Follow us on our new Insta page »
Fourth Ray Keep Clear Clarifying Toner

Fourth Ray
Keep Clear Clarifying Toner

A blend of ingredients provide strong antioxidant and exfoliation properties resulting in a calm, clear complexion.
Uploaded by: shay on 02/02/2019

Ingredients explained

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

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

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

Expand to read more

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

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

What-it-does: 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 >>

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.

Expand to read more

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. 

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 >>

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. 

Expand to read more

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).

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

It's a common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together. Also, it can help to increase the solubility of some other ingredients in the formula. 

Also-called: True Ginseng, Ginseng, Korean Ginseng | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

A  traditional Korean medicine used for more than 2000 years. Regarding skin care, its main thing seems to be enhancing skin nutrition and metabolism as a result of improving blood circulation.

It also contains biologically active components referred to as ginseng saponins (ginsenosides) that have potent antioxidant properties

Also-called: Black Willow

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: abrasive/scrub

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: abrasive/scrub

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Lemon Fruit Extract

If life gives the cosmetic industry lemon, it makes lemon fruit extract.  As to why, we can write here extremely similar things to our shiny description of orange fruit extract.  Being both of them citruses, they contain very similar active compounds with very similar (potential) effects on the skin. 

Just like orange fruit, lemon fruit also contains citric acid so it is commonly used as a natural, mild exfoliating agent. If this is the case, it is usually combined with other AHA containing fruit extracts such as bilberrysugar cane, orange, and sugar maple in a super popular ingredient mix trade named ACB Fruit Mix.

Expand to read more

But, citrus fruits are chemically complex mixtures with a bunch of other active components such as vitamin C, flavonoids, phenolics, carbohydrates and essential oil (this latter one coming from the rind of the fruit, but still present in some amount in the fruit extract). These have the potential to give lemon extract antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-dandruff, venotonic and moisturizing properties, but the essential oil also brings some questionable compounds such as fragrance allergen limonene or phototoxic compound bergaptene. If your skin is sensitive, be careful with citrus extracts. 

Also-called: Orange Fruit Extract

We have to start by writing that there are about 900 citrus species in the world, and plenty of them are used to make different kinds of extracts used in cosmetics. This particular one, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Fruit Extract is a very common ingredient, however, the species "Citrus Aurantium Dulcis" seem to exist only on ingredient lists and the real world calls this guy Citrus Sinensis or, you know, orange. 

To complicate matters further, there are lots of varieties and lots of extraction methods, so it is a bit hard to know what you are getting with this one, but we will try our best to summarize the possibilities. 

Expand to read more

A very common scenario is that  Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Fruit Extract is on the ingredient list for its mild, natural exfoliant properties. It contains mainly citric acid and some malic acid, AHA exfoliants known for their skin renewing properties. If that's the case, it is usually combined with other AHA containing fruits such as bilberry, sugar cane, lemon, and sugar maple in a super popular ingredient mix trade named ACB Fruit Mix.

But orange fruit is loaded with lots of other active compounds with a wide variety of possible effects. A well-known one is the antioxidant vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, but the dosage will vary based on the extraction method, and it’s possible that some of the ascorbic acid content will degrade before extraction process even takes place. If you want vitamin C in your skincare, that is smart, but do not rely on orange fruit extract for it.

Flavonoids (hesperidin, naringin, luteolin, and ferulic acid) are also nice active compounds with possible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and vasoprotective effects. Some of them (namely hesperidin and luteolin) might even have skin brightening activity by inhibiting tyrosinase, the famous enzyme needed for melanin production.

The orange extract also contains carbohydrates, aka sugars (mostly glucose, fructose, and sucrose, but also some bigger polysaccharides such as pectin) giving the ingredient some moisturizing properties.

Some essential oil content is usually also present in citrus fruit extracts, which means a nice scent and antibacterial properties, but also some questionable compounds such as fragrance allergen limonene or phototoxic compound bergaptene. If the amount is big enough to worry about is questionable, probably not, however, the same question applies to all the nice beneficial compounds. 

Overall, we think that the orange fruit extract is a very complex ingredient with lots of potentially good things in it, but we could not find proper in-vivo (made on real people) studies made with standardized extracts to validate what it really does or does not under real-world use cases. 

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

The famous tea tree oil. One of the best known essential oils which comes from Australia where it has been used for almost 100 years for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions. Legend has it that the medicinal benefits of the oil were considered so important that Australian soldiers were supplied with some tea tree oil in their World War II military kit.

Similar to other essential oils, tea tree oil is a very complex chemical mixture consisting of about 100 components, the major ones being terpinen-4-ol (40%), γ-Terpinene (23%) and α-Terpinene (10%). Terpinen-4-ol is considered to be the main active component but as a great article in Clinical Microbiology Reviews states "while some TTO components may be considered less active, none can be considered inactive" and most components contribute to TTO's strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects

Expand to read more

Regarding skincare and tea tree oil, its most well-known effect is probably being a well established anti-acne ingredient. Multiple studies confirm that TTO is effective against the evil acne-causing bacteria called P. acnes and the effectiveness of 5% TTO gel is comparable to the gold standard anti-acne treatment, 5% Benzoyl Peroxide lotion. You need to be a bit more patient with TTO, though, as its effects come slower but also with fewer side effects.

Regarding TTO and sensitive skin, we say that you should be careful. Even if your skin is not sensitive you should never put undiluted TTO on your skin. Luckily, it contains only very small amounts of the common allergens (such as limonene), but irritant and allergic reactions still happen, especially by oxidation products that occur in older or not properly stored oil.  So if you have some pure TTO at home, know that storage matters, keep it in a cool, dry, dark place and use it up in a reasonable amount of time.

Overall, we do not often give a goodie status to essential oils, but we feel that TTO's unique antibacterial and anti-acne properties with its minimal allergen content warrant an exception. If your skin is acne-prone, TTO is something to experiment with.

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

The essential oil created by steam distilling the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree. It's a colorless, pale yellow oil with a camphoraceous aroma used traditionally in vapor rubs to treat coughs. Its name-giving main component is eucalyptol (also called 1,8-cineole, 80-91%) that has significant antibacterial and expectorant properties.   

Among essential oils, Eucalyptus Globulus counts as rather non-sensitising with an EU sensitizer total of 5% (due to limonene). However, if your skin is super-sensitive or you are allergic to fragrances, it is still better to avoid it. 

Also-called: Green Tea | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial
  • Green tea is one of the most researched natural ingredients
  • The active parts are called polyphenols, or more precisely catechins (EGCG being the most abundant and most active catechin)
  • There can be huge quality differences between green tea extracts. The good ones contain 50-90% catechins (and often make the product brown and give it a distinctive smell)
  • Green tea is proven to be a great antioxidant, UV protectant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial
  • Because of these awesome properties green tea is a great choice for anti-aging and also for skin diseases including rosacea, acne and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract here >>

Also-called: Sugar Cane Extract | What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

Also known as Sugarcane, Saccharum Officinarum is a handy moisturizing ingredient mostly used as a humectant. This means that it can help the skin to attract water and then to hold onto it. 
 
It bears a close relationship to AHA superstar, Glycolic Acid that can be derived from it, so it's often claimed that Sugarcane Extract itself also exfoliates and brightens the skin. We could not find any research studies to back this up, but Saccharum Officinarum very often comes to the formula combined with other acid containing plant extracts trade named ACB Fruit Mix. According to manufacturer data, 5% of the fruit mix increases cellular renewal by 24%, while 4% pure Glycolic did the same by 33%. So maybe, a tiny bit of exfoliation, but if you want proven efficacy, stick to pure acids. 

Also-called: Sugar Maple Extract

The extract coming from the Sugar Maple tree, the one whose leaf is on the Canadian flag and gives us maple syrup.

The main reason it is used in skin care is that it contains natural AHA acids, namely Malic and Tartaric, and hence why it supposedly helps slough off dead skin cells in combination with other acid-containing fruit extracts as part of the trade name ACB Fruit Mix. The manufacturer claims that both malic and tartaric increase elasticity in the skin, but from our research, the only confirmed uses of these acids are as pH adjusters, especially in the tiny amounts they can be found in the Fruit Mix (less than 1%).  

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

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

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

Expand to read more

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.

Also-called: Bilberry Fruit Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Allantoin - goodie
What-it-does: soothing | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. 

It's not only soothing but it' also skin-softening and protecting and can promote wound healing.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Gluconolactone - superstar
What-it-does: exfoliant, chelating
  • It’s a polyhydroxy acid (PHA), that is often referred to as next generation AHA
  • It gently lifts off dead skin cells form the skin surface making skin smooth and even
  • In the long term it provides anti-aging benefits, like increased skin thickness and decreased wrinkles (though a tad less than even more proven superstar AHAs)
  • It’s a great moisturizer and even helps to repair impaired skin barrier
  • It’s antioxidant, and does not make your skin more sensitive to the sun
  • It can be used even if your skin is very sensitive, rosacea prone or if you are post cosmetic procedure
Read all the geeky details about Gluconolactone here >>

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. 

Expand to read more

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

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

What-it-does: buffering

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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: 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. 

Expand to read more

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.

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 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 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 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 emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's a common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together. Also, it can help to increase the solubility of some other ingredients in the formula. 
what‑it‑does antioxidant | emollient
Ginseng - A traditional Korean medicine that has antioxidant properties, and is known to improve blood circulation. [more]
what‑it‑does abrasive/scrub
what‑it‑does abrasive/scrub
If life gives the cosmetic industry lemon, it makes lemon fruit extract.  As to why, we can write here extremely similar things to our shiny description of orange fruit extract.  Being both of them citruses, they contain very similar active compounds with very similar (potential) effects on the skin.  [more]
We have to start by writing that there are about 900 citrus species in the world, and plenty of them are used to make different kinds of extracts used in cosmetics. This particular one, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Fruit Extract is a very common ingredient, however, the species "Citrus Aurantium Dulcis" [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | anti-acne | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The famous tea tree oil. One of the best known essential oils which comes from Australia where it has been used for almost 100 years for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The essential oil created by steam distilling the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree. It's a colorless, pale yellow oil with a camphoraceous aroma used traditionally in vapor rubs to treat coughs. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | soothing | antimicrobial/antibacterial
Green Tea - one of the most researched natural ingredients that contains the superstar actives called catechins. It has proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic properties. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
Also known as Sugarcane, Saccharum Officinarum is a handy moisturizing ingredient mostly used as a humectant. This means that it can help the skin to attract water and then to hold onto it.  It bears a close relationship to AHA superstar, Glycolic Acid that can be derived from it, so it's often claimed that Sugarcane  [more]
The extract coming from the Sugar Maple tree, the one whose leaf is on the Canadian flag and gives us maple syrup.The main reason it is used in skin care is that it contains natural AHA acids, namely Malic and Tartaric, and hence why it supposedly helps slough off dead skin cells in combination with other acid-containing fruit extracts as part of the trade name ACB Fruit Mix. [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 soothing
irritancy, com. 0, 0
Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. It's not only soothing but it' [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does exfoliant | chelating
A next generation AHA, a so-called PHA that gently exfoliates skin without irritation. It also moisturizes and helps the skin barrier. It also has antioxidant 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 buffering
what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi. Has to be combined with other preservatives. [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]