Subq Anti-Age Advanced Serum
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 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
A chemically chopped up version of normal yeast extract that works as a skin moisturizer.
It often comes to the formula as part of a moisturizing, skin smoothing complex trade named Optim Hyal. Combined with polyglucuronic acid and some helper ingredients the complex is obtained by bio-fermentation and - according to the manufacturer - it can stimulate the hyaluronic acid synthesis in the skin. (It does that by containing so-called Glycokines, specific signaling oligosaccharides that mimic the hyaluronic acid fragments in the skin.) And more hyaluronic acid means smoother, better moisturized and more supple skin.
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.
Tamarind seed gum is a polysaccharide that moisturizes and smoothes the skin. According to manufacturer info, it also improves the skin's elasticity and leaves an extremely pleasant velvety feeling on the skin.
It's a special "cross-linked" from of IT-moisturizer, hyaluronic acid (HA). Cross-linked means that "normal" HA pieces (1-2 million Da molecular weight) are chemically bound togeather to create a big, "infinite" mesh.
The special HA mesh has a remarkable water-binding capacity, 5 times more than the already crazy water-binding capacity of "normal" HA. This water filled crosslinked HA gel forms a smooth film on the skin and continuously delivers the bound water, so it gives long-term moisturizing benefits.
Btw, crosslinking HA was developed for dermal fillers (as crosslinking helps their longevity), and this guy is the topical version of FDA approved dermal filler called Hylan B gel. Smearing crosslinked version all over ourselves is a newish thing, and incoming evidence so far suggests that it's a great idea, even better than normal HA.
A very recent, 2016 research article compared the topical moisturizing effect of crosslinked HA (not Hylan B gel specifically, but something called Resilient HA or RHA), HMW-HA and LMW-HA and found that "TEWL (that is trans-epidermal water loss, the water that evaporates from the skin) was reduced by 27.8% with RHA, and by 15.6% with HMW HA, but increased by 55.5% with LMW HA." (You can read much more about HMW and LMW HA here in the geeky details section.)
All in all, we think Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer is an awesome version of HA, probably superior to traditional versions, so be happy to spot it on the ingredient list.
It's a pretty new peptide trade-named MATRIXYL™ synthe’6. The manufacturer claims that it can boost the production of 6 major components of the skin matrix (collagen I, III, IV, fibronectin, hyaluronic acid and laminin 5) that result in more even skin and fewer wrinkles particularly on the forehead and crow's feet. Using 2% of the active for two months daily, women reported a decrease in wrinkles by 31% up to 100%.
A newish peptide with the promise of mimicking the effects of the skincare superstar, retinol (vitamin A) but without its negative side effects. Similar to retinol, Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3 is claimed to increase cell turnover and to promote the synthesis of collagen but without skin irritation or stinging.
To back up its claim, the German manufacturer did a so-called gene array screening test, where they examined the effect of the molecule on 96 skin-related genes. They did screening for both retinoic acid (the active form of retinol) and our guy Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3. They found that retinoic acid upregulates 21 of the 92 studied genes, and amongst those, 16 genes are also upregulated by Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3. So they trade named the molecule as Retinopeptide 189, as in a peptide that mimics the effects of retinoic acid.
To further prove their point, Symrise (the manufacturer) went ahead and did some ex-vivo testing (meaning testing on human skin explants). They compared a 0.1% retinoic acid solution with 5% and 10% Retinopeptide 189 cream and found that the 10% cream induces a significant increase (43%) in collagen-1 that is comparable to the effect of 0.1% retinoic acid (which performed even better with more than a 50% increase).
They also found that both retinoic acid 0.1% and Retinopeptide 189 5% cream increased epidermal cellular layers in the skin explants showing that both ingredients can increase cell turnover, however retinoic acid did significantly better both in active effects as well as side effects.
Unfortunately, there are currently no in-vivo test results (at least with could not find any), so if you prefer the tried and true, stick with retinol. However, if you are the adventurous type or if your skin is sensitive and cannot tolerate retinoids, Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3 is a promising alternative.
It's a pretty new anti-aging ingredient that is a "safe and pre-activated source of energy to feed aging skin cells".
It's part of an anti-aging complex trade named Neodermyl, where methylglucoside phosphate is combined with the essential amino acids proline, lysine and also copper. This complex is claimed to be able to increase the collagen I and III production of skin and even more surprisingly, also the elastin production. Both slow down with age and beeing able to boost the skin's own production of these super important proteins results in improved skin firmness and elasticity.
This is a very big deal, especially the elastin part, as there is not yet a clinically proven active ingredient that is able to boost the skin's own elastin production. There are also very few ones (think vitamin C, glycolic acid, and retinol) that are proven to boost collagen. The claims about Neodermyl are not yet confirmed in independent studies but the manufacturer did do some very convincing testing that showed a visible reduction of wrinkle depth and volume in just 15 days. If you are into anti-aging, this is a new active that might be worth a try.
It's a super small, chemically chopped up version of sodium hyaluronate. Its trade name is miniHA, and its molecular weight is 10 kDa. This counts as really tiny given that "normal" HA has a molecular weight of 0.5-2 million Da.
To be honest, low molecular weight (LMW), and especially this ultra-low molecular weight HA is a controversial ingredient. On the upside, it can penetrate the skin better (though 10kDa still counts as big!) and might be able to moisturize the deeper layers of the skin where normal HA cannot get. Also, according to the manufacturer of miniHA, it has better antioxidant activity than a 1.6MDa version HA and it also has better sun protection and after-sun repair abilities than the higher MW versions. It also works in synergy with higher molecular weight versions, and the combination of 0.1% 1.45MDa-HA + 0.1% 380 kDa-HA + 0.1% miniHA hydrated the skin significantly better than 0.3% 1.45MDa-HA alone.
On the downside, the biological role of LMW-HA in the skin is being a pro-inflammatory signaling agent and there is a study by another manufacturer called Evonik showing that HA versions with smaller than 50kDa molecular weight might be pro-inflammatory when put on the skin. Granted, the study was only done on reconstituted human epidermis, so it might or might not be like this on real human skin.
If you wanna get confused and read much more about hyaluronic acid and what the different molecular weight versions might or might not do, click here and read our excruciatingly long description.
It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMF, hyaluronic 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".
In spite of this, if you search for "hyaluronic acid vs sodium hyaluronate" you will find on multiple places that sodium hyaluronate is smaller and can penetrate the skin better. Chemically, this is definitely not true, as the two forms are almost the same, both are polymers and the subunits can be repeated in both forms as much as you like. (We also checked Prospector for sodium hyaluronate versions actually used in cosmetic products and found that the most common molecular weight was 1.5-1.8 million Da that absolutely counts as high molecular weight).
What seems to be a true difference, though, is that the salt form is more stable, easier to formulate and cheaper so it pops up more often on the ingredient lists.
If you wanna become a real HA-and-the-skin expert you can read way more about the topic at hyaluronic acid (including penetration-questions, differences between high and low molecular weight versions and a bunch of references to scientific literature).
Red Marine Algae extract that works as a skin protectant and also helps to thicken up products. According to skincare manufacturer Indeed Laboratories, it's a nutrient-rich mineral that mildly stimulates circulation which helps famous IT-moisturizer, hyaluronic acid to penetrate into the skin deeper.
A 100% natural and plant-derived moisturizer that mimics the natural carbohydrate fraction found in the upper layer of the skin. Its special magic power is to bind to the skin stronger and longer than other moisturizer ingredients do so it can keep the skin hydrated longer than usual.
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 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 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 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.
It goes by the trade name "Phytodermina Lifting" that refers to two things: it's a "lifting" ingredient and it comes from plant raw materials.
The manufacturer claims that it gives the skin a marked lifting effect, moisturizes, makes the skin soft and smooth, enhances brightness, and helps make-up to stay on after application.
A cellulose-derived helper ingredient that is created by attaching a water-hating part (cetyl group) to the water-loving thickener, Hydroxyethylcellulose. The resulting thing, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose is also a thickener but with some surface active properties (as part of the molecule is water-loving and part of it is oil loving). Thanks to its surface-active properties, it also works as an emulsion stabilizer.
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.
- It's one of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin
- It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores
- It's a potent anti-inflammatory agent
- It's more effective for treating blackheads than acne
- For acne combine it with antibacterial agents like benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid
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.
A little helper ingredient that is used to adjust the pH of the product. It also helps to keep products stay nice longer by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water).
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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||skin-identical ingredient | antioxidant | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||soothing | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | emollient|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | emulsifying|
|what‑it‑does||emulsifying | solvent | surfactant/cleansing|
|irritancy, com.||0-1, 0-2|
|what‑it‑does||exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative|
|what‑it‑does||exfoliant | buffering|
|what‑it‑does||chelating | buffering|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||antimicrobial/antibacterial | preservative|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | emollient|
|what‑it‑does||preservative | antimicrobial/antibacterial|