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Dermalogica Powerbright Dark Spot Serum

Powerbright Dark Spot Serum

This advanced treatment serum is formulated with light-diffusing technology that begins to balance the appearance of uneven pigmentation within days. A blend of niacinamide, hexylresorcinol and shiitake mushroom help fade spots for brighter, more even-toned skin.
Uploaded by: hannahh on

Ingredients overview

Water/​Aqua/​Eau, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Triolein, Niacinamide, C12-16 Alcohols, 1,2-Hexanediol, Coco-Caprylate/​Caprate, Lentinus Edodes Mycelium Extract, C18-36 Acid Triglyceride, Acrylates Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, Ectoin, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Jojoba Esters, Hydroxyacetophenone, Hexylresorcinol, Phytosteryl Macadamiate, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Withania Somnifera Root Extract, Phytosterols, Sodium Levulinate, C12-18 Acid Triglyceride, Raspberry Ketone, Mimosa Tenuiflora Bark Extract, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit, Ilex Paraguariensis Leaf Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Cistus Ladaniferus Resin, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Seed Oil, Jasminum Sambac (Jasmine) Flower Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Seed Oil, Dipteryx Odorata Seed Extract, Styrax Benzoin Resin Extract, Viola Odorata Leaf Extract, Juniperus Virginiana Oil, Titanium Dioxide, Tocopherol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xanthan Gum, Sclerotium Gum, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Lecithin, Palmitic Acid, Octyldecanol, Glycerin, Octyldodecyl Oleate, Squalene, Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Caprylyl Glycol, Benzyl Glycol, Laureth-21, Pullulan, Silica, Alumina, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Sodium Benzoate, Citral, Limonene, Linalool

Highlights

#alcohol-free
Alcohol Free

Other Ingredients

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water/Aqua/Eau solvent
Ethylhexyl Isononanoate emollient
Triolein viscosity controlling
Niacinamide cell-communicating ingredient, skin brightening, anti-acne, moisturizer/​humectant superstar
C12-16 Alcohols emollient, viscosity controlling
1,2-Hexanediol solvent
Coco-Caprylate/Caprate emollient
Lentinus Edodes Mycelium Extract skin brightening goodie
C18-36 Acid Triglyceride emollient
Acrylates Copolymer viscosity controlling
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Ectoin goodie
Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract
Jojoba Esters soothing, emollient, moisturizer/​humectant
Hydroxyacetophenone antioxidant
Hexylresorcinol skin brightening, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Phytosteryl Macadamiate
Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer skin-identical ingredient, antioxidant, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Withania Somnifera Root Extract
Phytosterols
Sodium Levulinate
C12-18 Acid Triglyceride emollient, emulsifying, solvent, viscosity controlling
Raspberry Ketone perfuming
Mimosa Tenuiflora Bark Extract soothing
Vanilla Planifolia Fruit
Ilex Paraguariensis Leaf Extract perfuming
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil emollient 0, 0 goodie
Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil emollient 0, 1-3 goodie
Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil perfuming icky
Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil perfuming icky
Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil
Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil perfuming icky
Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil emollient, perfuming 0, 0-1
Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Cistus Ladaniferus Resin
Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Oil perfuming
Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil antimicrobial/​antibacterial, perfuming icky
Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Seed Oil emollient
Jasminum Sambac (Jasmine) Flower Extract perfuming
Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Seed Oil emollient goodie
Dipteryx Odorata Seed Extract
Styrax Benzoin Resin Extract perfuming icky
Viola Odorata Leaf Extract
Juniperus Virginiana Oil
Titanium Dioxide sunscreen, colorant goodie
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling
Sclerotium Gum viscosity controlling
Hydrogenated Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Palmitic Acid skin-identical ingredient, emollient, emulsifying 0, 2
Octyldecanol emollient
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Octyldodecyl Oleate emollient
Squalene skin-identical ingredient, antioxidant, emollient goodie
Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 0
Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate chelating
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Benzyl Glycol solvent
Laureth-21 surfactant/​cleansing
Pullulan
Silica viscosity controlling
Alumina viscosity controlling, abrasive/​scrub
Sodium Hydroxide buffering
Sodium Dehydroacetate preservative
Sodium Benzoate preservative
Citral perfuming icky
Limonene perfuming, solvent icky
Linalool perfuming icky

Dermalogica Powerbright Dark Spot Serum
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua;Water | 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. 

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. 

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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: solvent

A really multi-functional helper ingredient that can do several things in a skincare product: it can bring a soft and pleasant feel to the formula, it can act as a humectant and emollient, it can be a solvent for some other ingredients (for example it can help to stabilize perfumes in watery products) and it can also help to disperse pigments more evenly in makeup products. And that is still not all: it can also boost the antimicrobial activity of preservatives

What-it-does: emollient

A light emollient ester (C8-10 fatty acids connected to C12-18 fatty alcohols) that absorbs quickly and leaves a dry but silky finish on the skin. In terms of skin feel, it is similar to Dicaprylyl Carbonate, another commonly used light emollient. 

Also-called: Fermented White Shiitake | What-it-does: skin brightening

The fermentation broth of the nice, edible mushroom known as Shiitake. Apart from the gourmet food industry, it is also used in several industrial applications as it contains biocatalytic enzymes (such as laccase, cellulase, and ligninolytic peroxidases) useful for breaking down things both in the paper and textile industries.  

The latter one, the textile industry, uses Shiitake ferment to break down dyes in waste streams in an environmentally friendly way and this gave the skincare industry an idea: if Shiitake ferment can break down synthetic pigments, it might be able to do that to natural pigment, i.e: melanin

Based on the in-vitro (in a test-tube) and in-vivo tests by the manufacturer, the idea seems to work. On a panel of ten volunteers, 2% Shiitake Ferment was compared to nothing, to 0.05% Glabridin (the powerful active ingredient in licorice root) and to 2% Kojic acid. The Shiitake formula came out on top. It lightened UVB-treated skin by 50% after 28 days (just for comparison, untreated skin lightened by 30%). 

Overall, Shitakee ferment is an interesting new approach to skin-brightening, so if you suffer from extra pigmentation, it might be something to experiment with.

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A big polymer molecule that has a bunch of different versions and thus different uses. It can act as a film former,  as thickening agent, or it can increase the water-resistance in sunscreens. It is also used to entrap pigments/inorganic sunscreens within a micron size matrix for even coverage and easy application.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | 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.

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. 

Ectoin - goodie
Also-called: 28Extremoin

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Jojoba-derived emollient wax esters (fatty acid + fatty alcohol) that make your skin feel nice and smooth. Chemically speaking, pure jojoba oil is also a wax ester (read our shiny explanation here), however, the ingredients called jojoba esters on the ingredient lists are made from jojoba oil and/or hydrogenated jojoba oil via interesterification. 

They have multiple versions with variable fatty acid chain length and the ingredient can have a liquid, a creamy, a soft or firm paste, or even a hard wax consistency. The common thing between all versions is, that unlike most normal triglyceride oils, jojoba esters have superior stability, provide non-greasy emolliency and are readily absorbed into the skin

What-it-does: antioxidant

A handy multifunctional ingredient that works as a preservative booster, as well as an antioxidant and soothing agent

molecule that is naturally present in the bran of rye and other cereals. It has been used for a long time in the food industry as an "anti-browning agent" for fresh-cut fruits or shrimps. 

It turns out that Hexylresorcinol works as an "anti-browning agent" also in cosmetic products. It is a pretty well-researched molecule with significant tyrosinase (the famous enzyme needed to produce melanin) inhibiting abilities. The clinical study of the manufacturer showed that 0.5% Hexylresorcinol has a comparable skin-lightening effect to gold-standard, 2% Hydroquinone.

Even better, a 12-weeks, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 65 volunteers confirmed the effectiveness of our skin-lightening molecule and it measured an average of 88% skin-lightening improvement. The study also included before and after photos (always a good sign!) and the skin-lightening was indeed visible and significant (though the pigmentation spots did not completely disappear, just so you have realistic expectations).

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

It's a special "cross-linked" from of IT-moisturizer, hyaluronic acid (HA). Cross-linked means that "normal" HA pieces (1-2 million Da molecular weight) are chemically bound togeather to create a big, "infinite" mesh.

The special HA mesh has a remarkable water-binding capacity, 5 times more than the already crazy water-binding capacity of "normal" HA. This water filled crosslinked HA gel forms a smooth film on the skin and continuously delivers the bound water, so it gives long-term moisturizing benefits.

Btw, crosslinking HA was developed for dermal fillers (as crosslinking helps their longevity), and this guy is the topical version of FDA approved dermal filler called Hylan B gel. Smearing crosslinked version all over ourselves is a newish thing, and incoming evidence so far suggests that it's a great idea, even better than normal HA. 

A very recent, 2016 research article compared the topical moisturizing effect of crosslinked HA (not Hylan B gel specifically, but something called Resilient HA or RHA), HMW-HA and LMW-HA and found that "TEWL (that is trans-epidermal water loss, the water that evaporates from the skin) was reduced by 27.8% with RHA, and by 15.6% with HMW HA, but increased by 55.5% with LMW HA." (You can read much more about HMW and LMW HA here in the geeky details section.)

All in all, we think Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer is an awesome version of HA, probably superior to traditional versions, so be happy to spot it on the ingredient list. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

It is the main aroma compound of red raspberries and has a sweet, floral, berry or jam-like raspberry scent. It's used to make cosmetic products smell nice. The molecule used in cosmetics is created synthetically, as the natural one costs a fortune (20 000 $/kg, wow, according to Wikipedia).   

What-it-does: soothing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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.

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: Sweet Almond Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-3

The emollient plant oil that comes from almonds. Similar to other plant oils, it is loaded with skin-nourishing fatty acids (oleic acid - 55-86% and linoleic acid 7-35%) and contains several other skin goodies such as antioxidant vitamin E and vitamin B versions. 

It's a nice, basic oil that is often used due to its great smoothing, softening and moisturizing properties. It's also particularly good at treating dry brittle nails (source).

Also-called: Sweet Orange Peel Oil, Citrus Sinensis Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the rind of the orange (the sweet one). In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (83-97% for sweet orange peel), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer).

Other than that, citrus peel also contains the problematic compound called furanocoumarin that makes them mildly phototoxic. Orange peel contains less of it than some other citruses (like bergamot or lime), but still, be careful with it especially if it is in a product for daytime use.  

Also-called: Bergamot Fruit Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the fruit (probably the rind) of the bergamot orange.  It's a common top note in perfumes and contains (among others) fragrant compounds limonene (37%), linalyl acetate (30%) and linalool (8.8%). 

A well-known issue with bergamot oil (apart from the fragrance allergens) is that it contains phototoxic compounds called furanocoumarins, but more and more commonly furanocoumarin-free versions are used in cosmetic products. Still, if you have sensitive skin and prefer fragrance-free products, bergamot oil is not for you.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Pink Grapefruit Peel Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the peel of the pink grapefruit. In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (around 90% for grapefruit peel), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer). Similar to other essential oils, grapefruit peel has also antibacterial and antifungal acitivity

Other than that, citrus peels contain the problematic compounds called furanocoumarins that make them (mildly) phototoxic. So be careful with grapefruit peel oil, especially if it's in a product for daytime use.  

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. 

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: Rosemary Leaf Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial

The extract coming from the lovely herb, rosemary. It contains lots of chemicals, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and diterpenes. Its main active is rosmarinic acid, a potent antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. It has also anti-bacterial, astringent and toning properties. 

The leaves contain a small amount of essential oil (1-2%) with fragrant components, so if you are allergic to fragrance, it might be better to avoid it. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Lavender Essential Oil | What-it-does: antimicrobial/antibacterial, perfuming

We have to start by writing how fascinated we are by the amazing lavender fields of Provance and we do love pretty much everything about lavender: its look, its color, its scent.... but, when it comes to skincare, lavender is a questionable ingredient that you probably do not want in your skincare products.

First, let us start with the pros: it has a lovely scent, so no wonder that it is popular as a fragrance ingredient in natural products wanting to be free from synthetic fragrances but still wanting to smell nice. The scent of lavender is famous for having calming and relaxing properties and some smallish scientific studies do support that. Inhaled volatile compounds seem to have a soothing effect on the central nervous system and studies have shown that lavender aromatherapy can improve patient's anxiety and experience in hospitals.   

Another pro is that lavender oil has some nice antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It also has some local pain relieving and muscle relaxing magical powers. Lavender oil is also often claimed to have anti-inflammatory properties. We have found a study confirming this but it was the essential oil of the leaves and not the much more commonly used flowers and the two differ in their main chemical compounds very much. (The main components of the flower essential oil are linalyl acetate and linalool [around 80% the two together] while it is 1,8-Cineole [around 65%] in the essential oil of the leaves.)

Now, let us look at the cons: similar to a bunch of other essential oils, the main components of lavender oil are potentially irritating fragrant components. The two main components are linalyl acetate (about 50%) and linalool (about 35%) and both autoxidise on exposure to the air forming strong contact allergens. To make things even worse, lavender oil seems to be cytotoxic from concentrations as low as 0.25% (concentration up to 0.125% were ok). 

There is also an often cited Japanese study that made patch tests with lavender oil for 9 years and found a huge increase in lavender oil sensitivity in 1997 (from 1.1% in 1990 to 8.7% in 1997 and 13.9% in 1998). This was the year when using dried lavender flowers in pillows, wardrobes, and elsewhere became fashionable in Japan, so it seems that increased exposure to lavender results in increased risk of sensitivity.

Overall, it makes us sad to write bad things about such a lovely plant, but when it comes to skincare, you will be better off without lavender. 

Also-called: Black Currant Seed Oil | What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

When it comes to cucumber and skin care, cucumber fruit extract is the one that steals the show for its soothing and moisturizing properties. But cucumber also has seeds and these seeds contain oil that has nice fatty acids and emollient properties, similar to many other plant oils.

Cucumber oil is a high linoleic acid (60-69%) oil that also has a fair amount of oleic acid (9-20%). It also contains antioxidant vitamin E, phytosterols and some trace minerals such as potassium. It is a very light oil that is absorbed easily into the skin. It is described as an excellent oil for moisturization formulations.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Sumatra Benzoin | What-it-does: perfuming

The resin extract coming from a nice tree with white flowers native to Sumatra in Indonesia. It's the brother of Siam Benzoin that also comes from a type of Styrax tree.

They have a similar composition but this one contains more cinnamic acid. It also contains fragrant compounds and it is used as a perfuming ingredient. It's better to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: sunscreen, colorant

Titanium Dioxide is one of the two members of the elite sunscreen group called physical sunscreens (or inorganic sunscreens if you’re a science geek and want to be precise).

Traditionally, UV-filters are categorized as either chemical or physical. The big difference is supposed to be that chemical agents absorb UV-light while physical agents reflect it like a bunch of mini umbrellas on top of the skin. While this categorization is easy and logical it turns out it's not true. A recent, 2016 study shows that inorganic sunscreens work mostly by absorption, just like chemical filters, and only a little bit by reflection (they do reflect the light in the visible spectrum, but mostly absorb in the UV spectrum).

Anyway, it doesn't matter if it reflects or absorbs, Titanium Dioxide is a pretty awesome sunscreen agent for two main reasons: it gives a nice broad spectrum coverage and it's highly stable. Its protection is very good between 290 - 350 nm (UVB and UVA II range), and less good at 350-400 nm (UVA I) range. Regular sized Titanium Dioxide also has a great safety profile, it's non-irritating and is pretty much free from any health concerns (like estrogenic effect worries with some chemical filters).

The disadvantage of Titanium Dioxide is that it's not cosmetically elegant, meaning it's a white, "unspreadable" mess. Sunscreens containing Titanium Dioxide are often hard to spread on the skin and they leave a disturbing whitish tint. The cosmetic industry is, of course, really trying to solve this problem and the best solution so far is using nanoparticles. The itsy-bitsy Nano-sized particles improve both spreadability and reduce the whitish tint a lot, but unfortunately, it also introduces new health concerns. 

The main concern with nanoparticles is that they are so tiny that they are absorbed into the skin more than we want them (ideally sunscreen should remain on the surface of the skin). Once absorbed they might form unwanted complexes with proteins and they might promote the formation of evil free radicals. But do not panic, these are concerns under investigation. A 2009 review article about the safety of nanoparticles summarizes this, "to date, in-vivo and in-vitro studies have not demonstrated percutaneous penetration of nanosized particles in titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens". The English translation is, so far it looks like sunscreens with nanoparticles do stay on the surface of the skin where they should be.  

All in all, Titanium Dioxide is a famous sunscreen agent and for good reason, it gives broad spectrum UV protection (best at UVB and UVA II), it's highly stable, and it has a good safety profile. It's definitely one of the best UV-filter agents we have today, especially in the US where new-generation Tinosorb filters are not (yet) approved. 

Tocopherol - goodie
Also-called: Vitamin E | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0-3 | Comedogenicity: 0-3
  • 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
Read all the geeky details about Tocopherol here >>

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

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). 

A big sugar molecule (polysaccharide) that is used as a natural thickening and gelling agent. It is similar to more commonly used Xanthan Gum, and the two are also often combined to create gel formulas or to stabilize emulsions. 

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

It's the chemically chopped up version of normal lecithin. Most often it's used to create liposomes and to coat and stabilize other ingredients. 

Lecithin - goodie
What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A very common ingredient that can be found in all cell membranes. In cosmetics it's quite the multi-tasker: it's an emollient and water-binding ingredient but it's also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes

What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A fatty acid that can be found naturally in the skin. In fact, it's the most common saturated fatty acid found in animals and plants.

As for skincare, it can make the skin feel nice and smooth in moisturizers (emollient) or it can act as a foam building cleansing agent in cleansers. It's also a very popular ingredient in shaving foams. 

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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)

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, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: chelating

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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.

What-it-does: solvent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

If you ever wondered what those little Listerine breath strips were made of, you found your answer! Pullulan is a polysaccharide polymer, which basically means that it’s a big molecule made up of smaller sugar molecule units.

It dissolves in water and can make a thin, elastic, and moisture-absorbing film when spread on the skin that can cause an instant tightening effect. It can also be used as a thickener to get a silicone-like feel and can be used in peel-off masks. Btw, it's made from fungus via fermentation. 

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. 

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

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: 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.  

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.

Also-called: Geogard 111S | What-it-does: preservative

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, and is popular in natural products. 

What-it-does: preservative

A helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi. 

It’s pH dependent and works best at acidic pH levels (3-5). It’s not strong enough to be used in itself so it’s always combined with something else, often with potassium sorbate.

Citral - icky
What-it-does: perfuming

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.

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

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 - 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.

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

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A light emollient ester (C8-10 fatty acids connected to C12-18 fatty alcohols) that absorbs quickly and leaves a dry but silky finish on the skin. In terms of skin feel, it is similar to Dicaprylyl Carbonate, another commonly used light emollient.  [more]
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The fermentation broth of the nice, edible mushroom known as Shiitake. Apart from the gourmet food industry, it is also used in several industrial applications as it contains biocatalytic enzymes (such as laccase, cellulase, and ligninolytic peroxidases) useful for breaking down things both in the paper and textile industries. [more]
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A big polymer molecule that has a bunch of different versions and thus different uses. It can act as a film former,  as a thickening agent, or it can increase the water-resistance in sunscreens. [more]
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irritancy, com. 0, 1
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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Jojoba-derived emollient wax esters (fatty acid + fatty alcohol) that make your skin feel nice and smooth. [more]
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A handy multifunctional ingredient that works as a preservative booster, as well as an antioxidant and soothing agent.
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A pretty well-researched molecule with significant tyrosinase (the famous enzyme needed to produce melanin) inhibiting abilities. [more]
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what‑it‑does perfuming
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The emollient plant oil that comes from almonds. Similar to other plant oils, it is loaded with skin-nourishing fatty acids (oleic acid - 55-86% and linoleic acid 7-35%) and contains several other skin goodies such as antioxidant vitamin E and vitamin B versions. It's a nice, basic oil that is often used due  [more]
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what‑it‑does perfuming
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Rosemary leaf extract - Its main active is rosmarinic acid, a potent antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. It has also anti-bacterial, astringent and toning properties. [more]
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Lavender - essential oil with a calming scent and antimicrobial properties. Contains fragrant components (linalyl acetate - 50% and linalool - 35%) and might be cytotoxic from 0.25%. [more]
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what‑it‑does perfuming
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When it comes to cucumber and skin care, cucumber fruit extract is the one that steals the show for its soothing and moisturizing properties. But cucumber also has seeds and these seeds contain oil that has nice fatty acids and emollient properties, similar to many other plant oils.Cucumber oil is a high linoleic acid (60-69%) oil that also has a fair amount of oleic acid (9-20%). [more]
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A physical/inorganic sunscreen with pretty broad spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection and good stability. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]
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what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
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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 | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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what‑it‑does solvent
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If you ever wondered what those little Listerine breath strips were made of, you found your answer! Pullulan is a polysaccharide polymer, which basically means that it’s a big molecule made up of smaller sugar molecule units. It dissolves in water and can make a thin, elastic, and moisture-absorbing film when spread on the skin that can cause an instant tightening effect. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
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what‑it‑does buffering
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what‑it‑does preservative
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A preservative that works mainly against fungi. Has to be combined with other preservatives. [more]
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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
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]