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 fermentation derived, natural (Ecocert approved) keto-sugar that works as a self-tanning active. It's claimed to lead to a deep, even and long-lasting tan without streaks and without causing skin dryness.
Compared to the other self-tanning active, DHA, Erythrulose works slower (takes a few days to develop the color, while with DHA it's only a couple of hours) but it also lasts longer. The two self-tanning actives are usually combined to give you fast but long lasting tans.
- 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
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.
A helper ingredient that usually comes to the formula coupled with PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil. The two together work as surfactants and oil solubilizers. It's a non-sticky duo that works at low concentration and is often used to solubilize fragrance components into water-based formulas.
Acetyl Hexapeptide-1 is a bit of a special snowflake among peptides as it's not a wrinkle-smoothing, anti-aging active like most of the other ones but it can stimulate pigmentation and melanin production (by interacting with a skin cell receptor called MC1R).
As melanin not only gives the skin its nice tanned color but also works as a natural protection factor, Acetyl Hexapeptide-1, aka Melitane does the same. It not only boosts a natural or an artificial tan but gives extra protection against UV-induced DNA and free radical damage and protects the skin against UV-caused redness.
Superoxide Dismutase - or in short SOD - is the body's smart antioxidant enzyme that protects the cells from highly reactive, cell-damaging superoxide radicals (O2−).
You have probably read the terms "free radicals" and "antioxidants" a thousand times, and you know that free radicals are the evil guys, and antioxidants are the good guys. So superoxide radical is a very common free radical that can cause all kinds of cell damages and superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of superoxide radicals into molecular oxygen and hydrogen peroxide (btw, this one has to be further converted by other antioxidant enzymes, called catalases).
The extra nice thing about SOD is that it remains intact during the neutralization process and can continue its magic, while non-enzymatic antioxidants (like vitamin E) are used up during neutralization.
The efficacy studies of topical SOD are promising. In-vitro (made in the lab) tests show that SOD is a more effective antioxidant than vitamin E, green tea extract, and MAP. There is also an in-vivo (made on real people) study that measured how SOD can reduce the redness caused by UV rays and it was much more effective than vitamin E (pure or acetate form) and ascorbyl palmitate.
All in all, SOD is a really potent antioxidant and slathering it all over yourself is a great way to give the skin a little extra help in protecting itself from all the bad environmental things out there.
A plant extract coming from the rhizomes of a small, wintergreen fern living across Europe. The main actives in the rhizome are called polypodine A and B that are claimed to have adaptogenic (increasing the resistance to stress and aging) and anabolic (enhance protein synthesis and enhance physical performance) effects.
According to the manufacturer, Polypodine A helps skin repair after superficial wounds, stimulates keratinocyte (a type of skin cell) differentiation and can delay oxidative stress and enzyme related skin damage.
Polypody also works synergistically with Iceland moss to support its film forming and moisturizing activity due to its saponin content.
Though it's commonly called Iceland Moss, this one is actually a lichen. Not one but two things (a fungus + an algae) living in symbiosis under extreme environments (like alpine and arctic regions).
It's an edible folk medicine that's used traditionally in the arctic regions to cure cold, cough, and sore throat. It's a so-called demulcent, an agent that forms a soothing and moisturizing film over the mucous membranes and relieves dryness and irritation causing the cough.
When you slather Cetraria Islandica all over your face, the same moisturizing and film forming effect happens. It's due to the polysaccharides (big sugar molecules) called lichenan and isolichenan that are abundant in Iceland Moss.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
Yerba Santa is a nice plant that's native to California and North Mexico. As for skincare, its leaves are rich in moisturizing mucopolysaccharides and glycoproteins.
This paticular extract is obtained by fermenting the leaves of the plant with the bacteria Lactobacillus lactis. The fermentation helps to break down the complex bio-molecules in the plant and helps to isolate the beneficial components such as the glycoproteins.
The extract is not only a simple moisturizer but it also enhances emolliency, gives skin a soft and smooth feel, helps to reduce tackiness and might reduce skin irritation. (source: manufacturer info)
A type of lipid that's the major (about 75%) component of all cell membranes. As for skincare, it works as an emollient and skin-identical ingredient.
It has a water-loving head with two water-hating tails and this structure gives the molecule emulsifying properties. It is also often used to create liposomes, small spheres surrounded by phospholipid bi-layer designed to carry some active ingredient and help its absorption.
A natural polymer (big molecules from repeated subunits) that is harvested from the Acacia tree in the sub-Saharan region in Africa. It's a great thickening and binding agent. Often coupled with xanthan gum, as it helps to reduce its unpleasant stickiness.
It's one of the most commonly used thickeners and emulsion stabilizers. If the product is too runny, a little of 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).
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).
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.
Though its name says acid, it's not really an exfoliant. It's a plant extract with some antioxidant properties. Its main thing in cosmetic products is to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. It's a natural alternative to sometimes bad-mouthed chelating agents, EDTAs.
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).
A mildly viscous, amber-colored liquid with fatty odor, made from Castor Oil and polyethylene glycol (PEG).
If it were a person, we’d say, it’s agile, diligent & multifunctional. It’s mostly used as an emulsifier and surfactant but most often it is used to solubilize fragrances into water-based formulas.
A little helper ingredient that can boost the performance and enhance the delivery of active ingredients in a formula. It can penetrate deep layers of the skin helping actives to do the same.
It's especially useful to help active ingredients for self-tanning (DHA), anti-acne or skin-whitening to penetrate deeper and work better.
A nice odorless liquid used mainly as a superior solubilizer and efficacy booster for cosmetic active ingredients such as skincare bigshot vitamin C, self-tanning active DHA or the anti-acne gold standard, benzoyl peroxide.
Other than that it can also be used in hair care products where it gives a longer-lasting and more uniform coloring. According to a manufacturer, it might even prevent the formation of split ends.
It's an alternative, natural preservative that comes from radishes fermented with Leuconostoc kimchii, a lactic acid bacteria that has been used to make traditional Korean dish, kimchi. During the fermentation process, a peptide is secreted from the bacteria that has significant antimicrobial properties.
It is one of the more promising natural preservatives that can be used even alone (recommended at 2-4%), but it's not as effective as more common alternatives, like parabens or phenoxyethanol.
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 a fragrance ingredient that goes by the trade name Florazon. It smells like "fresh air" or "marine air" and works well in compositions with white flower note. It's also a top note booster and good for watery-fruity compositions.
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|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||solvent | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | antioxidant|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | emollient|
|what‑it‑does||exfoliant | buffering|
|what‑it‑does||emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||antimicrobial/antibacterial | preservative|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | emollient|