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Glossier Universal Pro-retinol Nightly Renewing Complex

Universal Pro-retinol Nightly Renewing Complex

A nightly retinoid made for just about everyone, that does just about everything: improves the appearance of fine lines, blemishes, pores, dark spots, and uneven tone and texture, all while nourishing skin.
Uploaded by: annie.wimmer on

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Glossier Universal Pro-retinol Nightly Renewing Complex
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. 

Glycerin - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • A super common, safe, effective and cheap molecule used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but knows much more: keeps the skin lipids between our skin cells in a healthy (liquid crystal) state, protects against irritation, helps to restore barrier
  • Effective from as low as 3% with even more benefits at higher concentrations up to 20-40% (around 10% is a good usability-effectiveness sweet spot)
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

Also-called: 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. 

What-it-does: emollient

An odorless and colorless emollient ester (cetyl alcohol + ethylhexanoic acid) that gives a velvety and silky feel to the skin. It has great spreadability and a non-oily feel. It's a popular ingredient in makeup removers.

What-it-does: solvent, emollient

A biodegradable emollient that gives a fresh gliding sensation and a powdery after feel. It works well with all kinds of oils including natural and silicone oils.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling, surfactant/cleansing, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2

A so-called fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that does all kinds of things in a skincare product: it makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier). Can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.

Also-called: Shea Butter | What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling

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

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

Also-called: Part of Olivem 1000 | What-it-does: emulsifying

An ester that comes from Cetearyl alcohol and the fatty acids of olive oil. It often comes to the formula coupled with Sorbitan Olivate as the two together form the well-known, natural emulsifier trade named Olivem 1000. 

Other than helping oil and water to blend, the main thing of Olivem 1000 is generating liquid crystal structures that are similar to the lipid structures of the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin). Thanks to this, Olivem 1000 doubles as an active ingredient with significant moisturizing, barrier-repairing and soothing properties.

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

Coconut Alkanes is a volatile (something that does not absorb into the skin but evaporates from it), naturally derived vegetable alkane coming from renewable sources. It is a light, oily liquid that works as an emollient and gives a smooth skin feel.

It's often combined with another emollient called Coco-Caprylate/Caprate and the two together can serve as a great replacement for some volatile silicones, like Cyclopentasiloxane

Also-called: Part of Olivem 1000 | What-it-does: emulsifying

An ester coming from sorbitol and the fatty acids of olive oil. It is part of the popular emulsifier trade named Olivem 1000 that is well-known for generating biomimetic liquid crystal structures. We have more info on Olivem 1000 at Cetearyl Olivate >>

A white to beige powder that is described as the golden standard emulsifier for emulsions (oil+water mixtures) that are difficult to stabilize. It is especially popular in sunscreens as it can boost SPF protection and increase the water-resistance of the formula. 

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

A sugar beet derived amino acid derivative with nice skin protection and moisturization properties. Betain's special thing is being an osmolyte, a molecule that helps to control cell-water balance.  It is also a natural osmoprotectant, meaning that it attracts water away from the protein surface and thus protects them from denaturation and increases their thermodynamic stability. 

It also gives sensorial benefits to the formula and when used in cleansers, it helps to make them milder and gentler. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: tea oil camellia;Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing

Camellia Oleifera is a type of green tea plant that's mostly known for the oil that comes from its seeds. As for the leaves, it has similar properties as the better known and more often used Camellia Sinensis leaves. You can read all the geeky details about green tea  and why it's awesome by clicking here, but in short, it has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory magic properties.

Also-called: Aloe Vera | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant

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. 

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". 

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 >>

What-it-does: emollient

A light emollient ester (C8-10 fatty acids connected to C12-18 fatty alcohols) that absorbs quickly and leaves a dry but silky finish on the skin. In terms of skin feel, it is similar to Dicaprylyl Carbonate, another commonly used light emollient. 

What-it-does: preservative, deodorant

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

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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.

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, is super well tolerated by every skin type and easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular. 

It's a little helper ingredient coming from corn, rice or potato starch that can help to keep skin mat (absorbent), to stabilise emulsions, and to keep the product together (binding). 

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: 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.

Also-called: lye | What-it-does: buffering

The unfancy name for it is lye. It’s a solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amounts to adjust the pH of the product and make it just right. 

For example, in case of AHA or BHA exfoliants, the right pH is super-duper important, and pH adjusters like sodium hydroxide are needed.  

What-it-does: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

A big molecule created from repeated subunits (a polymer of acrylic acid) that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula.  It usually has to be neutralized with a base (such as sodium hydroxide) for the thickening to occur and it creates viscous, clear gels that also feel nice and non-tacky on the skin. No wonder, it is a very popular and common ingredient. Typically used at 1% or less in most formulations.

A copolymer is a big molecule that consists not of one but of two repeating subunits. This particular copolymer is a handy helper ingredient to form nice gel textures.

It usually comes to the formula combined with emollients (such as  C13-14 Isoparaffin, Isohexadecane, Isononyl Isononanoate or Squalane) and can be used as an emulsifier and/or thickener to produce milky gel emulsions with a soft and non-tacky skin feel. 

Also-called: EDDS | What-it-does: chelating

A helper ingredient that helps to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water) so it stays nice longer. The special property of this particular ingredient is that it's more effective against more problematic ions, like Cu (copper) and Fe (iron) compared to less problematic ones like Ca (calcium)  and Mg (magnesium).

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 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 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
An odorless and colorless emollient ester that gives a velvety and silky feel to the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does solvent | emollient
A biodegradable emollient that gives a fresh gliding sensation and a powdery after feel. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 2, 2
A fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier).
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
Shea butter that's considered to be a magic moisturizer and emollient. It is also soothing and rich in antioxidants. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying
Part of Olivem 1000, a natural emulsifier duo that is known for forming biomimetic liquid crystal structures. It doubles as an active ingredient with barrier repairing and soothing properties. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
A volatile naturally derived vegetable alkane coming from renewable sources. It works as an emollient that gives smooth skin feel. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying
An ester coming from sorbitol and the fatty acids of olive oil. It often comes to the formula coupled with Cetearyl Olivate and the two together help water and oil to blend (emulsifier). It's a natural and Ecocert approved duo.
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A white to beige powder that is the golden standard emulsifier for emulsions (oil+water mixtures) that are difficult to stabilize. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A sugar beet derived amino acid derivative with nice skin protection and moisturization properties. Its special thing is being an osmolyte, a molecule that helps to control cell-water balance.  [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | soothing
A type of green tea that has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
The famous aloe vera. A great moisturizer and anti-inflammatory ingredient that also helps wound healing and skin regeneration. [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 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 emollient
A light emollient ester (C8-10 fatty acids connected to C12-18 fatty alcohols) that absorbs quickly and leaves a dry but silky finish on the skin. In terms of skin feel, it is similar to Dicaprylyl Carbonate, another commonly used light emollient.  [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
It can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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 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]
It's a little helper ingredient coming from corn, rice or potato starch that can help to keep skin mat (absorbent), to stabilise emulsions, and to keep the product together (binding). 
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [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 buffering
Lye - A solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amount to adjust the pH of the product.  [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 1
A handy white powder that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A big molecule used as a helper ingredient to form nice gel textures. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating
A helper ingredient that helps to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water) so it stays nice longer. [more]