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Dermaquest Sunarmor Spf 50

Sunarmor Spf 50

Offers supreme physical protection from uv rays, promoting collagen and elastin as it simultaneously provides supreme hydration.
Uploaded by: meanlittlefreckledfacekid on

Highlights

#fragrance & essentialoil-free
Fragrance and Essential Oil Free

Other Ingredients

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Zinc Oxide (8.6%) sunscreen 0, 1 goodie
Titanium Dioxide (6.5%) sunscreen, colorant goodie
Water (Aqua) solvent
Cyclopentasiloxane emollient, solvent
C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate emollient, antimicrobial/​antibacterial
Dimethicone emollient 0, 1
Cyclotetrasiloxane emollient, solvent
Polyglyceryl-3 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone
Aluminum Hydroxide emollient, moisturizer/​humectant, viscosity controlling
Stearic Acid emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 2-3
Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer emulsifying
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Sodium Chloride viscosity controlling
Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate emulsifying
Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Hexyl Laurate emollient
Cetearyl Olivate emulsifying goodie
Sorbitan Olivate emulsifying goodie
Cyclohexasiloxane emollient, solvent
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Adenosine Triphosphate
Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone emulsifying
Dimethicone/Polyglycerin-3 Crosspolymer surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing, viscosity controlling
Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer viscosity controlling
Triethoxysilylethyl Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Hexyl Dimethicone
Ethylhexyl Palmitate emollient, perfuming 0, 2-4
Silica Dimethyl Silylate emollient, viscosity controlling
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Ectoin goodie
Cyclotetrapeptide-24 Aminocyclohexane Carboxylate antioxidant
Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Cell Extract
Polygonum Aviculare Extract antioxidant, emollient goodie
Isomalt moisturizer/​humectant
Sodium Benzoate preservative
Alcohol antimicrobial/​antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling icky
Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Carbomer viscosity controlling 0, 1
Polysorbate 20 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 0
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Hexylene Glycol solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/​cleansing 0-1, 0-2
PEG-8 moisturizer/​humectant, solvent
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie
Ascorbic Acid antioxidant, skin brightening, buffering superstar
Ascorbyl Palmitate antioxidant 0, 2 icky
Citric Acid buffering

Dermaquest Sunarmor Spf 50
Ingredients explained

What-it-does: sunscreen | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

When it comes to sunscreen agents, Zinc Oxide is pretty much in a league of its own. It's a physical (or inorganic) sunscreen that has a lot in common with fellow inorganic sunscreen Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) but a couple of things make it superior even to TiO2.

If physical sunscreens don't tell you anything, go ahead and read about the basics here. Most of what we wrote about Titanium Dioxide is also true for Zinc Oxide so we will focus here on the differences. 

The first main difference is that while TiO2 gives a nice broad spectrum protection, Zinc Oxide has an even nicer and even broader spectrum protection. It protects against UVB, UVA II, and UVA I almost uniformly, and is considered to be the broadest range sunscreen available today

It's also highly stable and non-irritating. So much so that Zinc Oxide also counts as a skin protectant and anti-irritant. It's also often used to treat skin irritations such as diaper rash.

As for the disadvantages, Zinc Oxide is also not cosmetically elegant. It leaves a disturbing whitish tint on the skin, although, according to a 2000 research paper by Dr. Pinnell, it's slightly less white than TiO2. Still, it's white and disturbing enough to use Zinc Oxide nanoparticles more and more often. 

We wrote more about nanoparticles and the concerns around them here, but the gist is that if nanoparticles were absorbed into the skin that would be a reason for legitimate health concerns. But luckily, so far research shows that sunscreen nanoparticles are not absorbed but remain on the surface of the skin or in the uppermost (dead) layer of the skin. This seems to be true even if the skin is damaged, for example, sunburnt. 

All in all, if you've found a Zinc Oxide sunscreen that you are happy to use every single day, that's fantastic and we suggest you stick with it. It's definitely one of the best, or probably even the best option out there for sun protection available worldwide. 

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. 

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. 

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, solvent

A super commonly used 5 unit long, cyclic structured silicone that is water-thin and does not stay on the skin but evaporates from it (called volatile silicone). Similar to other silicones, it gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel

It's often combined with the non-volatile (i.e. stays on the skin) dimethicone as the two together form a water-resistant, breathable protective barrier on the skin without a negative tacky feel.

An often used emollient with a light and silky feel. It's very mild to both skin and eyes and spreads nicely and easily. It's often used in sunscreens as it's also an excellent solvent for sunscreen agents. 

What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Probably the most common silicone of all. It is a polymer (created from repeating subunits) molecule and has different molecular weight and thus different viscosity versions from water-light to thick liquid.

As for skincare, it makes the skin silky smooth, creates a subtle gloss and forms a protective barrier (aka occlusive). Also, works well to fill in fine lines and wrinkles and give skin a plump look (of course that is only temporary, but still, it's nice). There are also scar treatment gels out there using dimethicone as their base ingredient. It helps to soften scars and increase their elasticity. 

As for hair care, it is a non-volatile silicone meaning that it stays on the hair rather than evaporates from it and smoothes the hair like no other thing. Depending on your hair type, it can be a bit difficult to wash out and might cause some build-up (btw, this is not true to all silicones, only the non-volatile types). 

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

A four-unit long, cyclic structured, super light silicone that is the small sister of the more commonly used 5-unit long cyclic structured Cyclopentasiloxane. It is a so-called volatile silicone that evaporates off the skin and hair rather than staying on it.

Similar to other silicones, it has excellent spreading properties and amazing silkiness. It is often blended with other silicones to achieve unique sensorial properties in the formula. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Officially, CosIng (the official EU ingredient database) lists Aluminum Hydroxide 's functions as opacifying (making the product white and non-transparent), as well as emollient and skin protectant.

However, with a little bit of digging, it turns out Aluminum Hyroxide often moonlights as a protective coating for UV filter superstar Titanium Dioxide. Specifically, it protects our skin from the harmful effects of nasty Reactive Oxygen Species (free radicals derived from oxygen such as Superoxide and Hydrogen Peroxide) generated when Titanium Dioxide is exposed to UV light. Btw, chlorine in swimming pool water depletes this protective coating, so one more reason to reapply your sunscreen after a dip in the pool on holiday.

Other than that, Aluminum Hydroxide also often shows up in composite pigment technologies where it is used the other way around (as the base material and not as the coating material) and helps to achieve higher color coverage with less pigment

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2-3

A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It makes your skin feel nice and smooth (emollient), gives body to cream type products and helps to stabilize water and oil mixes (aka emulsions).

What-it-does: emulsifying

A PEG-modified self-emulsifying crosslinked silicone elastomer surfactant that helps water to mix nicely with silicone oils, aka a water in silicone emulsifier. It creates highly stable micelle structures that break upon application of the product so it is ideal for  “water drop” like cream formulations.

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 >>

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

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

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

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

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

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Cetyl Dimethicone Copolyol | What-it-does: emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing

A silicone emulsifier that helps water and silicone oils to mix nicely together. 

What-it-does: emollient

A fast spreading emollient ester (hexyl alcohol + lauric acid) that's used in water in oil emulsions or in water-free formulas. It gives a light skin feel. 

Also-called: Part of Olivem 1000 | What-it-does: emulsifying

An ester that comes from Cetearyl alcohol and the fatty acids of olive oil. It often comes to the formula coupled with Sorbitan Olivate as the two together form the well-known, natural emulsifier trade named Olivem 1000. 

Other than helping oil and water to blend, the main thing of Olivem 1000 is generating liquid crystal structures that are similar to the lipid structures of the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin). Thanks to this, Olivem 1000 doubles as an active ingredient with significant moisturizing, barrier-repairing and soothing properties.

It also helps to deliver water-soluble actives such as caffeine more effectively, and can even boost SPF in sunscreen formulas. Its typical use level is 1-5% and has wide compatibility with other actives and oils.

Overall, a real multi-tasker with nice sensorial properties. No wonder it is so popular.

Also-called: Part of Olivem 1000 | What-it-does: emulsifying

An ester coming from sorbitol and the fatty acids of olive oil. It is part of the popular emulsifier trade named Olivem 1000 that is well-known for generating biomimetic liquid crystal structures. We have more info on Olivem 1000 at Cetearyl Olivate >>

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

A light-feeling, volatile (meaning it does not absorb into the skin but evaporates from it) silicone that gives skin a unique, silky and non-greasy feel. It has excellent spreading properties and leaves no oily residue or build-up. 

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. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Though its name does not reveal it, this molecule is a relative of famous IT-moisturizer, Hyaluronic Acid. Just like HA, it is a glycosaminoglycan (aka GAG), meaning that it is a big sugar molecule from repeated subunits (what's more, one of the subunits is the same, glucuronic acid). Along with HA and other GAGs, it likes to hang out in the dermis (middle) layer of the skin where it is part of the gooey, bouncy stuff outside of the cells called extracellular matrix (ECM). 

As for skincare, Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate is probably too big to go right into the dermis (though much smaller than HA with 5000-50 000 Da molecular weight), but it has a comparable water binding ability to HA (which means a crazy water binding ability) and better affinity for the skin surface. This means that it forms a nice, water-rich film on the skin bringing an immediate and strong moisturising effect. 

What-it-does: emulsifying

A silicone emulsifier that helps to create water in silicone emulsions. 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A white, elastomeric silicone powder that gives a nice silky and powdery feel to the products. It also has some oil and sebum absorption capabilities. 

A silicone fluid used mainly to treat insoluble powders (such as mineral sunscreen agents or pigments) so that they are easily and evenly dispersable both in the formula and on the skin. 

What-it-does: emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2-4

A super common, medium-spreading emollient ester that gives richness to the formula and a mild feel during rubout. It can be a replacement for mineral oil and is often combined with other emollients to achieve different sensorial properties.

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: 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. 

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". 

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).

Ectoin - goodie
Also-called: 28Extremoin

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Part of Matrixyl 3000, Pal-GHK, Formerly also Palmitoyl Oligopeptide | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A really famous peptide that is part of Matrixyl 3000, the most sold peptide complex in the word. Before we go and find out what the big deal with Matrixyl 3000 is, let's just focus on Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 itself for a bit.

It's a small three amino acid (they are the building blocks of all proteins) peptide with the amino sequence of glycine-histidine-lysine, or GHK. GHK is attached to palmitic acid (a fatty acid) to increase oil solubility and skin penetration. 

The GHK part is the important one as it's a type I collagen fragment. When collagen naturally breaks down in the skin, the resulting peptide fragments signal to the skin that it should get to work and create some nice, new collagen. Adding in collagen fragment peptides, like GHK, might trick the skin into thinking that collagen has broken down and it's time to create some more.

Therefore, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 is believed to be able to stimulate collagen production in the skin, and more collagen means fewer wrinkles and younger looking skin. 

In Matrixyl 3000, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 is coupled with Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7  and the duo works in synergy to reduce wrinkles and give younger looking skin. According to the manufacturer's in-vivo (made on real people) test, applying 3% Matrixyl 3000 twice a day for 2 months resulted in all of the following things:

  • 39.4% reduction in surface occupied by deep wrinkles
  • 32.9% reduction in main wrinkle density
  • 19.9% reduction in main wrinkle average depth
  • 16% improvement in roughness
  • 16.2% in lifting effect
  • 5.5% improvement in elasticity
  • 15.5% improvement in skin tone

Manufacturer results, of course, always have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but if you like peptides, the Matryxil 3000 duo is one of the best-proven and most well-known ones and it's something that is worth trying.

Also-called: Part of Matrixyl 3000, Pal-GQPR, Previously Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A four amino acid peptide with the amino sequence of glycine-glutamine-proline-arginine. It is attached to palmitic acid (a fatty acid)  to increase oil solubility and skin penetration. 

It works by reducing the production of the signal moleculeinterleukin-6 (IL-6) which promotes inflammation in the skin and less inflammation means slower degradation of important things (like collagen) that results in younger looking skin for a longer time. 

It works in synergy with its pal, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 in the famous Matrixyl 3000 complex. You can read some more about the famous duo here.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Knotgrass Extract, Elix-IR | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

A flavonoid-rich plant extract coming from knotgrass that is claimed to protect the skin from both UV and Infrared damage.  By now it's pretty well-known that UV-light is the number one external skin-aging factor, however, *sigh* it looks like UV is not the only kind of light that causes bad things to happen to the skin.

Infrared light (760 nm to 1 mm) is the spectral band above visible light and there is some research concluding that it can accelerate skin aging via multiple mechanisms, one of them being the stimulation of the production of evil collagen-destroying enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMP).

Therefore, protecting the skin from infrared light is probably a meaningful thing to do even though there are currently no proven ways to do so. As for Knotgrass Extract, we only have the manufacturer's claim that says it can inhibit Cathepsin G, an enzyme involved in photoaging and thus modulating the origin of sun and infrared induced MMP production.

The manufacturer also did in-vivo tests to show that a 2% Elix-IR lotion, used twice a day for 28 days can increase skin firmness (by 11.9%) and elasticity (by 4.8%) and visibly reduce the appearance of wrinkles (by 20%) and smoothes the surface of the skin.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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.

Alcohol - icky
Also-called: Ethanol | What-it-does: antimicrobial/antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling, astringent

Simply alcohol refers to ethanol and it's a pretty controversial ingredient. It has many instant benefits: it's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial. No wonder it's popular in toners and oily skin formulas. 

The downside is that it can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list. 

Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion. If you wanna know more, we wrote a more detailed explanation about what's the deal with alcohol in skincare products at alcohol denat. (it's also alcohol, but with some additives to make sure no one drinks it).

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: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

A big molecule created from repeated subunits (a polymer of acrylic acid) that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula.  It usually has to be neutralized with a base (such as sodium hydroxide) for the thickening to occur and it creates viscous, clear gels that also feel nice and non-tacky on the skin. No wonder, it is a very popular and common ingredient. Typically used at 1% or less in most formulations.

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

It's a common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together. Also, it can help to increase the solubility of some other ingredients in the formula. 

What-it-does: preservative

It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.

It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic. 

Other than having a good safety profile and being quite gentle to the skin it has some other advantages too. It can be used in many types of formulations as it has great thermal stability (can be heated up to 85°C) and works on a wide range of pH levels (ph 3-10). 

It’s often used together with ethylhexylglycerin as it nicely improves the preservative activity of phenoxyethanol.

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: 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

What-it-does: solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 0-1 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable. 

Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® HPO, where it helps the effectiveness of current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol

A smallish polymer molecule (created from repeated units of Polyethylene glycol, aka PEG) that's used as a solubilizer and viscosity control agent.

It is a clear, colorless liquid that is water-soluble and water-binding (aka humectant) and can help to solubilize sparingly-water soluble things (e.g. vanilla, perfumes) into water-based formulas. Thanks to its water-binding ability, it also prevents the drying out of formulas, especially when combined with the fellow hygroscopic agent, sorbitol

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 >>

Ascorbic Acid - superstar
Also-called: Vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening, buffering
  • Works best between a concentration of 5-20%
  • Boosts the skin’s own collagen production
  • Fades pigmentation and brown spots
  • If used under sunscreen it boosts its UV protection
  • Extremely unstable and oxidizes very easily in presence of light or air
  • Stable in solutions with water only if pH is less than 3.5 or in waterless formulations
  • Vit E + C work in synergy and provide superb photoprotection
  • Ferulic acid doubles the photoprotection effect of Vit C+E and helps to stabilize Vit C
  • Potent Vit. C serums might cause a slight tingling on sensitive skin
Read all the geeky details about Ascorbic Acid here >>

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.

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

What-it-does: buffering

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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