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 biotechnologically derived ingredient that is produced by the fermentation of a marine bacteria living in the cold Antarctic Ocean. According to the manufacturer's info, it seems to have two different sets of magic properties:
The first set includes skin-protecting and anti-aging abilities: it can help to protect the skin from dryness and redness due to cold weather and it also promotes skin regeneration and smoother skin surface by stimulating protein synthesis in the skin. More specifically, these proteins are type I and IV collagen and elastin, all super important stuff for wrinkle-free, young looking skin (though these results came only from in-vitro tests and might or might not apply to living human skin).
As for in-vivo (tested on real people) efficacy, 1% Antarcticine (the trade name for the diluted version of the Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract) cream increased skin hydration by 14.8% in cold weather and 5% Antarcticine cream decreased the depth of wrinkles by 44% around the eyes.
The second set of magic properties are all about oily skin regulation, such as reducing sebum production, shininess, and pore size. It acts through reducing Melanocortin 5 receptor, a protein important in sebum production. According to the in-vivo tests of the manufacturer, it both immediately reduces skin gloss as well as significantly reduces the number of active follicles and their total surface with ongoing use (by 9.5% and 27.2% after 28 days).
Overall, an interesting, multifunctional ingredient both for anti-aging as well as oily skin control purposes.
- A multi-functional skincare superstar with several proven benefits for the skin
- Great anti-aging, wrinkle smoothing ingredient used at 4-5% concentration
- Fades brown spots alone or in combination with amino sugar, acetyl glucosamine
- Increases ceramide synthesis that results in a stronger, healthier skin barrier and better skin hydration
- Can help to improve several skin conditions including acne, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis
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 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
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.
A super light emollient fluid that has excellent skin spreading properties and an exceptionally light skin feel. It also has extreme pH tolerance and can reduce product tackiness.
A low molecular weight dry, silky emollient ester that gives a light and non-greasy feel to the formulas. It's great at reducing the oily or heavy feeling caused by certain ingredients such as sunscreen agents or pigments. It also gives improved emolliency, spreadability and a smooth, elegant feel on the skin.
There's not much info out there about Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3 at the moment but it seems to be an innovative new peptide that supposedly mimics the effects of the skincare superstar, retinol (vitamin A) but without the negative side effects. Multiple skincare brands that use the ingredient claim that it can increase cell turnover and collagen synthesis without irritation or stinging.
Mustic gum is an aromatic resin coming from the bark of a tree that grows on the Greek island of Chios. It was traditionally used as a chewing gum to clean the teeth and freshen the breath thanks to its anti-microbial properties.
As for modern skincare, it is the active ingredient in a skin care complex trade named PoreAway, that is claimed to tighten dilated pores and reduce shine. It works by blocking 5α reductase type I, an enzyme that has an important role in the sebum-producing process (by converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, aka DHT, that is the main sebum producing hormone in the skin).
Do not expect miracles though: according to the in-vivo test conducted by the manufacturer, 2% PoreAway refined pores only by 8% after 14 days and 15% after 28 days. We are not sure if this is a change that you can really feel and see on your skin, or if it's just a "statistically significant change" that can be measured in the lab.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
If you have oily, acne-prone skin, Zinc PCA is one of the actives to put on your "TO TRY" list.
It's a synergistic association of two great things: Zinc and L-PCA. The Zinc part is there to help normalize sebum production and limit the proliferation of evil acne-causing bacteria. L-PCA stands for pyrrolidone carboxylic acid and it's a key molecule in the skin that helps with processes of hydration and energy (it's actually an NMF, a natural moisturizing factor).
L-PCA is not only there to hydrate the skin, but it also helps to increase the efficacy and bioavailability of zinc. An in-vivo (done on real people) test done by the manufacturer shows that Zinc PCA reduces sebum production statistically significantly after 28 days of application (1% was used in the test), and in-vitro (made in the lab) measurements show that Zinc PCA has strong anti-microbial activity against P. acnes (between 0.1-0.25%) and other bacterial strains.
If that would not be enough there is also a 2011 research paper saying that based on in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) findings Zinc PCA might be a promising anti-aging active that helps with the production of type I collagen (and we all know more collagen = firmer skin).
All in all, definitely a goodie for oily, acne-prone skin.
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.
A very common ingredient that can be found in all cell membranes. In cosmetics it's quite the multi-tasker: it's an emollient and water-binding ingredient but it's also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes.
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.
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 multi-functional, silky feeling helper ingredient that can do quite many things. It's used as an emulsion stabilizer, solvent and a broad spectrum antimicrobial. According to manufacturer info, it's also a moisturizer and helps to make the product feel great on the skin. It works synergistically with preservatives and helps to improve water-resistance of sunscreens.
A handy helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix nicely together.
A light, velvety, unique skin feel liquid that is a good solvent and also makes the skin feel nice and smooth (aka emollient). It's often used in makeup products mixed with silicones to give shine and slip to the product. It's also great for cleansing dirt and oil from the skin as well as for taking off make-up.
An emulsifier (helps oily and watery things to mix) that usually comes to the formula as the buddy of the oil-dispersible silicone powder Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer. The two together create a pre-emulsified, water-loving version of the elastomeric silicone powder which gives products a nice silky feel and has sebum absorption capabilities.
Little spherical shaped particles that are modified to become water-loving so that they can be easily used in water-based formulas. They enhance the product texture and have light-diffusion, aka soft-focus effect properties.
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.
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.
It's a helper ingredient that helps to thicken up formulas and form a nice gel texture. It leaves a rich, elegant feel with a velvety finish on the skin and works over a wide pH range.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.
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.
The sodium salt of salicylic acid. CosIng (the official EU cosmetic ingredient database) says that it's a preservative and helps to make the product taste bad (called denaturant), while some manufacturer claims that it has exfoliating properties and is antimicrobial. It's good to know, that the salt of an exfoliant is kind of a neutralised form, so if you want to go for exfoliation stick to the pure acid.
It’s a nice odorless liquid that is used most often as a great solvent for some active ingredients, like vitamin C.
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 even prevents the formation of split ends though we have to admit we are sceptical about that.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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