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Context Micro-Derm Regenerator

Micro-Derm Regenerator

A two-in-one cleanser and gentle exfoliator enhanced with the same crystals used in professional microdermabrasion treatments. Soothes and purifies skin as it effectively cleanses. Polishes and removes dead skin cells. [more] [more] Powerful antioxidants combine to protect cells and fight free radical damage. Skin is left soft, hydrated, and healthy-looking. Gentle enough for all skin types. [less]
Uploaded by: abi28 on 25/06/2019

Context Micro-Derm Regenerator
Ingredients explained

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. 

Also-called: SLES | What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

It’s probably the most common cleansing ingredient of all. It’s usually the Chief Bubble Officer responsible for big bubbles in cleansing products through the foam it creates is a bit airy and loose and not as dense and luxurious as the foam created by infamous SLS

As for mildness, it goes somewhere in the middle. It’s often confused with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), but they are absolutely not the same. The SLES molecule has a bigger water-soluble head part that makes it milder and much less irritating. It is considered absolutely ok in the amount used in cosmetic products, though if you are looking for a mild facial cleanser, you have better chances with a formula without SLES. For an average shower gel? SLES works just fine.  

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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: moisturizer/humectant, solvent | 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.

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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: surfactant/cleansing

A soft, mild cleansing agent with amphoteric structure meaning that its head contains both a positively and a negatively charged part (surfactants are most commonly anionic meaning their head has a negative charge).  It also has great foaming abilities and is recommended for baby products and other non-irritating cleansers.

Also-called: Aluminum Oxide, Al2O3 | What-it-does: viscosity controlling, absorbent/mattifier

A multi-functional helper ingredient that's used mainly as a pigment carrier.  The pigment can be an inorganic sunscreen (such as titanium dioxide) or a colorant that is blended with alumina platelets and then often coated with some kind of silicone (such as triethoxycaprylylsilane). This special treatment enables pigments to be evenly dispersed in the formula and to be spread out easily and evenly upon application. It is super useful both for mineral sunscreens as well as for makeup products. 

Other than that, alumina can also be used as an absorbent (sometimes combined with the mattifying powder called polymethylsilsesquioxane), a viscosity controlling or an opacifying (reduces the transparency of the formula) agent.

Also-called: Sunflower 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.

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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.

Also-called: Jojoba 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). 

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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.

Also-called: Macadamia Oil | What-it-does: emollient

The golden yellow oil coming from the Macadamia nut, a native Australian nut. Similar to other plant oils, it's loaded with emollient and nourishing fatty acids. It's a high oleic acid oil (50-67% oleic acid and only 0-5% linoleic acid) that makes it very emollient and ideal for dry skin types (and less ideal for acne-prone skin).

Its unique property is that it contains high amounts of a rare fatty acid called palmitoleic acid (12-25%) that give Macadamia oil a "cushiony" feel. It's also easily absorbed and makes the skin soft and supple. 

Also-called: Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient | Irritancy: 1-3 | Comedogenicity: 1-3

It's an ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that belongs to the "retinoid family". The retinoid family is pretty much the royal family of skincare, with the queen being the FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient tretinoin. Retinol is also a very famous member of the family, but it's like Prince William, two steps away from the throne. Retinyl palmitate will be then little Prince George, quite far (3 steps) away from the throne. 

By steps, we mean metabolic steps. Tretinoin, aka retinoic acid, is the active ingredient our skin cells can understand and retinyl palmitate (RP) has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to actually do something. The conversion is a 3 step one and looks like this:

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retinyl palmitate --> retinol -- > retinaldehyde --> all-trans-retinoic acid

As we wrote in our lengthy retinol description the problem is that the conversion is not terribly effective. The evidence that RP is still an effective anti-aging ingredient is not very strong, in fact, it's weak. Dr. Leslie Baumann in her fantastic Cosmetic Dermatology book writes that RP is topically ineffective

What's more, the anti-aging effectiveness is not the only questionable thing about RP. It also exibits questionable behaviour in the presence of UV light and was the center of a debate between the non-profit group, EWG (whose intentions are no doubt good, but its credibility is often questioned by scientists) and a group of scientists and dermatologists lead by Steven Q. Wang, MD,  director of dermatologic surgery at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. 

Dr. Leslie Baumann wrote a great review of the debate and summarized the research available about retinyl palmitate here.  It seems that there is a study showing RP being photo protective against UVB rays but there is also a study showing RP causing DNA damage and cytotoxicity in association with UVA. 

We think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we agree with Dr. Baumann's conclusion: "sufficient evidence to establish a causal link between RP and skin cancer has not been produced. Nor, I’m afraid, are there any good reasons to recommend the use of RP". We would add especially during the day!

Bottom line: If you wanna get serious about retinoids, RP is not your ingredient (retinol or tretinoin is!). However, if you use a product that you like and it also contains RP, there is no reason to throw it away. If possible use it at night, just to be on the safe side.

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. Even though we are massive vitamin C fans,  Ascorbyl Palmitate  (AP) is our least favorite. (Btw, if you do not know what the big deal with vitamin C is then you are missing out. You must go and read our geeky details about it.) 

So, AP is one of the attempts by the cosmetics industry to solve the stability issues with vitamin C while preserving its benefits,  but it seems to fall short on several things.

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What's the problem?

Firstly, it's stability is only similar to that of pure ascorbic acid (AA), which means it is not really stable. A great study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology compared a bunch of vitamin C derivatives and this derivative was the only one where the study said in terms of stability that it's "similar to AA". Not really that good.

Second, a study that examined the skin absorption of vitamin C found that ascorbyl palmitate did not increase the skin levels of AA. This does not mean that ascorbyl palmitate cannot penetrate the skin (because it can, it's oil soluble and the skin likes to absorb oil soluble things) but this means that it's questionable if ascorbyl palmitate can be converted into pure Vit C in the skin. Even if it can be converted, the palmitate part of the molecule is more than the half of it, so the efficacy will not be good and we have never seen a serum that contains a decent (and proudly disclosed) amount of AP.  We are highly skeptical what effect a tiny amount of AP has in a formula.

Third, another study that wanted to examine the antioxidant properties of AP was surprised to find that even though AP does have nice antioxidant properties; following UVB radiation (the same one that comes from the sun) it also promotes lipid peroxidation and cytotoxicity. It was only an in-vitro study meaning that it was done on cell cultures and not on real people, but still, this also does not support the use of AP too much. 

The only good thing we can write about Ascorbyl Palmitate is that there is an in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) study showing that it might be able to boost collagen production.

Regarding the skin-brightening properties of pure vitamin C, this is another magic property AP does not have, or at least there is no data, not even in-vitro, about it.

Overall, Ascorbyl Palmitate is our least favorite vitamin C derivative. It is there in lots of products in tiny amounts (honestly, we do not really understand why), however, we do not know about any vitamin C serum featuring AP in high amounts. That is probably no coincidence. If you are into vitamin C, you can take a look at more promising derivatives here

Also-called: Vitamin E Acetate | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the most commonly used version of pure vitamin E in cosmetics. You can read all about the pure form here. This one is the so-called esterified version. 

According to famous dermatologist, Leslie Baumann while tocopheryl acetate is more stable and has a longer shelf life, it’s also more poorly absorbed by the skin and may not have the same awesome photoprotective effects as pure Vit E. 

What-it-does: emollient

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. 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Cellulose is an important component of the cell walls of green plants and it's the most abundant natural polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) on Earth. If the polymer structure is not too big (less than 200 repeated units), cellulose becomes microcrystalline cellulose.

In skin care, it comes as a fine or less fine white powder. The less fine (bigger particle size) version is used as a gentle scrubbing agent (a nice natural, biodegradable alternative to now banned plastic polyethylene) and the ultra fine version is used as a helper ingredient that gives a super-silky, soft touch, reduces tackiness or greasiness and can also be used as a mattifying agent.

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Combined with Cellulose Gum, it also works as a nice gelling agent.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A cleansing agent whose main thing is adding viscosity and foam to cleansing formulas

Chemically speaking, it is the little sister of Cocamide DEA and has similar properties to that guy. However, being a monoethanolamine instead of diethanolamine has the advantage that the nitrosamine-concern does not apply for Cocamide MEA.

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: chelating

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

This totally unpronounceable ingredient (let’s take a shortcut: MCI) is a super effective preservative with both antibacterial and antifungal effects that works at very low concentrations. 

The bad news with it though is that it can sensitize the skin easily (it’s a so-called non-fragrance allergen). It’s not permitted to be used alone, but only with its BFF, methylisothiazolinone (MI), another icky preservative. Together they have a broad spectrum antimicrobial effect but are permitted to be used only in rinse-off products (under 0.0015%).

What-it-does: preservative

As you may guess, if something is only recommended in products that you rinse off (cleansers and shampoos), then it’s probably not the best ingredient for the skin.

Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a preservative that' super efficient against bacteria at surprisingly low concentrations. The problem with it though is that it can also sensitize and irritate the skin quite easily when it comes in leave-on formulas.

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Currently, some countries are considering to ban it entirely (like Denmark) and the permitted use level is very low (under 0.01%). Luckily there are plenty of products on the market with other preservative options so if you are a better safe than sorry type it's probably best to avoid it. 

Also-called: Ultramarines | What-it-does: colorant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

An inorganic (as in no carbon in its molecule) pigment that can range in shade from blue (most common) to violet, pink or even green. It is not permitted in lip products in the US.

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what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
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what‑it‑does emollient | moisturizer/humectant | viscosity controlling
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An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
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A soft, mild cleansing agent with amphoteric structure (its head contains both a positively and a negatively charged part). [more]
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what‑it‑does emollient
Macadamia nut oil - A highly emollient oil rich in oleic acid (50-67%) and a rare fatty acid called palmitoleic acid (12-25%). It gives the skin a soft, supple and "cushiony" feel. [more]
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irritancy, com. 1-3, 1-3
An ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that is pretty much the least effective member of the retinoid family. Its anti-aging effects are quite questionable as well as its behavior in the presence of UVA light. (Use it at night if possible!) [more]
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A very common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. Comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. [more]
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A cleansing agent whose main thing is adding viscosity and foam to cleansing formulas.  Chemically speaking, it is the little sister of Cocamide DEA and has similar properties to that guy. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
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Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
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