Dr Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution
Dr Dennis Gross

Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution

A fast-absorbing liquid retinol serum supercharged by ferulic acid to retexture skin and visibly reduce fine lines for an instantly smoother, more even, lit-from-within glow.
Uploaded by: katballay on 15/02/2018

Ingredients overview

Water
what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
,
Ethoxydiglycol
what‑it‑does solvent
A nice odorless liquid used mainly as a superior solubilizer and efficacy booster for cosmetic active ingredients such as vitamin C or benzoyl peroxide. [more]
,
Propylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 0
A common glycol that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products. It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer. [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]
,
Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate
what‑it‑does skin brightening | anti-acne
A mult-functional Azelaic acid derivative with skin brightening, anti-inflammatory and possibly some sebum regulating and anti-acne properties. [more]
,
Ferulic Acid
what‑it‑does antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
A great antioxidant that is most famous for stabilizing the highly unstable Vitamin C. It also doubles the photoprotection abilities of Vit C+E formulas. [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]
,
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]
,
Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi is a little plant with nice red berries that lives in the North and is also called bearberry or kinnikinnick. According to Wikipedia the uva-ursi part means “grape of the bear”. [more]
, [more]
Arbutin
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
One of the better-known skin brightening agents that's found naturally for example in bearberry. [more]
,
Morus Nigra Fruit 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]
,
Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [more]
,
Glycolic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant
The most researched and well-known AHA exfoliant. It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin. In larger concentration (>10%) it's a proven collagen booster. [more]
,
Mandelic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
An AHA that comes from bitter almond. Its exfoliation action is slower but also safer than glycolic acid. It's also antibacterial and is a promising ingredient against acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. [more]
,
Hexylresorcinol
what‑it‑does skin brightening
A pretty well-researched molecule with significant tyrosinase (the famous enzyme needed to produce melanin) inhibiting abilities. [more]
,
Sodium Hyaluronate
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
,
Tocopherol
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 2 2
Pure Vitamin E. Great antioxidant that gives significant photoprotection against UVB rays. Works in synergy with Vitamin C. [more]
,
Panthenol
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
Pro-Vitamin B5 is a goodie that moisturises the skin, has anti-inflammatory, skin protecting and wound healing properties. [more]
,
Quercetin
what‑it‑does antioxidant
,
Disodium Lauriminodipropionate Tocopheryl Phosphates
what‑it‑does soothing
A bio-available derivative of Vitamin E that's claimed to reduce the appearance of skin redness. [more]
,
Ubiquinone
what‑it‑does antioxidant
Q10 - an antioxidant found naturally in human cells where it plays an important role in energy production. As for skincare, it works as an awesome antioxidant that might also be able to reduce wrinkle depth. [more]
,
Lecithin
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
It's quite the multi-tasker: an emollient and water-binding ingredient but also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes.  [more]
,
Disodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
,
Pvm/​Ma Decadiene Crosspolymer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A big, water-loving polymer molecule that creates nice gels.  [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]
,
Urea
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
The thing in the pee that is also a natural moisturizing factor (NMF) with mild keratolytic and strong skin moisturizing superpowers. [more]
,
Polysorbate 20
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0 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. 
,
Potassium Hydroxide
what‑it‑does buffering
It's a very alkaline stuff that helps to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to be just right. [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]

Highlights

Key Ingredients

Anti-acne: Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate
what‑it‑does skin brightening | anti-acne
A mult-functional Azelaic acid derivative with skin brightening, anti-inflammatory and possibly some sebum regulating and anti-acne properties. [more]
,
Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [more]
Antioxidant: Ferulic Acid
what‑it‑does antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
A great antioxidant that is most famous for stabilizing the highly unstable Vitamin C. It also doubles the photoprotection abilities of Vit C+E formulas. [more]
,
Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi is a little plant with nice red berries that lives in the North and is also called bearberry or kinnikinnick. According to Wikipedia the uva-ursi part means “grape of the bear”. [more]
,
Arbutin
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
One of the better-known skin brightening agents that's found naturally for example in bearberry. [more]
,
Tocopherol
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 2 2
Pure Vitamin E. Great antioxidant that gives significant photoprotection against UVB rays. Works in synergy with Vitamin C. [more]
,
Quercetin
what‑it‑does antioxidant
,
Ubiquinone
what‑it‑does antioxidant
Q10 - an antioxidant found naturally in human cells where it plays an important role in energy production. As for skincare, it works as an awesome antioxidant that might also be able to reduce wrinkle depth. [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]
Exfoliant: Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [more]
,
Glycolic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant
The most researched and well-known AHA exfoliant. It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin. In larger concentration (>10%) it's a proven collagen booster. [more]
,
Mandelic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
An AHA that comes from bitter almond. Its exfoliation action is slower but also safer than glycolic acid. It's also antibacterial and is a promising ingredient against acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. [more]
Skin brightening: Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate
what‑it‑does skin brightening | anti-acne
A mult-functional Azelaic acid derivative with skin brightening, anti-inflammatory and possibly some sebum regulating and anti-acne properties. [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]
,
Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi is a little plant with nice red berries that lives in the North and is also called bearberry or kinnikinnick. According to Wikipedia the uva-ursi part means “grape of the bear”. [more]
,
Arbutin
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
One of the better-known skin brightening agents that's found naturally for example in bearberry. [more]
,
Hexylresorcinol
what‑it‑does skin brightening
A pretty well-researched molecule with significant tyrosinase (the famous enzyme needed to produce melanin) inhibiting abilities. [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 Hyaluronate
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
,
Urea
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
The thing in the pee that is also a natural moisturizing factor (NMF) with mild keratolytic and strong skin moisturizing superpowers. [more]
Soothing: 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]
,
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]
,
Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [more]
,
Panthenol
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
Pro-Vitamin B5 is a goodie that moisturises the skin, has anti-inflammatory, skin protecting and wound healing properties. [more]
,
Disodium Lauriminodipropionate Tocopheryl Phosphates
what‑it‑does soothing
A bio-available derivative of Vitamin E that's claimed to reduce the appearance of skin redness. [more]

Show all ingredients by function

Other Ingredients

Antimicrobial/antibacterial: Ferulic Acid
what‑it‑does antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
A great antioxidant that is most famous for stabilizing the highly unstable Vitamin C. It also doubles the photoprotection abilities of Vit C+E formulas. [more]
,
Mandelic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
An AHA that comes from bitter almond. Its exfoliation action is slower but also safer than glycolic acid. It's also antibacterial and is a promising ingredient against acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. [more]
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]
Buffering: Potassium Hydroxide
what‑it‑does buffering
It's a very alkaline stuff that helps to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to be just right. [more]
Chelating: Disodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
Emollient: Lecithin
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
It's quite the multi-tasker: an emollient and water-binding ingredient but also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes.  [more]
Emulsifying: Lecithin
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
It's quite the multi-tasker: an emollient and water-binding ingredient but also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes.  [more]
,
Polysorbate 20
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0 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. 
Moisturizer/humectant: Propylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 0
A common glycol that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products. It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer. [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]
,
Sodium Hyaluronate
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
,
Panthenol
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
Pro-Vitamin B5 is a goodie that moisturises the skin, has anti-inflammatory, skin protecting and wound healing properties. [more]
,
Urea
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
The thing in the pee that is also a natural moisturizing factor (NMF) with mild keratolytic and strong skin moisturizing superpowers. [more]
Preservative: Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [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]
,
Ethoxydiglycol
what‑it‑does solvent
A nice odorless liquid used mainly as a superior solubilizer and efficacy booster for cosmetic active ingredients such as vitamin C or benzoyl peroxide. [more]
,
Propylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 0
A common glycol that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products. It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer. [more]
Surfactant/cleansing: Polysorbate 20
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0 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. 
Viscosity controlling: Propylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 0
A common glycol that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products. It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer. [more]
,
Pvm/​Ma Decadiene Crosspolymer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A big, water-loving polymer molecule that creates nice gels.  [more]

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water solvent
Ethoxydiglycol solvent
Propylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 0
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate skin brightening, anti-acne goodie
Ferulic Acid antioxidant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Retinol cell-communicating ingredient superstar
Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract soothing, skin brightening superstar
Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract antioxidant, skin brightening goodie
Arbutin antioxidant, skin brightening goodie
Morus Nigra Fruit Extract
Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract soothing goodie
Salicylic Acid exfoliant, anti-acne, soothing, preservative superstar
Glycolic Acid exfoliant superstar
Mandelic Acid exfoliant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Hexylresorcinol skin brightening goodie
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Tocopherol antioxidant 2, 2 superstar
Panthenol soothing, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Quercetin antioxidant
Disodium Lauriminodipropionate Tocopheryl Phosphates soothing goodie
Ubiquinone antioxidant goodie
Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Disodium Edta chelating
Pvm/Ma Decadiene Crosspolymer viscosity controlling
Bht antioxidant, preservative
Urea skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Polysorbate 20 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 0
Potassium Hydroxide buffering
Phenoxyethanol preservative

Ingredients explained

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. 

Expand to read more

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: solvent

A nice odorless liquid used mainly as a superior solubilizer and efficacy booster for cosmetic active ingredients such as skincare bigshot vitamin C, self-tanning active DHA or the anti-acne gold standard, benzoyl peroxide

Other than that it can also be used in hair care products where it gives a longer-lasting and more uniform coloring. According to a manufacturer, it might even prevent the formation of split ends.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • It's a helper ingredient that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products
  • It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer
  • It has a bad reputation among natural cosmetics advocates but cosmetic scientists and toxicology experts do not agree (read more in the geeky details section)
Read all the geeky details about Propylene Glycol here >>

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: skin brightening, anti-acne

A derivative of clinically proven, superstar ingredient Azelaic Acid and hydrating amino acid Glycine. Azelaic acid is an awesome ingredient with anti-inflammatory, skin lightening and anti-acne effects, but its insolubility (it's soluble neither in water nor in oil) makes it difficult to use it in a cosmetically elegant and versatile way. 

The solution is supposed to be Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, at least according to the manufacturer. The derivative is very water soluble, easy to use in nice formulas and inherits all the lovely properties of Azelaic acid. It acts as a skin brightening agent via Tyrosinase (a famous enzyme needed to make melanin) inhibition and also has significant sebum normalizing activity. 

Expand to read more

Regarding research, we could find two studies where Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate's name popped up. One study examined the management of rosacea and the other one researched the treatment of melasma. Both were successful (we mean people showed improvement :)) but our Azelaic acid derivative was combined with other actives so it's hard to know what to attribute to this guy only. 

Overall, a promising multi-function active that's worth checking out if you have pigmentation-prone, acne-prone or rosacea-prone skin.

Ferulic Acid - goodie

Ferulic Acid (FA) is a goodie that can be found naturally in plant cell walls. There is a lot of it especially in the bran of grasses such as rice, wheat and oats. 

FA - whose main job is to be an antioxidant - owes its fame to a 2005 research that discovered that adding in 0.5% FA to a 15% Vitamin C + 1% Vitamin E solution not only stabilizes the highly unstable, divaish Vit C, but it also doubles the photoprotection abilities of the formula. 

Expand to read more

Couple of other studies show that FA just by itself is also a nice addition to cosmetic formulations: it can penetrate the skin (which is kind of important to do the job) and it has protecting properties against UV caused skin damage.

So if you spot it on the ingredient list be happy about it. :)

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: 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.

Expand to read more

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. :)

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

Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi is a little plant with nice red berries that lives in the North and is also called bearberry or kinnikinnick. According to Wikipedia the uva-ursi part means “grape of the bear”.  

As for skincare bearberry is interesting because it contains the well-known skin lightening agent arbutin. The leaves contain 5-15% percent of it and might be able to help fading brown spots on the skin. Also, kinnikinnick (such a cool name :)) is an antioxidant and has some antibacterial activity

Arbutin - goodie
Also-called: Beta-Arbutin | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening

A pretty well-known and often used ingredient with the magic ability to fade brown spots. It's used traditionally in Japan and can be found naturally in a couple of plants, including the leaves of pear trees, wheat and bearberry

Arbutin seems to work its magic and hinder the pigmentation process at the second step of it. An enzyme called tyrosinase is needed to create melanin (the pigment that causes the brown spots) and while several other skin lightening agents work to inhibit the synthesis of tyrosinase itself (like vitamin C or licorice), arbutin lets tyrosinase be and rather hinders the melanin-forming activity of the enzyme. (So it might be a good idea to combine arbutin with some direct tyrosinase inhibitors for more skin lightening effect.)

Expand to read more

All in all, arbutin is one of the better-known skin brightening agents, that's probably worth a try if pigmentation is an issue for you.

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.

Salicylic Acid - superstar
Also-called: BHA | What-it-does: exfoliant, anti-acne, soothing, preservative
  • It's one of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin
  • It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed)
  • It's a potent anti-inflammatory agent
  • It's more effective for treating blackheads than acne
  • For acne combine it with antibacterial agents like benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid
Read all the geeky details about Salicylic Acid here >>

Glycolic Acid - superstar
What-it-does: exfoliant
  • It’s the most researched AHA with the most proven skin benefits
  • It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin
  • It can help skin’s own collagen production that results in firmer, younger skin
  • It can fade brown spots caused by sun damage or PIH
  • Choose a product where you know the concentration and pH value because these two greatly influence effectiveness
  • Don’t forget to use your sunscreen (in any case but especially so next to an AHA product)
  • Slight stinging or burning with a stronger AHA product is normal
  • If your skin is very sensitive, rosacea prone choose rather a BHA or PHA product
Read all the geeky details about Glycolic Acid here >>

Mandelic Acid - goodie
  • Mandelic acid is an AHA that comes from bitter almond
  • It can gently lift off dead surface skin cells and make the skin more smooth and even
  • It has antibacterial properties
  • It’s promising against acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
  • It’s light sensitive, so choose a product with opaque packaging
Read all the geeky details about Mandelic Acid here >>

Hexylresorcinol - goodie
What-it-does: skin brightening

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.

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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).

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

It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMFhyaluronic acid (HA). If HA does not tell you anything we have a super detailed, geeky explanation about it here.  The TL; DR version of HA is that it's a huge polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) found in the skin that acts as a sponge helping the skin to hold onto water, being plump and elastic. HA is famous for its crazy water holding capacity as it can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water.

As far as skincare goes, sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid are pretty much the same and the two names are used interchangeably. As cosmetic chemist kindofstephen writes on reddit  "sodium hyaluronate disassociates into hyaluronic acid molecule and a sodium atom in solution". 

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In spite of this, if you search for "hyaluronic acid vs sodium hyaluronate" you will find on multiple places that sodium hyaluronate is smaller and can penetrate the skin better. Chemically, this is definitely not true, as the two forms are almost the same, both are polymers and the subunits can be repeated in both forms as much as you like. (We also checked Prospector for sodium hyaluronate versions actually used in cosmetic products and found that the most common molecular weight was 1.5-1.8 million Da that absolutely counts as high molecular weight).

What seems to be a true difference, though, is that the salt form is more stable, easier to formulate and cheaper so it pops up more often on the ingredient lists. 

If you wanna become a real HA-and-the-skin expert you can read way more about the topic at hyaluronic acid (including penetration-questions, differences between high and low molecular weight versions and a bunch of references to scientific literature).

Tocopherol - superstar
Also-called: Vitamin E | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2
  • 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 >>

Panthenol - goodie
Also-called: Pro-Vitamin B5 | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

An easy-to-formulate, commonly used, nice to have ingredient that’s also called pro-vitamin B5. As you might guess from the “pro” part, it’s a precursor to vitamin B5 (whose fancy name is pantothenic acid). 

Its main job in skincare products is to moisturise the skin. It’s a humectant meaning that it can help the skin to attract water and then hold onto it. There is also research showing that panthenol can help our skin to produce more lovely lipids that are important for a strong and healthy skin barrier. 

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Another great thing about panthenol is that it has anti-inflammatory and skin protecting abilities. A study shows that it can reduce the irritation caused by less-nice other ingredients (e.g. fragrance, preservatives or chemical sunscreens) in the product.

Research also shows that it might be useful for wound healing as it promotes fibroblast (nice type of cells in our skin that produce skin-firming collagen) proliferation. 

If that wasn’t enough panthenol is also useful in nail and hair care products. A study shows that a nail treatment liquide with 2% panthenol could effectively get into the nail and significantly increase the hydration of it.

As for the hair the hydration effect is also true there. Panthenol might make your hair softer, more elastic and helps to comb your hair more easily. 

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Form of Vitamin E | What-it-does: soothing

A bio-available derivative of famous antioxidant, Vitamin E that's claimed to reduce the appearance of skin redness caused by various external skin aggressions such as acne, razor burn or UV light.

Ubiquinone - goodie
Also-called: Coenzyme Q10 | What-it-does: antioxidant

Thanks to Nivea, Q10 is a pretty well-known ingredient and the fame and Beiersdorf's (the parent company of Nivea) obsession with it are not for no reason. It's an antioxidant found naturally in human cells where it plays a big role in energy production.

In fact, it's so important for energy production that if taken as an oral supplement it has a caffeine-like effect and if taken at night you will probably not sleep very well (so you should take it in the morning). Q10 supplementation is not a bad idea: it not only gives you energy but research also shows that oral Q10 increases the Q10 level of the skin (of course, it decreases with age like pretty much every good thing in the skin) and may help to reduce wrinkles. If you are not for supplements, dietary sources include fish, spinach, and nuts.

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As for skincare, Q10 comes in the form of a yellow, oil-soluble powder that's shown to absorb into the upper layer of the skin and act there like an awesome antioxidant. It not only has preventative effects but might also be able to reduce the depth of wrinkles, though 0.3% Q10 was used in the study that counts as really high (products containing that much should be very yellow!). 

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: chelating

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A big, water-loving polymer molecule that creates nice gels

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.

Urea - goodie
Also-called: Carbamide | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant

Yes, it's the thing that can be found naturally in pee. And in the skin. It is an awesome natural moisturizing factor, aka NMF.  NMFs are important components that help the skin to hold onto water and keep it plump, elastic and hydrated. Urea makes up about 7% of NMFs next to other things such as amino acids (40%), PCA (12%) or Lactate (12%).

What makes urea special, is that it is not only a simple moisturizer, but it is thought to be a "small-molecule regulator of epidermal structure and function" meaning that it has a bunch of extra biological activities. It acts as a mild keratolytic agent (some of its moisturizing action is thought to come from urea's ability to break down bonds in the protein called filaggrin and thus freeing up amino acids in the skin), enhances antimicrobial peptide expression and improves skin barrier function

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Being a mild keratolytic agent and strong moisturizer means that high-percentage (10-40%) urea treatments are found effective in a bunch of skin disorders connected to excessive dryness and malfunctioning skin barrier such as ichthyosis, xerosis, psoriasis, eczema and seborrheic dermatitis.  

Overall, just like glycerin, urea is a real oldie but a goodie, a nice ingredient in any moisturizer.

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: buffering

It's a very alkaline stuff that helps to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to be just right. It's similar to the more often used sodium hydroxide and pretty much the same of what we wrote there applies here too. 

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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