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Hydration
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Ingredients explained

Squalene - goodie

Squalene is an oily liquid that originally comes from shark liver but luckily it can also be found in a couple of plant oils. Olive (0.6%), peanut (0.1%) and pumpkin (0.35%) oils contain it, though not in huge amounts. 

What contains more of it, is the sebum (the oily stuff) that our skin produces. About 13% of human sebum is squalene, which means that it’s an important skin-identical ingredient and NMF (natural moisturizing factor)

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Chemically speaking, it is an unsaturated (has double bonds) hydrocarbon (contains only carbon and hydrogen) molecule, that can undergo oxidation. On the pro side, this means that squalene can act as an antioxidant (while its no-double-bond version sister, squalane cannot) that might be useful for dry skin types, but on the con side, oxidized squalene (called squalene peroxide) is thought to be a strong acne-trigger, that makes squalene less ideal for acne-prone skin.

Having double bonds, and being prone to oxidation also means that squalene is a less stable molecule with shorter shelf life, so its more stable and awesome sister, squalane shows up more often on ingredient lists. Read about squalane here >>

What-it-does: emollient

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.

Linoleic Acid - goodie
Also-called: LA, omega-6 fatty acid, 18:2 cis-9,12, Form of Vitamin F | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/cleansing

The famous omega-6 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-6 fatty acids in our body. It is a so-called polyunsaturated fatty acid meaning it has more than one (in this case two) double bonds and a somewhat kinky structure that makes LA and LA-rich oils a thin liquid.

It is also an essential fatty acid meaning our body cannot synthesize it and has to take it from food. This is not hard at all as plenty of nuts (such as flax, poppy or sesame seeds) and vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower) are rich in LA. The hard thing seems to be eating enough omega-3-s, more specifically eating a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, but that is a topic for a what-is-good-to-eat-site and not for us. 

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As for linoleic acid and the skin, LA is a really important little guy found naturally in our skin. It is the most abundant fatty acid in the epidermis and it serves as a structural precursor for important skin lipids called ceramides. Knowing this, it will not come as a surprise that Linoleic acid has a central role in the structure and function of stratum corneum permeability, aka healthy skin barrier.  LA deficiency leads to an impaired more permeable skin barrier and the topical application of LA-rich sunflower oil can fix this issue rapidly (while oleic-rich olive oil did not have the same barrier repairing effect).

LA is not only important for dry, barrier damaged skin types but also for acne-prone skin. Research shows that problem skin has lower levels of linoleic acid (and higher levels of oleic acid) than normal skin. So LA-deficiency in the skin seems to be connected not only to an impaired skin barrier but also to acne and smearing LA all over your face might help with your problem skin. A double-blind study using a 2.5% LA gel for 4 weeks found a 25% reduction in the size of microcomedones, the tiny blocked pores that can later lead to acne.

If that was not enough, we have one more thing to report about LA.  It lightens hyperpigmentation (aka UVB caused sun spots) both by blocking the melanin production of melanocytes (the skin cells that make the pigment melanin) and by enhancing the desquamation of melanin pigment from the upper layers of the skin.

Overall, linoleic acid is a multi-functional skin goodie with barrier repairing, acne-reducing, and skin-lightening magic abilities. It's a nice one to spot on the ingredient list pretty much for any skin type. 

What-it-does: emollient

A naturally derived (Ecocert approved) colorless to yellowish oily liquid that's touted as a natural silicone alternative. It's claimed to have great sensorial properties: light but caring, velvety, silky and non-sticky.

It's also great at dissolving UV-filters in sunscreens or dispersing pigments in makeup products. You can also bump into Isoamyl Laurate in hair care products as a hair conditioner that makes combing easier without build up.

Also-called: Avocado Oil, Persea Americana Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-3

The oil coming from the pulp of one of the most nutritious fruits in the world, the avocado. It's loaded with the nourishing and moisturizing fatty acid, oleic (70%) and contains some others including palmitic (10%) and linoleic acid (8%). It also contains a bunch of minerals and vitamins A, E and D

Avocado oil has extraordinary skin penetration abilities and can nourish different skin layers. It's a very rich, highly moisturizing emollient oil that makes the skin smooth and nourished. Thanks to its vitamin E content it also has some antioxidant properties. As a high-oleic plant oil, it is recommended for dry skin

Also-called: Safflower Seed Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

The oil coming from the seeds of the yellow flowered safflower plant. Similar to other plant oils, it's loaded with nourishing and moisturizing fatty acids: it's a high linoleic acid oil (70%) and has only smaller amounts of oleic acid (11%) (this might be great for acne-prone skin). It also contains antioxidant vitamin E (44mg/100g alpha-tocopherol).

It's a water-hating, fumed silica that works as a thickener for oils and it can also suspend particles in oils.

Also, increases the gloss of castor oil that can be useful for makeup products.

What-it-does: astringent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Rose Geranium Flower Essential Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The fragrant essential oil coming from the flowers of Rose Geranium. Like most essential oils, it contains antioxidant and antimicrobial components, but the main ones are fragrant constituents (like citronellol and geraniol). Be careful with it, if your skin is sensitive. 

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: astringent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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. 

Also-called: Castor Oil | What-it-does: emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-1

Castor oil is sourced from the castor bean plant native to tropical areas in Eastern Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. It is an age-old ingredient (it’s over 4,000 years old!) with many uses including as a shoe polish, food additive and motor lubricant. You would be reasonable to think that putting shoe polish on your face wouldn’t be the best idea, but it turns out castor oil has some unique properties that make it a stalwart in thick and gloss-giving formulas (think lipsticks and highlighters).

So what is so special about it? The answer is its main fatty acid, called ricinoleic acid (85-95%).  Unlike other fatty acids, ricinoleic acid has an extra water-loving part (aka -OH group) on its fatty chain that gives Castor Oil several unique properties. First, it is thicker than other oils, then its solubility is different (e.g. dissolves in alcohol but not in mineral oil), and it allows all kinds of chemical modifications other oils do not, hence the lots of Castor oil-derived ingredients. It is also more glossy than other oils, in fact, it creates the highest gloss of all natural oils when applied to the skin. Other than that, it is a very effective emollient and occlusive that reduces skin moisture loss so it is quite common in smaller amounts in moisturizers. 

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While it is very unlikely (and this is true for pretty much every ingredient), cases of reactions to castor oil have been reported, so if your skin is sensitive, it never hurts to patch test. 

Also-called: alpha-Linolenic acid, ALA, omega-3 fatty acid, Form of Vitamin F | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/cleansing, perfuming

The famous omega-3 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-3 fatty acids in our body. Next to linoleic acid, it is the other essential fatty acid that our body cannot synthesize and we have to ingest it from our food. It is also a PUFA, aka polyunsaturated fatty acid with three double bonds, a kinky chemical structure and thus a liquid consistency.

While linoleic acid is abundant in the skin, this is not the case with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It is not entirely clear if it is meant to be like that or if this is a consequence of not eating enough Omega-3 with the typical Western diet.

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Leafy green vegetables, walnuts, flax seeds and fish oils are rich sources of ALA and if you are not eating a lot from these, supplementing with fish oil is a pretty good idea backed by research. It is a good idea both in terms of general health benefits as well as potentially improving inflammation-related skin issues such as atopic dermatitis or acne.

As for using ALA topically, we have to say that its role and effects seem to be less direct than with LA. ALA's main role in the skin appears to be modulating the immune response of the epidermis. This is probably helpful for inflammatory skin diseases but most studies examine ALA as an oral supplement and not when applied topically. One exception, we could find, is a study that found that topically applied ALA has nice spot-fading abilities.

To be honest, it seems to us that oral supplementation of ALA is more important than smearing it all over your face. However, that is not to say that topical ALA is a bad thing, it is a good thing. It is a skin-identical ingredient, it is probably moisturizing and anti-inflammatory but its topical effects are less established than that of fellow omega fatty acid, linoleic acid

What-it-does: perfuming

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%). 

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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. 

Linalool - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

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.

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A study made in the UK with 483 people tested the allergic reaction to 3% oxidised linalool and 2.3% had positive test results. 

Limonene - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, solvent, deodorant

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

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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.  

Farnesol - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

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.

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what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | antioxidant | emollient
Squalene is an oily liquid that originally comes from shark liver but luckily it can also be found in a couple of plant oils. Olive (0.6%), peanut (0.1%) and pumpkin (0.35%) oils contain it, though not in huge amounts. What contains more of it, is the sebum (the oily stuff) that our skin produces. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
A light and volatile silicone fluid that has excellent spreadability and leaves a light, silky and smooth feel on the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient | surfactant/cleansing
The famous omega-6 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-6 fatty acids in our body. It is a so-called polyunsaturated fatty acid meaning it has more than one (in this case two) double bonds and a somewhat kinky structure that makes LA and LA-rich oils a thin liquid.It is also an essential fatty acid meaning our body cannot synthesize  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
A naturally derived (Ecocert approved) oily liquid that's touted as a natural silicone alternative. It's claimed to have great sensorial properties: light but caring, velvety, silky and non-sticky. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 0-3
Avocado oil - a highly moisturizing, rich emollient oil that is loaded with fatty acids (oleic - 70%) and vitamin A, E and D. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 0-2
Safflower Seed Oil - emollient plant oil with moisturizing fatty acids (linoleic: 70%, oleic: 11%) and antioxidant vitamin E (44mg/100g alpha-tocopherol). [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
It's a water-hating, fumed silica that works as a thickener for oils and it can also suspend particles in oils. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the flowers of Rose Geranium. Like most essential oils, it contains antioxidant and antimicrobial components, but the main ones are fragrant constituents. [more]
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]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A form of vitamin E that works as an antioxidant. Compared to the pure form it's more stable, has longer shelf life, but it's also more poorly absorbed by the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | perfuming
irritancy, com. 0, 0-1
Castor oil is sourced from the castor bean plant native to tropical areas in Eastern Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. It is an age-old ingredient (it’s over 4,000 years old!) with many uses including as a shoe polish, food additive and motor lubricant. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient | surfactant/cleansing | perfuming
The famous omega-3 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-3 fatty acids in our body. Next to linoleic acid, it is the other essential fatty acid that our body cannot synthesize and we have to ingest it from our food. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like smell. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A super common fragrance ingredient that can be found among others in lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot or jasmine. The downside of it is that it oxidises on air exposure and might become allergenic. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming | solvent
A super common fragrance ingredient found naturally in many plants including citrus peel oils, rosemary or lavender. It autoxidizes on air exposure and counts as a common skin sensitizer. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
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 “ [more]