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ESPA Lift & Firm Mask

Lift & Firm Mask

A hydrating mask to help lift skin, while softening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for a smoother finish. Hydrating Argan and Larch help instantly smooth, while Grape Seed [more] [more] Oil, Pelan Silt and precious Frankincense nourish and protect for soft, supple skin. Suitable for maturing, stressed or dehydrated skin types. [less]
Uploaded by: eituc on 11/11/2019

ESPA Lift & Firm Mask
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. 

Kaolin - goodie
Also-called: Type of clay, China clay | What-it-does: colorant, absorbent/mattifier | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

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

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

What-it-does: antioxidant

Galactoarabinan is a natural polysaccharide (a big carbohydrate molecule) that comes from the Larch trees.

According to the manufacturer it can do all kinds of good in a formula: it can reduce trans-epidermal-water-loss (a fancy way of saying that it's moisturizing), improve the appearance of skin’s superficial fine lines, improve the uniformity and spreadability of a formulation and provides SPF enhancement. What's more it can also help to boost the efficacy of AHA exfoliants (while not boosting the irritation side effect). 

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

A so-called fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that does all kinds of things in a skincare product: it makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier). Can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.

Also-called: Coconut Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 4

There is definitely some craze going on for coconut oil both in the healthy eating space (often claimed to be the healthiest oil to cook with but this is a topic for another site) and in the skin and hair care space. 

We will talk here about the latter two and see why we might want to smear it all over ourselves. Chemically speaking, coconut oil has a unique fatty acid profile. Unlike many plant oils that mostly contain unsaturated fatty acids (fatty acids with double bonds and kinky structure such as linoleic or oleic), coconut oil is mostly saturated (fatty acids with single bonds only) and its most important fatty acid is Lauric Acid (about 50%).  Saturated fatty acids have a linear structure that can stack nice and tight and hence they are normally solid at room temperature. Coconut oil melts around 25 °C so it is solid in the tub but melts on contact with the skin. 

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The saturated nature of coconut oil also means that it is a heavy-duty-oil ideal for dry skin types. A double-blind research confirmed that extra virgin coconut oil is as effective in treating xerosis (aka very dry skin) as mineral oil. Another study found that coconut oil is more effective than mineral oil in treating mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (aka eczema) in children.

So when it comes to dry skin, coconut oil is a goodie, no question there. The question is if it is good or bad for acne-prone skin. Its main fatty acid, Lauric Acid has some research showing that it is a promising ingredient against evil acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes but at the same time, both Lauric Acid and coconut oil have a very high comedogenic rating (4 out of 5). Though comedogenic ratings are not very reliable, anecdotal evidence (i.e. people commenting in forums) shows that people have mixed experiences. While some claim that it worked wonders on their acne others say that it gave them serious blackheads and zits. Try it at your own risk. 

As for hair care, coconut oil has pretty solid research showing that it can penetrate into the hair very well (better than mineral oil and sunflower oil) and it can prevent hair protein loss as well as combing damage.  If you have problems with damaged hair, split ends, coconut oil is worth trying as a pre- or/and post-wash treatment.  Labmuffin has an awesome blogpost explaining in more detail why coconut oil is good for your hair.

A couple of other things worth mentioning: coconut oil might help with wound healing (promising animal study), it has some antifungal activity (against dermatophytes that cause the thing known as ringworm) and it also works as an insect repellent against black flies. 

Overall, coconut oil is definitely a goodie for the hair and dry skin. If that warrants for the magic oil status it enjoys, we don't know. 

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-2

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

Chemically speaking, it is the attachment of a glycerin molecule to the fatty acid called stearic acid. It can be produced from most vegetable oils (in oils three fatty acid molecules are attached to glycerin instead of just one like here) 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".

Also-called: Soybean Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 3

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

A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.

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 >>

Also-called: Grape Seed Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient | Comedogenicity: 2-3

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Tangerine Essential Oil | What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

The essential oil coming from the rind of the mandarin orange also called tangerine. In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (80-97%), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer).

Other than that, citrus peel also contains the problematic compound called furanocoumarin that makes them mildly phototoxic. In general, the sweeter the citrus, the less it contains, so tangerine peel contains less of it than some other citruses (like bergamot or lime), but still, be careful with it especially if it is in a product for daytime use.  

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

A popular, vegetable-derived oil-loving emulsifier that helps water to mix with oil. In itself, it is suitable for water-in-oil emulsions (where water droplets are dispersed in oil), but it is more often used as a co-emulsifier next to other, water-loving emulsifiers. 

Chemically speaking, it comes from the attachment of sorbitan (a dehydrated sorbitol (sugar) molecule) with the fatty acid Stearic Acid, that creates a partly water (the sorbitan part) and partly oil soluble (stearic part) molecule. 

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. 

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. 

Also-called: Bitter Orange Essential Oil

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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: 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. 

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

A vegetable based co-surfactant that helps to create mild cleansing formulas

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.

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. 

Also-called: Bitter Orange Flower Oil, Neroli Oil

The essential oil coming from the flowers of bitter orange (which is the sister of the sweet orange we all know and eat). It contains several fragrance components including linalool (around 30%) and limonene (around 10%) and has a lovely sweet smell

As it's an essential oil with lots of fragrant components, be careful with it if your skin is sensitive.  

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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: 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

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

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 colorant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A type of clay that's a fine, white powder and is used for its oil-absorbing and opacifying properties. It's less absorbent and less drying than bentonite clay. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
Galactoarabinan is a natural polysaccharide (a big carbohydrate molecule) that comes from the Larch trees.According to the manufacturer it can do all kinds of good in a formula: [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 2, 2
A fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier).
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 4
There is definitely some craze going on for coconut oil both in the healthy eating space (often claimed to be the healthiest oil to cook with but this is a topic for another site) and in the skin and hair care space. We will talk here about the latter two and see why we might want to smear it all over ourselves. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 1-2
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 3
The emollient plant oil coming from the soybean. It is rich in barrier repairing linoleic acid (48-59%) and is generally a good moisturizing oil. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.
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 antioxidant | emollient
com. 2-3
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. 
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
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 viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the rind of the mandarin orange also called tangerine. In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (80-97%), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer). Other than that, citrus peel also contains the problematic compound called furanocoumarin tha [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying
irritancy, com. 1, 0
A popular, vegetable-derived oil-loving emulsifier that helps water to mix with oil. In itself, it is suitable for water-in-oil emulsions (where water droplets are dispersed in oil), but it is more often used as a co-emulsifier next to other, water-loving emulsifiers.  Chemically speaking, it comes from the attachment of sorbitan (a dehydrated sorbitol (sugar) molecule) with the fatty [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
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 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 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 surfactant/cleansing
A vegetable based co-surfactant that helps to create mild cleansing formulas. 
what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi and has only milder effect against bacteria. Popular in natural products.  [more]
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]
The essential oil coming from the flowers of bitter orange. Contains fragrant components that give it a nice sweet smell. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient that smells like rose and can be found in rose oil. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like smell. [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]