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ESPA Balancing Herbal Spafresh

Balancing Herbal Spafresh

A clarifying toner enriched with essential oils and flower waters to refresh and purify the skin. Peppermint refines pores and revives the complexion, while Witch Hazel and Elderflower help to maintain skin's natural pH balance for beautifully clear, revitalised skin.
Uploaded by: eituc on 11/11/2019

ESPA Balancing Herbal Spafresh
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. 

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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: emulsifying | 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. 

  • It's a super common and super debated skincare ingredient
  • It has several benefits: great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial
  • It can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list
  • Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion (read more in geeky details tab)
Read all the geeky details about Alcohol Denat. here >>

Glycerin - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • A super common, safe, effective and cheap molecule used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but knows much more: keeps the skin lipids between our skin cells in a healthy (liquid crystal) state, protects against irritation, helps to restore barrier
  • Effective from as low as 3% with even more benefits at higher concentrations up to 20-40% (around 10% is a good usability-effectiveness sweet spot)
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

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.

Also-called: Witch Hazel Leaf Extract;Hamamelis Virginiana Leaf Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial, astringent

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

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We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative

If you have spotted ethylhexylglycerin on the ingredient list, most probably you will see there also the current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol. They are good friends because ethylhexylglycerin can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too.

Also, it's an effective deodorant and a medium spreading emollient

Also-called: Bitter Orange Flower Water, Neroli Flower Water

It's the flower water coming from the flowers of bitter orange (which is the sister of the sweet orange we all know and eat). In general, flower waters (also called hydrosols) are diluted versions of essential oils coming from the same plant. They contain the same components but in far less of a concentration.

So - similar to its essential oil big sister - orange flower water contains a lot of fragrant components and has a nice, sweet scent. It has some skin toning properties and can help to relax the body

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If your skin is super sensitive, it's a good idea to choose products without fragrant floral waters. 

Also-called: Elder Flower Extract | What-it-does: soothing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Lemon Peel Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the rind of the lemon that we make (or should make) lemonade from. In general, there are two problems with citrus peel oils: first, they are essentially the fragrant component, limonene in disguise (they are about 85-98% limonene).

Second, they contain the problematic compounds called furanocoumarins that make them mildly phototoxic. Lemon peel contains a medium amount of them, more than sweet orange but less than bergamot. Be careful with it especially if it is in a product for daytime use.  

Also-called: Tea Tree Oil, TTO | What-it-does: soothing, anti-acne, antimicrobial/antibacterial

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

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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.

Also-called: Damask Rose Flower Water, Rose Hydrosol

The flower water coming from the flowers of the Damask Rose. In general, flower waters (also called hydrosols) are diluted versions of essential oils coming from the same plant. They contain the same components but in much-reduced concentrations.

Similar to its big sister, rose oil, rose water also has a lovely, relaxing scent. It contains some antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds, as well as some fragrant components

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If your skin is super sensitive, it is a good idea to choose products without fragrant floral waters. 

Limonene - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, solvent, deodorant

A super common and cheap fragrance ingredient. It's in many plants, e.g. rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and it's the main component (about 50-90%) of the peel oil of citrus fruits.

It does smell nice but the problem is that it oxidizes on air exposure and the resulting stuff is not good for the skin. Oxidized limonene can cause allergic contact dermatitis and counts as a frequent skin sensitizer

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Limonene's nr1 function is definitely being a fragrance component, but there are several studies showing that it's also a penetration enhancer, mainly for oil-loving components.

All in all, limonene has some pros and cons, but - especially if your skin is sensitive - the cons probably outweigh the pros.  

Also-called: Lavender Essential Oil | What-it-does: antimicrobial/antibacterial, perfuming

We have to start by writing how fascinated we are by the amazing lavender fields of Provance and we do love pretty much everything about lavender: its look, its color, its scent.... but, when it comes to skincare, lavender is a questionable ingredient that you probably do not want in your skincare products.

First, let us start with the pros: it has a lovely scent, so no wonder that it is popular as a fragrance ingredient in natural products wanting to be free from synthetic fragrances but still wanting to smell nice. The scent of lavender is famous for having calming and relaxing properties and some smallish scientific studies do support that. Inhaled volatile compounds seem to have a soothing effect on the central nervous system and studies have shown that lavender aromatherapy can improve patient's anxiety and experience in hospitals.   

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Another pro is that lavender oil has some nice antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It also has some local pain relieving and muscle relaxing magical powers. Lavender oil is also often claimed to have anti-inflammatory properties. We have found a study confirming this but it was the essential oil of the leaves and not the much more commonly used flowers and the two differ in their main chemical compounds very much. (The main components of the flower essential oil are linalyl acetate and linalool [around 80% the two together] while it is 1,8-Cineole [around 65%] in the essential oil of the leaves.)

Now, let us look at the cons: similar to a bunch of other essential oils, the main components of lavender oil are potentially irritating fragrant components. The two main components are linalyl acetate (about 50%) and linalool (about 35%) and both autoxidise on exposure to the air forming strong contact allergens. To make things even worse, lavender oil seems to be cytotoxic from concentrations as low as 0.25% (concentration up to 0.125% were ok). 

There is also an often cited Japanese study that made patch tests with lavender oil for 9 years and found a huge increase in lavender oil sensitivity in 1997 (from 1.1% in 1990 to 8.7% in 1997 and 13.9% in 1998). This was the year when using dried lavender flowers in pillows, wardrobes, and elsewhere became fashionable in Japan, so it seems that increased exposure to lavender results in increased risk of sensitivity.

Overall, it makes us sad to write bad things about such a lovely plant, but when it comes to skincare, you will be better off without lavender. 

Also-called: Peppermint Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from steam distillation of freshly harvested, flowering peppermint sprigs. Its major component is menthol that gives the oil its well-known refreshing and cooling properties. Peppermint oil is traditionally used as an inhalant for cold and coughs and there is also some clinical data validating its use against headaches by rubbing a peppermint oil cream on the forehead. 

As for skincare, other than the nice grassy-minty smell and the refreshing sensations, we cannot write good things. It can be a skin irritant, so much so that it is a well-known counterirritant for muscle pains creating mild surface irritation to make things better in the deeper layers. But for everyday skincare, counterirritation is not something you wanna do, so we think that peppermint oil is better to avoid, especially if your skin is sensitive. 

Also-called: Rose Geranium Flower Essential Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The fragrant essential oil coming from the flowers of Rose Geranium. Like most essential oils, it contains antioxidant and antimicrobial components, but the main ones are fragrant constituents (like citronellol and geraniol). Be careful with it, if your skin is sensitive. 

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

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

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

Also-called: Clary Sage Oil

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Linalool - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

Linalool is a super common fragrance ingredient. It’s kind of everywhere - both in plants and in cosmetic products. It’s part of 200 natural oils including lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, jasmine, geranium and it can be found in 90-95% of prestige perfumes on the market. 

The problem with linalool is, that just like limonene it oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. That’s why a product containing linalool that has been opened for several months is more likely to be allergenic than a fresh one.

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A study made in the UK with 483 people tested the allergic reaction to 3% oxidised linalool and 2.3% had positive test results. 

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: lye | What-it-does: buffering

The unfancy name for it is lye. It’s a solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amounts to adjust the pH of the product and make it just right. 

For example, in case of AHA or BHA exfoliants, the right pH is super-duper important, and pH adjusters like sodium hydroxide are needed.  

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BTW, lye is not something new. It was already used by ancient Egyptians to help oil and fat magically turn into something else. Can you guess what? Yes, it’s soap. It still often shows up in the ingredient list of soaps and other cleansers.

Sodium hydroxide in itself is a potent skin irritant, but once it's reacted (as it is usually in skin care products, like exfoliants) it is totally harmless.

What-it-does: absorbent/mattifier

It's a little helper ingredient coming from corn, rice or potato starch that can help to keep skin mat (absorbent), to stabilise emulsions, and to keep the product together (binding). 

What-it-does: perfuming

Citronellol is a very common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like odor. In the UK, it’s actually the third most often listed perfume on the ingredient lists. 

It can be naturally found in geranium oil (about 30%) or rose oil (about 25%). 

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As with all fragrance ingredients, citronellol can also cause allergic contact dermatitis and should be avoided if you have perfume allergy. In a 2001 worldwide study with 178 people with known sensitization to fragrances citronellol tested positive in 5.6% of the cases.

There is no known anti-aging or positive skin benefits of the ingredient. It’s in our products to make it smell nice. 

What-it-does: preservative

A mild, natural preservative that usually comes to the formula together with its other mild preservative friends, such as Benzoic Acid and/or Dehydroacetic Acid. Btw, it's also used as a food preservative.

Geraniol - icky
What-it-does: perfuming

Geraniol is a common fragrance ingredient. It smells like rose and can be found in rose oil or in small quantities in geranium, lemon and many other essential oils. 

Just like other similar fragrance ingredients (like linalool and limonene) geraniol also oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. Best to avoid if you have sensitive skin.

What-it-does: antioxidant, colorant, deodorant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Citric Acid - goodie
What-it-does: exfoliant, buffering

Citric acid comes from citrus fruits and is an AHA. If these magic three letters don’t tell you anything, click here and read our detailed description on glycolic acid, the most famous AHA. 

So citric acid is an exfoliant, that can - just like other AHAs - gently lift off the dead skin cells of your skin and make it more smooth and fresh. 

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There is also some research showing that citric acid with regular use (think three months and 20% concentration) can help sun-damaged skin, increase skin thickness and some nice hydrating things called glycosaminoglycans in the skin. 

But according to a comparative study done in 1995, citric acid has less skin improving magic properties than glycolic or lactic acid. Probably that’s why citric acid is usually not used as an exfoliant but more as a helper ingredient in small amounts to adjust the pH of a formulation. 

What-it-does: preservative

It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It’s not a strong one and doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. To do that it has to break down to its active form, sorbic acid. For that to happen, there has to be water in the product and the right pH value (pH 3-4). 

But even if everything is right, it’s not enough on its own. If you see potassium sorbate you should see some other preservative next to it too.

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BTW, it’s also a food preservative and even has an E number, E202.

What-it-does: preservative

An Ecocert-approved, natural preservative that counts as gentle and non-irritating to the skin. Usually, it comes to the formula as part of a preservative blend as it's not enough on its own.

Also-called: Geogard 111A | What-it-does: preservative

A helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi and has only milder effect against bacteria. 

It is Ecocert and Cosmos approved, works quite well at low concentrations (0.1-0.6%) and is popular in natural products.

You may also want to take a look at...

what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying
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. 
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial | solvent | viscosity controlling
Alcohol with some additives to make it unconsumable. It is great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent, and antimicrobial. In large amounts, it can be very drying to the skin. [more]
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]
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | antimicrobial/antibacterial
Witch Hazel Leaf Extract - well known soothing, astringent and antibacterial ingredient. In general, the leaves contain much less active components than the bark so it's more gentle to the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
It can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too. [more]
It's the flower water coming from the flowers of bitter orange. Contains a lot of fragrant components and has a nice, sweet scent. It has some skin toning properties and can help to relax the body. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the rind of the lemon. Its main component (83-97%) is limonene, the super common fragrant ingredient. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | anti-acne | antimicrobial/antibacterial
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. [more]
Rose flower water that has a lovely relaxing scent. Contains some antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds, as well as some fragrant components.  [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming | solvent
A super common fragrance ingredient found naturally in many plants including citrus peel oils, rosemary or lavender. It autoxidizes on air exposure and counts as a common skin sensitizer. [more]
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial | perfuming
Lavender - essential oil with a calming scent and antimicrobial properties. Contains fragrant components (linalyl acetate - 50% and linalool - 35%) and might be cytotoxic from 0.25%. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from steam distillation of freshly harvested, flowering peppermint sprigs. Its major component is menthol that gives the oil its well-known refreshing and cooling properties. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the flowers of Rose Geranium. Like most essential oils, it contains antioxidant and antimicrobial components, but the main ones are fragrant constituents. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The essential oil coming from the leafs of rosemary. It has a nice smell, is a potent antioxidant and it's also an antimicrobial agent. Contains several fragrant components, including potential skin irritant, camphor (around 15%).
what‑it‑does perfuming
A super common fragrance ingredient that can be found among others in lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot or jasmine. The downside of it is that it oxidises on air exposure and might become allergenic. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
what‑it‑does buffering
Lye - A solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amount to adjust the pH of the product.  [more]
It's a little helper ingredient coming from corn, rice or potato starch that can help to keep skin mat (absorbent), to stabilise emulsions, and to keep the product together (binding). 
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like smell. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A mild, natural preservative that usually comes to the formula together with its other mild preservative friends, such as Benzoic Acid and/or Dehydroacetic Acid. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient that smells like rose and can be found in rose oil. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | colorant
what‑it‑does exfoliant | buffering
An AHA that comes from citrus fruits. It is usually used as a helper ingredient to adjust the pH of the formula. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A not so strong preservative that doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
An Ecocert-approved, natural preservative that counts as gentle and non-irritating to the skin. Usually, it comes to the formula as part of a preservative blend as it's not enough on its own.
what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi and has only milder effect against bacteria. Popular in natural products.  [more]