Moisturizing Moon Mask
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.
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.
Probably the cheapest and most common silicone of all. As for skincare, it makes the skin silky smooth, creates a subtle gloss and forms a protective barrier on the skin. 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.
As for hair care, it's the heaviest of all silicones used for hair care and smoothes the hair like no other thing. It can be a bit difficult to wash out.
The oil that comes from almonds. It's a great emollient and skin moisturizer. According to skin care expert, Paula Begoun it contains lots of skin-repairing goodies like triglycerides and nice fatty acids (oleic, linoleic, and myristic acids). It also contains several vitamins, like vitamins A, B1, B2 and B6.
It's a lovely and often used oil because of its great smoothing, softening and moisturizing properties. It's also particularly good at treating dry brittle nails (source).
- 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
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.
Yes, it's the thing that can be found naturally in pee. But it is also a natural moisturizing factor (about 7% of skin NMF is urea) found in our skin cells where it helps the skin to cling onto water and stay nicely hydrated.
Don't worry, the urea version used in skincare is not extracted from pee, but it is synthetic and it's a very effective moisturizer. Plus, unlike a bunch of other water-binding ingredients, it is also nice to use as it's non-tacky and non-greasy.
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.
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.
Unless you live under a rock you must have heard about shea butter. It's probably the most hyped up natural butter in skincare today. It comes from the seeds of African Shea or Karite Trees and used as a magic moisturizer and emollient.
But it's not only a simple emollient, it's considered to be an NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor) that regenerates and soothes the skin and also protects it from external factors (such as UV rays or wind). If that would not be enough it's also rich in antioxidants (among others vitamin A, E, F, quercetin and epigallocatechin gallate). If you are looking for rich emollient benefits + more, shea is hard to beat.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
A so-called fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that does all kinds of things in a skincare product: it makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier). Can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.
It's a super commonly used silicone that is water-thin and does not absorb into the skin but evaporates from it (called volatile silicone). Similar to other silicones it gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel.
It's often combined with the heavier dimethicone as the two togeather form a water resistant, breathable protective barrier on the skin without a negative tacky feel.
This horribly long named thing is a helper ingredient that's good at stabilizing water-based formulas and also serves as a thickener. It's especially recommended for low pH products, like exfoliants.
A white, elastomeric silicone powder that gives a nice silky and powdery feel to the products. It also has some oil and sebum absorption capabilities.
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.
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.
Squalane is a real goodie with great skin hydrating and emollient properties.
It occurs naturally in certain fish and plant oils, and in the sebum (the oily stuff our skin produces) of the human skin. The latter makes it an important skin-identical ingredient and a NMF (natural moisturizing factor).
It helps to protect the skin barrier and even demonstrates some antioxidant properties. It does not clog pores and leaves a non-greasy, non-heavy feeling on the skin.
Squalane is the hydrogenated form of squalene, a lighter, more stable and less oxidative version of it. That’s why, it shows up more often in the ingredient lists.
You can read all about squalene here.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
A light-feeling, volatile (meaning it does not absorb into the skin but evaporates from it) silicone that gives skin a unique, silky and non-greasy feel. It has excellent spreading properties and leaves no oily residue or build-up.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a super commonly used, not-very-friendly-named helper ingredient that can help to stabilize emulsions (so that the water and the oil components stay nicely together). It can also be a thickener that helps to create nice gel formulas as well as a film-former.
A water-soluble, chemical sunscreen agent that is a secondary UVB absorber with some activity in the short UVA range as well. Being a secondary UV absorber means that its protection is weak and it has to be combined with other sunscreen filters for proper sun protection.
More often than not, Benzophenone-4 is not used as a sunscreen agent but as a photoprotectant to extend product shelf life, or as a color-protectant for products in clear packages.
A Contact Dermatitis article from 2007 names BP-4 as an emerging allergen, as it was the most frequently positive chemical UV filter and third most frequently positive ingredient overall among the 35 substances patch tested in the study (13 positives of 1693 people tested).
A super common, waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth.
It can be produced from most vegetable oils in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.
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".
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.
A naturally derived amino acid with nice skin moisturization properties. Also helps to make the formula milder and gentler.
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.
Aloe Vera is one of today’s magic plants. It does have some very nice properties indeed, though famous dermatologist Leslie Baumann warns us in her book that most of the evidence is anecdotal and the plant might be a bit overhyped.
What research does confirm about Aloe is that it’s a great moisturizer and has several anti-inflammatory (among others contains salicylates, polysaccharides, magnesium lactate and C-glucosyl chromone) as well as some antibacterial components. It also helps wound healing and skin regeneration in general. All in all definitely a goodie.
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.
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.
The unfancy name for it is lye. It’s a solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amounts to adjust the pH of the product and make it just right.
For example, in case of AHA or BHA exfoliants, the right pH is super-duper important, and pH adjusters like sodium hydroxide are needed.
BTW, lye is not something new. It was already used by ancient Egyptians to help oil and fat magically turn into something else. Can you guess what? Yes, it’s soap. It still often shows up in the ingredient list of soaps and other cleansers.
Sodium hydroxide in itself is a potent skin irritant, but once it's reacted (as it is usually in skin care products, like exfoliants) it is totally harmless.
You might know licorice as a sweet treat from your childhood, but it's actually a legume that grows around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, central and southern Russia. It's sweet and yellow and not only used for licorice all sorts but it's also a skincare superstar thanks to two magic properties:
Nr. 1 magic property is that it has skin-lightening or to say it another way depigmenting properties. The most active part is called glabridin. The topical application (meaning when you put it on your face) of 0.5% glabridin was shown to inhibit UVB caused pigmentation of guinea pigs. Another study even suggested that licorice is more effective than the gold standard skin-lightening agent hydroquinone. All in all, licorice is considered to be one of the safest skin lightening agents with the fewest side effects.
There is just one catch regarding glabridin and licorice: the amount of glabridin in commercial licorice extracts can vary a lot. We have seen extracts with only 4% glabridin as well as 40% glabridin. The latter one is a very-very expensive ingredient, so if you are after the depigmenting properties try to choose a product that boasts its high-quality licorice extract.
Nr. 2 magic property is that licorice is a potent anti-inflammatory. Glabridin has also some soothing properties but the main active anti-inflammatory component is glycyrrhizin. It’s used to treat several skin diseases that are connected to inflammation including atopic dermatitis, rosacea or eczema.
Oh, and one more thing: glabridin seems to be also an antioxidant, which is just one more reason to be happy about licorice root extract on an ingredient list.
Bottom line: Licorice is a great skincare ingredient with significant depigmenting, anti-inflammatory and even some antioxidant properties. Be happy if it's on the ingredient list. :)
A polysaccharide (a big sugar molecule) coming from the edible fruit bodies of the Silver Ear mushroom in China. Legend has it, imperial Concubine Yang Kuei-fei - the most beautiful woman in Chinese history - used it for her facial care.
So Tremella Extract is a big molecule (more than 1M Da molecular weight) with sugar constituents of Mannose, Xylose, and Glucuronic acid (20%). The last one is the most important one, as Glucuronic acid is also a major component in hyaluronic acid (HA). Thanks to this, Tremella is claimed to be an awesome moisturizer with slightly greater water-holding capacities than HA itself. This is quite a big deal as HA is known for its crazy water-holding capacity (up to 1000 times its own weight).
Not only that but Tremella also seems to have some antioxidant effect, it's not sticky (humectants do tend to be sticky) and it leaves skin moist and smooth. No wonder, Concubine Yang Kuei-fei liked this mushroom.
Beta-Glucan is a nice big molecule composed of many smaller sugar molecules (called polysaccharide). It’s in the cell walls of yeast, some mushrooms, seaweeds, and cereals.
It’s a real goodie no matter if you eat it or put it on your face. Eating it is anti-diabetic, anti-cancer and even lowers the blood cholesterol.
Putting it on your face it also does a bunch of good things: it ‘s shown to have wound healing properties, it’s a mild antioxidant, it’s a great skin soother and moisturizer, and it even shows promising anti-aging benefits.
The manufacturer of the ingredient did a published study with 27 people and examined the effect of 0.5% beta-glucan. They found that despite the large molecular size beta-glucan does penetrate into the skin, even into the dermis (the middle layer of the skin where wrinkles form). After 8 weeks there was a significant reduction of wrinkle depth and height and skin roughness has also improved greatly.
Bottom line: Beta-glucan is a great ingredient, especially for sensitive skin. It soothes, moisturizes and even shows some anti-aging magic properties.
A really multi-functional helper ingredient that can do several things in a skincare product: it can bring a soft and pleasant feel to the formula, it can act as a humectant and emollient, it can be a solvent for some other ingredients (for example it can help to stabilize perfumes in watery products) and it can also help to disperse pigments more evenly in makeup products. And that is still not all: it can also boost the antimicrobial activity of preservatives.
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.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
- It’s naturally in our skin and behaves there like a sponge
- It can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water
- Awesome moisturizer and has other important biological functions
- Different molecular weight versions exist and that raises questions
- Skin penetration abilities of high-molecular-weight HA is debated (see geeky details for more info)
- Usefulness of low-molecular-weight HA is also debated (see geeky details for more info)
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