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Inward Agas ACue Serum

Agas ACue Serum

The Agas ACue Serum is a toner, lotion, and essence in one—this highly concentrated liquid has been shown in clinical studies to help treat acne and visibly reduce the appearance of breakouts. It’s packed with traditional Korean herbs such as Korean mint (agastache rugosa) and green tea to help calm reactive skin and control excess sebum production.
Uploaded by: eituc on

Ingredients overview

Water, Glycerin, Dipropylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Methylpropanediol, Betaine, Glycosyl Trehalose, Agastache Rugosa Extract, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Trehalose, Hydroxyacetophenone, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/​VP Copolymer, Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate, Propanediol, Carrageenan, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Adenosine, Xanthan Gum, Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans, Fragrance, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Butyl Avocadate, Benzyl Glycol, Magnolia Officinalis Bark Extract, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Musa Basjoo Extract, Torreya Nucifera Extract, Rosa Multiflora Fruit Extract, Chloranthus Glaber Extract, Cornus Kousa Extract, Corydalis Turtschaninovii Root Extract, Illicium Verum (Anise) Fruit Extract, Larix Sibirica Wood Extract, Chrysanthellum Indicum Extract, Coptis Japonica Root Extract, Asarum Sieboldi Root Extract, Quercus Mongolica Leaf Extract, Rheum Palmatum Root/​Stalk Extract, Persicaria Hydropiper Extract, Machilus Thunbergii Bark Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Corchorus Olitorius Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Chrysanthemum Morifolium Flower Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Lycium Chinense Fruit Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Flower Extract, Rubus Coreanus Fruit Extract, Ziziphus Jujuba Fruit Extract, Rheum Palmatum Root Extract, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Hyaluronic Acid, Beta-Glucan, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Raspberry Ketone, Phosphatidylcholine, Propyl Gallate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, rh-Oligopeptide-2, rh-Polypeptide-1, Rh-Polypeptide-3

Highlights

#alcohol-free
Alcohol Free

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water solvent
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Dipropylene Glycol solvent, perfuming, viscosity controlling
Niacinamide cell-communicating ingredient, skin brightening, anti-acne, moisturizer/​humectant superstar
Methylpropanediol solvent
Betaine moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Glycosyl Trehalose
Agastache Rugosa Extract antimicrobial/​antibacterial, antioxidant
Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate moisturizer/​humectant
Trehalose moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Hydroxyacetophenone antioxidant
Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer viscosity controlling
Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying
Propanediol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Carrageenan viscosity controlling
Cellulose Gum viscosity controlling 0, 0
Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer skin-identical ingredient, antioxidant, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Adenosine cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans moisturizer/​humectant
Fragrance perfuming icky
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
1,2-Hexanediol solvent
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Butyl Avocadate
Benzyl Glycol solvent
Magnolia Officinalis Bark Extract antimicrobial/​antibacterial
Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Musa Basjoo Extract
Torreya Nucifera Extract
Rosa Multiflora Fruit Extract
Chloranthus Glaber Extract
Cornus Kousa Extract
Corydalis Turtschaninovii Root Extract
Illicium Verum (Anise) Fruit Extract perfuming
Larix Sibirica Wood Extract antimicrobial/​antibacterial, antioxidant
Chrysanthellum Indicum Extract
Coptis Japonica Root Extract soothing, antioxidant goodie
Asarum Sieboldi Root Extract
Quercus Mongolica Leaf Extract
Rheum Palmatum Root/Stalk Extract
Persicaria Hydropiper Extract
Machilus Thunbergii Bark Extract
Portulaca Oleracea Extract soothing, antioxidant goodie
Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract antioxidant, soothing, emollient, abrasive/​scrub goodie
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract soothing, emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Corchorus Olitorius Leaf Extract
Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract antioxidant, soothing superstar
Chrysanthemum Morifolium Flower Extract
Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract soothing, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Lycium Chinense Fruit Extract antioxidant
Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract soothing, skin brightening superstar
Houttuynia Cordata Extract antioxidant, soothing goodie
Nelumbo Nucifera Flower Extract
Rubus Coreanus Fruit Extract
Ziziphus Jujuba Fruit Extract
Rheum Palmatum Root Extract
Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract antioxidant
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Hyaluronic Acid skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Beta-Glucan soothing, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil emollient, perfuming 0, 3 goodie
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Raspberry Ketone perfuming
Phosphatidylcholine emulsifying
Propyl Gallate antioxidant, perfuming
Disodium EDTA chelating, viscosity controlling
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate antioxidant, anti-acne goodie
rh-Oligopeptide-2 cell-communicating ingredient
rh-Polypeptide-1 cell-communicating ingredient
Rh-Polypeptide-3

Inward Agas ACue Serum
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua | 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. 

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 >>

A clear, colorless liquid that works as a solvent and viscosity decreasing ingredient. It also has great skin-moisturizing abilities. 

Niacinamide - superstar
Also-called: vitamin B3, nicotinamide | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, skin brightening, anti-acne, moisturizer/humectant
  • A multi-functional skincare superstar with several proven benefits for the skin
  • Great anti-aging, wrinkle smoothing ingredient used at 4-5% concentration
  • Fades brown spots alone or in combination with amino sugar, acetyl glucosamine
  • Increases ceramide synthesis that results in a stronger, healthier skin barrier and better skin hydration
  • Can help to improve several skin conditions including acne, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Niacinamide here >>

What-it-does: solvent

It's a type of glycol that - according to the manufacturer - is an extremely good replacement for other glycols like propylene or butylene glycol. Its main job is to be a solvent, but it has also very good antimicrobial properties and acts as a true preservative booster. Also helps with skin hydration without stickiness or tacky feel.

Betaine - goodie
What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A sugar beet derived amino acid derivative with nice skin protection and moisturization properties. Betain's special thing is being an osmolyte, a molecule that helps to control cell-water balance.  It is also a natural osmoprotectant, meaning that it attracts water away from the protein surface and thus protects them from denaturation and increases their thermodynamic stability. 

It also gives sensorial benefits to the formula and when used in cleansers, it helps to make them milder and gentler. 

What-it-does: emulsion stabilising

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.

Trehalose - goodie
What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A type of sugar that has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated

What-it-does: antioxidant

A handy multifunctional ingredient that works as a preservative booster, as well as an antioxidant and soothing agent

Also-called: Aristoflex AVC | What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A kind of polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) that helps to create beautiful gel-like textures. It's also a texturizer and thickener for oil-in-water emulsions. It gives products a good skin feel and does not make the formula tacky or sticky. 

It works over a wide pH range and is used between 0.5-1.2%.

A glycerin-derived gentle cleansing agent that is described as being skin and eye-friendly, and not leaving the skin dry or tight. It's also used as a co-emulsifier or solubilizer that helps to blend small amounts of oily things into water-based products. 

Also-called: Zemea | What-it-does: solvent, moisturizer/humectant

Propanediol is a natural alternative for the often used and often bad-mouthed propylene glycol. It's produced sustainably from corn sugar and it's Ecocert approved. 

It's quite a multi-tasker: can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A natural polysaccharide (big sugar molecule) coming from red edible seaweeds. It is used as a helper ingredient for its gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties.  

Also-called: Carboxymethyl Cellulose | What-it-does: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A cellulose (the big molecule found in the cell wall of green plants) derivative that is used as an emulsion stabilizer and thickener

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. 

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

Adenosine - goodie

Adenosine is an important little compound in our body that has a vital cell-signalling role. Research on smearing it on our face is also promising and shows so far a couple of things:

  • It can help with wound healing
  • It’s a good anti-inflammatory agent
  • It might even help with skin’s own collagen production and improve skin firmness and elasticity
  • It helps with barrier repair and protection
  • It might be even useful for the hair helping with hair thickness and hair growth

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: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Fragrance - icky
Also-called: Fragrance, Parfum;Parfum/Fragrance | What-it-does: perfuming

Exactly what it sounds: nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. Fragrance in the US and parfum in the EU is a generic term on the ingredient list that is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average (but it can have as much as 200 components!). 

If you are someone who likes to know what you put on your face then fragrance is not your best friend - there's no way to know what’s really in it.  

Also, if your skin is sensitive, fragrance is again not your best friend. It’s the number one cause of contact allergy to cosmetics. It’s definitely a smart thing to avoid with sensitive skin (and fragrance of any type - natural is just as allergic as synthetic, if not worse!). 

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.

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. 

What-it-does: solvent

A really multi-functional helper ingredient that can do several things in a skincare product: it can bring a soft and pleasant feel to the formula, it can act as a humectant and emollient, it can be a solvent for some other ingredients (for example it can help to stabilize perfumes in watery products) and it can also help to disperse pigments more evenly in makeup products. And that is still not all: it can also boost the antimicrobial activity of preservatives

What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMFhyaluronic 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).

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: solvent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid is a low molecular weight, chemically chopped up version of the naturally big molecule and current IT-moisturizer, Hyaluronic Acid (HA). 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 retain water, making it plump and elastic. As HA is a polymer, the subunits can be repeated many times (as a high-molecular-weight version), or just a few times (as a low-molecular-weight version).

We wrote in detail at HA about how different molecular weight versions do different things both as a component of the skin and as a skincare ingredient, so click here and read about all the details. Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid can also come in different molecular-weight versions with different properties:

  • 100-300 kDa version: apart from moisturizing, this size might also help the skin to repair itself by increasing its self-defense. It is also claimed to boost the wound healing process and is especially helpful for sensitive skin types (acne, rosacea, inflammation-related skin diseases). 
  • 50k Da version: this is the size that is claimed to be able to absorb into the skin and plump up wrinkles, so it is used mainly as an "anti-aging ingredient" 
  • below 50k, around 10k Da version: there is a Japanese version trade named Hyalo-Oligo that has only a 10k molecular weight and is claimed to penetrate the skin very well, have a unique touch and give deep and long-lasting moisturization. Based on the Evonik-research and the natural role of LMW-HA in the body working as a pro-inflammatory signal molecule, this ultra-low molecular weight version is a controversial ingredient

If you wanna become a real HA-and-the-skin expert, you can read much 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).

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Japanese Goldthread Root Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant

The extract coming from the root of the traditional medicinal herb, Coptis Japonica or Japanese Goldthread. The plant is used traditionally in East Asia for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial abilities.

Other than that, there is also an abstract from the International Journal of Cosmetic Science that found Coptis Japonica Root Extract and its active component called berberine to show potent inhibition of triglyceride (aka fat) accumulation and subcutaneous preadipocytes (the cells that become later fat cells) differentiation meaning that Goldthread Extract might also be useful in slimming and anti-cellulite products.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: astringent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Purslane Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant

Portulaca Oleracea is a nice succulent with bright yellow flowers and edible nutritious vegetables. It's a famous plant in Korean traditional medicine to treat infection and irritated skin.

Modern research confirms that it's loaded with skin-goodies: it's the richest green plant source of omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid), contains NMFs (polysaccharides and amino acids),  vitamins (β-carotene), minerals, and antioxidants (yellow betaxanthins and reddish betacyanins). Thanks to all its beneficial components, Purslane Extract has several magic properties: it's a great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent and also has wound healing abilities

Also-called: Oat Kernel Extract, Colloidal Oatmeal | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing, emollient, abrasive/scrub

When you hear oatmeal, you probably think of breakfast, but the finely ground version of whole oat kernels, aka colloidal oatmeal, can do good things for your skin, especially if it's dry, itchy or prone to skin-rashes or eczema.

Oat is loaded with compounds good for the body, inside or outside, such as soothing agent beta-glucan (5%),  lipids (3-11%) including barrier repairing omega-3 and 6 fatty acids or phenolic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents (avenanthramides). 

The soothing, antioxidant and skin-protecting abilities of oat are so well-established that it is an active natural ingredient covered by the FDA OTC Skin Protectant monograph in the US, meaning that colloidal oatmeal can be claimed as an active ingredient on the INCI list and Aveeno is a mass-market brand built around oat-containing products.  

If your skin is dry, irritated, inflamed or eczema-prone, colloidal oatmeal is something to try.

Also-called: Aloe Leaf Extract | What-it-does: soothing, emollient, moisturizer/humectant

The extract coming from the juice containing leaves of the Aloe vera plant. It's usually a hydroglycolic extract (though  oil extract for the lipid parts also exists) that has similar moisturizing, emollient and anti-inflammatory properties as the juice itself. We have written some more about aloe here.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Green Tea | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing
  • Green tea is one of the most researched natural ingredients
  • The active parts are called polyphenols, or more precisely catechins (EGCG being the most abundant and most active catechin)
  • There can be huge quality differences between green tea extracts. The good ones contain 50-90% catechins (and often make the product brown and give it a distinctive smell)
  • Green tea is proven to be a great antioxidant, UV protectant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial
  • Because of these awesome properties green tea is a great choice for anti-aging and also for skin diseases including rosacea, acne and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract here >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Japanese Honeysuckle Flower Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial

Lonicera Japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle as normal people call it, is a white-flowered honeysuckle known for being a traditional Chinese medicine. Modern research confirms that the plant has a super complex chemical composition with more than 140 compounds identified with possible anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidative and hepatoprotective activities.

As for Lonicera Japonica Flower Extract in skin care, it can have two main roles. The first one is being an anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient, probably due to chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol thought to be the main bioactive component of the flower.

The other possible role is being a natural preservative. If this is the case, it is coupled with its Italian Honeysuckle cousin to form a broad spectrum antimicrobial preservative blend. You can read about this more here.  

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Licorice Root;Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract | What-it-does: soothing, skin brightening

You might know licorice as a sweet treat from your childhood, but it's actually a legume that grows around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, central and southern Russia. It's sweet and yellow and not only used for licorice all sorts but it's also a skincare superstar thanks to two magic properties:

Nr. 1 magic property is that it has skin-lightening or to say it another way depigmenting properties. The most active part is called glabridin. The topical application (meaning when you put it on your face) of 0.5% glabridin was shown to inhibit UVB caused pigmentation of guinea pigs. Another study even suggested that licorice is more effective than the gold standard skin-lightening agent hydroquinone. All in all, licorice is considered to be one of the safest skin lightening agents with the fewest side effects.

There is just one catch regarding glabridin and licorice: the amount of glabridin in commercial licorice extracts can vary a lot. We have seen extracts with only 4% glabridin as well as 40% glabridin. The latter one is a very-very expensive ingredient, so if you are after the depigmenting properties try to choose a product that boasts its high-quality licorice extract. 

Nr. 2 magic property is that licorice is a potent anti-inflammatory. Glabridin has also some soothing properties but the main active anti-inflammatory component is glycyrrhizin. It’s used to treat several skin diseases that are connected to inflammation including atopic dermatitis, rosacea or eczema. 

Oh, and one more thing: glabridin seems to be also an antioxidant, which is just one more reason to be happy about licorice root extract on an ingredient list. 

Bottom line: Licorice is a great skincare ingredient with significant depigmenting, anti-inflammatory and even some antioxidant properties. Be happy if it's on the ingredient list. :)

What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing

Houttuynia cordata is a flowering plant native to Southeast Asia. It is eaten as a leaf vegetable, and also has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, including as an attempted treatment for SARS (it didn’t really work). Regarding cosmetics, however, houttuynia cordata extract has a good bit of potential! 

The main active components in the plant are these fancy chemicals called flavonoids. Houttuynia cordata specifically has a good amount of polyphenolic flavonoids, four common ones being quercetin, quercitrin, hyperoside, and rutin. All of these exhibit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties. Quercitrin has also been shown to decrease damage from UVB rays, which is an added bonus. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the flavonoid content of this extract can depend on if the extract is taken from the roots or the leaves, as well as if it’s a water extraction or an alcohol extraction.

Another thing Houttuynia cordata extract contains are polysaccharides, i.e. big molecules from various sugar units (in this case it is galacturonic acid (29.4%), galactose (24.0%), rhamnose (17.2%), arabinose (13.5%), glucuronic acid (6.8%), glucose (5.3%), xylose (2.1%) and mannose (1.8%) ). Polysaccharides and sugars in skincare are excellent humectants and skin hydrators, meaning they help the skin to hold onto water.

Last but not least, we also found an in-vitro (made in test tubes) study showing that houttuynia cordata extract had strong anti-allergic effects and could be helpful in treating skin allergies such as eczema (atopic dermatitis).

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: astringent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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. 

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.

  • It’s naturally in our skin and behaves there like a sponge
  • It can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water
  • It is a big molecule from repeated subunits (polymer) so different molecular weight versions exist (unfortunately there is no way to determine MW from INCI list only)
  • High-molecular-weight-HA (>500 kDa) is an excellent surface hydrator, skin protectant and can act as an osmotic pump helping water-soluble actives to penetrate deeper into the skin
  • Low-molecular-weight-HA (< 500 kDa) can hydrate the skin somewhat deeper though it is still a big molecule and works mainly in the epidermis (outer layer of the skin)
  • Low-molecular-weight-HA might also help the skin to repair itself by increasing its self-defense (~ 200kDa used in the study)
  • Ultra-low-molecular-weight-HA (<50kDa) is a controversial ingredient and might work as a pro-inflammatory signal molecule
Read all the geeky details about Hyaluronic Acid here >>

Beta-Glucan - goodie

Beta-Glucan is a nice big molecule composed of many smaller sugar molecules (called polysaccharide). It’s in the cell walls of yeast, some mushrooms, seaweeds, and cereals.

It’s a real goodie no matter if you eat it or put it on your face. Eating it is anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, and even lowers blood cholesterol. 

Putting it on your face also does a bunch of good things: it‘s shown to have wound healing properties, it’s a mild antioxidant, a great skin soother, and moisturizer, and it even shows promising anti-aging benefits

The manufacturer of the ingredient did a published study with 27 people and examined the effect of 0.1% beta-glucan. They found that despite the large molecular size beta-glucan does penetrate into the skin, even into the dermis (the middle layer of the skin where wrinkles form). After 8 weeks there was a significant reduction of wrinkle depth and height and skin roughness has also improved greatly. 

Bottom line: Beta-glucan is a great ingredient, especially for sensitive skin. It soothes, moisturizes, and has some anti-aging magic properties. 

Also-called: Soybean Oil | What-it-does: emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 3

The emollient plant oil coming from the soybean. It is considered to be a nice, cost-effective base oil with moisturizing properties. As for its fatty acid profile, it contains 48-59% barrier-repairing linoleic acid, 17-30% nourishing oleic acid and also some (4.5-11%) potentially anti-inflammatory linolenic acid

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: perfuming

It is the main aroma compound of red raspberries and has a sweet, floral, berry or jam-like raspberry scent. It's used to make cosmetic products smell nice. The molecule used in cosmetics is created synthetically, as the natural one costs a fortune (20 000 $/kg, wow, according to Wikipedia).   

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: antioxidant, perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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. It is typically used in tiny amounts, around 0.1% or even less.

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C, SAP | What-it-does: antioxidant, anti-acne

The sodium salt form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. If you do not know what the big fuss about vitamin C is, you are missing out and you have to click here and read all the geeky details about it.

Pure vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid, AA) is great and all, but its lack of stability is a big challenge for the cosmetics industry. One solution is to create stable derivatives that can be absorbed into the skin, convert there to AA and do all the magic AA is proven to do (which is being an antioxidant, a collagen booster, and a skin brightener).

SAP (the vit C derivative, not the enterprise software, obvs) is a promising derivative that has great stability up to pH 7. The challenge with it though is skin penetration. Unfortunately, it seems to be limited, or to quote a great article from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology "topically applied ascorbyl phosphate salts are, at very best, poorly absorbed in comparison with AA". Regarding conversion to AA, there seems to be no data about it, so we can neither deny nor confirm it.

We have better news regarding the three magic abilities of vitamin C: there is in-vivo (tested on real people) data showing that SAP does have photo-protective (aka antioxidant) properties, though less than pure AA. SAP might also aid collagen boosting; in-vitro (made in the lab) data shows that it works, but is less effective than another vitamin C derivative, called MAP (that seems to be as effective as pure AA). As for skin-brightening, there is a trade publication with in-vivo data showing that SAP can fade brown spots

Another thing SAP might be able to do is to help with acne. A 2005 study showed in vitro (in test tubes) that 1% SAP has a strong antimicrobial activity on evil acne causing P. acnes and it also showed in vivo (on real people) that 5% SAP can strongly improve the inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions of acne vulgaris. In fact, the results were comparable or even slightly better than with 5% benzoyl peroxide. 

And there is even more regarding SAP and acne. A nice double-blind study from 2009 showed that  5% SAP reduced the inflammatory lesions by 20.14% and 48.82% within 4 and 8 weeks respectively and when combined with 0.2% retinol the results were even better. With this combination treatment, the improvement was 29.28% after 4 weeks and 63.10% after 8 weeks of application. 

Aside from research studies, anecdotal evidence also supports SAP being a promising vitamin C derivative. One of the best-selling (vitamin C) serums in Sephora is the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, while on Amazon it's the OzNaturals Vitamin C 20 Serum. Another popular choice is the Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum, and all of these contain vitamin C in the form of SAP. 

Overall, we think SAP is a goody!  In terms of anti-aging, it's probably not as effective as pure Ascorbic Acid, but it's totally worth a try. However, if your skin is acne-prone, SAP is your form of Vitamin C and it's a must-try.

Also-called: Insulin-like growth factor 1, IGF-1, rh-Oligopeptide-2;SH-Oligopeptide-2 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

Sh-Oligopeptide-2 is also called Insulin-like growth factor 1 and it belongs to the same group of ingredients (Growth Factors) as its better-known sister, Epidermal Growth Factor or Sh-Oligopeptide-1. This guy consists of 70 amino acids and, similar to EGF, it is also claimed to stimulate cell proliferation and wound healing. There is also a study that indicates EGF and IGF1 work in synergy to promote keratinocyte (skin cell) proliferation. 

The topic of Growth Factors in skincare is complex and controversial. If you are new to it, read our shiny explanation on EGF to get a (hopefully) balanced impression about the pros and cons.

Also-called: Basic Fibroblast Growth Factor, FGF2, rh-Polypeptide-1;SH-Polypeptide-1 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

Sh-Polypeptide-1 is a cell signaling protein also called Basic Fibroblast Growth Factor and is twin sister to Acidic Fibroblast Growth Factor. We can write here pretty much the same things as we did on aFGF: it is a mitogenic (= stimulates cell proliferation) ingredient that stimulates fibroblast cell growth and proliferation. According to manufacturer info, it also stimulates the synthesis of collagen and other extracellular-matrix (the gooey stuff between cells) components. 

Growth Factors and skincare is a big, complicated and controversial topic, so if you wanna know more, we have a more detailed explanation on Epidermal Growth Factor, the most common one used in skincare.

Also-called: SH-Polypeptide-3

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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