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Ester Lauder Victoria Beckham Morning Aura Illuminating Primer
Ester Lauder

Victoria Beckham Morning Aura Illuminating Primer

"Beautiful skin is the starting point of the entire collection," says Victoria Beckham of the hero product in her Estée Lauder lineup. "'Morning Aura' is part moisturizer, part brightening primer. [more] [more] It gives my skin a fresh morning glow." This illuminating creme is infused with micro-pearls for a polished, perfected look. Wear it alone or as a beautiful base under makeup. [less]
Uploaded by: jimjam0810 on 16/09/2017

Ingredients overview

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 emollient
A vegetable origin emollient that has a similar consistency to lard (solid at room temperature) but melts rapidly upon contact with the skin.  Makes the skin nice and smooth, and not shiny or heavy.
what‑it‑does emollient
The famous Vaseline or Petroleum Jelly. Just like mineral oil, it is also a by-product of refining crude oil, aka petroleum, and it is also a mixture of hydrocarbons but with bigger (C18-90+) carbon chain length.The unique thing about petrolatum is that it is the most effective occlusive agent known today. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
irritancy, com. 0, 1
An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's a nice glycerin-based humectant and emollient that gives skin a smooth and luxurious feel.
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The sweet, gooey, sugar-laden stuff with skin moisturizing, soothing, antibacterial and some antioxidant properties. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 1
A very common silicone that gives both skin and hair a silky smooth feel. It also forms a protective barrier on the skin and fills in fine lines. Also used for scar treatment. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 1, 2
A super common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient) and gives body to creams. [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 solvent | moisturizer/humectant
A natural corn sugar derived glycol. It can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | moisturizer/humectant
An extract that comes from one or more of the 20 000 kinds of algae out there. In general algae extracts serve as moisturizing, emollient and thickening agents, and many of them also have additional anti-aging properties. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
The well-known stimulant from coffee. It has nice antioxidant properties and can improve the microcirculation. Might be helpful for dark circles, puffy eyes, as well as cellulite and hair loss. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient
The famous omega-6 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-6 fatty acids in our body. It is a so-called polyunsaturated fatty acid meaning it has more than one (in this case two) double bonds and a somewhat kinky structure that makes LA and LA-rich oils a thin liquid.It is also an essential fatty acid meaning our body cannot synthesize  [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
Soapberry/Washnut - The fruit of a big tree living in tropical Asia that's traditionally used as a cleansing agent. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
what‑it‑does 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 viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 2, 0-5
It's a waxy emollient with a melting point near to skin temperature. It gives body and consistency to the formula and leaves a velvety feel on the skin. It has a high comedogenicity index (5 out of 5), so it might clog pores if you are prone to it. [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 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 | solvent
A light, velvety, unique skin feel liquid that is a good solvent and also makes the skin feel nice and smooth. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A sugar based emulsifier that's especially great for low viscosity lotions or even sprays. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A common helper ingredient that stabilizes emulsions and helps to thicken up products. [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 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 emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier. [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 moisturizer/humectant
A type of sugar that has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated. 
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 4, 2
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 emollient | moisturizer/humectant | viscosity controlling
Officially, CosIng (the official EU ingredient database) lists Aluminum Hydroxide 's functions as opacifying (making the product white and non-transparent), as well as emollient and skin protectant.However, with a little bit of digging, it turns out Aluminum Hyroxide often moonlights as a protective coating for UV filter superstar Titanium Dioxide. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
It's a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of the products to be right. It has an alkaline pH and can neutralize acidic ingredients.
what‑it‑does colorant
Far from the tin cans you find in the supermarket, Tin Oxide is mostly used when dealing with so-called effect pigments, tricky composite pigments that can do color travel (change color depending on the viewing angle) or give multiple color effect. It's often found alongside Mica (as a base material) and Titanium Dioxide (as a coating) to give a glossy, pearlescent effect. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A kind of polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) that helps to thicken up and stabilize products. Helps to create soft and supple textures.  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 2-3
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
what‑it‑does emulsifying | solvent | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0-1, 0-2
Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable.  Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® [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 antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [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 sunscreen
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with pretty broad spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection and good stability. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]
A mineral powder used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product some light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent. A real multi-tasker. [more]

Highlights

Show all ingredients by function

Other Ingredients

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water/Aqua/Eau solvent
Caprylic/Capric/Myristic/Stearic Triglyceride emollient
Petrolatum emollient
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent 0, 1
Hexyldecyl Stearate emollient
Polybutene viscosity controlling
Glycereth-26 moisturizer/​humectant, emollient 0, 0
Peg-100 Stearate surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying 0, 0
Honey/Mel/Miel soothing, moisturizer/​humectant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Dimethicone emollient 0, 1
Cetearyl Alcohol emollient, viscosity controlling 1, 2
Glyceryl Stearate emollient, emulsifying 0, 1-2
Propanediol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Morinda Citrifolia Fruit Extract
Algae Extract emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Caffeine antioxidant goodie
Linoleic Acid skin-identical ingredient, emollient goodie
Sapindus Mukurossi Fruit Extract surfactant/​cleansing goodie
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Sorbitol moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0
Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum viscosity controlling
Myristyl Myristate emollient 2, 0-5
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Isohexadecane emollient, solvent
Cetearyl Glucoside emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Acrylates/ C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer viscosity controlling
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride emollient goodie
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Polysorbate 80 emulsifying 0, 0
Citric Acid exfoliant, buffering goodie
Trehalose moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Myristyl Alcohol emollient, viscosity controlling 4, 2
Potassium Sorbate preservative
Aluminum Hydroxide emollient, moisturizer/​humectant, viscosity controlling
Tromethamine buffering
Tin Oxide colorant
Acrylamide/ Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer viscosity controlling
Stearic Acid emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 2-3
Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate antioxidant
Hexylene Glycol emulsifying, solvent, surfactant/​cleansing 0-1, 0-2
Disodium Edta chelating
Bht antioxidant, preservative
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Titanium Dioxide sunscreen goodie
Mica

Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua;Water | 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: emollient

A vegetable origin emollient that has a similar consistency to lard (solid at room temperature) but melts rapidly upon contact with the skin.  It's claimed to have great skin compatibility, penetrates easily, does not feel tacky or heavy on the skin and does not leave a greasy shine.

Also-called: Petroleum jelly, Vaseline | What-it-does: emollient

The famous Vaseline or Petroleum Jelly. Just like mineral oil, it is also a by-product of refining crude oil, aka petroleum, and it is also a mixture of hydrocarbons but with bigger (C18-90+) carbon chain length.

The unique thing about petrolatum is that it is the most effective occlusive agent known today. While the occlusivity of mineral oil is in the same league as the occlusivity of plant oils, petrolatum is in a league of its own. It sits on top of the skin and hinders so-called transepidermal water loss (TEWL) like nothing else.

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This comes in handy healing cracked lips or severely dry skin patches, though overdoing it (i.e. reducing TEWL by more than 40%) is not good as it can create a nice moist place for fungi and bacteria to grow.  

As for petrolatum and safety, we can write here pretty much the exact same thing as we have written at mineral oil. There is no evidence whatsoever that cosmetic, USP grade petrolatum is carcinogenic. It also does not absorb into the skin but sits on top of it and that in itself greatly minimises health risks. It also has a long history of safe use, as it was first used as a skincare product more than 100 years ago, in 1872 to be precise. 

It is also non-comedogenic, though its pure form is very heavy and greasy so combination and oily skin types might want to avoid it anyway. 

Overall, it is the gold-standard occlusive agent known today and a tub of Vaseline comes in handy in any household to heal cracked lips or other severely dry skin patches.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.  

BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.

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It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive. 

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

It's a nice glycerin-based humectant and emollient that gives skin a smooth and luxurious feel.

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A very common water-loving surfactant and emulsifier that helps to keep water and oil mixed nicely together. 

It's often paired with glyceryl stearate - the two together form a super effective emulsifier duo that's salt and acid tolerant and works over a wide pH range. It also gives a "pleasing product aesthetics", so no wonder it's popular.

Also-called: Mel;Honey | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant, antimicrobial/antibacterial

We all know honey as the sweet, gooey stuff that is lovely to sweeten a good cup of tea and we have good news about putting honey all over our skin. It is just as lovely on the skin as it is in the tea. 

The great review article about honey in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology writes that it is arguably the oldest skincare ingredient and evidence from around 4500 BC mentions honey in some eye cream recipes. Chemically speaking, it is a bee-derived, supersaturated sugar solution.  About 95% of honey dry weight is sugar and the other 5% consists of a great number of other minor components including proteins, amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, and minerals

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This unique and complex chemical composition gives honey a bunch of nice skin care properties: it is very moisturizing, has soothing and antioxidant abilities as well as significant antibacterial and antifungal magic powers. There is also a lot of empirical evidence with emerging scientific backup that honey dressing promotes the healing of wounds and burns.

One tricky thing about honey though, is that it can have lots of different floral sources and different types of honey have a somewhat different composition and thus somewhat different properties. For example, the darker the honey the richer it is in antioxidant phenolic compounds.  Two special types of honey are acacia and manuka. The former is unique and popular because of its higher than usual fructose content that makes it more water-soluble and easier to stabilize in cosmetic formulas. The latter comes from the Leptospermum Scoparium tree native to New Zeland and its special thing is its extra strong antibacterial power due to a unique component called methylglyoxal.  

Overall, honey is a real skin-goodie in pretty much every shape and form, and it is a nice one to spot on the ingredient list. 

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

Probably the cheapest and most common silicone of all. It is a polymer (created from repeating subunits) molecule and has different molecular weight and thus different viscosity versions from water-light to thick liquid.

As for skincare, it makes the skin silky smooth, creates a subtle gloss and forms a protective barrier. Also, works well to fill in fine lines and wrinkles and give skin a plump look (of course that is only temporary, but still, it's nice). There are also scar treatment gels out there using dimethicone as their base ingredient. It helps to soften scars and increase their elasticity. 

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As for hair care, it is a non-volatile silicone meaning that it stays on the hair rather than evaporates from it and smoothes the hair like no other thing. Depending on your hair type, it can be a bit difficult to wash out and might cause some build-up (btw, this is not true to all silicones, only the non-volatile types). 

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 2

An extremely common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient) and gives body to creams and lotions. It also helps to stabilize oil-water mixes (emulsions), though it does not function as an emulsifier in itself. Its typical use level in most cream type formulas is 2-3%.  

It’s a so-called fatty alcohol, a mix of cetyl and stearyl alcohol, other two emollient fatty alcohols.  Though chemically speaking, it is alcohol (as in, it has an -OH group in its molecule), its properties are totally different from the properties of low molecular weight or drying alcohols such as denat. alcohol. Fatty alcohols have a long oil-soluble (and thus emollient) tail part that makes them absolutely non-drying and non-irritating and are totally ok for the skin.

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: Zemea | What-it-does: solvent, moisturizer/humectant

Propanediol is a natural alternative for the often used and often bad-mouthed propylene glycol. It's produced sustainably from corn sugar and it's Ecocert approved. 

It's quite a multi-tasker: can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. 

Also-called: Noni Fruit Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Algae Extract - goodie

We have to admit that Algae Extract is not our favorite ingredient name. It does comply with the INCI standard (the official list about how ingredients on the product labels have to be called, the thing we help you to decode here :)), but there are about 20 000 different kinds of algae and an extract from them can be made in another 10 000 ways.

So, Algae Extract can be anything from La Mer's "Miracle Broth" to a simple brown algae extract that helps to smooth the hair. The official description in the Europiean Cosmetic Ingredient listing is this: "an extract of various species of Algae; Extract of the Seaweed, Fucus vesiculosus, Furaceae". Its official functions include being a humectant (helps skin to attract water), emollient (makes skin feel smooth and nice) and skin conditioner (a catchall phrase for saying it does something good for the skin).

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A 2015 research paper on the potential of uses of algae in cosmetics summarizes that algae are rich sources of biologically active metabolites including antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, alginates, polysaccharides, and carotenoids. Currently, algae extracts are mostly used as moisturizing and thickening agents, but algae also have great potential to combat skin aging, pigmentation as well as working as an antimicrobial.

We have also browsed through Prospector to see what manufacturers say about their algae. There is, for example, an algae extract trade-named Lanablue that comes from blue-green algae (green algae is rare, less than 1% of the total macroalgae in the world) and is claimed to have retinoid like effects (i.e. reduce wrinkles, smooth skin) but without the side effects (though it seems now that the INCI name of Lanablue was changed to Aphanizomenon Flos-Aquae Extract). 

There is another algae extract from another manufacturer that comes from red algae (much more common, about 40% of total macroalgae worldwide) and is claimed to have not only moisturizing but also skin smoothing and densifying effects. 

Here is a brown algae extract (the most common type, about 59% of macroalgae), also just called Algae Extract on the product label that is simply claimed to be a free radical scavenger, aka antioxidant. These were just three random examples from three manufacturers all called Algae extract even though they all come from different algae with different claims.

Anyhow, the point is this; there are tons of different types of Algae Extracts out there. Unless the brand tells you what they use, it's impossible to know for sure. The most probable scenario for the Alge Extract is that it works as a moisturizer and emollient and it might have some additional anti-aging properties.

Caffeine - goodie
What-it-does: antioxidant

Hello, our favorite molecule that helps us wake up in the morning and then keeps us going through the day. As a super well-known stimulant from coffee, tea and plenty of other soft drinks, Caffeine needs no introduction. So we will skip right to the part where we talk about what the hell it does in so-so many cosmetic products.

Looking at the research, we were surprised to find how versatile Caffeine is. It is a small, water-loving molecule with pretty good skin penetration abilties. Once in the skin, it has nice antioxidant properties, meaning that it reduces the formation of evil free radicals and it might even be useful in preventing UV-induced skin cancers. 

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A well-known thing about Caffeine is that it improves the microcirculation of the blood vessels. Though conventional wisdom and anecdotal evidence says that this property is helpful for dark under-eye circles and puffy eyes, we have to mention that the double-blind research we have found about a 3% caffeine gel concluded that "the overall efficacy of the selected caffeine gel in reducing puffy eyes was not significantly different from that of its gel base."  But you know, the proof is in the pudding.

Another thing Caffeine is used for in body care products is its anti-cellulite effects. In theory, it can speed up the lipolysis process (the "fat burning"  by our cells) and stimulate the draining lymph system that might lead to the improvement of cellulite. But here again, the evidence that it actually makes a measurable, let alone visible,  improvement on actual human beings is limited (we could find only some animal skin studies or caffeine being combined with other actives). 

Last, but not least, we have to write about caffeine and hair growth. The theory is that it can inhibit the activity of the 5-α-reductase enzyme that plays an important role in hair loss and allows a renewed growth phase of the hair. We have found some recent and promising research to back this up. A 2017 study compared a 0.2% caffeine liquid with a 5% Minoxidil  (an FDA approved active to treat baldness) solution and found that  "a caffeine-based topical liquid should be considered as not inferior to minoxidil 5% solution in men with androgenetic alopecia", or English translation means that the caffeine liquid was pretty much as good as the FDA-approved Minoxidil stuff. Not bad!

Overall, we think that caffeine is a very versatile and biologically active ingredient. Even though some of its effects are more hyped up than backed up, it is still a nice to have on many ingredient lists. 

Linoleic Acid - goodie
Also-called: LA, omega-6 fatty acid, 18:2 cis-9,12, Form of Vitamin F | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient

The famous omega-6 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-6 fatty acids in our body. It is a so-called polyunsaturated fatty acid meaning it has more than one (in this case two) double bonds and a somewhat kinky structure that makes LA and LA-rich oils a thin liquid.

It is also an essential fatty acid meaning our body cannot synthesize it and has to take it from food. This is not hard at all as plenty of nuts (such as flax, poppy or sesame seeds) and vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower) are rich in LA. The hard thing seems to be eating enough omega-3-s, more specifically eating a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, but that is a topic for a what-is-good-to-eat-site and not for us. 

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As for linoleic acid and the skin, LA is a really important little guy found naturally in our skin. It is the most abundant fatty acid in the epidermis and it serves as a structural precursor for important skin lipids called ceramides. Knowing this, it will not come as a surprise that Linoleic acid has a central role in the structure and function of stratum corneum permeability, aka healthy skin barrier.  LA deficiency leads to an impaired more permeable skin barrier and the topical application of LA-rich sunflower oil can fix this issue rapidly (while oleic-rich olive oil did not have the same barrier repairing effect).

LA is not only important for dry, barrier damaged skin types but also for acne-prone skin. Research shows that problem skin has lower levels of linoleic acid (and higher levels of oleic acid) than normal skin. So LA-deficiency in the skin seems to be connected not only to an impaired skin barrier but also to acne and smearing LA all over your face might help with your problem skin. A double-blind study using a 2.5% LA gel for 4 weeks found a 25% reduction in the size of microcomedones, the tiny blocked pores that can later lead to acne.

If that was not enough, we have one more thing to report about LA.  It lightens hyperpigmentation (aka UVB caused sun spots) both by blocking the melanin production of melanocytes (the skin cells that make the pigment melanin) and by enhancing the desquamation of melanin pigment from the upper layers of the skin.

Overall, linoleic acid is a multi-functional skin goodie with barrier repairing, acne-reducing, and skin-lightening magic abilities. It's a nice one to spot on the ingredient list pretty much for any skin type. 

Also-called: Soapberry Fruit Extract | What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

Sapindus Mukurossi is a nice, big tree living in tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia. Its fruit is commonly called soapberry or washnut - telltale names for its traditional use as a cleansing agent. It contains natural surfactants called saponins (10-11.5%) and forms a nice rich lather. It's great at cleansing the skin of oily secretion as well as washing the hair.

Apart from being a cleansing agent, Sapindus Mukurossi also has a bunch of other pharmacological effects: It's well-known for its insecticidal properties and is traditionally used for removing lice from the scalp. As for other skin-care relevant things, it has promising tyrosinase inhibition, free radical scavenging (antioxidant), antimicrobial and anticancer activity.  

Glycerin - goodie
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • Super common, used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but plays an important role in keeping the stuff between our skin cells healthy
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

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: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 0-5

It's a waxy emollient with a melting point near to skin temperature. It gives body and consistency to the formula and leaves a velvety feel on the skin. 

It has a high comedogenicity index (5 out of 5), so it might clog pores if you are prone to it. Famous dermatologist, Dr. Leslie Baumann also writes in her book, The Skin Type Solution to avoid this ingredient if you are acne-prone.

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: 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).

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

A light, velvety, unique skin feel liquid that is a good solvent and also makes the skin feel nice and smooth (aka emollient). It's often used in makeup products mixed with silicones to give shine and slip to the product. It's also great for cleansing dirt and oil from the skin as well as for taking off make-up.

A sugar based emulsifier that's especially great for low viscosity lotions or even sprays. It's effective in small amounts, only 1-1.5% is needed to form an emulsion. The resulting cream or lotion has great cosmetic properties with good spreadability and an enhanced soft skin feel. 

Though its long name does not reveal it, this polymer molecule (big molecule from repeated subunits or monomers) is a relative to the super common, water-loving thickener, Carbomer. Both of them are big molecules that contain acrylic acid units, but Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer also contains some other monomers that are hydrophobic, i.e. water-hating. 

This means that our molecule is part water- and part oil-loving, so it not only works as a thickener but also as an emulsion stabilizer. It is very common in gel-type formulas that also contain an oil-phase as well as in cleansers as it also works with most cleansing agents (unlike a lot of other thickeners). 

What-it-does: emollient

A very 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: 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: emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

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

The number at the end refers to the oil-loving part and the bigger the number  the more emulsifying power it has. 20 is a weak emulsifier, rather called solubilizer used commonly in toners while 60 and 80 are more common in serums and creams.

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. 

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: Tetradecanol | What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 4 | Comedogenicity: 2

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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.

Officially, CosIng (the official EU ingredient database) lists Aluminum Hydroxide 's functions as opacifying (making the product white and non-transparent), as well as emollient and skin protectant.

However, with a little bit of digging, it turns out Aluminum Hyroxide often moonlights as a protective coating for UV filter superstar Titanium Dioxide. Specifically, it protects our skin from the harmful effects of nasty Reactive Oxygen Species (free radicals derived from oxygen such as Superoxide and Hydrogen Peroxide) generated when Titanium Dioxide is exposed to UV light. Btw, chlorine in swimming pool water depletes this protective coating, so one more reason to reapply your sunscreen after a dip in the pool on holiday.

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Other than that, Aluminum Hydroxide also often shows up in composite pigment technologies where it is used the other way around (as the base material and not as the coating material) and helps to achieve higher color coverage with less pigment

What-it-does: buffering

It's a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of the products to be right. It has an alkaline pH and can neutralize acidic ingredients.

Also-called: CI 77861, Tin Dioxide | What-it-does: colorant

Far from the tin cans you find in the supermarket, Tin Oxide is mostly used when dealing with so-called effect pigments, tricky composite pigments that can do color travel (change color depending on the viewing angle) or give multiple color effect. 

It's often found alongside Mica (as a base material) and Titanium Dioxide (as a coating) to give a glossy, pearlescent effect. Together, they make up a trademarked technology called RonaFlair Blanace from the German manufacturer Merck. According to their info, this combination can balance out undesirable tones in the skin, making it a popular choice for brightening products and highlighters.

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Other than that, CosIng (the official EU INCI database) list its uses as also including being a bulking agent (to increase the volume of products), as well as a physical exfoliant or an opacifying agent, but being part of composite effect pigments seems to be a much more common use case. 

A kind of polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) that helps to thicken up and stabilize products. It usually comes to the formula as part of some thickener complex. For example, coupled with isohexadecane and polysorbate 80, the trio helps to create soft and supple textures

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2-3

A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It makes your skin feel nice and smooth (emollient), gives body to cream type products and helps to stabilize water and oil mixes (aka emulsions).

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying, solvent, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 0-1 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable. 

Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® HPO, where it helps the effectiveness of current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol

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.

Also-called: Butylated Hydroxy Toluene;BHT | What-it-does: antioxidant, preservative

It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.

There is some controversy around BHT. It's not a new ingredient, it has been used both as a food and cosmetics additive since the 1970s. Plenty of studies tried to examine if it's a carcinogen or not. This Truth in Aging article details the situation and also writes that all these studies examine BHT when taken orally.

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As for cosmetics, the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) concluded that the amount of BHT used in cosmetic products is low (usually around 0.01-0.1%),  it does not penetrate skin far enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and it is safe to use in cosmetics.

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: sunscreen

Titanium Dioxide is one of the two members of the elite sunscreen group called physical sunscreens (or inorganic sunscreens if you’re a science geek and want to be precise).

Traditionally, UV-filters are categorized as either chemical or physical. The big difference is supposed to be that chemical agents absorb UV-light while physical agents reflect it like a bunch of mini umbrellas on top of the skin. While this categorization is easy and logical it turns out it's not true. A recent, 2016 study shows that inorganic sunscreens work mostly by absorption, just like chemical filters, and only a little bit by reflection (they do reflect the light in the visible spectrum, but mostly absorb in the UV spectrum).

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Anyway, it doesn't matter if it reflects or absorbs, Titanium Dioxide is a pretty awesome sunscreen agent for two main reasons: it gives a nice broad spectrum coverage and it's highly stable. Its protection is very good between 290 - 350 nm (UVB and UVA II range), and less good at 350-400 nm (UVA I) range. Regular sized Titanium Dioxide also has a great safety profile, it's non-irritating and is pretty much free from any health concerns (like estrogenic effect worries with some chemical filters).

The disadvantage of Titanium Dioxide is that it's not cosmetically elegant, meaning it's a white, "unspreadable" mess. Sunscreens containing Titanium Dioxide are often hard to spread on the skin and they leave a disturbing whitish tint. The cosmetic industry is, of course, really trying to solve this problem and the best solution so far is using nanoparticles. The itsy-bitsy Nano-sized particles improve both spreadability and reduce the whitish tint a lot, but unfortunately, it also introduces new health concerns. 

The main concern with nanoparticles is that they are so tiny that they are absorbed into the skin more than we want them (ideally sunscreen should remain on the surface of the skin). Once absorbed they might form unwanted complexes with proteins and they might promote the formation of evil free radicals. But do not panic, these are concerns under investigation. A 2009 review article about the safety of nanoparticles summarizes this, "to date, in-vivo and in-vitro studies have not demonstrated percutaneous penetration of nanosized particles in titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens". The English translation is, so far it looks like sunscreens with nanoparticles do stay on the surface of the skin where they should be.  

All in all, Titanium Dioxide is a famous sunscreen agent and for good reason, it gives broad spectrum UV protection (best at UVB and UVA II), it's highly stable, and it has a good safety profile. It's definitely one of the best UV-filter agents we have today, especially in the US where new-generation Tinosorb filters are not (yet) approved. 

Also-called: CI 77019

A super versatile and common mineral powder that comes in different particle sizes. It is a multi-tasker used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product some light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent. Popular both in makeup and in skin care products. 

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