Clarifying Booster Drops
e.l.f. Clarifying Booster DropsIngredients explained
Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product.
It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water.
Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying.
One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time.
Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.
BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.
It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive.
- A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
- A super common, safe, effective and cheap molecule used for more than 50 years
- Not only a simple moisturizer but knows much more: keeps the skin lipids between our skin cells in a healthy (liquid crystal) state, protects against irritation, helps to restore barrier
- Effective from as low as 3% with even more benefits at higher concentrations up to 20-40% (around 10% is a good usability-effectiveness sweet spot)
- High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
A multi-functional, silky feeling helper ingredient that can do quite many things. It's used as an emulsion stabilizer, solvent and a broad spectrum antimicrobial. According to manufacturer info, it's also a moisturizer and helps to make the product feel great on the skin. It works synergistically with preservatives and helps to improve water-resistance of sunscreens.
- 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)
The famous tea tree oil. One of the best known essential oils which comes from Australia where it has been used for almost 100 years for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions. Legend has it that the medicinal benefits of the oil were considered so important that Australian soldiers were supplied with some tea tree oil in their World War II military kit.
Similar to other essential oils, tea tree oil is a very complex chemical mixture consisting of about 100 components, the major ones being terpinen-4-ol (40%), γ-Terpinene (23%) and α-Terpinene (10%). Terpinen-4-ol is considered to be the main active component but as a great article in Clinical Microbiology Reviews states "while some TTO components may be considered less active, none can be considered inactive" and most components contribute to TTO's strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects.
Regarding skincare and tea tree oil, its most well-known effect is probably being a well established anti-acne ingredient. Multiple studies confirm that TTO is effective against the evil acne-causing bacteria called P. acnes and the effectiveness of 5% TTO gel is comparable to the gold standard anti-acne treatment, 5% Benzoyl Peroxide lotion. You need to be a bit more patient with TTO, though, as its effects come slower but also with fewer side effects.
Regarding TTO and sensitive skin, we say that you should be careful. Even if your skin is not sensitive you should never put undiluted TTO on your skin. Luckily, it contains only very small amounts of the common allergens (such as limonene), but irritant and allergic reactions still happen, especially by oxidation products that occur in older or not properly stored oil. So if you have some pure TTO at home, know that storage matters, keep it in a cool, dry, dark place and use it up in a reasonable amount of time.
Overall, we do not often give a goodie status to essential oils, but we feel that TTO's unique antibacterial and anti-acne properties with its minimal allergen content warrant an exception. If your skin is acne-prone, TTO is something to experiment with.
The extract created from the leaves of the hazelnut-bush-like-magic-tree, commonly called Witch Hazel. We have gone into detail about Witch Hazel in cosmetic products here (it's astringent, soothing, antioxidant and antibacterial), but the important part to know about the leaves is that they contain much, much less active components than the bark. In fact, it contains hardly any tannins (only 0.04%) and the most active component in the leaves is the antibacterial gallic acid.
Too many tannins can be very astringent and irritating to the skin, so this is not necessarily a bad thing. Even the small amount of active components in the leaves seem to give it nice soothing, astringent, and antibacterial properties.
- A multi-functional skincare superstar with several proven benefits for the skin
- Great anti-aging, wrinkle smoothing ingredient used at 4-5% concentration
- Fades brown spots alone or in combination with amino sugar, acetyl glucosamine
- Increases ceramide synthesis that results in a stronger, healthier skin barrier and better skin hydration
- Can help to improve several skin conditions including acne, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis
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.
It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.
It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic.
Other than having a good safety profile and being quite gentle to the skin it has some other advantages too. It can be used in many types of formulations as it has great thermal stability (can be heated up to 85°C) and works on a wide range of pH levels (ph 3-10).
It’s often used together with ethylhexylglycerin as it nicely improves the preservative activity of phenoxyethanol.
A helper ingredient that usually comes to the formula coupled with PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil. The two together work as surfactants and oil solubilizers. It's a non-sticky duo that works at low concentration and is often used to solubilize fragrance components into water-based formulas.
A big molecule created from repeated subunits (a polymer of acrylic acid) that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula. It usually has to be neutralized with a base (such as sodium hydroxide) for the thickening to occur and it creates viscous, clear gels that also feel nice and non-tacky on the skin. No wonder, it is a very popular and common ingredient.
It's a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of the products to be right. It has an alkaline pH and can neutralize acidic ingredients.
A mildly viscous, amber-colored liquid with fatty odor, made from Castor Oil and polyethylene glycol (PEG).
If it were a person, we’d say, it’s agile, diligent & multifunctional. It’s mostly used as an emulsifier and surfactant but most often it is used to solubilize fragrances into water-based formulas.
It's one of the most commonly used thickeners and emulsion stabilizers. If the product is too runny, a little xanthan gum will make it more gel-like. Used alone, it can make the formula sticky and it is a good team player so it is usually combined with other thickeners and so-called rheology modifiers (helper ingredients that adjust the flow and thus the feel of the formula). The typical use level of Xantha Gum is below 1%, it is usually in the 0.1-0.5% range.
Btw, Xanthan gum is all natural, a chain of sugar molecules (polysaccharide) produced from individual sugar molecules (glucose and sucrose) via fermentation. It’s approved by Ecocert and also used in the food industry (E415).
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.
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.
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.
Fancy name for fruit sugar. It has nice water-binding properties and helps to keep skin hydrated.
A fancy name for sugar. Luckily when you put it on your skin it's good for you not like when you eat it. :) It has water-binding properties, which means that it helps to keep your skin nice and hydrated.
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.
It's a super small, chemically chopped up version of sodium hyaluronate. Its trade name is miniHA, and its molecular weight is 10 kDa. This counts as really tiny given that "normal" HA has a molecular weight of 0.5-2 million Da.
To be honest, low molecular weight (LMW), and especially this ultra-low molecular weight HA is a controversial ingredient. On the upside, it can penetrate the skin better (though 10kDa still counts as big!) and might be able to moisturize the deeper layers of the skin where normal HA cannot get. Also, according to the manufacturer of miniHA, it has better antioxidant activity than a 1.6MDa version HA and it also has better sun protection and after-sun repair abilities than the higher MW versions. It also works in synergy with higher molecular weight versions, and the combination of 0.1% 1.45MDa-HA + 0.1% 380 kDa-HA + 0.1% miniHA hydrated the skin significantly better than 0.3% 1.45MDa-HA alone.
On the downside, the biological role of LMW-HA in the skin is being a pro-inflammatory signaling agent and there is a study by another manufacturer called Evonik showing that HA versions with smaller than 50kDa molecular weight might be pro-inflammatory when put on the skin. Granted, the study was only done on reconstituted human epidermis, so it might or might not be like this on real human skin.
If you wanna get confused and read much more about hyaluronic acid and what the different molecular weight versions might or might not do, click here and read our excruciatingly long description.
A little helper ingredient that can be a thickener, a humectant, a foam booster, an adhesion promoter and a filler. It's a blend of polysaccharides that helps to moisturize and soften the skin.
A type fo sugar, usually refined from cane or beet sugar. On the skin, it has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated.
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.
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.
It's a special "cross-linked" from of IT-moisturizer, hyaluronic acid (HA). Cross-linked means that "normal" HA pieces (1-2 million Da molecular weight) are chemically bound togeather to create a big, "infinite" mesh.
The special HA mesh has a remarkable water-binding capacity, 5 times more than the already crazy water-binding capacity of "normal" HA. This water filled crosslinked HA gel forms a smooth film on the skin and continuously delivers the bound water, so it gives long-term moisturizing benefits.
Btw, crosslinking HA was developed for dermal fillers (as crosslinking helps their longevity), and this guy is the topical version of FDA approved dermal filler called Hylan B gel. Smearing crosslinked version all over ourselves is a newish thing, and incoming evidence so far suggests that it's a great idea, even better than normal HA.
A very recent, 2016 research article compared the topical moisturizing effect of crosslinked HA (not Hylan B gel specifically, but something called Resilient HA or RHA), HMW-HA and LMW-HA and found that "TEWL (that is trans-epidermal water loss, the water that evaporates from the skin) was reduced by 27.8% with RHA, and by 15.6% with HMW HA, but increased by 55.5% with LMW HA." (You can read much more about HMW and LMW HA here in the geeky details section.)
All in all, we think Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer is an awesome version of HA, probably superior to traditional versions, so be happy to spot it on the ingredient list.
The extract coming from ginger, the lovely spice that we all know from the kitchen. It is also a medicinal plant used both in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for pretty much everything you can imagine (muscular pain, sore throat, nausea, fever or cramps, just to give a few examples).
As for ginger and skincare, the root extract contains the biologically active component called gingerol that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Combined with Bisabolol, the duo works synergistically to sooth the skin and take down redness.
Other than that, ginger also contains moisturizing polysaccharides, amino acids, and sugars, and it is also quite well known to increase blood circulation and have a toning effect.
Last but not least, Ginger also has some volatile, essential oil compounds (1-3%). Those are mostly present in ginger oil, but small amounts might be in the extract as well (around 0.5% based on manufacturer info).
A non-essential amino acid (a building block of skin proteins like collagen or elastin) that hydrates the skin.
A non-essential amino acid (important building block of collagen and elastin) that hydrates the skin. It is also used to set the pH of the cosmetic product (buffering).
Glutamic acid is a little molecule and non-essential (our body can synthesize it) amino acid with the important job of being a neurotransmitter in the human body meaning that it helps your nervous system work correctly.
As for what it's doing in cosmetics, Glutamic acids' main thing (similar to other amino acids) is being a humectant moisturizer and skin-conditioning agent (sidenote: if you attach lots of glutamic acid molecules, you get polyglutamic acid that is claimed to be a better than hyaluronic acid humectant). It also seems to affect skin barrier repair, however, it is not clear-cut in which direction.
The complication is that glutamic acid has two distinct forms, L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid, that are the mirror images of each other (think of it like your left and right hand). Studies show that a topical application of L-glutamic acid on damaged skin delayed skin repair, while D-glutamic acid application sped up skin repair. As both forms are used by the industry, it is a bit uncertain what you are getting with just glutamic acid on the ingredient list (but if it is a Shiseido group product, it is probably the goodie D-form :)).
Other than that, Glutamic acid can also be used as a pH adjuster and can be processed via biological pathways into pyrrolidone carboxylic acid, the sodium salt of which is a goodie and one of your skin’s natural moisturizing factors.
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|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||solvent | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | solvent|
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|what‑it‑does||soothing | anti-acne | antimicrobial/antibacterial|
|what‑it‑does||soothing | antimicrobial/antibacterial|
|what‑it‑does||cell-communicating ingredient | skin brightening | anti-acne | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial|
|irritancy, com.||0-1, 0-2|
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|what‑it‑does||emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | emollient|
|what‑it‑does||viscosity controlling | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | antioxidant | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | soothing|