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Image Skincare The Max™ Stem Cell Crème

The Max™ Stem Cell Crème

Achieve maximum results overnight with this groundbreaking crème that delivers unparalleled antioxidant benefits and reinforces skin’s defense mechanisms.
Uploaded by: vivianwc on

Highlights

#alcohol-free #fragrance & essentialoil-free
Alcohol Free
Fragrance and Essential Oil Free

Show all ingredients by function

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Aqua solvent
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Malus Domestica Fruit Cell Culture Extract goodie
Leontopodium Alpinum Meristem Cell Culture
Vigna Radiata Seed Extract
Argania Spinosa Sprout Cell Culture Extract
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride emollient
Sucrose Palmitate emollient, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Glyceryl Stearate emollient, emulsifying 0, 1-2
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Phospholipids skin-identical ingredient, emollient goodie
Vitis Vinifera Seed Extract antioxidant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Algae Extract emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Macrocystis Pyrifera Extract
Plankton Extract
Arabidopsis Thaliana Extract antioxidant
Imperata Cylindrica Root Extract moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Centella Asiatica Extract soothing, antioxidant, moisturizer/​humectant, surfactant/​cleansing goodie
Echinacea Purpurea Extract moisturizer/​humectant
Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Spiraea Ulmaria Root Extract
Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Glycine Soja Protein emulsifying
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38 cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 cell-communicating ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate antioxidant, skin brightening goodie
Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin goodie
Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Acetyl Octapeptide-3 cell-communicating ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Glycine Soja Sterols emollient
Glyceryl Polymethacrylate viscosity controlling
Hydrolyzed Rice Protein
Isomalt moisturizer/​humectant
Dicetyl Phosphate emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Linoleic Acid skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/​cleansing goodie
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Ceteth-10 Phosphate surfactant/​cleansing
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Stearic Acid emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 2-3
Pullulan
Superoxide Dismutase antioxidant goodie
Palmitoyl Oligopeptide cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Sodium Dextran Sulfate viscosity controlling, viscosity controlling
Biotin
Phenoxyethanol preservative
PPG-12/Smdi Copolymer emollient
Propylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 0
Polysorbate 20 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 0
Carbomer viscosity controlling 0, 1
PVP viscosity controlling 0, 0
Sodium Benzoate preservative
Citric Acid buffering
Potassium Sorbate preservative
Disodium EDTA chelating, viscosity controlling
Tetrasodium EDTA chelating
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Hexylene Glycol solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/​cleansing 0-1, 0-2

Image Skincare The Max™ Stem Cell Crème
Ingredients explained

Also-called: 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. 

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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. 

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: PhytoCellTec

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Mung Bean Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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. 

A sugar ester (sucrose + palmitic acid) that works as a natural emulsifier (helps oil and water to mix). According to the manufacturer, it has a great skin-feel, improves smoothness, emolliency and even hydrates the skin.

Combined with another sugar ester, sucrose stearate, it can improve high temperature stability of Sucragel based oily gel cleansers.

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.

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It also occurs naturally in our body and is used as a food additive. As cosmetic chemist Colins writes it, "its safety really is beyond any doubt".

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

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.

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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. 

Phospholipids - goodie

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.

Also-called: Grape Seed Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial

We wholeheartedly support the rise of seedless grapes as fruit snacks, but when it comes to skincare, we are big fans of the seeds.

They contain the majority of the skin goodies that -  similar to green tea - are mostly polyphenols (but not the same ones as in tea). The most abundant ones in grape are called proanthocyanidins, and 60-70% of them are found in the seeds (it's also often abbreviated as GSP - grape seed proanthocyanidins). In general, the darker the fruit, the more GSPs and other flavonoids it contains.

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So what's so special about GSPs? Well, they are super-potent antioxidants, much stronger than Vitamin C or Vitamin E. And if that's not enough, GSPs and other flavonoids in grape also show UV protecting and anti-cancer properties.

It's definitely a goodie to spot on the INCI list.

Algae Extract - goodie

We have to admit that Algae Extract is not our favorite ingredient name. It does comply with the INCI standard (the official list about how ingredients on the product labels have to be called, the thing we help you to decode here :)), but there are about 20 000 different kinds of algae and an extract from them can be made in another 10 000 ways.

So, Algae Extract can be anything from La Mer's "Miracle Broth" to a simple brown algae extract that helps to smooth the hair. The official description in the Europiean Cosmetic Ingredient listing is this: "an extract of various species of Algae; Extract of the Seaweed, Fucus vesiculosus, Furaceae". Its official functions include being a humectant (helps skin to attract water), emollient (makes skin feel smooth and nice) and skin conditioner (a catchall phrase for saying it does something good for the skin).

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A 2015 research paper on the potential of uses of algae in cosmetics summarizes that algae are rich sources of biologically active metabolites including antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, alginates, polysaccharides, and carotenoids. Currently, algae extracts are mostly used as moisturizing and thickening agents, but algae also have great potential to combat skin aging, pigmentation as well as working as an antimicrobial.

We have also browsed through Prospector to see what manufacturers say about their algae. There is, for example, an algae extract trade-named Lanablue that comes from blue-green algae (green algae is rare, less than 1% of the total macroalgae in the world) and is claimed to have retinoid like effects (i.e. reduce wrinkles, smooth skin) but without the side effects (though it seems now that the INCI name of Lanablue was changed to Aphanizomenon Flos-Aquae Extract). 

There is another algae extract from another manufacturer that comes from red algae (much more common, about 40% of total macroalgae worldwide) and is claimed to have not only moisturizing but also skin smoothing and densifying effects. 

Here is a brown algae extract (the most common type, about 59% of macroalgae), also just called Algae Extract on the product label that is simply claimed to be a free radical scavenger, aka antioxidant. These were just three random examples from three manufacturers all called Algae extract even though they all come from different algae with different claims.

Anyhow, the point is this; there are tons of different types of Algae Extracts out there. Unless the brand tells you what they use, it's impossible to know for sure. The most probable scenario for the Alge Extract is that it works as a moisturizer and emollient and it might have some additional anti-aging properties.

Also-called: Kelp Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Cogon Grass Root Extract, Japanese Bloodgrass Root Extract | What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A subtropical plant that thrives in flooded environments and is claimed to give excellent long-term moisturizing effects. Its hydrating ability is due to the chemical composition of the rhizomes that contain natural osmoprotective compounds such as 3-dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), potassium, starches, and sugars. 

Osmoprotective compounds are interesting, skincare-wise, as they are thought to be able to increase intracellular osmosis, meaning water is drawn into the skin cells. According to the efficacy data from the manufacturer, 2% of ABS Imperata Cylindrica Extract (the trade name of the diluted version of the root extract) is able to increase the level of skin moisturization by almost 45%, which is 88% more effective than the untreated control. 

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This all sounds great, however, in terms of comparative effectiveness, Imperata Cylindrica came up somewhat short in the study published in the Journal of cosmetic dermatology. They compared four hydrogels with different moisturizer actives and although all the formulas did hydrate the skin, the one with Imperata Cylindrica extract performed less well than the same formula with urea or sugar-based hydrating trio, called Aquaxyl

Still, it is a skin goodie with nice moisturizing properties, so if you are after skin hydration, it is a good one to spot on the INCI list. 

Also-called: Gotu Kola, Tiger Grass | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, moisturizer/humectant, surfactant/cleansing

Centella Asiatica - or gotu kola as normal people call it  - has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years. It’s traditionally used to improve small wounds, burns and scratches and it’s also a well known anti-inflammatory agent for eczema.

Recently science has taken an interest in Gotu Kola as well and it turns out it really has many active compounds with several benefits. Just for hard-core geeks, the main biologically active compounds are pentacyclic triterpenoid saponins called asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic and madecassic acid (also called centellosides).

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One of the biological activities of the centellosides is to be able to stimulate GAGs  (glycosaminoglycans - polysaccharides that are part of the liquidy stuff between our skin cells), and especially hyaluronic acid synthesis in our skin. This is probably one of the reasons why Centella Asiatica Extract has nice skin moisturizing properties that was confirmed by a 25 people, four weeks study along with Centella's anti-inflammatory effects.

Madecassoside can also help in burn wound healing through increasing antioxidant activity and enhancing collagen synthesis. Asiaticoside was shown to increase antioxidant levels on rats skin when applied at 0.2%. 

Centella Asiatica also often shows up in products that try to treat cellulite or striae. Of course, it cannot make a miracle but it might have some effect via regulating microcirculation and normalizing the metabolism in the cells of connective tissues. 

Bottom line: Gotu Kola is a great plant ingredient with proven wound healing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Nice to spot on any ingredient list.  

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Syn-Ake | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

This awfully long named ingredient is, in fact, a pretty small molecule. It's a tripeptide (a three amino acid peptide)  with molecular weight less than 500 Da, meaning that it's small enough to penetrate nicely and easily into the skin.

It belongs to the "Botox in a jar" type of peptides (similar to Argireline or Leuphasyl) targeting wrinkles caused by facial movements, like laughter lines or crow’s feet. According to the manufacturer's in-vivo (made on real people) studies, 4% Syn-Ake used for 28 days resulted in 21% smoother and 15-20% less wrinkled skin with max values up to 52%. The smoothing effect was measurable on 80% of the volunteers, while the wrinkle reduction effect was evident on 73%.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Part of Matrixyl 3000, Pal-GHK, Formerly also Palmitoyl Oligopeptide | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A really famous peptide that is part of Matrixyl 3000, the most sold peptide complex in the word. Before we go and find out what the big deal with Matrixyl 3000 is, let's just focus on Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 itself for a bit.

It's a small three amino acid (they are the building blocks of all proteins) peptide with the amino sequence of glycine-histidine-lysine, or GHK. GHK is attached to palmitic acid (a fatty acid) to increase oil solubility and skin penetration. 

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The GHK part is the important one as it's a type I collagen fragment. When collagen naturally breaks down in the skin, the resulting peptide fragments signal to the skin that it should get to work and create some nice, new collagen. Adding in collagen fragment peptides, like GHK, might trick the skin into thinking that collagen has broken down and it's time to create some more.

Therefore, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 is believed to be able to stimulate collagen production in the skin, and more collagen means fewer wrinkles and younger looking skin. 

In Matrixyl 3000, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 is coupled with Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7  and the duo works in synergy to reduce wrinkles and give younger looking skin. According to the manufacturer's in-vivo (made on real people) test, applying 3% Matrixyl 3000 twice a day for 2 months resulted in all of the following things:

  • 39.4% reduction in surface occupied by deep wrinkles
  • 32.9% reduction in main wrinkle density
  • 19.9% reduction in main wrinkle average depth
  • 16% improvement in roughness
  • 16.2% in lifting effect
  • 5.5% improvement in elasticity
  • 15.5% improvement in skin tone

Manufacturer results, of course, always have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but if you like peptides, the Matryxil 3000 duo is one of the best-proven and most well-known ones and it's something that is worth trying.

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Vitamin E Acetate | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the most commonly used version of pure vitamin E in cosmetics. You can read all about the pure form here. This one is the so-called esterified version. 

According to famous dermatologist, Leslie Baumann while tocopheryl acetate is more stable and has a longer shelf life, it’s also more poorly absorbed by the skin and may not have the same awesome photoprotective effects as pure Vit E. 

Lecithin - goodie
What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

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

Also-called: Matrixyl synthe'6 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

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%.

Also-called: Argireline, Acetyl Hexapeptide-3 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, moisturizer/humectant

If you see a cosmetic product that claims that it has "Botox-like effect" then two things are almost certain: one, the product overpromises and two, it contains Argireline. 

So this one is the famous peptide that's marketed by its manufacturer as the "Botox in a jar". The basis for this claim is that it targets the same wrinkle forming mechanism (wrinkles caused by facial muscle movement) as Botox, but the way it works is very different. In addition, the extent to which it can prevent muscles from contracting (and to smooth wrinkles) is very different (otherwise why would anyone use still Botox?). 

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The manufacturer did several studies to prove that Argireline really works and it does (just not as well as Botox). In-vivo (made on real people) tests showed that using 10% Argireline solution around the eyes for 15 days decreased wrinkles depth by 17%. A Spanish University also did some research and found that Argireline increased the level of skin moisturization and decreased both the depth and width of wrinkles "significantly". 

This means, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 does have some ability to smooth wrinkles (but not as well as Botox - sorry, if we sound like a broken record). Also, we have to agree with TruthInAging, that it's not a collagen builder and not a preventer of structural aging (think vitamin C, AHAs or retinol); it's just a quick fix. If you are looking for one, this could be your thing. If you are more of a "let's treat this aging thing properly" type, then it's probably not your thing.

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C, Ascorbyl Isotetrapalmitate, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, ATIP | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a stable, oil-soluble form of skincare big shot Vitamin C. If you do not know, why Vitamin C is such a big deal in skincare, click here and read all about it. We are massive vitamin C fans and have written about it in excruciating detail.

So now, you know that Vitamin C is great and all, but it's really unstable and gives cosmetics companies many headaches. To solve this problem they came up with vitamin C derivatives, and one of them is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (let's call it ATIP in short).

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It's a really promising candidate (see below), but while reading all the goodness about it in a minute, do not forget that derivatives not only have to be absorbed into the skin but also have to be converted to pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid or AA) and the efficacy of the conversion is often unknown. In addition, vitamin C's three magic properties (antioxidant, collagen booster, skin brightener) are all properly proven in-vivo (on real people), but for the derivatives, it's mostly in-vitro studies or in the case of ATIP, it's in-vitro and done by an ingredient supplier.

With this context in mind let's see what ATIP might be able to do. First, it is stable (if pH < 5), easy to formulate and a joy to work with for a cosmetic chemist.

Second, because it's oil-soluble, its skin penetration abilities seem to be great. So great in fact, that it surpasses the penetration of pure vitamin C threefold at the same concentration and it penetrates successfully into the deeper layers of the skin (that is usually important to do some anti-aging work). There is also in-vitro data showing that it converts to AA in the skin. 

Third, ATIP seems to have all three magic abilities of pure vitamin C: it gives antioxidant protection from both UVB and UVA rays, it increases collagen synthesis (even more than AA) and it has a skin brightening effect by reducing melanogenesis by more than 80% in human melanoma cell cultures.

So this all sounds really great, but these are only in-vitro results at this point. We could find Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate mentioned only in one published in-vivo study that examined the anti-aging properties of a silicone formula containing 10% AA and 7% ATIP. The authors theorized that the 10% AA is released slowly from the silicon delivery system and probably stays in the upper layer of the skin to give antioxidant benefits, while ATIP penetrates more rapidly and deeply and gives some wrinkle-reducing benefits. The study was a small (10 patients), double-blind experiment, and the formula did show some measurable anti-aging results. However, it is hard to know how much pure vitamin C or ATIP can be thanked.

Bottom line: a really promising, but not well-proven vitamin C derivative that can be worth a try especially if you like experimenting (but if you like the tried and true, pure vitamin C will be your best bet).

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.

Also-called: Part of Matrixyl 3000, Pal-GQPR, Previously Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A four amino acid peptide with the amino sequence of glycine-glutamine-proline-arginine. It is attached to palmitic acid (a fatty acid)  to increase oil solubility and skin penetration. 

It works by reducing the production of the signal moleculeinteleukin-6 (IL-6) which promotes inflammation in the skin and less inflammation means slower degradation of important things (like collagen) that results in younger looking skin for a longer time. 

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It works in synergy with its pal, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 in the famous Matrixyl 3000 complex. You can read some more about the famous duo here.

Also-called: SNAP-8, Acetyl Glutamyl Heptapeptide-1 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, moisturizer/humectant

A newer and, molecule-wise, somewhat bigger version of the famous "Botox-like" peptide called Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 or Argireline. Just like Argireline, Acetyl Octapeptide-3 is also claimed to influence the muscle contraction process that results in a more relaxed and line-free face, especially around the forehead and the eyes.  

While Argireline counts as a pretty well-proven peptide, with multiple studies confirming its anti-wrinkle efficacy, we cannot say the same for Acetyl Octapeptide-3. What we have is the manufacturer's claim that comparing 10% Argireline with 10% SNAP-8 solution (that means 0.005% pure peptide powder) the SNAP-8 peptide did a bit better as it reduced wrinkles by 34.98% vs 27.05% reduction for Argireline (twice a day use for 28 days on 17 women). 

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Other than that, we can write here pretty much the same as at Argireline. Obviously, no peptide works as effectively as real Botox, and the Botox-inspired peptides are quick fixes rather than being collagen builders or real preventers of structural aging. They are nice additions to an anti-aging skincare routine but not the real superstars (think vitamin CAHAs or retinol).

Also-called: Soybean Sterols | What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Linoleic Acid - goodie
Also-called: LA, omega-6 fatty acid, 18:2 cis-9,12, Form of Vitamin F | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/cleansing

The famous omega-6 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-6 fatty acids in our body. It is a so-called polyunsaturated fatty acid meaning it has more than one (in this case two) double bonds and a somewhat kinky structure that makes LA and LA-rich oils a thin liquid.

It is also an essential fatty acid meaning our body cannot synthesize it and has to take it from food. This is not hard at all as plenty of nuts (such as flax, poppy or sesame seeds) and vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower) are rich in LA. The hard thing seems to be eating enough omega-3-s, more specifically eating a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, but that is a topic for a what-is-good-to-eat-site and not for us. 

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As for linoleic acid and the skin, LA is a really important little guy found naturally in our skin. It is the most abundant fatty acid in the epidermis and it serves as a structural precursor for important skin lipids called ceramides. Knowing this, it will not come as a surprise that Linoleic acid has a central role in the structure and function of stratum corneum permeability, aka healthy skin barrier.  LA deficiency leads to an impaired more permeable skin barrier and the topical application of LA-rich sunflower oil can fix this issue rapidly (while oleic-rich olive oil did not have the same barrier repairing effect).

LA is not only important for dry, barrier damaged skin types but also for acne-prone skin. Research shows that problem skin has lower levels of linoleic acid (and higher levels of oleic acid) than normal skin. So LA-deficiency in the skin seems to be connected not only to an impaired skin barrier but also to acne and smearing LA all over your face might help with your problem skin. A double-blind study using a 2.5% LA gel for 4 weeks found a 25% reduction in the size of microcomedones, the tiny blocked pores that can later lead to acne.

If that was not enough, we have one more thing to report about LA.  It lightens hyperpigmentation (aka UVB caused sun spots) both by blocking the melanin production of melanocytes (the skin cells that make the pigment melanin) and by enhancing the desquamation of melanin pigment from the upper layers of the skin.

Overall, linoleic acid is a multi-functional skin goodie with barrier repairing, acne-reducing, and skin-lightening magic abilities. It's a nice one to spot on the ingredient list pretty much for any skin type. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A chemically chopped up version of wheat protein that consists mainly of amino acids (the building blocks), peptides (a couple of amino acids together), and proteins (lots of amino acids together). 

It has moisturizing and film-forming properties and  might be able to counteract the irritating effects of cleansing agents in cleansers and shampoos. It can also condition and repair damaged hair leaving it soft, silky and smooth.

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: surfactant/cleansing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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.

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2-3

A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It makes your skin feel nice and smooth (emollient), gives body to cream type products and helps to stabilize water and oil mixes (aka emulsions).

If you ever wondered what those little Listerine breath strips were made of, you found your answer! Pullulan is a polysaccharide polymer, which basically means that it’s a big molecule made up of smaller sugar molecule units.

It dissolves in water and can make a thin, elastic, and moisture-absorbing film when spread on the skin that can cause an instant tightening effect. It can also be used as a thickener to get a silicone-like feel and can be used in peel-off masks. Btw, it's made from fungus via fermentation. 

Also-called: SOD | What-it-does: antioxidant

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).

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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. 

Also-called: Biopeptide El, pal-VGVAPG, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide (old name);Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A six amino acid peptide that is claimed to improve firmness and skin tone. Its amino acid sequence is Val-Gly-Val-Ala-Pro-Gly that is also called the "spring fragment" and is repeated six times in the important skin protein, elastin molecule.

The manufacturer made a double-blind, one-month long clinical study on 10 women and found that twice a day application of 4%  Biopeptide El improved skin firmness by 33% and skin tone by 20%. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Vitamin H

Also called vitamin H, biotin is the main component of many enzymes in our body. A nice ingredient to take as a supplement for stronger nails and hair. When you do not take it as a supplement its effects are a bit more questionable but according to manufacturer info it can smooth the skin and strengthen the hair.

What-it-does: preservative

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. 

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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.

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • It's a helper ingredient that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products
  • It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer
  • It has a bad reputation among natural cosmetics advocates but cosmetic scientists and toxicology experts do not agree (read more in the geeky details section)
Read all the geeky details about Propylene Glycol here >>

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

It's a common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together. Also, it can help to increase the solubility of some other ingredients in the formula. 

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.

Also-called: Poly Vinyl Pyrollidone | What-it-does: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

These three letters stand for Poly Vinyl Pyrollidone, a big molecule created from repeated units of Vinyl Pyrrolidone, aka VP. Its main thing is being an important film former. It was the first synthetic polymer introduced as a hair fixative in the 1950s instead of insect-derived Shellac. 

So PVP likes to attach itself to surfaces such as the hair and the skin and forms a nice, thin, even film there. The film is useful for holding a hairstyle or extending the wear of color cosmetics and sunscreens. The disadvantage of PVP is that the film is a bit brittle and that PVP loves water (hygroscopic) that tends to destroy the film. This is the reason why hair styled with a PVP based product loses its style in high humidity. To fix this problem, there are now several versions of VP containing film formers that are less sensitive to humidity, for example, the molecule called VP/VA Copolymer

What-it-does: preservative

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.

What-it-does: buffering

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. 

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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. 

What-it-does: preservative

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.

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BTW, it’s also a food preservative and even has an E number, E202.

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

What-it-does: chelating

A handy helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

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: solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 0-1 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable. 

Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® HPO, where it helps the effectiveness of current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol

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what‑it‑does emollient
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what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
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what‑it‑does antioxidant
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what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Biopeptide El - A six amino acid peptide that is claimed to improve firmness (by 33% in one month) and skin tone (by 20%). [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | viscosity controlling
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what‑it‑does preservative
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what‑it‑does emollient
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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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
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi. Has to be combined with other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
An AHA that comes from citrus fruits. It is usually used as a helper ingredient to adjust the pH of the formula. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A not so strong preservative that doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. [more]
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Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating
A helper ingredient that helps to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.
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 solvent | emulsifying | perfuming | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0-1, 0-2
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