Dr Dennis Gross Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur Mask
Dr Dennis Gross

Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur Mask

A creamy mask that minimizes the appearance of pores, dissolves blackheads, heals breakouts, and absorbs excess oil to fight acne and enlarged pores - without drying skin.
Uploaded by: eituc on 23/06/2018

Ingredients overview

Active Ingredients: Colloidal Sulfur (5.0%)
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial
Inactive Ingredients: Water
what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
,
Kaolin
what‑it‑does abrasive/scrub | colorant
A type of clay that's a fine, white powder and is used for its oil-absorbing and opacifying properties. It's less absorbent and less drying than bentonite clay. [more]
,
Peg-100 Stearate
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 1
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
,
Glyceryl Stearate
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
,
Glycerin
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
,
Butylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
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]
,
Cetearyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1 2
A common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient). It also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier) and to thicken up products. [more]
,
Acacia Senegal Gum
A natural polymer (big molecules from repeated subunits) that is harvested from the Acacia tree in the sub-Saharan region in Africa. It's a great thickening and binding agent. [more]
, [more]
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
The famous aloe vera. A great moisturizer and anti-inflammatory ingredient that also helps wound healing and skin regeneration. [more]
,
Zinc Oxide
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with the broadest spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection available today. It also has good stability and also works as a skin protectant, anti-irritant. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]
,
Bentonite
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A highly absorbent clay that comes in different colors depending on its mineral content. It's excellent at absorbing things including sebum and gunk in the pores and it also has some skin soothing and "detoxifying" effect. [more]
,
Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
Safflower Seed Oil - emollient plant oil with moisturizing fatty acids (linoleic: 70%, oleic: 11%) and antioxidant vitamin E (44mg/100g alpha-tocopherol). [more]
,
Opuntia Vulgaris Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract
what‑it‑does soothing
White Willow Bark Extract - Famous for containing anti-inflammatory natural salicylates. It also has tonic, astringent, and antiseptic properties. [more]
,
Bisabolol
what‑it‑does soothing
One of the active parts of Chamomile that is used in skincare as a nice anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient. [more]
,
Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract
what‑it‑does soothing | skin brightening
You might know licorice as a sweet treat from your childhood, but it's actually a legume that grows around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, central and southern Russia. [more]
,
Farnesol
what‑it‑does perfuming
With a sweet, light and floral scent, Farnesol is a popular fragrancing ingredient to make your cosmetics that bit nicer to use. It starts its life as a colorless liquid that can either be synthetically created or extracted from loads of plants like citronella, neroli, ylang-ylang, and tuberose.The reason we list it as icky is because Farnesol is one of the “ [more]
,
Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil
what‑it‑does antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The essential oil coming from the leafs of rosemary. It has a nice smell, is a potent antioxidant and it's also an antimicrobial agent. Contains several fragrant components, including potential skin irritant, camphor (around 15%).
,
Phenylethyl Resorcinol
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
A skin-lightening and antioxidant active ingredient derived from a molecule that exists naturally in Pine tree. [more]
,
Retinol
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Vitamin A - the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC that can smooth wrinkles and make skin firmer. It might also be useful for acne-prone skin as it normalizes keratinization. [more]
,
Tocopheryl Acetate
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A form of vitamin E that works as an antioxidant. Compared to the pure form it's more stable, has longer shelf life, but it's also more poorly absorbed by the skin. [more]
,
Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil
what‑it‑does emollient
The emollient plant oil coming from the soybean. It is rich in barrier repairing linoleic acid (48-59%) and is generally a good moisturizing oil. [more]
,
Sodium Pca
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
It's an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. [more]
,
Ethylhexylglycerin
what‑it‑does preservative
It can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too. [more]
,
Allantoin
what‑it‑does soothing
irritancy, com. 0 0
Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. It's not only soothing but it' [more]
,
Bht
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [more]
,
Phenoxyethanol
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
[less]
Colloidal Sulfur (5.0%) Inactive Ingredients: Water, Kaolin, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Acacia Senegal Gum, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Zinc Oxide, Bentonite, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Opuntia Vulgaris Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Bisabolol, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Farnesol, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Phenylethyl Resorcinol, Retinol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Sodium PCA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Allantoin, BHT, Phenoxyethanol

Highlights

Key Ingredients

Antioxidant: Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
Safflower Seed Oil - emollient plant oil with moisturizing fatty acids (linoleic: 70%, oleic: 11%) and antioxidant vitamin E (44mg/100g alpha-tocopherol). [more]
,
Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil
what‑it‑does antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The essential oil coming from the leafs of rosemary. It has a nice smell, is a potent antioxidant and it's also an antimicrobial agent. Contains several fragrant components, including potential skin irritant, camphor (around 15%).
,
Phenylethyl Resorcinol
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
A skin-lightening and antioxidant active ingredient derived from a molecule that exists naturally in Pine tree. [more]
,
Tocopheryl Acetate
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A form of vitamin E that works as an antioxidant. Compared to the pure form it's more stable, has longer shelf life, but it's also more poorly absorbed by the skin. [more]
Cell-communicating ingredient: Retinol
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Vitamin A - the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC that can smooth wrinkles and make skin firmer. It might also be useful for acne-prone skin as it normalizes keratinization. [more]
Skin brightening: Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract
what‑it‑does soothing | skin brightening
You might know licorice as a sweet treat from your childhood, but it's actually a legume that grows around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, central and southern Russia. [more]
,
Phenylethyl Resorcinol
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
A skin-lightening and antioxidant active ingredient derived from a molecule that exists naturally in Pine tree. [more]
Skin-identical ingredient: Glycerin
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
,
Sodium Pca
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
It's an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. [more]
Soothing: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
The famous aloe vera. A great moisturizer and anti-inflammatory ingredient that also helps wound healing and skin regeneration. [more]
,
Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract
what‑it‑does soothing
White Willow Bark Extract - Famous for containing anti-inflammatory natural salicylates. It also has tonic, astringent, and antiseptic properties. [more]
,
Bisabolol
what‑it‑does soothing
One of the active parts of Chamomile that is used in skincare as a nice anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient. [more]
,
Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract
what‑it‑does soothing | skin brightening
You might know licorice as a sweet treat from your childhood, but it's actually a legume that grows around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, central and southern Russia. [more]
,
Allantoin
what‑it‑does soothing
irritancy, com. 0 0
Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. It's not only soothing but it' [more]
Sunscreen: Zinc Oxide
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with the broadest spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection available today. It also has good stability and also works as a skin protectant, anti-irritant. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]

Show all ingredients by function

Other Ingredients

Abrasive/scrub: Kaolin
what‑it‑does abrasive/scrub | colorant
A type of clay that's a fine, white powder and is used for its oil-absorbing and opacifying properties. It's less absorbent and less drying than bentonite clay. [more]
Antimicrobial/antibacterial: Colloidal Sulfur (5.0%)
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial
,
Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil
what‑it‑does antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The essential oil coming from the leafs of rosemary. It has a nice smell, is a potent antioxidant and it's also an antimicrobial agent. Contains several fragrant components, including potential skin irritant, camphor (around 15%).
Antioxidant: Bht
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [more]
Colorant: Kaolin
what‑it‑does abrasive/scrub | colorant
A type of clay that's a fine, white powder and is used for its oil-absorbing and opacifying properties. It's less absorbent and less drying than bentonite clay. [more]
Emollient: Glyceryl Stearate
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
,
Cetearyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1 2
A common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient). It also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier) and to thicken up products. [more]
,
Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
Safflower Seed Oil - emollient plant oil with moisturizing fatty acids (linoleic: 70%, oleic: 11%) and antioxidant vitamin E (44mg/100g alpha-tocopherol). [more]
,
Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil
what‑it‑does emollient
The emollient plant oil coming from the soybean. It is rich in barrier repairing linoleic acid (48-59%) and is generally a good moisturizing oil. [more]
Emulsifying: Peg-100 Stearate
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 1
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
,
Glyceryl Stearate
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
,
Cetearyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1 2
A common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient). It also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier) and to thicken up products. [more]
Moisturizer/humectant: Glycerin
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
,
Butylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
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]
,
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
The famous aloe vera. A great moisturizer and anti-inflammatory ingredient that also helps wound healing and skin regeneration. [more]
,
Sodium Pca
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
It's an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. [more]
Perfuming: Farnesol
what‑it‑does perfuming
With a sweet, light and floral scent, Farnesol is a popular fragrancing ingredient to make your cosmetics that bit nicer to use. It starts its life as a colorless liquid that can either be synthetically created or extracted from loads of plants like citronella, neroli, ylang-ylang, and tuberose.The reason we list it as icky is because Farnesol is one of the “ [more]
Preservative: Ethylhexylglycerin
what‑it‑does preservative
It can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too. [more]
,
Bht
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [more]
,
Phenoxyethanol
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
Solvent: Water
what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
,
Butylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
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]
Surfactant/cleansing: Peg-100 Stearate
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 1
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
,
Cetearyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1 2
A common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient). It also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier) and to thicken up products. [more]
Viscosity controlling: Cetearyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1 2
A common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient). It also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier) and to thicken up products. [more]
,
Bentonite
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A highly absorbent clay that comes in different colors depending on its mineral content. It's excellent at absorbing things including sebum and gunk in the pores and it also has some skin soothing and "detoxifying" effect. [more]

Ingredients explained

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

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Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

Kaolin - goodie
Also-called: Type of clay, China clay | What-it-does: abrasive/scrub, colorant, absorbent/mattifier

Kaolin is a type of clay or to be precise, a naturally occurring hydrous aluminum silicate. When you hear clay, you probably think of a muddy greenish-black mess, but that one is bentonite, and this one is a fine, white powder. It is so white that it's also often used, in small amounts, as a helper ingredient to give opacity and whiteness to the cosmetic formulas.

As a clay, it's absorbent and can suck up excess sebum and gunk from your skin, but less so than the more aggressive bentonite. As it's less absorbent, it's also less drying and gentler on the skin, so it's ideal for dry and sensitive skin types.  

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

A very common water-loving surfactant and emulsifier that helps to keep water and oil mixed nicely together. 

It's often paired with glyceryl stearate - the two together form a super effective emulsifier duo that's salt and acid tolerant and works over a wide pH range. It also gives a "pleasing product aesthetics", so no wonder it's popular.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A super common, waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth.

It can be produced from most vegetable oils in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.

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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".

Glycerin - goodie
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • 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
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.  

BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.

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It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive. 

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 2

A super common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient). It also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier) and to thicken up products

It’s a so-called fatty alcohol (a mix of cetyl and stearyl alcohol - other two emollient fatty alcohols).  Though alcohol is in its name, its properties are totally different from the properties of “normal” alcohol, or denat. alcohol. It’s not drying and not irritating and totally ok for the skin.

Also-called: Gum Arabic

A natural polymer (big molecules from repeated subunits) that is harvested from the Acacia tree in the sub-Saharan region in Africa. It's a great thickening and binding agent. Often coupled with xanthan gum, as it helps to reduce its unpleasant stickiness.

Also-called: Aloe Vera | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant

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. 

Zinc Oxide - goodie
What-it-does: sunscreen

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. 

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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. 

Bentonite - goodie
Also-called: Type of clay | What-it-does: viscosity controlling, absorbent/mattifier, emulsion stabilising

When it comes to oil-absorbing clay masks, bentonite will probably be one of the first ingredients on the INCI list. Technically bentonite clay is mostly montmorillonite + something else, and thanks to the something else bit, bentonite comes in different types and colors

The color depends on the mineral content of the clay: white bentonite is rich in boron and fluoride, yellow is rich in manganese and zinc, green is rich in copper, zinc, and manganese and the pink clay is rich in boron.

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No matter the color, bentonite is excellent at absorbing things: it can suck up the sebum and gunk from the skin and make it instantly smooth and matte. Not only that, but bentonite has a negative ionic charge and thus can attract things with a positive charge. Things with a positive charge include bad bacteria and toxins and bentonite clay masks can help to clear those out of the skin and pores (btw, bentonite is edible and has the same detoxifying effect internally). 

Thanks to bentonite's effect against bad bacteria and pathogens, there is also some research showing that bentonite can help to calm skin infections, soothe skin allergies and might work for skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

On the other hand, the downside of bentonite being such a good absorbent is that it can suck up more than the excess sebum and used too often, it can easily dry out the skin. So use it for good measure, and never forget to moisturize afterwards.

Also-called: Safflower Seed Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

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

Also-called: Cactus Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: White Willow Bark Extract | What-it-does: soothing, astringent

The extract coming from the bark of the White Willow, a big (25 m/80 ft.) tree that likes to live on riverbanks. It's famous for containing anti-inflammatory natural salicylates (this powder, for example, is standardized to contain 53-65%), a close chemical relative to famous exfoliant salicylic acid.

Thanks to its salicin content, willow bark is often touted as a natural alternative to salicylic acid, though it's quite questionable how effective it is as a chemical exfoliant in the tiny amounts used in cosmetics. Apart from soothing salicin, it also contains flavonoids and phenolic acids that give willow bark tonic, astringent, and antiseptic properties.

Bisabolol - goodie
Also-called: Alpha-Bisabolol | What-it-does: soothing

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. 

Also-called: Licorice Root | What-it-does: soothing, skin brightening

You might know licorice as a sweet treat from your childhood, but it's actually a legume that grows around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, central and southern Russia. It's sweet and yellow and not only used for licorice all sorts but it's also a skincare superstar thanks to two magic properties:

Nr. 1 magic property is that it has skin-lightening or to say it another way depigmenting properties. The most active part is called glabridin. The topical application (meaning when you put it on your face) of 0.5% glabridin was shown to inhibit UVB caused pigmentation of guinea pigs. Another study even suggested that licorice is more effective than the gold standard skin-lightening agent hydroquinone. All in all, licorice is considered to be one of the safest skin lightening agents with the fewest side effects.

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There is just one catch regarding glabridin and licorice: the amount of glabridin in commercial licorice extracts can vary a lot. We have seen extracts with only 4% glabridin as well as 40% glabridin. The latter one is a very-very expensive ingredient, so if you are after the depigmenting properties try to choose a product that boasts its high-quality licorice extract. 

Nr. 2 magic property is that licorice is a potent anti-inflammatory. Glabridin has also some soothing properties but the main active anti-inflammatory component is glycyrrhizin. It’s used to treat several skin diseases that are connected to inflammation including atopic dermatitis, rosacea or eczema. 

Oh, and one more thing: glabridin seems to be also an antioxidant, which is just one more reason to be happy about licorice root extract on an ingredient list. 

Bottom line: Licorice is a great skincare ingredient with significant depigmenting, anti-inflammatory and even some antioxidant properties. Be happy if it's on the ingredient list. :)

Farnesol - icky
What-it-does: perfuming

With a sweet, light and floral scent, Farnesol is a popular fragrancing ingredient to make your cosmetics that bit nicer to use. It starts its life as a colorless liquid that can either be synthetically created or extracted from loads of plants like citronella, neroli, ylang-ylang, and tuberose.

The reason we list it as icky is because Farnesol is one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labeled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential, so it is best avoided if you have super sensitive skin.

Also-called: Rosemary Leaf Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial

The essential oil coming from the leafs of the lovely herb, rosemary. It contains several fragrant components, including the well-known irritant, camphor (around 15%). It has a nice smell, is a potent antioxidant and it's also an antimicrobial agent.

If your skin is sensitive, it's probably a good idea to avoid it.

Also-called: SymWhite | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening

A skin-lightening and antioxidant active ingredient derived from a molecule that exists naturally in Pine tree. According to the clinical results of the manufacturer, 0.5% of phenylethyl resorcinol is more effective than 1% of well-known skin-lightener kojic acid. 

Though the results from the manufacturer sound quite promising, a skin-lightening study from 2013 involving phenylethyl resorcinol shows quite moderate results. In the 80 participants, 12-week study, phenylethyl resorcinol was combined with three other actives (disodium glycerophosphate, L-leucine, and undecylenoyl phenylalanine) and only 57% of the participants showed at least a moderate response and 17% did not improve at all.

Retinol - superstar
Also-called: Vitamin A, Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient
  • Retinol (pure Vitamin A) is probably the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC
  • Retinol is not itself active, it has to be converted in the skin to retinoic acid to actually do something
  • Once converted it theoretically has the same effect as all-trans-retinoic acid, aka tretinoin
  • A generally accepted ballpark number is that retinol is 10-to-20 times less potent than retinoic acid
  • It makes skin less wrinkled, smoother, firmer and tighter
  • It might also be helpful for acne prone skin as it normalizes keratinization and makes the pores produce less sebum
  • Possible side effects and irritation are also much less than with retinoic acid
  • Do not use whilst pregnant
Read all the geeky details about Retinol here >>

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

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

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

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

The emollient plant oil coming from the soybean. It is considered to be a nice, cost-effective base oil with moisturizing properties. As for its fatty acid profile, it contains 48-59% barrier-repairing linoleic acid, 17-30% nourishing oleic acid and also some (4.5-11%) potentially anti-inflammatory linolenic acid

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

PCA stands for Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid and though it might not sound like it, it is a thing that can be found naturally in our skin. The sodium salt form of PCA is an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. 

What-it-does: preservative

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

Allantoin - goodie
What-it-does: soothing | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. 

It's not only soothing but it' also skin-softening and protecting and can promote wound healing.

Bht
Also-called: Butylated Hydroxy Toluene | What-it-does: antioxidant, preservative

It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.

There is some controversy around BHT. It's not a new ingredient, it has been used both as a food and cosmetics additive since the 1970s. Plenty of studies tried to examine if it's a carcinogen or not. This Truth in Aging article details the situation and also writes that all these studies examine BHT when taken orally.

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As for cosmetics, the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) concluded that the amount of BHT used in cosmetic products is low (usually around 0.01-0.1%),  it does not penetrate skin far enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and it is safe to use in cosmetics.

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. 

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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.

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