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INSTYTUTUM Powerful Retin Oil

Powerful Retin Oil

Facial oil with vitamin A
Uploaded by: louiseannie on

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Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil emollient 0, 1-3 goodie
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride emollient
Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil emollient 0, 0-2 goodie
Bakuchiol cell-communicating ingredient, antioxidant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Gossypium Herbaceum (Cotton) Seed Oil 2, 3
Macadamia Integrifolia Seed Oil emollient goodie
Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil antioxidant, emollient 0, 0-3 goodie
Dimethyl Isosorbide solvent, viscosity controlling
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil emollient 0, 0 goodie
Rosa Canina Fruit Oil emollient
Bisabolol soothing goodie
Cananga Odorata Flower Oil perfuming icky
Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil antioxidant, emollient goodie
Borago Officinalis Seed Oil soothing, emollient goodie
Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Oil icky
Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil soothing, emollient 2, 3 goodie
Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil emollient 0, 1-2 goodie
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil antioxidant, emollient goodie
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil emollient, moisturizer/​humectant
Jasminum Grandiflorum (Jasmine) Flower Extract perfuming
Linalool perfuming icky
Algae Extract emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Seed Oil
Benzyl Benzoate solvent, perfuming, antimicrobial/​antibacterial icky
Limonene perfuming, solvent icky
Farnesol perfuming icky
Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Geraniol perfuming icky
Benzyl Salicylate perfuming icky
Eugenol perfuming icky
Benzyl Alcohol preservative, perfuming, solvent, viscosity controlling
Isoeugenol perfuming
Rubus Idaeus Leaf Cell Culture
Ascorbyl Palmitate antioxidant 0, 2 icky
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie

INSTYTUTUM Powerful Retin Oil
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Sweet Almond Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-3

The emollient plant oil that comes from almonds. Similar to other plant oils, it is loaded with skin-nourishing fatty acids (oleic acid - 55-86% and linoleic acid 7-35%) and contains several other skin goodies such as antioxidant vitamin E and vitamin B versions. 

It's a nice, basic oil that is often used due to its great smoothing, softening and moisturizing properties. It's also particularly good at treating dry brittle nails (source).

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. 

Also-called: Jojoba Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

Jojoba is a drought resistant evergreen shrub native to South-western North America. It's known and grown for jojoba oil, the golden yellow liquid coming from the seeds (about 50% of the weight of the seeds will be oil).  

At first glance, it seems like your average emollient plant oil: it looks like an oil and it's nourishing and moisturizing to the skin but if we dig a bit deeper, it turns out that jojoba oil is really special and unique: technically - or rather chemically - it's not an oil but a wax ester (and calling it an oil is kind of sloppy). 

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So what the heck is a wax ester and why is that important anyway? Well, to understand what a wax ester is, you first have to know that oils are chemically triglycerides: one glycerin + three fatty acids attached to it. The fatty acids attached to the glycerin vary and thus we have many kinds of oils, but they are all triglycerides. Mother Nature created triglycerides to be easily hydrolyzed (be broken down to a glycerin + 3 fatty acid molecules) and oxidized (the fatty acid is broken down into small parts) - this happens basically when we eat fats or oils and our body generates energy from it.

Mother Nature also created wax esters but for a totally different purpose. Chemically, a wax ester is a fatty acid + a fatty alcohol, one long molecule. Wax esters are on the outer surface of several plant leaves to give them environmental protection. 25-30% of human sebum is also wax esters to give us people environmental protection. 

So being a wax ester results in a couple of unique properties: First, jojoba oil is extremely stable. Like crazy stable. Even if you heat it to 370 C (698 F) for 96 hours, it does not budge. (Many plant oils tend to go off pretty quickly). If you have some pure jojoba oil at home, you should be fine using it for years. 

Second, jojoba oil is the most similar to human sebum (both being wax esters), and the two are completely miscible. Acne.org has this not fully proven theory that thanks to this, jojoba might be able to "trick" the skin into thinking it has already produced enough sebum, so it might have "skin balancing" properties for oily skin.

Third, jojoba oil moisturizes the skin through a unique dual action: on the one hand, it mixes with sebum and forms a thin, non-greasy, semi-occlusive layer; on the other hand, it absorbs into the skin through pores and hair follicles then diffuses into the intercellular spaces of the outer layer of the skin to make it soft and supple.

On balance, the point is this: in contrast to real plant oils, wax esters were designed by Mother Nature to stay on the surface and form a protective, moisturizing barrier and jojoba oil being a wax ester is uniquely excellent at doing that.

Bakuchiol - goodie
Also-called: Sytenol A, Phyto Retinol | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial

At first glance, you could think that Bakuchiol is your average plant extract. It is derived from the seeds of Psoralea Corylifolia, aka Babchi, a plant important in Indian and Chinese medicine. The molecule was first isolated in 1973 and several anti-something properties are known about it: it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-bacterial and hepatoprotective magical abilities like plenty of other Ayurvedic plant extracts.

What makes Bakuchiol a special snowflake is the recent discovery that it behaves on the skin in a way very similar to well-known skincare superstar, retinol. While chemically, it has nothing to do with the vitamin-A family, aka retinoids, comparative gene expression profiling (a fancy way of saying that they compared how retinol and bakuchiol modify the way  skin cells behave and produce important skin proteins such as collagen) shows that retinol and bakuchiol regulate skin cell behavior in a similar way. 

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To be more specific, both Bakuchiol and retinol upregulate collagen I, III and IV production and downregulate MMP, the evil collagen attacking enzyme in our skin. This means more collagen stays in our skin and we all know that more collagen equals firmer, more wrinkle-free skin.  A 12-week clinical study using a 0.5% Bakuchiol formula with 17 people using it twice a day confirmed a significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, elasticity, firmness and an overall reduction in photo-damage. Also, the test formula was very well tolerated, without any retinol-like side effects. 

What's more, a 2018 double-blind study with 44 people compared 0.5% Bakuchiol with 0.5% retinol cream and found that "bakuchiol is comparable to retinol in its ability to improve photoaging and is better tolerated than retinol". A super promising result after 12 weeks. 

If you are not a daredevil-type who doesn't want to stop using a super well-proven retinol for a newbie like Bakuchiol, we have good news. The two also work very nicely together and Bakuchiol can actually help to stabilize the otherwise unstable and hard to formulate retinol.

And we are still not done, as Bakuchiol shows not only anti-aging properties but also nice anti-acne effects. 1% Bakuchiol seems to be very effective in itself (57% reduction in acne after 6 weeks treatment) and even better when combined with 2% salicylic acid (67% reduction in acne after 6 weeks). We like that Bakuchiol is such a good team player!  The molecule works against acne in multiple ways: It downregulates 5α-reductase (a sebum-controlling enzyme), it is antibacterial (including P. acnes), anti-inflammatory and it inhibits lipid-peroxidation, an evil oxidative process that is recently thought to be a very early trigger in the acne process. 

We feel that this description is becoming very long so we will just mention that Bakuchiol also seems to positively regulate hydration-related genes such as Aquaporin 3 and also shows some melanin-inhibiting properties

Overall, we think Bakuchiol is an awesome molecule with lots of promise both for anti-aging and anti-acne. But the proof compared to the well-established superstars is far from solid, so in a skincare routine, we would rather add Bakuchiol next to retinol than straight up replace it. Unless you are a gimme-the-newest-shiny-thing-under-the-sun-type. 

Also-called: Cotton Seed Oil | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 3

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Macadamia Oil | What-it-does: emollient

The golden yellow oil coming from the Macadamia nut, a native Australian nut. Similar to other plant oils, it's loaded with emollient and nourishing fatty acids. It's a high oleic acid oil (50-67% oleic acid and only 0-5% linoleic acid) that makes it very emollient and ideal for dry skin types.

Its unique property is that it contains high amounts of a rare fatty acid called palmitoleic acid (12-25%) that give Macadamia oil a "cushiony" feel. It's also easily absorbed and makes the skin soft and supple. 

Also-called: Avocado Oil, Persea Americana Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-3

The oil coming from the pulp of one of the most nutritious fruits in the world, the avocado. It's loaded with the nourishing and moisturizing fatty acid, oleic (70%) and contains some others including palmitic (10%) and linoleic acid (8%). It also contains a bunch of minerals and vitamins A, E and D

Avocado oil has extraordinary skin penetration abilities and can nourish different skin layers. It's a very rich, highly moisturizing emollient oil that makes the skin smooth and nourished. Thanks to its vitamin E content it also has some antioxidant properties. As a high-oleic plant oil, it is recommended for dry skin

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.

Also-called: Sunflower Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Sunflower does not need a big intro as you probably use it in the kitchen as cooking oil, or you munch on the seeds as a healthy snack or you adore its big, beautiful yellow flower during the summer - or you do all of these and probably even more. And by even more  we mean putting it all over your face as sunflower oil is one of the most commonly used plant oils in skincare.

It’s a real oldie: expressed directly from the seeds, the oil is used not for hundreds but thousands of years. According to The National Sunflower Association, there is evidence that both the plant and its oil were used by American Indians in the area of Arizona and New Mexico about 3000 BC. Do the math: it's more than 5000 years – definitely an oldie.

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Our intro did get pretty big after all (sorry for that), so let's get to the point finally: sunflower oil - similar to other plant oils - is a great emollient that makes the skin smooth and nice and helps to keep it hydrated. It also protects the surface of the skin and enhances the damaged or irritated skin barrier. Leslie Bauman notes in Cosmetic Dermatology that one application of sunflower oil significantly speeds up the recovery of the skin barrier within an hour and sustains the results 5 hours after using it.

It's also loaded with fatty acids (mostly linoleic (50-74%)  and oleic (14-35%)). The unrefined version (be sure to use that on your skin!) is especially high in linoleic acid that is great even for acne-prone skin. Its comedogen index is 0, meaning that it's pretty much an all skin-type oil

Truth be told, there are many great plant oils and sunflower oil is definitely one of them.

Also-called: Rosehip Oil | What-it-does: emollient

Though it says fruit oil in its name, the rosehip fruit contains the seeds that contain the oil. So this one is the same as Rosa Canina Seed Oil,  or Rosehip Oil, known for its high omega fatty acid content (linoleic acid - 51%, linolenic acid - 19% and oleic acid - 20%) and skin-regenerative properties

There is a common misconception that rosehip oil contains vitamin C as the fruit itself does, but vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin hence it is not contained in the oil. The antioxidant and regenerative properties of the oil probably come from the oil-soluble tocopherols (vitamin E) and carotenoids (pro-vitamin A). Read more here

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Bisabolol - goodie
Also-called: Alpha-Bisabolol | What-it-does: soothing

It's one of the active parts of Chamomile that contains about 30% of bisabolol. It's a clear oily fluid that is used in skincare as a nice anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient. 

Also-called: Ylang Ylang Essential Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

Sweet, exotic and floral, it’ no surprise that Ylang Ylang is a popular essential oil. It is coming from the yellow, fragrant flowers of the Cananga tree native to tropical Asia and, similar to other essential oils, it is a chemically complex mixture with several pros and cons. 

Unfortunately, these are a bit tricky to pin down as the composition varies largely depending on where it is sourced, how the oil is extracted and the grade of it that is used in the product, but we’ll do our best!

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Let’s start with the easy stuff.  The main components are fragrant molecules, including super common linalool (1-19%), benzyl benzoate (2-10%) and several others adding up to a max amount of 37.6% of EU sensitizers. The most expensive Extra grade is the most fragrant (has more benzyl acetate and cresyl methyl ether) and is used in high-end perfumes, while the First and Second grades are less fragrant, and used mainly in cosmetics.   

Other than smelling nice and making cosmetic formulas also smell nice, Ylang Ylang might have some antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits and also works as an insect repellent. Its nice smell is also commonly known as being relaxing and calming (also backed up by a few recent studies), but it is an aromatherapy use case (when inhaled) so this probably does not count much skincare-wise. 

On the other hand, the nice smell also means allergen fragrant components and 37.6% of EU sensitizers counts as quite high and the oil is considered to have high skin sensitization potential. It is a good idea to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

Also-called: Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil;Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

The oil coming from the pulp of the sea buckthorn berry. It has a pretty unique fatty acid composition: 65% is a combination of the rare Omega-7, aka palmitoleic acid and the more common palmitic acid. Fatty acids give the oil nice moisturizing and skin-protecting abilities. 

But that's not all the goodness of sea buckthorn oil. It contains antioxidant superstar, Vitamin E (in multiple forms), antioxidant (and orange color giving) pigments beta-carotene and lycopene, as well as skin-soothing and replenishing beta-sitosterol

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Btw, used undiluted, it will make your skin orange. 

All in all, a goodie emollient plant oil. 

Also-called: Borage Seed Oil, Starflower Seed Oil | What-it-does: soothing, emollient

We feel that this one is a bit under the radar probably because the Borage plant is not very well known. Maybe because its name isn't as cool as some others, it's hard to compete with kukui or baobab, not to mention murumuru. But let us tell you when it comes to skin care, borage seed oil is one of the best oils that can happen to your skin. Especially, if it's dry, sensitive, easily irritated, often itchy or eczema prone. 

So what is so special about it? It is the richest known plant source of the super important essential fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is soothing and nourishing, and can repair even severely dry and irritated skin, but it's pretty rare and borage contains by far the most of it (17-28%). Next to GLA, it also contains more common fatty acids, like linoleic (36%), oleic (18%) or palmitic acid (10%). 

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If your skin is dry and sensitive, this one is totally for you. 

Also-called: Bitter Orange Flower Oil, Neroli Oil

The essential oil coming from the flowers of bitter orange (which is the sister of the sweet orange we all know and eat). It contains several fragrance components including linalool (around 30%) and limonene (around 10%) and has a lovely sweet smell

As it's an essential oil with lots of fragrant components, be careful with it if your skin is sensitive.  

Also-called: Granactive Retinoid, HPR, Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR) is the newest member of the "royal family of skincare" (see who is who on this cool retinoids family tree), the retinoid family. The queen of the family is the FDA-approved anti-aging superstar, retinoic acid, aka tretinoin and HPR seems to be a gentle but influential sister princess to the queen.

It's a so-called retinoic acid ester, meaning that it's directly related to retinoic acid. If you've already read our description about retinol or retinyl palmitate, you know that the active ingredient our skin cells can interpret is retinoic acid. Other forms of retinoids have to be converted by our metabolic machinery to do something. That's not the case with HPR.  It binds directly to the retinoid receptors of the skin cells to work its skincare magic. 

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The big promise of HPR is that it's similarly active as retinoic acid (no conversion needed, remember) but without the irritation. According to the manufacturer's tests, 24 hours of an occlusive patch with 0.5% HPR resulted in significantly lower irritation than 0.5% retinol.  Also, there was a "dramatic reduction of lines and wrinkles" after applying 0.2% HPR around the eyes twice a day for 14 days.

These results sound sooo promising that we don't blame you if you wanna run out right now and get an HPR formula to slather on your face.  But, before you do, you have to know that the info we have about HPR at the moment is mainly from the manufacturer, whose tests may or may not be accurate or properly designed (such as controlled, double-blind and conducted on an appropriate number of people). 

As HPR is pretty new there isn't that much independent research we could find yet. We found two Italian studies both examining the efficacy of HPR combined with other things (retinol in both cases, and papain in one of them) for the treatment of acne. Both studies found the formulas effective but they contained other things too, so it's hard to judge how well HPR did.

Regarding anti-aging, there is a pretty recent, Estee Lauder sponsored study that compared the in-vitro (not on real human beings but on skin models) collagen-boosting effectiveness of Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, tretinoin, good old retinol and retinyl palmitate (RP). The results are pretty encouraging showing that  "HPR had greater levels of gene transcription than retinol and RP (RP) at the same concentrations ... however, HPR did not achieve gene transcription levels of ATRA (tretinoin)."  But, a much higher dose might be tolerated from HPR and the highest dose of HPR out-performed tretinoin. Pretty encouraging, though we are very much waiting for a study to confirm all this on real human beings.  

Bottom line: We are really happy to see some innovation happening with retinoids, and we think Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate is a super promising rising star, but it’s not fully proven yet. If you are someone who likes to experiment and try out the newest things, grab your running shoes and try some HPR containing serum now (see product list below :)). If you like the tried and true, however, stick to retinol and tretinoin for now and re-examine the question in a couple of years when (hopefully) more research will be available. 

Are you into Retinoids? Read our shiny description about other members of the retinoid family: 

Also-called: Evening Primrose Oil, EPO | What-it-does: soothing, emollient | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 3

The oil coming from the seeds of the nice, little, yellow-flowered plant called Evening Primrose. Similar to other plant oils, it's loaded with nourishing and moisturizing fatty acids. It's a very rich source of linoleic acid (66-76%), and also contains the soothing and healing superstar fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (aka GLA, 7-12%) (Btw, the richest known source of GLA is the borage oil, but evening primrose still counts as a very good source of it). It also contains oleic acid, but not too much around 6-15%.

Since the 1980's, EPO is a well-known food supplement and there are quite a lot of studies examining what happens if you take it orally. It seems to be helpful with a bunch of  things: atopic dermatitis, dry eyes, brittle nails, sunburn and even acne.

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As for the skin, it's a great hydrating plant oil, that can also reduce inflammation and irritation. It's a superb healing agent that can truly help dry skin, not just on the surface by covering it (and not letting water to evaporate) but by initiating structural changes within the skin. If that's not enough, it also helps skin cell regeneration

All in all, a real goodie especially for dry, easily irritated skin.

Also-called: Apricot Kernel Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-2

The emollient plant oil coming from the kernel (the seed of the seed) of the delicious apricot fruit. Like other plant oils, it contains antioxidant vitamin E and nourishing fatty acids (mostly oleic acid 54-74%, linoleic acid 12-35%).

It's a nice general purpose emollient, has nourishing and moisturizing properties (as a high oleic oil it's ideal for dry skin types) and is quite easily absorbed into the skin.

Also-called: Grape Seed Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

A goodie plant oil coming from the polyphenol-rich seeds of the grape. It's a light emollient oil that makes your skin feel smooth and nice and also contains a bunch of good-for-the-skin stuff. It's a great source of antioxidant polyphenols, barrier repair fatty acid linoleic acid (about 55-77%, while oleic acid is about 12-27%) and antioxidant, skin-protectant vitamin E

Also-called: Wheat Germ Oil | What-it-does: emollient, moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Jasmine Absolute | What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Linalool - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

Linalool is a super common fragrance ingredient. It’s kind of everywhere - both in plants and in cosmetic products. It’s part of 200 natural oils including lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, jasmine, geranium and it can be found in 90-95% of prestige perfumes on the market. 

The problem with linalool is, that just like limonene it oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. That’s why a product containing linalool that has been opened for several months is more likely to be allergenic than a fresh one.

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A study made in the UK with 483 people tested the allergic reaction to 3% oxidised linalool and 2.3% had positive test results. 

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: Rapeseed Oil

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A common fragrance ingredient that has a faint sweet balsamic smell. It can also be a solvent and can fight against microbes and insects very well.

It's one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

Limonene - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, solvent, deodorant

A super common and cheap fragrance ingredient. It's in many plants, e.g. rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and it's the main component (about 50-90%) of the peel oil of citrus fruits.

It does smell nice but the problem is that it oxidizes on air exposure and the resulting stuff is not good for the skin. Oxidized limonene can cause allergic contact dermatitis and counts as a frequent skin sensitizer

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Limonene's nr1 function is definitely being a fragrance component, but there are several studies showing that it's also a penetration enhancer, mainly for oil-loving components.

All in all, limonene has some pros and cons, but - especially if your skin is sensitive - the cons probably outweigh the pros.  

Farnesol - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

With a sweet, light and floral scent, Farnesol is a popular fragrancing ingredient to make your cosmetics that bit nicer to use. It starts its life as a colorless liquid that can either be synthetically created or extracted from loads of plants like citronella, neroli, ylang-ylang, and tuberose.

The reason we list it as icky is because Farnesol is one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labeled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential, so it is best avoided if you have super sensitive skin.

Also-called: Rosemary Leaf Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial

The extract coming from the lovely herb, rosemary. It contains lots of chemicals, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and diterpenes. Its main active is rosmarinic acid, a potent antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. It has also anti-bacterial, astringent and toning properties. 

The leaves contain a small amount of essential oil (1-2%) with fragrant components, so if you are allergic to fragrance, it might be better to avoid it. 

Geraniol - icky
What-it-does: perfuming

Geraniol is a common fragrance ingredient. It smells like rose and can be found in rose oil or in small quantities in geranium, lemon and many other essential oils. 

Just like other similar fragrance ingredients (like linalool and limonene) geraniol also oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. Best to avoid if you have sensitive skin.

What-it-does: perfuming

It’s a common fragrance ingredient that has a light floral smell.  It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

Eugenol - icky
What-it-does: perfuming

A colorless or yellowish oil that's used as a fragrance. It has a spicy scent and can be found for example in basil, clove or cinnamon oil.

A 2006 in-vitro  (made in the lab not on real people) study examined if clove oil is cytotoxic and found that not only clove oil but also its main constituent, eugenol is cytotoxic even at very low concentration (0.03%). It’s also one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid at least in leave-on products.

It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically.

No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. Has to be combined with some other nice preservatives, like potassium sorbate to be broad spectrum enough.  

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In high amounts, it can be a skin irritant, but don’t worry, it’s never used in high amounts.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. Even though we are massive vitamin C fans,  Ascorbyl Palmitate  (AP) is our least favorite. (Btw, if you do not know what the big deal with vitamin C is then you are missing out. You must go and read our geeky details about it.) 

So, AP is one of the attempts by the cosmetics industry to solve the stability issues with vitamin C while preserving its benefits,  but it seems to fall short on several things.

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What's the problem?

Firstly, it's stability is only similar to that of pure ascorbic acid (AA), which means it is not really stable. A great study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology compared a bunch of vitamin C derivatives and this derivative was the only one where the study said in terms of stability that it's "similar to AA". Not really that good.

Second, a study that examined the skin absorption of vitamin C found that ascorbyl palmitate did not increase the skin levels of AA. This does not mean that ascorbyl palmitate cannot penetrate the skin (because it can, it's oil soluble and the skin likes to absorb oil soluble things) but this means that it's questionable if ascorbyl palmitate can be converted into pure Vit C in the skin. Even if it can be converted, the palmitate part of the molecule is more than the half of it, so the efficacy will not be good and we have never seen a serum that contains a decent (and proudly disclosed) amount of AP.  We are highly skeptical what effect a tiny amount of AP has in a formula.

Third, another study that wanted to examine the antioxidant properties of AP was surprised to find that even though AP does have nice antioxidant properties; following UVB radiation (the same one that comes from the sun) it also promotes lipid peroxidation and cytotoxicity. It was only an in-vitro study meaning that it was done on cell cultures and not on real people, but still, this also does not support the use of AP too much. 

The only good thing we can write about Ascorbyl Palmitate is that there is an in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) study showing that it might be able to boost collagen production.

Regarding the skin-brightening properties of pure vitamin C, this is another magic property AP does not have, or at least there is no data, not even in-vitro, about it.

Overall, Ascorbyl Palmitate is our least favorite vitamin C derivative. It is there in lots of products in tiny amounts (honestly, we do not really understand why), however, we do not know about any vitamin C serum featuring AP in high amounts. That is probably no coincidence. If you are into vitamin C, you can take a look at more promising derivatives here

Tocopherol - goodie
Also-called: Vitamin E | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0-3 | Comedogenicity: 0-3
  • Primary fat-soluble antioxidant in our skin
  • Significant photoprotection against UVB rays
  • Vit C + Vit E work in synergy and provide great photoprotection
  • Has emollient properties
  • Easy to formulate, stable and relatively inexpensive
Read all the geeky details about Tocopherol here >>

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