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ESPA Refining Skin Polish

Refining Skin Polish

A deeply cleansing, super-fine exfoliator to help refine, smooth and add radiance to dull or congested skin. Spherical Diatomaceous Earth exfoliates to help clear pores, lift impurities and balance uneven [more] [more] tone, while nourishing Rose Damascena and Shea Butter soften skin revealing a smooth and radiant complexion. [less]
Uploaded by: eituc on 11/11/2019

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water (Aqua) solvent
Diatomaceous Earth (Solum Diatomeae) abrasive/​scrub
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil emollient 0, 0 goodie
Glyceryl Stearate SE emulsifying 2, 3
Coco-Glucoside surfactant/​cleansing
Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter emollient goodie
Cetyl Alcohol emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling 2, 2
Coconut Alcohol emollient, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing, viscosity controlling
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Beeswax (Cera Alba) emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 0-2
Sorbitol moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Sodium PCA skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Styrax Benzoin Gum perfuming
Sucrose Cocoate emulsifying
Sclerotium Gum viscosity controlling
Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil perfuming icky
Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax emollient 0, 1
Sodium Lactate buffering, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Citronellol perfuming icky
Benzoic Acid preservative
Geraniol perfuming icky
Dehydroacetic Acid preservative
Linalool perfuming icky
Rosa Damascena Flower Oil antioxidant, perfuming, antimicrobial/​antibacterial icky
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie
Sodium Hydroxide buffering
Beta-Carotene
Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Extract antioxidant, emollient goodie
Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil emollient
Ascorbyl Palmitate antioxidant 0, 2 icky

ESPA Refining Skin Polish
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

Expand to read more

Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

What-it-does: abrasive/scrub

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

Sunflower does not need a big intro as you probably use it in the kitchen as cooking oil, or you munch on the seeds as a healthy snack or you adore its big, beautiful yellow flower during the summer - or you do all of these and probably even more. And by even more  we mean putting it all over your face as sunflower oil is one of the most commonly used plant oils in skincare.

It’s a real oldie: expressed directly from the seeds, the oil is used not for hundreds but thousands of years. According to The National Sunflower Association, there is evidence that both the plant and its oil were used by American Indians in the area of Arizona and New Mexico about 3000 BC. Do the math: it's more than 5000 years – definitely an oldie.

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Our intro did get pretty big after all (sorry for that), so let's get to the point finally: sunflower oil - similar to other plant oils - is a great emollient that makes the skin smooth and nice and helps to keep it hydrated. It also protects the surface of the skin and enhances the damaged or irritated skin barrier. Leslie Bauman notes in Cosmetic Dermatology that one application of sunflower oil significantly speeds up the recovery of the skin barrier within an hour and sustains the results 5 hours after using it.

It's also loaded with fatty acids (mostly linoleic (50-74%)  and oleic (14-35%)). The unrefined version (be sure to use that on your skin!) is especially high in linoleic acid that is great even for acne-prone skin. Its comedogen index is 0, meaning that it's pretty much an all skin-type oil

Truth be told, there are many great plant oils and sunflower oil is definitely one of them.

What-it-does: emulsifying | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 3

An oily kind of ingredient that can magically blend with water all by itself. This is called self-emulsifying and SE in its name stands for that.

The difference between "normal" Glyceryl Stearate and this guy is that the SE grade contains a small amount of water-loving soap molecules, such as sodium stearate. This increases Glyceryl Stearate's affinity for water and gives it stronger emulsifying abilities.    

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Other than that, it’s a nice emollient that gives a smooth and soft appearance to the skin.

You can read some more at Glyceryl Stearate >>

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

A vegetable origin (coconut/palm kernel oil, glucose) cleansing agent that gives moderate to high stable foam. It's also biodegradable and mild to the skin.

Also-called: Shea Butter | What-it-does: emollient

Unless you live under a rock you must have heard about shea butter. It's probably the most hyped up natural butter in skincare today. It comes from the seeds of African Shea or Karite Trees and used as a magic moisturizer and emollient.

But it's not only a simple emollient, it regenerates and soothes the skin, protects it from external factors (such as UV rays or wind) and is also rich in antioxidants (among others vitamin A, E, F, quercetin and epigallocatechin gallate). If you are looking for rich emollient benefits + more, shea is hard to beat. 

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.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

It's the yellow, solid stuff that you probably know from beeswax candles. It's a natural material produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb.

As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. It's super common in lip balms and lipsticks. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It's a sweet tasting sugar substitute that helps your skin to hold onto water when used in cosmetic products. It also helps to thicken up products and give them a bit more slip. 

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.

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

PCA stands for Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid and though it might not sound like it, it is a thing that can be found naturally in our skin. The sodium salt form of PCA is an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. 

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A big sugar molecule (polysaccharide) that is used as a natural thickening and gelling agent. It is similar to more commonly used Xanthan Gum, and the two are also often combined to create gel formulas or to stabilize emulsions. 

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

A vegetable wax coming from the leaves of the Brazilian tropical palm tree, Copernicia cerifera. Similar to other waxes, it is used to stabilize and give body to products, or to keep stick type formulas solid. It is the hardest natural wax with a high melting point (around 85C) and high gloss making it a great wax choice for lip products.

The sodium salt of lactic acid. It's a great skin moisturizer and also used to regulate the pH value of the cosmetic formula. It's a natural ingredient approved by both ECOCERT and COSMOS.

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

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.

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.

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.

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: Damask Rose Flower Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, perfuming, antimicrobial/antibacterial

We are big fans of all kinds of roses as ornamental plants but when it comes to skincare, it is a mixed bag. Before we list out the good and the not so good, here is an interesting thing. 

The oil content in rose is very, very low so distilling rose essential oil requires huge amounts of rose flowers. It has such a wonderful scent that there are no comparable synthetic alternatives. You can probably guess that this means rose essential oil is expensive.... very very expensive

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So the good things: thanks to its wonderful scent the high-end perfume industry loves rose oil. Also, we (humans :)) love rose oil. We love its scent so much that it can heal headaches, depression, stress, and even grief. 

Rose oil contains more than 95 compounds, among them flavonoids, anthocyanins, vitamin C, and quercetin that are all known for their medicinal properties and great antioxidant effects. Similar to many other essential oils, it has antimicrobial properties too. 

Now, the not-so-good thing? Out of the 95 compounds, the major ones are citronellol and geraniolfragrant components that might irritate sensitive skin.

 

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

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.

Tocopherol - goodie
Also-called: Vitamin E | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0-3 | Comedogenicity: 0-3
  • Primary fat-soluble antioxidant in our skin
  • Significant photoprotection against UVB rays
  • Vit C + Vit E work in synergy and provide great photoprotection
  • Has emollient properties
  • Easy to formulate, stable and relatively inexpensive
Read all the geeky details about Tocopherol here >>

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.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Carrot Root Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

The oil-soluble extract coming from the edible, orange part of the carrot. It is created by macerating the carrot root in a carrier oil such as sunflower or olive oil, and the resulting thing (base oil + carrot root extract) is often called carrot oil or carrot root oil. (Not to be confused with carrot seed oil, that can be fixed or essential and comes from the seeds.)

The root extract is known for containing the orange pigment beta-carotene, aka provitamin A. It is a famous molecule for being a potent antioxidant, suntan accelerator and having skin-regenerative abilities. Carrot oil also contains vitamin E and some fatty acids that give the oil further antioxidant and barrier repairing properties. 

Also-called: Carrot Seed Oil | What-it-does: emollient

The oil coming from the seeds of the carrot, the orange root vegetable we all know and eat regularly. This oil is a really tricky one, as it can refer to two types of oil that can both be extracted from the carrot seeds: the essential oil (about 0.83% yield) and the fixed oil (about 7.84% yield). 

The two seed oils are very different and to make matters even worse these two oils are also very different from carrot root oil, or carrot oil, that is basically carrot root extract macerated in a carrier oil such as sunflower or olive oil and is the one that contains the vitamin A precursor, carotene. 

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Let's start with the fixed oil: it's a nice emollient plant oil that is loaded with moisturizing fatty acids (petroselinic acid - 60% and linoleic acid - 12% are the main ones). Other important components are carotol (30%) and daucol (12%) that give the seed oil antifungal and antioxidant properties. Browsing cosmetic manufacturer info, the oil is also often described as revitalizing, toning and stimulating

As for the essential oil, it is a light yellow colored oil with a rich, spicy and earthy fragrance. Its main component is carotol (about 65%) but similar to other essential oils, it is a chemically complex mixture with lots of compounds in small amounts. The essential oil also has antifungal and antioxidant properties but also contains fragrant components that might irritate sensitive skin types. 

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. Even though we are massive vitamin C fans,  Ascorbyl Palmitate  (AP) is our least favorite. (Btw, if you do not know what the big deal with vitamin C is then you are missing out. You must go and read our geeky details about it.) 

So, AP is one of the attempts by the cosmetics industry to solve the stability issues with vitamin C while preserving its benefits,  but it seems to fall short on several things.

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What's the problem?

Firstly, it's stability is only similar to that of pure ascorbic acid (AA), which means it is not really stable. A great study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology compared a bunch of vitamin C derivatives and this derivative was the only one where the study said in terms of stability that it's "similar to AA". Not really that good.

Second, a study that examined the skin absorption of vitamin C found that ascorbyl palmitate did not increase the skin levels of AA. This does not mean that ascorbyl palmitate cannot penetrate the skin (because it can, it's oil soluble and the skin likes to absorb oil soluble things) but this means that it's questionable if ascorbyl palmitate can be converted into pure Vit C in the skin. Even if it can be converted, the palmitate part of the molecule is more than the half of it, so the efficacy will not be good and we have never seen a serum that contains a decent (and proudly disclosed) amount of AP.  We are highly skeptical what effect a tiny amount of AP has in a formula.

Third, another study that wanted to examine the antioxidant properties of AP was surprised to find that even though AP does have nice antioxidant properties; following UVB radiation (the same one that comes from the sun) it also promotes lipid peroxidation and cytotoxicity. It was only an in-vitro study meaning that it was done on cell cultures and not on real people, but still, this also does not support the use of AP too much. 

The only good thing we can write about Ascorbyl Palmitate is that there is an in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) study showing that it might be able to boost collagen production.

Regarding the skin-brightening properties of pure vitamin C, this is another magic property AP does not have, or at least there is no data, not even in-vitro, about it.

Overall, Ascorbyl Palmitate is our least favorite vitamin C derivative. It is there in lots of products in tiny amounts (honestly, we do not really understand why), however, we do not know about any vitamin C serum featuring AP in high amounts. That is probably no coincidence. If you are into vitamin C, you can take a look at more promising derivatives here

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 abrasive/scrub
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 0
Sunflower Oil - it's a great emollient that protects & enhances the skin barrier. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying
irritancy, com. 2, 3
An oily ingredient that can magically blend with water all by itself (called Self Emulsifying). Other than that it’s a nice emollient that gives a smooth and soft appearance to the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
A vegetable origin (coconut/palm kernel oil, glucose) cleansing agent that gives moderate to high stable foam. It's also biodegradable and mild to the skin.
what‑it‑does emollient
Shea butter that's considered to be a magic moisturizer and emollient. It is also soothing and rich in antioxidants. [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 | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing | viscosity controlling
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 emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 0-2
The yellow solid stuff produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb. As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's a sweet tasting sugar substitute that helps your skin to hold onto water when used in cosmetic products. It also helps to thicken up products and give them a bit more slip.  [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 skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
what‑it‑does emulsifying
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A big sugar molecule (polysaccharide) that is used as a natural thickening and gelling agent. It is similar to more commonly used Xanthan Gum, and the two are also often combined to create gel formulas or to stabilize emulsions.  [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 emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 1
A vegetable wax coming from the leaves of the Brazilian tropical palm tree, Copernicia cerifera. Similar to other waxes, it is used to stabilize and give body to products. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering | moisturizer/humectant
The sodium salt of lactic acid. It's a great skin moisturizer and also used to regulate the pH value of the cosmetic formula. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like smell. [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
A common fragrance ingredient that smells like rose and can be found in rose oil. [more]
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 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 antioxidant | perfuming | antimicrobial/antibacterial
Rose essential oil - a super expensive oil with a lovely scent. Has also antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Contains fragrant components that might irritate sensitive 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]
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]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0-3, 0-3
Pure Vitamin E. Great antioxidant that gives significant photoprotection against UVB rays. Works in synergy with Vitamin C. [more]
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]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
The oil-soluble extract coming from the edible, orange part of the carrot. It is created by macerating the carrot root in a carrier oil such as sunflower or olive oil, and the resulting thing (base oil + carrot root extract) is often called carrot oil or carrot root oil. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
The oil coming from the seeds of the carrot, the orange root vegetable we all know and eat regularly. This oil is a really tricky one, as it can refer to two types of oil that can both be extracted from the carrot seeds: [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0, 2
An oil soluble vitamin C derivative that has mixed data about its effectiveness. [more]