|what‑it‑does||soothing | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | emulsifying|
|irritancy, com.||0, 1-2|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | emollient|
|irritancy, com.||0, 1|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling|
|irritancy, com.||2, 2|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | soothing | skin brightening|
|what‑it‑does||soothing | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | soothing | emollient|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0-2|
|what‑it‑does||soothing | antioxidant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | soothing | antimicrobial/antibacterial|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | soothing|
|irritancy, com.||0-3, 0-3|
|irritancy, com.||0, 1|
|what‑it‑does||viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub|
|what‑it‑does||preservative | perfuming | solvent | viscosity controlling|
|what‑it‑does||exfoliant | buffering|
Aloe Vera is one of today’s magic plants. It does have some very nice properties indeed, though famous dermatologist Leslie Baumann warns us in her book that most of the evidence is anecdotal and the plant might be a bit overhyped.
What research does confirm about Aloe is that it’s a great moisturizer and has several anti-inflammatory (among others contains salicylates, polysaccharides, magnesium lactate and C-glucosyl chromone) as well as some antibacterial components. It also helps wound healing and skin regeneration in general. All in all definitely a goodie.
A very 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.
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.
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".
A sugar ester (sucrose + lauric acid) that works as an emulsifier and oil thickener. It's a great ingredient to make oily gel cleansers that turn to milk on contact with water.
It's also 100% natural and combined with glycerin and oils (trade name Sucragel), it gives the basis for a gentle, yet effective, moisturizing oily gel cleansers. According to the manufacturer's 20 person study, skin is twice as hydrated 2 hours after using a Sucragel based cleanser compared to using a moisturising Sodium Laureth Sulfate cleanser.
It seems to us that squalane is in fashion and there is a reason for it. Chemically speaking, it is a saturated (no double bonds) hydrocarbon (a molecule consisting only of carbon and hydrogen), meaning that it's a nice and stable oily liquid with a long shelf life.
It occurs naturally in certain fish and plant oils (e.g. olive), and in the sebum (the oily stuff our skin produces) of the human skin. As f.c. puts it in his awesome blog post, squalane's main things are "emolliency, surface occlusion, and TEWL prevention all with extreme cosmetic elegance". In other words, it's a superb moisturizer that makes your skin nice and smooth, without being heavy or greasy.
Another advantage of squalane is that it is pretty much compatible with all skin types and skin conditions. It is excellent for acne-prone skin and safe to use even if you have fungi-related skin issues, like seborrhea or fungal acne.
The unsaturated (with double bonds) and hence less stable version of Squalane is Squalene, you can read about it here >>
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.
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.
A so-called fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that does all kinds of things in a skincare product: it makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier). Can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.
Turmeric is the yellow spice you probably know from curry and Indian food. It's also a traditional herbal medicine used in Ayurveda for its bunch of anti-something magic abilities including being anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anticarcinogenic.
As for turmeric and skincare, we have good news: studies show that the root extract and its main biologically active component, curcumin can do multiple good things for the skin. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity, it shows some promise for acne-prone skin and a small study from 2013 showed that it might be able to regulate sebum production.
It's also a potent antioxidant and skin-brightening agent so it often shows up in anti-aging and/or radiance-boosting products.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
Beta-Glucan is a nice big molecule composed of many smaller sugar molecules (called polysaccharide). It’s in the cell walls of yeast, some mushrooms, seaweeds, and cereals.
It’s a real goodie no matter if you eat it or put it on your face. Eating it is anti-diabetic, anti-cancer and even lowers the blood cholesterol.
Putting it on your face it also does a bunch of good things: it ‘s shown to have wound healing properties, it’s a mild antioxidant, it’s a great skin soother and moisturizer, and it even shows promising anti-aging benefits.
The manufacturer of the ingredient did a published study with 27 people and examined the effect of 0.5% beta-glucan. They found that despite the large molecular size beta-glucan does penetrate into the skin, even into the dermis (the middle layer of the skin where wrinkles form). After 8 weeks there was a significant reduction of wrinkle depth and height and skin roughness has also improved greatly.
Bottom line: Beta-glucan is a great ingredient, especially for sensitive skin. It soothes, moisturizes and even shows some anti-aging magic properties.
When you hear oatmeal, you probably think of breakfast, but the finely ground version of whole oat kernels, aka colloidal oatmeal, can do good things for your skin, especially if it's dry, itchy or prone to skin-rashes or eczema.
Oat is loaded with compounds good for the body, inside or outside, such as soothing agent beta-glucan (5%), lipids (3-11%) including barrier repairing omega-3 and 6 fatty acids or phenolic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents (avenanthramides).
The soothing, antioxidant and skin-protecting abilities of oat are so well-established that it is an active natural ingredient covered by the FDA OTC Skin Protectant monograph in the US, meaning that colloidal oatmeal can be claimed as an active ingredient on the INCI list and Aveeno is a mass-market brand built around oat-containing products.
If your skin is dry, irritated, inflamed or eczema-prone, colloidal oatmeal is something to try.
- A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
- Super common, used for more than 50 years
- Not only a simple moisturizer but plays an important role in keeping the stuff between our skin cells healthy
- High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
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).
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.
Chamomile probably needs no introduction as it's one of the most widely used medicinal herbs. You probably drink it regularly as a nice, calming cup of tea and it's also a regular on skincare ingredient lists.
Cosmetic companies use it mainly for its anti-inflammatory properties. It contains the terpenoids chamazulene and bisabolol both of which show great anti-inflammatory action in animal studies. On top of that chamomile also has some antioxidant activity (thanks to some other active ingredients called matricine, apigenin and luteolin).
Though chamomile is usually a goodie for the skin, it's also not uncommon to have an allergic reaction to it.
- Green tea is one of the most researched natural ingredients
- The active parts are called polyphenols, or more precisely catechins (EGCG being the most abundant and most active catechin)
- There can be huge quality differences between green tea extracts. The good ones contain 50-90% catechins (and often make the product brown and give it a distinctive smell)
- Green tea is proven to be a great antioxidant, UV protectant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial
- Because of these awesome properties green tea is a great choice for anti-aging and also for skin diseases including rosacea, acne and atopic dermatitis
It's one of the active parts of Chamomile that contains about 30% of bisabolol. It's a clear oily fluid that is used in skincare as a nice anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient.
The extract coming from ginger, the lovely spice that we all know from the kitchen. It is also a medicinal plant used both in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for pretty much everything you can imagine (muscular pain, sore throat, nausea, fever or cramps, just to give a few examples).
As for ginger and skincare, the root extract contains the biologically active component called gingerol that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Combined with Bisabolol, the duo works synergistically to sooth the skin and take down redness.
Other than that, ginger also contains moisturizing polysaccharides, amino acids, and sugars, and it is also quite well known to increase blood circulation and have a toning effect.
Last but not least, Ginger also has some volatile, essential oil compounds (1-3%). Those are mostly present in ginger oil, but small amounts might be in the extract as well (around 0.5% based on manufacturer info).
- 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
Unless you live under a rock you must have heard about shea butter. It's probably the most hyped up natural butter in skincare today. It comes from the seeds of African Shea or Karite Trees and used as a magic moisturizer and emollient.
But it's not only a simple emollient, it regenerates and soothes the skin, protects it from external factors (such as UV rays or wind) and is also rich in antioxidants (among others vitamin A, E, F, quercetin and epigallocatechin gallate). If you are looking for rich emollient benefits + more, shea is hard to beat.
A vegetable wax coming from the leaves of the Brazilian tropical palm tree, Copernicia cerifera. Similar to other waxes, it is used to stabilize and give body to products, or to keep stick type formulas solid. It is the hardest natural wax with a high melting point (around 85C) and high gloss making it a great wax choice for lip products.
A white powdery thing that's the major component of glass and sand. In cosmetics, it’s often in products that are supposed to keep your skin matte as it has great oil-absorbing abilities. It’s also used as a helper ingredient to thicken up products or suspend insoluble particles.
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 helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi and has only milder effect against bacteria.
It is Ecocert and Cosmos approved, works quite well at low concentrations (0.1-0.6%) and is popular in natural products.
An amino acid-based emulsifier that helps water and oil to mix and stay that way. It is considered as natural, environmentally friendly, and hypoallergenic.
It's one of the most commonly used thickeners and emulsion stabilizers. If the product is too runny, a little of 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).
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).
It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically.
No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. Has to be combined with some other nice preservatives, like potassium sorbate to be broad spectrum enough.
In high amounts, it can be a skin irritant, but don’t worry, it’s never used in high amounts.
Citric acid comes from citrus fruits and is an AHA. If these magic three letters don’t tell you anything, click here and read our detailed description on glycolic acid, the most famous AHA.
So citric acid is an exfoliant, that can - just like other AHAs - gently lift off the dead skin cells of your skin and make it more smooth and fresh.
There is also some research showing that citric acid with regular use (think three months and 20% concentration) can help sun-damaged skin, increase skin thickness and some nice hydrating things called glycosaminoglycans in the skin.
But according to a comparative study done in 1995, citric acid has less skin improving magic properties than glycolic or lactic acid. Probably that’s why citric acid is usually not used as an exfoliant but more as a helper ingredient in small amounts to adjust the pH of a formulation.
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