e.l.f. Illuminating Moisturizer
e.l.f.

Illuminating Moisturizer

e.l.f.'s lightweight, moisturizer protects the skin from the sun while leaving behind a soft, natural glow. Enjoy the hydrating benefits of shea butter, jojoba, aloe, and cucumber.
Uploaded by: jessicajam on 09/09/2018

Ingredients overview

Active Ingredients: Octinoxate (7.5%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Octinoxate - an old-school chemical sunscreen that absorbs UVB radiation (wavelengths: 280-320 nm). Not photostable and does not protect against UVA. [more]
,
Octocrylene (6%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects skin in the UVB and somewhat in the UVA II range with a peak absorption of 304 nm. [more]
,
Octisalate (5%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A colorless to light yellowish oily liquid that works as a UVB (280-320nm) sunscreen filter with a peak absorbance at 306 nm. It's not a strong filter in itself, it's always used in combination with other sunscreen agents. [more]
,
Oxybenzone (3%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A chemical sunscreen agent that absorbs UVB and short UVA rays (280-350nm). It's a highly stable but weak UVB absorber, that's often used as a photostabilizer in non-sunscreen proudcts. [more]
,
Avobenzone (3%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Avobenzone - the only globally available chemical sunscreen that gives proper UVA protection. It is not photostable so has to be combined with ingredients that help to stabilize it. [more]
Inactive Ingredients: Water (Aqua)
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]
,
C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate
what‑it‑does emollient | antimicrobial/antibacterial
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. 
,
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]
, [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]
,
Peg-100 Stearate
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 1
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
,
Cetearyl Olivate
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 and the two together help water and oil to blend (emulsifier). It's a natural and Ecocert approved duo.
,
Cyclopentasiloxane
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
It's a super commonly used water-thin volatile silicone that gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel.  [more]
,
Sorbitan Olivate
what‑it‑does emulsifying
An ester coming from sorbitol and the fatty acids of olive oil. It often comes to the formula coupled with Cetearyl Olivate and the two together help water and oil to blend (emulsifier). It's a natural and Ecocert approved duo.
,
Stearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 2
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, emulsifier and thickener. [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]
,
Dimethicone
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0 1
A very common silicone that gives both skin and hair a silky smooth feel. It also forms a protective barrier on the skin and fills in fine lines. Also used for scar treatment. [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]
,
Caprylyl Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
,
Acrylates/Polytrimethylsiloxymethacrylate Copolymer, Acrylates/C10- 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
Common helper ingredient that stabilizes emulsions and helps to thicken up products. It's also a film-former. [more]
,
Triethanolamine
what‑it‑does buffering | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0 2
Helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be right. It’s very alkaline. [more]
,
Fragrance (Parfum)
what‑it‑does perfuming
The generic term for nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. It is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average. [more]
,
Disodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating | viscosity controlling
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]
,
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]
,
Tocopheryl Acetate (Ve)
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]
,
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
A goodie plant oil coming from the polyphenol-rich seeds of the grape. It's a light emollient oil that is a great source of antioxidant polyphenols, barrier repair fatty acid linoleic acid and antioxidant, skin-protectant vitamin E. 
,
Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
Also known as Sugarcane, Saccharum Officinarum is a handy moisturizing ingredient mostly used as a humectant. This means that it can help the skin to attract water and then to hold onto it.  It bears a close relationship to AHA superstar, Glycolic Acid that can be derived from it, so it's often claimed that Sugarcane  [more]
,
Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit/Leaf Extract, Citrus Sinensis (Orange) Fruit Extract
what‑it‑does antioxidant
,
Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract
The extract coming from the Sugar Maple tree, the one whose leaf is on the Canadian flag and gives us maple syrup.The main reason it is used in skin care is that it contains natural AHA acids, namely Malic and Tartaric, and hence why it supposedly helps slough off dead skin cells in combination with other acid-containing fruit extracts as part of the trade name ACB Fruit Mix. [more]
,
Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
,
Silica
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up cosmetic products. [more]
,
Tin Oxide
what‑it‑does colorant
Far from the tin cans you find in the supermarket, Tin Oxide is mostly used when dealing with so-called effect pigments, tricky composite pigments that can do color travel (change color depending on the viewing angle) or give multiple color effect. It's often found alongside Mica (as a base material) and Titanium Dioxide (as a coating) to give a glossy, pearlescent effect. [more]
,
Mica (Ci 77019)
A mineral powder used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product some light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent. A real multi-tasker. [more]
,
Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with pretty broad spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection and good stability. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]
,
Red 40 (Ci 16035)
what‑it‑does colorant
,
Yellow 5 (Ci 19140)
what‑it‑does colorant
A super common colorant with the color yellow. [more]
[less]
All e.l.f. skincare products are free from Parabens, Sulfates, and Phthalates

Highlights

Key Ingredients

Antioxidant: Tocopheryl Acetate (Ve)
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]
,
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
A goodie plant oil coming from the polyphenol-rich seeds of the grape. It's a light emollient oil that is a great source of antioxidant polyphenols, barrier repair fatty acid linoleic acid and antioxidant, skin-protectant vitamin E. 
,
Citrus Sinensis (Orange) Fruit Extract
what‑it‑does antioxidant
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]
Soothing: 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]
Sunscreen: Octinoxate (7.5%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Octinoxate - an old-school chemical sunscreen that absorbs UVB radiation (wavelengths: 280-320 nm). Not photostable and does not protect against UVA. [more]
,
Octocrylene (6%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects skin in the UVB and somewhat in the UVA II range with a peak absorption of 304 nm. [more]
,
Octisalate (5%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A colorless to light yellowish oily liquid that works as a UVB (280-320nm) sunscreen filter with a peak absorbance at 306 nm. It's not a strong filter in itself, it's always used in combination with other sunscreen agents. [more]
,
Oxybenzone (3%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A chemical sunscreen agent that absorbs UVB and short UVA rays (280-350nm). It's a highly stable but weak UVB absorber, that's often used as a photostabilizer in non-sunscreen proudcts. [more]
,
Avobenzone (3%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Avobenzone - the only globally available chemical sunscreen that gives proper UVA protection. It is not photostable so has to be combined with ingredients that help to stabilize it. [more]
,
Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with pretty broad spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection and good stability. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]

Show all ingredients by function

Other Ingredients

Abrasive/scrub: Silica
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up cosmetic products. [more]
Antimicrobial/antibacterial: C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate
what‑it‑does emollient | antimicrobial/antibacterial
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. 
Buffering: Triethanolamine
what‑it‑does buffering | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0 2
Helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be right. It’s very alkaline. [more]
Chelating: Disodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating | viscosity controlling
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]
Colorant: Tin Oxide
what‑it‑does colorant
Far from the tin cans you find in the supermarket, Tin Oxide is mostly used when dealing with so-called effect pigments, tricky composite pigments that can do color travel (change color depending on the viewing angle) or give multiple color effect. It's often found alongside Mica (as a base material) and Titanium Dioxide (as a coating) to give a glossy, pearlescent effect. [more]
,
Red 40 (Ci 16035)
what‑it‑does colorant
,
Yellow 5 (Ci 19140)
what‑it‑does colorant
A super common colorant with the color yellow. [more]
Emollient: C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate
what‑it‑does emollient | antimicrobial/antibacterial
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. 
,
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]
,
Cyclopentasiloxane
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
It's a super commonly used water-thin volatile silicone that gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel.  [more]
,
Stearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 2
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, emulsifier and thickener. [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]
,
Dimethicone
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0 1
A very common silicone that gives both skin and hair a silky smooth feel. It also forms a protective barrier on the skin and fills in fine lines. Also used for scar treatment. [more]
,
Caprylyl Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
,
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
A goodie plant oil coming from the polyphenol-rich seeds of the grape. It's a light emollient oil that is a great source of antioxidant polyphenols, barrier repair fatty acid linoleic acid and antioxidant, skin-protectant vitamin E. 
Emulsifying: 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]
,
Peg-100 Stearate
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 1
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
,
Cetearyl Olivate
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 and the two together help water and oil to blend (emulsifier). It's a natural and Ecocert approved duo.
,
Sorbitan Olivate
what‑it‑does emulsifying
An ester coming from sorbitol and the fatty acids of olive oil. It often comes to the formula coupled with Cetearyl Olivate and the two together help water and oil to blend (emulsifier). It's a natural and Ecocert approved duo.
,
Stearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 2
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, emulsifier and thickener. [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]
,
Triethanolamine
what‑it‑does buffering | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0 2
Helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be right. It’s very alkaline. [more]
Moisturizer/humectant: 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]
,
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]
,
Caprylyl Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
,
Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
Also known as Sugarcane, Saccharum Officinarum is a handy moisturizing ingredient mostly used as a humectant. This means that it can help the skin to attract water and then to hold onto it.  It bears a close relationship to AHA superstar, Glycolic Acid that can be derived from it, so it's often claimed that Sugarcane  [more]
Perfuming: Fragrance (Parfum)
what‑it‑does perfuming
The generic term for nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. It is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average. [more]
Preservative: 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 (Aqua)
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]
,
Cyclopentasiloxane
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
It's a super commonly used water-thin volatile silicone that gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel.  [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]
,
Triethanolamine
what‑it‑does buffering | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0 2
Helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be right. It’s very alkaline. [more]
Viscosity controlling: Stearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 2
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, emulsifier and thickener. [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]
,
Acrylates/C10- 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
Common helper ingredient that stabilizes emulsions and helps to thicken up products. It's also a film-former. [more]
,
Disodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating | viscosity controlling
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]
,
Synthetic Fluorphlogopite
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
,
Silica
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up cosmetic products. [more]

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Octinoxate (7.5%) sunscreen
Octocrylene (6%) sunscreen
Octisalate (5%) sunscreen
Oxybenzone (3%) sunscreen
Avobenzone (3%) sunscreen goodie
Water (Aqua) solvent
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent 0, 1
C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate emollient, antimicrobial/​antibacterial
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Glyceryl Stearate emollient, emulsifying
Peg-100 Stearate surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying 0, 1
Cetearyl Olivate emulsifying
Cyclopentasiloxane emollient, solvent
Sorbitan Olivate emulsifying
Stearic Acid emulsifying, emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 2
Cetearyl Alcohol emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling, surfactant/​cleansing 1, 2
Dimethicone emollient 0, 1
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Acrylates/Polytrimethylsiloxymethacrylate Copolymer
Acrylates/C10- 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer viscosity controlling
Triethanolamine buffering, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 2
Fragrance (Parfum) perfuming icky
Disodium Edta chelating, viscosity controlling
Bisabolol soothing goodie
Tocopheryl Acetate (Ve) antioxidant 0, 0
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil antioxidant, emollient goodie
Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit/Leaf Extract
Citrus Sinensis (Orange) Fruit Extract antioxidant
Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract
Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract
Synthetic Fluorphlogopite viscosity controlling
Silica viscosity controlling, abrasive/​scrub
Tin Oxide colorant
Mica (Ci 77019)
Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891) sunscreen goodie
Red 40 (Ci 16035) colorant
Yellow 5 (Ci 19140) colorant

Ingredients explained

Also-called: Octinoxate, Octyl Methoxycinnamate | What-it-does: sunscreen

A clear, oil-soluble, "cosmetically-elegant" liquid that is the most commonly used chemical sunscreen. It absorbs UVB radiation (at wavelengths: 280-320 nm) with a peak protection at 310nm. 

It only protects against UVB and not UVA rays (the 320-400 nm range) – so always choose products that contain other sunscreens too. It is not very stable either, when exposed to sunlight, it kind of breaks down and loses its effectiveness (not instantly, but over time - it loses 10% of its SPF protection ability within 35 mins). To make it more stable it can be - and should be - combined with other sunscreen agents to give stable and broad-spectrum protection (the new generation sunscreen agent, Tinosorb S is a particularly good one for that).

Expand to read more

Regarding safety, there are also some concerns around Octinoxate. In vitro (made in the lab not on real people) and animal studies have shown that it may produce hormonal (estrogen-like) effects. Do not panic, the studies were not conducted under real life conditions on real human people, so it is probably over-cautious to avoid Octinoxate altogether. However, if you are pregnant or a small child (under 2 yrs. old), choose a physical (zinc oxide/titanium dioxide) or new-generation Tinosorb based sunscreen, just to be on the super-safe side. :) 

Overall, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is an old-school chemical sunscreen agent. There are plenty of better options for sun protection today, but it is considered "safe as used" (and sunscreens are pretty well regulated) and it is available worldwide (can be used up to 10% in the EU and up to 7.5% in the US).

What-it-does: sunscreen

An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects skin in the UVB and somewhat in the UVA II range with a peak absorption of 304 nm. Its protection is not strong enough on its own but it is quite photostable (looses 10% of SPF protection in 95 mins) and is often used to stabilize other photo-unstable UV-filters, for example, Avobenzone. It is also often used to improve the water resistance of the products. 

Octocrylene's safety profile is generally quite good, though a review study in Contact Dermatitis reports an "increasing number of patients with photo contact allergy to octocrylene." Mainly adults with ketoprofen-sensitivity and children with sensitive skin are affected, so if you have a small kid, it is probably better to use octocrylene-free sunscreens.

Also-called: Octyl Salicylate, Octisalate | What-it-does: sunscreen

A colorless to light yellowish oily liquid that works as a UVB (280-320nm) sunscreen filter with a peak absorbance at 306 nm. It's not a strong filter in itself, it's always used in combination with other sunscreen agents to further enhance the SPF and to solubilize other solid UV filters.

It has a good safety profile and is allowed to be used at a max concentration of 5% both in the US and in Europe (10% is allowed in Japan).

Also-called: Oxybenzone | What-it-does: sunscreen

A chemical sunscreen agent that absorbs UVB and short UVA rays (280-350nm) with its peak protection at 288 nm. Unlike many other chemical sunscreens, it is highly stable but its UV absorbing abilities are weak so it always has to be combined with other sunscreen agents for proper protection. More often than not, it's used as a photostabilizer rather than a proper sunscreen agent as it can protect formulas nicely from UV damage.

Regarding safety, BP-3 is somewhat controversial. First, its molecules are small (228 Da) and very lipophilic (oil loving) and these properties result in very good absorption. The problem is that you want sunscreens on the top of your skin and not in your bloodstream, so for BP-3 this is a problem. In fact, it absorbs so well that 4 hours after application of a sunscreen product with BP-3, it can be detected in urine

Expand to read more

Another concern of BP-3 is that it shows some estrogenic activity, though it's probably not relevant when applied topically to the skin. Estrogenic activity was confirmed only in-vitro (in test tubes) and when taken orally by lab animals, and not when used topically as you would normally. In fact, a 2004 follow-up study to examine the estrogenic effect of sunscreens when used topically on the whole body found that "the endogenous levels of reproductive hormones were unaffected" (even though BP-3 could be detected both in plasma and urine, so its absorption is no doubt too good).

If that was not enough, Wikipedia claims that BP-3 is nowadays the most common allergen found in sunscreens, and the always-trustworthy smartskincare writes that "[benzophenones] have been shown in some studies to promote the generation of potentially harmful free radicals".

On the up side, sunscreens are pretty well regulated in several parts of the world, and BP-3 is considered "safe as used" and is an allowed sunscreen agent everywhere. It can be used in concentrations of up to 10% in the EU and up to 6% in the US.

Overall, BP-3 is probably our least favorite sunscreen agent and we prefer sunscreens without it. However, if you find a formula that you love and contains BP-3, we do not think that you should throw it away. A sunscreen with BP-3 is definitely better than no sunscreen. 

Avobenzone (3%) - goodie
Also-called: Avobenzone | What-it-does: sunscreen

The famous Avobenzone. It is a special snowflake as it is the only globally available chemical sunscreen agent that provides proper UVA protection (in the US, new generation sunscreen agents are not approved because of impossible FDA regulations). It is the global gold standard of UVA protection and is the most used UVA sunscreen in the world. 

It gives very good protection across the whole UVA range (310-400 nm that is both UVA1 and UVA2) with a peak protection at 360 nm. The problem with it, though, is that it is not photostable and degrades in the sunlight. Wikipedia says that avobenzone loses 36% of its UV-absorption capacity after just one hour of sunlight (yep, this is one of the reasons why sunscreens have to be reapplied after a few hours).

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The cosmetic's industry is trying to solve the problem by combining avobenzone with other UV filters that enhance its stability (like octocrylene, Tinosorb S or Ensulizole) or by encapsulating it and while both solutions help, neither is perfect. Interestingly, the combination of avobenzone with mineral sunscreens (that is titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) is not a good idea. In the US, it is flat out prohibited as avobenzone becomes unstable when combined with mineral sunscreens.

As for safety, avobenzone has a pretty good safety profile. It counts as non-irritating, and unlike some other chemical sunscreens, it shows no estrogenic effect. The maximum concentration of avobenzone permitted is 5% in the EU and 3% in the US.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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: 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".

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: 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 and the two together help water and oil to blend (emulsifier). It's a natural and Ecocert approved duo.

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 (aka stays on the skin) dimethicone as the two together form a water-resistant, breathable protective barrier on the skin without a negative tacky feel.

What-it-does: emulsifying

An ester coming from sorbitol and the fatty acids of olive oil. It often comes to the formula coupled with Cetearyl Olivate and the two together help water and oil to blend (emulsifier). It's a natural and Ecocert approved duo.

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

A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It helps water and oil to mix (emulsifier), it makes your skin feel smooth (emollient) and can help to thicken up products.

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.

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

Probably the cheapest and 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. 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. 

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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: 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.

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.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

It’s a super commonly used, not-very-friendly-named helper ingredient that can help to stabilize emulsions (so that the water and the oil components stay nicely together). It can also be a thickener that helps to create nice gel formulas as well as a film-former. 

What-it-does: buffering, emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

It’s a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be just right. It’s very alkaline (you know the opposite of being very acidic): a 1% solution has a pH of around 10.

It does not have the very best safety reputation but in general, you do not have to worry about it. 

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What is true is that if a product contains so-called N-nitrogenating agents (e.g.: preservatives like 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol, 5-Bromo-5-Nitro- 1,3-Dioxane or sodium nitrate - so look out for things with nitro, nitra in the name) that together with TEA can form some not nice carcinogenic stuff (that is called nitrosamines). But with proper formulation that does not happen, TEA in itself is not a bad guy. 

But let’s assume a bad combination of ingredients were used and the nitrosamines formed. :( Even in that case you are probably fine because as far as we know it cannot penetrate the skin. 

But to be on the safe side, if you see Triethanolamine in an INCI and also something with nitra, nitro in the name of it just skip the product, that cannot hurt.

Also-called: Fragrance, Parfum | What-it-does: perfuming

Exactly what it sounds: nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. Fragrance in the US and parfum in the EU is a generic term on the ingredient list that is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average (but it can have as much as 200 components!). 

If you are someone who likes to know what you put on your face than fragrance is not your best friend - no way to know what’s really in it.  

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Also, if your skin is sensitive, fragrance is again not your best friend. It’s the number one cause of contact allergy to cosmetics. It’s definitely a smart thing to avoid with sensitive skin (and fragrance of any type - natural is just as allergic as synthetic, if not worse!). 

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.

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: 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: Grape Seed Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

A goodie plant oil coming from the polyphenol-rich seeds of the grape. It's a light emollient oil that makes your skin feel smooth and nice and also contains a bunch of good-for-the-skin stuff. It's a great source of antioxidant polyphenols, barrier repair fatty acid linoleic acid (about 55-77%, while oleic acid is about 12-27%) and antioxidant, skin-protectant vitamin E

Also-called: Sugar Cane Extract | What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

Also known as Sugarcane, Saccharum Officinarum is a handy moisturizing ingredient mostly used as a humectant. This means that it can help the skin to attract water and then to hold onto it. 
 
It bears a close relationship to AHA superstar, Glycolic Acid that can be derived from it, so it's often claimed that Sugarcane Extract itself also exfoliates and brightens the skin. We could not find any research studies to back this up, but Saccharum Officinarum very often comes to the formula combined with other acid containing plant extracts trade named ACB Fruit Mix. According to manufacturer data, 5% of the fruit mix increases cellular renewal by 24%, while 4% pure Glycolic did the same by 33%. So maybe, a tiny bit of exfoliation, but if you want proven efficacy, stick to pure acids. 

What-it-does: astringent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Sugar Maple Extract

The extract coming from the Sugar Maple tree, the one whose leaf is on the Canadian flag and gives us maple syrup.

The main reason it is used in skin care is that it contains natural AHA acids, namely Malic and Tartaric, and hence why it supposedly helps slough off dead skin cells in combination with other acid-containing fruit extracts as part of the trade name ACB Fruit Mix. The manufacturer claims that both malic and tartaric increase elasticity in the skin, but from our research, the only confirmed uses of these acids are as pH adjusters, especially in the tiny amounts they can be found in the Fruit Mix (less than 1%).  

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A white powdery thing that's the major component of glass and sand. In cosmetics, it’s often in products that are supposed to keep your skin matte as it has great oil-absorbing abilities. Sometimes it’s also used as a helper ingredient to thicken up products

Also-called: CI 77861, Tin Dioxide | What-it-does: colorant

Far from the tin cans you find in the supermarket, Tin Oxide is mostly used when dealing with so-called effect pigments, tricky composite pigments that can do color travel (change color depending on the viewing angle) or give multiple color effect. 

It's often found alongside Mica (as a base material) and Titanium Dioxide (as a coating) to give a glossy, pearlescent effect. Together, they make up a trademarked technology called RonaFlair Blanace from the German manufacturer Merck. According to their info, this combination can balance out undesirable tones in the skin, making it a popular choice for brightening products and highlighters.

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Other than that, CosIng (the official EU INCI database) list its uses as also including being a bulking agent (to increase the volume of products), as well as a physical exfoliant or an opacifying agent, but being part of composite effect pigments seems to be a much more common use case. 

Also-called: CI 77019

A super versatile and common mineral powder that comes in different particle sizes. It is a multi-tasker used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product some light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent. Popular both in makeup and in skin care products. 

What-it-does: sunscreen

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).

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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: Red 40 | What-it-does: colorant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Tartrazine, Yellow 5 | What-it-does: colorant

Ci 19140  or Tartrazine is a super common colorant in skincare, makeup, medicine & food. It’s a synthetic lemon yellow that's used alone or mixed with other colors for special shades. 

FDA says it's possible, but rare, to have an allergic-type reaction to a color additive. As an example, it mentions that Ci 19140 may cause itching and hives in some people but the colorant is always labeled so that you can avoid it if you are sensitive. 

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