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ESPA Tri-Active™ Advanced ProBiome Serum

Tri-Active™ Advanced ProBiome Serum

Intensive age‐defying treatment, boosting resilience and restoring youthful vitality, radiance and elasticity.
Uploaded by: eituc on 11/11/2019

Ingredients overview

Water (Aqua), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Glycerin, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Alcohol, Pectin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylic/​Capric Triglyceride, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower Extract), [more]Sorbitol, Sodium PCA, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Limonene, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lactate, Sea Water (Maris Aqua), Ethylhexylglycerin, Avena Strigosa Seed Extract, Carrageenan, Cedrus Atlantica Bark Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Benzoic Acid, Lecithin, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Pelargonium Graveolens Oil, Dehydroacetic Acid, Alaria Esculenta Extract, Buddleja Officinalis Leaf Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Plankton Extract, Linalool, Phytic Acid, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Leaf/​Twig Oil, Paeonia Lactiflora Root Extract, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Extract, Geraniol, Glucose, Potassium Sorbate, Trehalose, Laminaria Digitata Extract, Citronellol, Sodium Benzoate, Acetic Acid, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Oil, Cymbopogon Nardus (Citronella) Oil, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower Extract, Litsea Cubeba Fruit Oil, Myrocarpus Fastigiatus Oil, Tocopherol, Chlorella Vulgaris Powder, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Citral, Benzyl Benzoate, Saccharide Isomerate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Benzyl Salicylate, Glyceryl Linoleate, Glyceryl Linolenate, Retinyl Palmitate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Oil, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Disodium EDTA, Glyceryl Caprylate
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Highlights

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Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water (Aqua) solvent
Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water soothing goodie
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Bifida Ferment Lysate goodie
Alcohol antimicrobial/​antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling icky
Pectin viscosity controlling
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride emollient
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower Extract) emollient 0, 0 goodie
Sorbitol moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0
Sodium PCA skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Limonene perfuming, solvent icky
Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil perfuming icky
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Propylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent 0, 0
Sodium Lactate buffering, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Sea Water (Maris Aqua) moisturizer/​humectant, solvent
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Avena Strigosa Seed Extract
Carrageenan viscosity controlling
Cedrus Atlantica Bark Oil perfuming
Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil perfuming icky
Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil perfuming icky
Benzoic Acid preservative
Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Inulin Lauryl Carbamate surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying
Pelargonium Graveolens Oil perfuming icky
Dehydroacetic Acid preservative
Alaria Esculenta Extract
Buddleja Officinalis Leaf Extract
Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Plankton Extract
Linalool perfuming icky
Phytic Acid skin brightening, chelating
Cananga Odorata Flower Oil perfuming icky
Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Leaf/Twig Oil
Paeonia Lactiflora Root Extract
Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Extract
Geraniol perfuming icky
Glucose moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Potassium Sorbate preservative
Trehalose moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Laminaria Digitata Extract
Citronellol perfuming icky
Sodium Benzoate preservative
Acetic Acid buffering
Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Oil
Cymbopogon Nardus (Citronella) Oil
Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower Extract perfuming
Litsea Cubeba Fruit Oil perfuming
Myrocarpus Fastigiatus Oil
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie
Chlorella Vulgaris Powder
Chondrus Crispus Extract moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Citric Acid exfoliant, buffering goodie
Lactic Acid exfoliant, moisturizer/​humectant superstar
Citral perfuming icky
Benzyl Benzoate solvent, perfuming, antimicrobial/​antibacterial icky
Saccharide Isomerate moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Benzyl Salicylate perfuming icky
Glyceryl Linoleate emollient, emulsifying
Glyceryl Linolenate emollient
Retinyl Palmitate cell-communicating ingredient 1-3, 1-3
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate antioxidant, anti-acne goodie
Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Oil icky
Rosa Damascena Flower Oil antioxidant, perfuming, antimicrobial/​antibacterial icky
Disodium EDTA chelating
Glyceryl Caprylate emollient, emulsifying

ESPA Tri-Active™ Advanced ProBiome Serum
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: soothing, astringent

The distillate created from different parts of the hazelnut-bush-like magic tree, commonly called Witch Hazel. Hamamelis Virginiana Water is a bit of a sloppy ingredient name as the leaves, the twigs and the bark can be used to create extracts or distillates and the different parts contain different amounts of biologically active components. But what you are getting is probably a nice water with astringent, soothing, antioxidant and antibacterial magic properties.  

We went into great detail about Witch Hazel in cosmetics here, detailing the main biologically active components and how they are different in different parts of the plant. Click here and read more >>

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 >>

Bifida Ferment Lysate is a probiotic ingredient that’s used in one of the most iconic serums in the world, the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair. Based on manufacturer info it potently protects against UV-induced damage in the skin and helps with DNA repair. An Estee Lauder patent from 2009 also talks about DNA repair activity.

As far as published research goes we could find one promising one. It showed that applying 10% bacterial extract to sensitive, reactive skin helped with better barrier function and decreased skin sensitivity

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Overall, it is definitely a promising ingredient, even for sensitive skin types but not the most proven one (yet).

Alcohol - icky
Also-called: Ethanol | What-it-does: antimicrobial/antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling, astringent

Simply alcohol refers to ethanol and it's a pretty controversial ingredient. It has many instant benefits: it's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial. No wonder it's popular in toners and oily skin formulas. 

The downside is that it can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list. 

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Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion. If you wanna know more, we wrote a more detailed explanation about what's the deal with alcohol in skincare products at alcohol denat. (it's also alcohol, but with some additives to make sure no one drinks it).

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.

What-it-does: emollient

A super common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. It comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. It’s a nice ingredient that just feels good on the skin, and it’s also easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular. 

Also-called: Sunflower Oil;Helianthus Annuus Seed 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: 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. 

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. 

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). 

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

It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMFhyaluronic acid (HA). If HA does not tell you anything we have a super detailed, geeky explanation about it here.  The TL; DR version of HA is that it's a huge polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) found in the skin that acts as a sponge helping the skin to hold onto water, being plump and elastic. HA is famous for its crazy water holding capacity as it can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water.

As far as skincare goes, sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid are pretty much the same and the two names are used interchangeably. As cosmetic chemist kindofstephen writes on reddit  "sodium hyaluronate disassociates into hyaluronic acid molecule and a sodium atom in solution". 

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In spite of this, if you search for "hyaluronic acid vs sodium hyaluronate" you will find on multiple places that sodium hyaluronate is smaller and can penetrate the skin better. Chemically, this is definitely not true, as the two forms are almost the same, both are polymers and the subunits can be repeated in both forms as much as you like. (We also checked Prospector for sodium hyaluronate versions actually used in cosmetic products and found that the most common molecular weight was 1.5-1.8 million Da that absolutely counts as high molecular weight).

What seems to be a true difference, though, is that the salt form is more stable, easier to formulate and cheaper so it pops up more often on the ingredient lists. 

If you wanna become a real HA-and-the-skin expert you can read way more about the topic at hyaluronic acid (including penetration-questions, differences between high and low molecular weight versions and a bunch of references to scientific literature).

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: Sweet Orange Peel Oil, Citrus Sinensis Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the rind of the orange (the sweet one). In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (83-97% for sweet orange peel), 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. Orange 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.  

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.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • 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)
Read all the geeky details about Propylene Glycol here >>

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.

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A natural polysaccharide (big sugar molecule) coming from red edible seaweeds. It is used as a helper ingredient for its gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties.  

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Bergamot Fruit Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the fruit (probably the rind) of the bergamot orange.  It's a common top note in perfumes and contains (among others) fragrant compounds limonene (37%), linalyl acetate (30%) and linalool (8.8%). 

A well-known issue with bergamot oil (apart from the fragrance allergens) is that it contains phototoxic compounds called furanocoumarins, but more and more commonly furanocoumarin-free versions are used in cosmetic products. Still, if you have sensitive skin and prefer fragrance-free products, bergamot oil is not for you.

Also-called: Mandarin Orange Oil, Tangor Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the peel of the mandarin orange or tangor. In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (77-86% for mandarin peel), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer).  Apart from smelling nice (and thus being a popular natural fragrance alternative), Mandarin Orange Oil also has significant antioxidant properties that's comparable to synthetic antioxidant BHT or oil-soluble antioxidant big shot vitamin E

On the con side, the fragrant components of citrus peels might irritate sensitive skin and citrus peels also contain the problematic compound called furanocoumarin that makes them (mildly) phototoxic. Orange mandarin peel contains less from it than some other citruses (like bergamot or lime), but still, be careful with it especially if it's in a product for daytime use.  

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.

Lecithin - goodie
What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A very common ingredient that can be found in all cell membranes. In cosmetics it's quite the multi-tasker: it's an emollient and water-binding ingredient but it's also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes

polymeric (big molecule from repeated subunits) emulsifier that comes from Inulin, a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the roots and rhizomes of several plants. The emulsifier is obtained by adding oil-loving chains onto inulin. The resulting copolymer can emulsify high amounts of oil and can stabilize oil droplets or non-water soluble particles so that they do not clump together in the formula. 

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

The fragrant essential oil coming from the whole plant of Rose Geranium. It has a lovely scent with a mix of rose and citrus. 

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

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.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

The extract coming from the lovely herb, rosemary. It contains lots of chemicals, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and diterpenes. Its main active is rosmarinic acid, a potent antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. It has also anti-bacterial, astringent and toning properties. 

The leaves contain a small amount of essential oil (1-2%) with fragrant components, so if you are allergic to fragrance, it might be better to avoid it. 

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.

Expand to read more

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: skin brightening, chelating

Though its name says acid, it's not really an exfoliant. It's a plant extract with some antioxidant properties. Its main thing in cosmetic products is to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.  It's a natural alternative to sometimes bad-mouthed chelating agents, EDTAs.

Also-called: Ylang Ylang Essential Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

Sweet, exotic and floral, it’ no surprise that Ylang Ylang is a popular essential oil. It is coming from the yellow, fragrant flowers of the Cananga tree native to tropical Asia and, similar to other essential oils, it is a chemically complex mixture with several pros and cons. 

Unfortunately, these are a bit tricky to pin down as the composition varies largely depending on where it is sourced, how the oil is extracted and the grade of it that is used in the product, but we’ll do our best!

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Let’s start with the easy stuff.  The main components are fragrant molecules, including super common linalool (1-19%), benzyl benzoate (2-10%) and several others adding up to a max amount of 37.6% of EU sensitizers. The most expensive Extra grade is the most fragrant (has more benzyl acetate and cresyl methyl ether) and is used in high-end perfumes, while the First and Second grades are less fragrant, and used mainly in cosmetics.   

Other than smelling nice and making cosmetic formulas also smell nice, Ylang Ylang might have some antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits and also works as an insect repellent. Its nice smell is also commonly known as being relaxing and calming (also backed up by a few recent studies), but it is an aromatherapy use case (when inhaled) so this probably does not count much skincare-wise. 

On the other hand, the nice smell also means allergen fragrant components and 37.6% of EU sensitizers counts as quite high and the oil is considered to have high skin sensitization potential. It is a good idea to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

Also-called: Petitgrain Oil

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Orange Flower Absolute

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.

Glucose - goodie
What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

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

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.

Trehalose - goodie
What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A type of sugar that has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated

Also-called: Horsetail Kelp Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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 helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi. 

It’s pH dependent and works best at acidic pH levels (3-5). It’s not strong enough to be used in itself so it’s always combined with something else, often with potassium sorbate.

What-it-does: buffering

The acid found in vinegar. Can be a skin irritant and drying in larger amounts but in tiny amounts, it's used to set the pH of the cosmetic formula. Has also some disinfecting properties.

What-it-does: astringent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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 >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Carrageenan Extract, Seaweed Extract | What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

The extract of red seaweed that has nice film-forming, skin smoothing and moisturizing properties.​

The manufacturer claims that thanks to biomimetic properties between skin proteins and carrageenans it has a very long-lasting action and can form a "second skin". It also gives a "slow-release" effect to oil-loving active ingredients and measurably reduces trans-epidermal water loss (that's pretty much a synonym of saying that it moisturizes the skin). 

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. 

Lactic Acid - superstar
  • It’s the second most researched AHA after glycolic acid
  • It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin
  • It also has amazing skin hydrating properties
  • In higher concentration (10% and up) it improves skin firmness, thickness and wrinkles
  • Choose a product where you know the concentration and pH value because these two greatly influence effectiveness
  • Don’t forget to use your sunscreen (in any case but especially so next to an AHA product)
Read all the geeky details about Lactic Acid here >>

Citral - icky
What-it-does: perfuming

It’s a common fragrance ingredient that smells like lemon and has a bittersweet taste.  It can be found in many plant oils, e.g. lemon, orange, lime or lemongrass. 

It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

A common fragrance ingredient that has a faint sweet balsamic smell. It can also be a solvent and can fight against microbes and insects very well.

It's one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A 100% natural and plant-derived moisturizer that mimics the natural carbohydrate fraction found in the upper layer of the skin. Its special magic power is to bind to the skin stronger and longer than other moisturizer ingredients do so it can keep the skin hydrated longer than usual.

Also-called: Vitamin E Acetate | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the most commonly used version of pure vitamin E in cosmetics. You can read all about the pure form here. This one is the so-called esterified version. 

According to famous dermatologist, Leslie Baumann while tocopheryl acetate is more stable and has a longer shelf life, it’s also more poorly absorbed by the skin and may not have the same awesome photoprotective effects as pure Vit E. 

What-it-does: perfuming

It’s a common fragrance ingredient that has a light floral smell.  It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient | Irritancy: 1-3 | Comedogenicity: 1-3

It's an ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that belongs to the "retinoid family". The retinoid family is pretty much the royal family of skincare, with the queen being the FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient tretinoin. Retinol is also a very famous member of the family, but it's like Prince William, two steps away from the throne. Retinyl palmitate will be then little Prince George, quite far (3 steps) away from the throne. 

By steps, we mean metabolic steps. Tretinoin, aka retinoic acid, is the active ingredient our skin cells can understand and retinyl palmitate (RP) has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to actually do something. The conversion is a 3 step one and looks like this:

Expand to read more

retinyl palmitate --> retinol -- > retinaldehyde --> all-trans-retinoic acid

As we wrote in our lengthy retinol description the problem is that the conversion is not terribly effective. The evidence that RP is still an effective anti-aging ingredient is not very strong, in fact, it's weak. Dr. Leslie Baumann in her fantastic Cosmetic Dermatology book writes that RP is topically ineffective

What's more, the anti-aging effectiveness is not the only questionable thing about RP. It also exibits questionable behaviour in the presence of UV light and was the center of a debate between the non-profit group, EWG (whose intentions are no doubt good, but its credibility is often questioned by scientists) and a group of scientists and dermatologists lead by Steven Q. Wang, MD,  director of dermatologic surgery at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. 

Dr. Leslie Baumann wrote a great review of the debate and summarized the research available about retinyl palmitate here.  It seems that there is a study showing RP being photo protective against UVB rays but there is also a study showing RP causing DNA damage and cytotoxicity in association with UVA. 

We think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we agree with Dr. Baumann's conclusion: "sufficient evidence to establish a causal link between RP and skin cancer has not been produced. Nor, I’m afraid, are there any good reasons to recommend the use of RP". We would add especially during the day!

Bottom line: If you wanna get serious about retinoids, RP is not your ingredient (retinol or tretinoin is!). However, if you use a product that you like and it also contains RP, there is no reason to throw it away. If possible use it at night, just to be on the safe side.

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C, SAP | What-it-does: antioxidant, anti-acne

The sodium salt form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. If you do not know what the big fuss about vitamin C is, you are missing out and you have to click here and read all the geeky details about it.

Pure vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid, AA) is great and all, but its lack of stability is a big challenge for the cosmetics industry. One solution is to create stable derivatives that can be absorbed into the skin, convert there to AA and do all the magic AA is proven to do (which is being an antioxidant, a collagen booster, and a skin brightener).

Expand to read more

SAP (the vit C derivative, not the enterprise software, obvs) is a promising derivative that has great stability up to pH 7. The challenge with it though is skin penetration. Unfortunately, it seems to be limited, or to quote a great article from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology "topically applied ascorbyl phosphate salts are, at very best, poorly absorbed in comparison with AA". Regarding conversion to AA, there seems to be no data about it, so we can neither deny nor confirm it.

We have better news regarding the three magic abilities of vitamin C: there is in-vivo (tested on real people) data showing that SAP does have photo-protective (aka antioxidant) properties, though less than pure AA. SAP might also aid collagen boosting; in-vitro (made in the lab) data shows that it works, but is less effective than another vitamin C derivative, called MAP (that seems to be as effective as pure AA). As for skin-brightening, there is a trade publication with in-vivo data showing that SAP can fade brown spots

Another thing SAP might be able to do is to help with acne. A 2005 study showed in vitro (in test tubes) that 1% SAP has a strong antimicrobial activity on evil acne causing P. acnes and it also showed in vivo (on real people) that 5% SAP can strongly improve the inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions of acne vulgaris. In fact, the results were comparable or even slightly better than with 5% benzoyl peroxide. 

And there is even more regarding SAP and acne. A nice double-blind study from 2009 showed that  5% SAP reduced the inflammatory lesions by 20.14% and 48.82% within 4 and 8 weeks respectively and when combined with 0.2% retinol the results were even better. With this combination treatment, the improvement was 29.28% after 4 weeks and 63.10% after 8 weeks of application. 

Aside from research studies, anecdotal evidence also supports SAP being a promising vitamin C derivative. One of the best-selling (vitamin C) serums in Sephora is the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, while on Amazon it's the OzNaturals Vitamin C 20 Serum. Another popular choice is the Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum, and all of these contain vitamin C in the form of SAP. 

Overall, we think SAP is a goody!  In terms of anti-aging, it's probably not as effective as pure Ascorbic Acid, but it's totally worth a try. However, if your skin is acne-prone, SAP is your form of Vitamin C and it's a must-try.

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.  

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

Expand to read more

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: chelating

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.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A 100% plant derived, natural (Ecocert approved) multi-functional ingredient that has emollient and moisturizing properties, can work as a co-emulsifier (meaning that next to other emulsifiers it can help water and oil to mix)  and even more importantly has a strong antimicrobial activity

Thanks to this last thing, it allows a lower percentage of traditional preservative or it might even be able to completely replace them. 

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 soothing
The distillate created from the hazelnut-bush-like magic tree, commonly called Witch Hazel. It might have astringent, soothing, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. [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]
A probiotic ingredient that might protect against UV-induced damage, help barrier repair and decrease skin sensitivity. [more]
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial | solvent | viscosity controlling
Simple alcohol that's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent, and antimicrobial. In large amount can be very drying. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
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 emollient
A very common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. Comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. [more]
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 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 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 viscosity controlling
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
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 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 perfuming
The essential oil coming from the rind of the orange. Its main component (83-97%) is limonene, the super common fragrant ingredient. [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 moisturizer/humectant | solvent
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A common glycol that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products. It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer. [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 moisturizer/humectant | solvent
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 viscosity controlling
A natural polysaccharide (big sugar molecule) coming from red edible seaweeds. It is used as a helper ingredient for its gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the fruit (probably the rind) of the bergamot orange.  It's a common top note in perfumes and contains (among others) fragrant compounds limonene (37%), linalyl acetate (30%) and linalool (8.8%). A well-known issue with bergamot oil (apart from the fragrance allergens) is that it contains phototoxic  [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the peel of the mandarin orange. Contains the fragrant component limonene (77-86%) and makes things smell nice. [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 emollient | emulsifying
It's quite the multi-tasker: an emollient and water-binding ingredient but also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes.  [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
A polymeric (big molecule from repeated subunits) emulsifier that comes from Inulin. It can emulsify high amounts of oil and stabilize oil droplets or non-water soluble particles so that they do not clump together.  [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The fragrant essential oil coming from the whole plant of Rose Geranium. It has a lovely scent with a mix of rose and citrus.  Like most essential oils, it contains antioxidant and antimicrobial components, but the main ones are fragrant constituents (like geraniol and citronellol). [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 antioxidant | soothing | antimicrobial/antibacterial
Rosemary leaf extract - Its main active is rosmarinic acid, a potent antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. It has also anti-bacterial, astringent and toning properties. [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 skin brightening | chelating
Though its name says acid, it's not really an exfoliant. It's a plant extract with some antioxidant properties. Its main thing in cosmetic products is to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
Sweet, exotic and floral, it’ no surprise that Ylang Ylang is a popular essential oil. It is coming from the yellow, fragrant flowers of the Cananga tree native to tropical Asia and, similar to other essential oils, it is a chemically complex mixture with several pros and cons. Unfortunately, these are a bit tricky to pin down as the composition varies largely depending on where it is so [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient that smells like rose and can be found in rose oil. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
Sugar - as a skincare ingredient it has water-binding properties, which means that it helps to keep your skin nice and hydrated.  [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 moisturizer/humectant
A type of sugar that has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated. 
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like smell. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi. Has to be combined with other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
The acid found in vinegar. Can be a skin irritant and drying in larger amounts but in tiny amounts, it's used to set the pH of the cosmetic formula. Has also some disinfecting properties.
what‑it‑does perfuming
what‑it‑does perfuming
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 moisturizer/humectant
The extract of red seaweed that has nice film-forming, skin smoothing and moisturizing properties.​ [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]
what‑it‑does exfoliant | moisturizer/humectant
A superstar AHA that not only exfoliates skin but is also a very good moisturizer. In higher concentration (10% and up) it can even improve skin firmness, thickness, and wrinkles. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient that smells like lemon. [more]
what‑it‑does solvent | perfuming | antimicrobial/antibacterial
A common fragrance ingredient that has a faint sweet balsamic smell. It can also be a solvent and can fight against microbes and insects very well. One of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately because of allergen potential.
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A natural moisturizer that can bind to the skin stronger and longer than other similar ingredients so it can keep the skin hydrated longer than usual. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A form of vitamin E that works as an antioxidant. Compared to the pure form it's more stable, has longer shelf life, but it's also more poorly absorbed by the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
It’s a common fragrance ingredient that has a light floral smell.  It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
what‑it‑does emollient
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
irritancy, com. 1-3, 1-3
An ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that is pretty much the least effective member of the retinoid family. Its anti-aging effects are quite questionable as well as its behavior in the presence of UVA light. (Use it at night if possible!) [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | anti-acne
The sodium salt form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. If you do not know what the big fuss about vitamin C is, you are missing out and you have to click here and read all the geeky details about it. Pure vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid, AA) is great and all, but its lack of stability is a big challenge for the cosmetics industry. [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 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 chelating
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
A natural multi-functional ingredient that has emollient and moisturizing properties, can work as a co-emulsifier and has a strong antimicrobial activity. [more]