|what‑it‑does||emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling|
|what‑it‑does||soothing | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||exfoliant | buffering|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | emollient|
|what‑it‑does||preservative | antimicrobial/antibacterial|
|what‑it‑does||perfuming | 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.
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.
A very mild cleansing agent with a dense and luxurious foam and an elegant after feel. It also has excellent water solubility and thus good rinsability.
Flower distillate coming from the beautiful blue flowers, commonly known as cornflower. The flowers are traditionally used in European phytotherapy to treat smaller eye inflammations and contain polysaccharides (mainly galacturonic acid, arabinose, glucose, rhamnose, and galactose) with anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
The flower water coming from the flowers of the Damask Rose. In general, flower waters (also called hydrosols) are diluted versions of essential oils coming from the same plant. They contain the same components but in much-reduced concentrations.
Similar to its big sister, rose oil, rose water also has a lovely, relaxing scent. It contains some antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds, as well as some fragrant components.
If your skin is super sensitive, it is a good idea to choose products without fragrant floral waters.
The emollient plant oil coming from the seeds of Crambe Abyssinica, a not very well-known plant native to the Ethiopian Highlands. It has a unique fatty acid profile and contains high amounts of erucic acid (50-65%), a 22 carbon long unsaturated fatty acid.
The oil is described as having an elegant, silky and cushioning skin feel, kind of silicone-like. Also ideal for hair-care as it gives slip, softness, and shine to the hair.
Super common ingredient in all kinds of cleansing products: face and body washes, shampoos and foam baths.
Number one reason for its popularity has to do with bubbles. Everyone loves bubbles. And cocamidopropyl betaine is great at stabilizing them.
The other reason is that it’s mild and works very well combined with other cleansing agents and surfactants. The art of cleansing is usually to balance between properly cleansing but not over-cleansing and cocamidopropyl betaine is helpful in pulling off this balance right.
Oh, and one more nice thing: even though it’s synthetic it’s highly biodegradable.
More info on CAPB on Collins Beaty Pages.
A so-called diester created from two stearic acid molecules and an ethylene glycol molecule. Its main thing is being an opacifier and pearling agent in cleansing products making them white and glossy. It can also give body to creams and emulsions.
A sulfate-free, mild cleansing agent that is used next to other cleansing agents (aka co-surfactant) mainly as a foam booster and viscosity builder.
A cleansing agent that's claimed to be so gentle on the skin that it hardly impacts the skin barrier. It also gives a rich, creamy foam, it's based on vegetable fatty acids and is readily biodegradable.
It's an especially important and popular ingredient in "syndet bars" (or soapless soaps). Dr. Leslie Baumann says in her great Cosmetic Dermatology book that thanks to the unique molecular characteristic of Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, it "has defined a new dimension in the mildness of cleansing bars".
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
A clear, almost colorless (or slightly yellowish) oily liquid (an ester to be precise) that's used as a medium spreading emollient. It gives skin a nice and smooth after-feel and it's very good at reducing oiliness or greasiness coming from other heavier oils in the formula.
An easy-to-formulate, commonly used, nice to have ingredient that’s also called pro-vitamin B5. As you might guess from the “pro” part, it’s a precursor to vitamin B5 (whose fancy name is pantothenic acid).
Its main job in skincare products is to moisturise the skin. It’s a humectant meaning that it can help the skin to attract water and then hold onto it. There is also research showing that panthenol can help our skin to produce more lovely lipids that are important for a strong and healthy skin barrier.
Another great thing about panthenol is that it has anti-inflammatory and skin protecting abilities. A study shows that it can reduce the irritation caused by less-nice other ingredients (e.g. fragrance, preservatives or chemical sunscreens) in the product.
Research also shows that it might be useful for wound healing as it promotes fibroblast (nice type of cells in our skin that produce skin-firming collagen) proliferation.
If that wasn’t enough panthenol is also useful in nail and hair care products. A study shows that a nail treatment liquide with 2% panthenol could effectively get into the nail and significantly increase the hydration of it.
As for the hair the hydration effect is also true there. Panthenol might make your hair softer, more elastic and helps to comb your hair more easily.
A plant-derived (coming from the seeds of Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba, aka Guar) big, branched sugar molecule that is used as a gelling agent.
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).
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.
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.
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.
BTW, it’s also a food preservative and even has an E number, E202.
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.
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.
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 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.
A little helper ingredient that works as a preservative. It works against bacteria and some species of fungi and yeast. It's often combined with IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol.
Exactly what it sounds: nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. Fragrance in the US and parfum in the EU is a generic term on the ingredient list that is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average (but it can have as much as 200 components!).
If you are someone who likes to know what you put on your face than fragrance is not your best friend - no way to know what’s really in it.
Also, if your skin is sensitive, fragrance is again not your best friend. It’s the number one cause of contact allergy to cosmetics. It’s definitely a smart thing to avoid with sensitive skin (and fragrance of any type - natural is just as allergic as synthetic, if not worse!).
A super common and cheap fragrance ingredient. It's in many plants, e.g. rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and it's the main component (about 50-90%) of the peel oil of citrus fruits.
It does smell nice but the problem is that it oxidizes on air exposure and the resulting stuff is not good for the skin. Oxidized limonene can cause allergic contact dermatitis and counts as a frequent skin sensitizer.
Limonene's nr1 function is definitely being a fragrance component, but there are several studies showing that it's also a penetration enhancer, mainly for oil-loving components.
All in all, limonene has some pros and cons, but - especially if your skin is sensitive - the cons probably outweigh the pros.
Linalool is a super common fragrance ingredient. It’s kind of everywhere - both in plants and in cosmetic products. It’s part of 200 natural oils including lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, jasmine, geranium and it can be found in 90-95% of prestige perfumes on the market.
The problem with linalool is, that just like limonene it oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. That’s why a product containing linalool that has been opened for several months is more likely to be allergenic than a fresh one.
A study made in the UK with 483 people tested the allergic reaction to 3% oxidised linalool and 2.3% had positive test results.
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