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CeraVe Acne Foam Cream Cleanser

Acne Foam Cream Cleanser

Benzoyl peroxide acne face wash
Uploaded by: margotn on

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Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Benzoyl Peroxide anti-acne
Water solvent
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate surfactant/​cleansing
Coco-Betaine surfactant/​cleansing, viscosity controlling
Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate surfactant/​cleansing
Sodium Chloride viscosity controlling
PEG-100 Stearate surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying 0, 0
PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate emulsifying
Ceramide NP skin-identical ingredient goodie
Ceramide AP skin-identical ingredient goodie
Ceramide EOP skin-identical ingredient goodie
Carbomer viscosity controlling 0, 1
Glyceryl Stearate emollient, emulsifying 0, 1-2
Niacinamide cell-communicating ingredient, skin brightening, anti-acne, moisturizer/​humectant superstar
Trideceth-6 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Cetearyl Alcohol emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 1, 2
Sodium Citrate chelating, buffering
Sodium Hydroxide buffering
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate emulsifying
Cholesterol skin-identical ingredient, emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling 0, 0 goodie
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Propanediol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Diethylhexyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying
Phytosphingosine skin-identical ingredient, cell-communicating ingredient, anti-acne, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer viscosity controlling
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative

CeraVe Acne Foam Cream Cleanser
Ingredients explained

What-it-does: anti-acne

The gold standard topical ingredient in treating acne today. There is no miracle cure for acne (we do really wish for one, *sigh*), but Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) is probably the closest thing we have. But, as usual, big effects come with big side effects, so we think BP is best used as a last resort (at least, in the topical treatment field). 

The good thing about BP is that it is amazingly effective against inflammatory-type acne. Not so much against blackheads or whiteheads, but against acne that is caused by the evil bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (and that is most types of acne).  Apart from being antibacterial, it is also anti-inflammatory, keratolytic and wound-healing, all of which are properties that make it so darn effective against spots.

Expand to read more

Another big pro of BP is that there is no bacterial resistance to it, meaning if it works once it will continue to work. Antibiotics are also a common way to treat acne, but antibiotic-resistant P. acnes are increasing worldwide. BP will probably help you even if antibiotics have stopped working, and the two are also often combined for a more complex acne therapy. Btw, BP plays nice not only with antibiotics but also with retinoids

The side-effects part? BP works its antibacterial magic by being a powerful oxidizing agent, meaning it is a pro-oxidant. As in the opposite of an antioxidant. BP literally generates evil ROS (reactive oxygen species) in the skin that kills P. acnes but also harms the surrounding skin cells. Ongoing BP-use ages your skin, which is why, we say, use it as a last resort. If you do use BP, please also use a good sunscreen and a good antioxidant serum to apologise to your skin (btw, these things are useful in any case). Use the BP treatment at night and the antioxidant serum in the morning so that they do not cancel each other out.

Another side effect of BP is that it can be very skin drying. BP is an example where more is not better. In fact, it is equally effective at concentrations of 2.5, 5.0 and 10%, but the higher the concentration the more irritating and drying side effects occur. So using BP at 2.5% percent is the ideal amount. Another side effect which is good to know is that BP can bleach bedsheets and clothes. Be careful with your expensive satin bedsheets.

Overall, Benzoyl Peroxide is a uniquely effective topical acne treatment, but it comes at a price. Use it as a last resort and for good measure (and with plenty of moisturizers, sunscreen, and antioxidant serum). 

Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

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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. 

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

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

A mild and non-drying cleanser that gives skin a nice and soft after-feel. It also has great foaming properties, comes from coconuts and it's biodegradable. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

A cleansing agent that's claimed to be so gentle on the skin that it hardly impacts the skin barrier. It also gives a rich, creamy foam, it's based on vegetable fatty acids and is readily biodegradable.

It's an especially important and popular ingredient in "syndet bars" (or soapless soaps). Dr. Leslie Baumann says in her great Cosmetic Dermatology book that thanks to the unique molecular characteristic of Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, it "has defined a new dimension in the mildness of cleansing bars".

Also-called: Salt | What-it-does: viscosity controlling

Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt

If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. The reason for this is that salt acts as a fantastic thickener in cleansing formulas created with ionic cleansing agents (aka surfactants) such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate. A couple of percents (typically 1-3%) turns a runny surfactant solution into a nice gel texture.

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If you are into chemistry (if not, we understand, just skip this paragraph), the reason is that electrolytes (you know, the Na+ and Cl- ions) screen the electrostatic repulsion between the head groups of ionic surfactants and thus support the formation of long shaped micelles (instead of spherical ones) that entangle like spaghetti, and viola, a gel is formed. However, too much of it causes the phenomenon called "salting out", and the surfactant solution goes runny again. 

Other than that, salt also works as an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, that is when water droplets are dispersed in the outer oil (or silicone) phase. And last but not least, when salt is right at the first spot of the ingredient list (and is not dissolved), the product is usually a body scrub where salt is the physical exfoliating agent

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A very common water-loving surfactant and emulsifier that helps to keep water and oil mixed nicely together. 

It's often paired with glyceryl stearate - the two together form a super effective emulsifier duo that's salt and acid tolerant and works over a wide pH range. It also gives a "pleasing product aesthetics", so no wonder it's popular.

What-it-does: emulsifying

PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate is a popular water-in-oil (w/o) emulsifier, meaning that it helps the oily and watery parts of the formula to mix in a way where water droplets are dispersed in the continuous oil phase and not the other way round. 

Compared to the more commonly used oil-in-water (o/w) emulsions, w/o emulsions tend to be heavier and less cosmetically elegant, but PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate is claimed to help with this and enables a light and elegant skin feel. It also has a molecular structure that creates large anchors both in the water and in the oil phase making the resulting emulsion not only cosmetically elegant but also very stable. 

Ceramide NP - goodie
Also-called: Ceramide 3 | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient

One of the many types of ceramides that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. Ceramides make up about 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated. It works even better when combined with its pal, Ceramide 1.

We wrote way more about ceramides at ceramide 1, so click here to know more.

Ceramide AP - goodie
Also-called: Ceramide 6 II | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient

A type of ceramide that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. Ceramides make up 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated. 

We have written way more about ceramides at ceramide 1, so click here to know more.

Ceramide EOP - goodie
Also-called: Ceramide 1 | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient

Ceramides get quite a lot of hype recently and good news: there is a reason for that. But before we go into the details, let's just quickly define what the heck ceramides are:

They are waxy lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin (called stratum corneum - SC). And they are there in big amounts! The goopy stuff between our skin cells is called extracellular matrix that consists mainly of lipids. And ceramides are about 50% of those lipids (the other important ones are cholesterol with 25% and fatty acids with 15%). 

Expand to read more

Ok, so now we know what ceramides are, let's see what they do in our skin: research shows clearly that they play a super important role in keeping the skin barrier healthy and the skin hydrated. If ceramides in the skin are decreased, more water can evaporate from the skin and there is less water remaining in the skin. So ceramides form kind of a "water-proof" protecting layer and make sure that our skin remains nice and hydrated. 

Now the question is only this: If we put ceramides all over our face do they work as well as ceramides already naturally in our skin? Well, the answer is probably a no, but they do work to some extent. The BeautyBrains blog made a fantastic article about ceramides and they have listed a couple of examples about studies showing that ceramides - especially when used in certain ratios with cholesterol and fatty acids  - do hydrate the skin and can help to repair the skin barrier.

So far we were writing about ceramides in plural. It's because there are lots of different ceramides, a 2014 article writes that currently 12 base classes of ceramides are known with over 340 specific species. Chemically speaking, ceramides are the connection of a fatty acid and a sphingoid base and both parts can have different variations that result in the different types of ceramides. 

Our current one, Ceramide 1, or more recently called Ceramide EOP, was the first one that was identified in 1982 and it's a special snowflake. It contains the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid and has a unique structure. It's believed that ceramide 1 plays a "binding role" in the lipid layers of the extracellular matrix. Along with ceramides 4 and 7, they also play a vital role in epidermal integrity and serve as the main storage areas for linoleic acid (a fatty acid that's also very important for barrier repair).  

Oh, and one more thing: alkaline pH inhibits enzymes that help ceramide synthesis in our skin. So if you use a soap and you notice your skin is becoming dry, now you know why. 

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.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-2

A super common, waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together, gives body to creams and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth.

Chemically speaking, it is the attachment of a glycerin molecule to the fatty acid called stearic acid. It can be produced from most vegetable oils (in oils three fatty acid molecules are attached to glycerin instead of just one like here) in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.

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It also occurs naturally in our body and is used as a food additive. As cosmetic chemist Colins writes it, "its safety really is beyond any doubt".

Niacinamide - superstar
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 >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsifying, emulsion stabilising, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 2

An extremely common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient) and gives body to creams and lotions. It also helps to stabilize oil-water mixes (emulsions), though it does not function as an emulsifier in itself. Its typical use level in most cream type formulas is 2-3%.  

It’s a so-called fatty alcohol, a mix of cetyl and stearyl alcohol, other two emollient fatty alcohols.  Though chemically speaking, it is alcohol (as in, it has an -OH group in its molecule), its properties are totally different from the properties of low molecular weight or drying alcohols such as denat. alcohol. Fatty alcohols have a long oil-soluble (and thus emollient) tail part that makes them absolutely non-drying and non-irritating and are totally ok for the skin.

What-it-does: chelating, buffering

A little helper ingredient that is used to adjust the pH of the product. It also helps to keep products stay nice longer by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water). 

Also-called: lye | What-it-does: buffering

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.  

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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.

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". 

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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: emulsifying

A helper ingredient that's used as a co-emulsifier (meaning next to other emulsifiers in the formula it helps water and oil to mix) and as a stabilization agent for foams. Also, has some antimicrobial activity so it can help to boost the effectiveness of the preservative system.

Cholesterol - goodie
What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It's one of the important lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin. About 25% of the goopy stuff between our skin cells consists of cholesterol. Together with ceramides and fatty acids, they play a vital role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated. 

Apart from being an important skin-identical ingredient, it's also an emollient and stabilizer

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. 

Expand to read more

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.

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

Propanediol is a natural alternative for the often used and often bad-mouthed propylene glycol. It's produced sustainably from corn sugar and it's Ecocert approved. 

It's quite a multi-tasker: can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. 

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.

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). 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

It's a type of lipid, a so-called sphingoid base that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. It's found both in "free-form" and as part of famous skin lipids, ceramides.

There is emerging research about Phytosphingosine that shows that it has antimicrobial and cell-communicating properties and is considered part of the skin's natural defense system.

Expand to read more

A 2007 study showed that Phytosphingosine even works against evil acne-causing bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes and shows promise as a complementing active ingredient in treating acne-prone skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activities.  

A nice one to spot in the ingredient list. :)

Though its long name does not reveal it, this polymer molecule (big molecule from repeated subunits or monomers) is a relative to the super common, water-loving thickener, Carbomer. Both of them are big molecules that contain acrylic acid units, but Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer also contains some other monomers that are hydrophobic, i.e. water-hating. 

This means that our molecule is part water- and part oil-loving, so it not only works as a thickener but also as an emulsion stabilizer. It is very common in gel-type formulas that also contain an oil-phase as well as in cleansers as it also works with most cleansing agents (unlike a lot of other thickeners). 

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

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what‑it‑does anti-acne
The gold standard topical ingredient in treating acne today. It is uniquely effective in treating inflammatory type acne, but it comes at a price (pro-oxidant and skin drying). [more]
what‑it‑does solvent
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what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
A cleansing agent that's claimed to be so gentle on the skin that it hardly impacts the skin barrier. It also gives a rich, creamy foam, it's based on vegetable fatty acids and is readily biodegradable. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt.  If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying
PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate is a popular water-in-oil (w/o) emulsifier, meaning that it helps the oily and watery parts of the formula to mix in a way where water droplets are dispersed in the continuous oil phase and not the other way round.  Compared to the more commonly used oil-in-water (o/w) emulsions, w/o emulsions tend to be heavier and less cosmetically elegant, but  [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
Ceramides make up 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated.  [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
A type of ceramide that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. Ceramides make up 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated.  We have written way more about ceramides at ceramide 1, so click here to know more. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
Ceramides get quite a lot of hype recently and good news: there is a reason for that. But before we go into the details, let's just quickly define what the heck ceramides are: They are waxy lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin (called stratum corneum - SC). [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 1
A handy white powder that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 1-2
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient | skin brightening | anti-acne | moisturizer/humectant
A multi-functional skincare superstar that has clinically proven anti-aging, skin lightening, anti-inflammatory and barrier repair properties. [more]
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A super common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient) and gives body to creams. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating | buffering
A helper ingredient that is used to adjust the pH of the product. Also helps to keep products stay nice longer by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula. 
what‑it‑does buffering
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what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
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A helper ingredient that's used as a co-emulsifier and as a stabilization agent for foams. [more]
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irritancy, com. 0, 0
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what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
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A natural corn sugar derived glycol. It can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. [more]
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A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
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A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | cell-communicating ingredient | anti-acne | antimicrobial/antibacterial
A type of lipid that can be found naturally in the skin. Has antimicrobial and cell-communicating properties and is considered to be part of the skin's natural defence system. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A common helper ingredient that stabilizes emulsions and helps to thicken up products. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
It can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too. [more]