem with linalool is, that just like limonene it oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. That’s why a product containing linalool that has been opened for several months is more likely to be allergenic than a fresh one.
A study made in the UK with 483 people tested the allergic reaction to 3% oxidised linalool and 2.3% had positive test results.
Citronellol is a very common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like odor. In the UK, it’s actually the third most often listed perfume on the ingredient lists.
It can be naturally found in geranium oil (about 30%) or rose oil (about 25%).
As with all fragrance ingredients, citronellol can also cause allergic contact dermatitis and should be avoided if you have perfume allergy. In a 2001 worldwide study with 178 people with known sensitization to fragrances citronellol tested positive in 5.6% of the cases.
There is no known anti-aging or positive skin benefits of the ingredient. It’s in our products to make it smell nice.
Geraniol is a common fragrance ingredient. It smells like rose and can be found in rose oil or in small quantities in geranium, lemon and many other essential oils.
With a sweet, light and floral scent, Farnesol is a popular fragrancing ingredient to make your cosmetics that bit nicer to use. It starts its life as a colorless liquid that can either be synthetically created or extracted from loads of plants like citronella, neroli, ylang-ylang, and tuberose.
The reason we list it as icky is because Farnesol is one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labeled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential, so it is best avoided if you have super sensitive skin.
A common fragrance ingredient that has a faint sweet balsamic smell. It can also be a solvent and can fight against microbes and insects very well.
It's one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.
A colorless or yellowish oil that's used as a fragrance. It has a spicy scent and can be found for example in basil, clove or cinnamon oil.
A 2006 in-vitro (made in the lab not on real people) study examined if clove oil is cytotoxic and found that not only clove oil but also its main constituent, eugenol is cytotoxic even at very low concentration (0.03%). It’s also one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid at least in leave-on products.
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|what‑it‑does||antimicrobial/antibacterial | solvent | viscosity controlling|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | perfuming | antimicrobial/antibacterial|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | perfuming | antimicrobial/antibacterial|
|what‑it‑does||soothing | antioxidant | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0-3, 0-3|
|what‑it‑does||perfuming | solvent|
|what‑it‑does||solvent | perfuming | antimicrobial/antibacterial|