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Joanna Vargas Vitamin C Face Wash

Vitamin C Face Wash

The Vitamin C Face Wash is the first step needed to amplify your skincare routine and give you the skin you always wanted. Crafted to gently remove grime, makeup and [more] [more] daily pollutants with a medley of vitamin C ingredients. Using some of the most powerful antioxidants known, Acai and Goji berry with a mixture of citrus oils, it revitalizes and balances your skin. This facial cleanser will leave your skin clean, clear, and glowing. [less]
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Joanna Vargas Vitamin C Face Wash
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. 

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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. 

A vegetable origin (coconut or palm kernel oil and glucose) cleansing agent with great foaming abilities. It's also mild to the skin and readily biodegradable.

What-it-does: emulsifying

A helper ingredient that's used as a co-emulsifier (meaning next to other emulsifiers in the formula it helps water and oil to mix) and as a stabilization agent for foams. Also, has some antimicrobial activity so it can help to boost the effectiveness of the preservative system.

Witch Hazel - goodie
Also-called: Witch Hazel Extract;Hamamelis Virginiana Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial, astringent

Witch hazel is a smallish tree (up to 5m) that's native to North-America, has nice yellow flowers and is similar to the hazelnut bush (hence the name).  

As for skincare, it's loaded with active components that have a bunch of magic properties, like astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial. It's also a well-known vasoconstrictor (it makes the blood vessels narrower) and promotes the healing of broken skin by tightening up the skin proteins and thus creating a protective covering.

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The complication, however, is that different extracts and distillates can be made from different parts of the plant (bark, twigs, and leaves are typically used) and different extraction methods from different parts produce different results. So if you see only Witch Hazel Extract or Witch Hazel Water on the ingredient list, it's a bit hard to know what you're actually getting but we will try to summarize the possibilities to give an idea.

The main biologically active components in Witch Hazel are hamamelitannin (a potent astringent and antioxidant), catechins (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant) and gallic acid (antibacterial). The bark extract contains by far the most hamamelitannin and it has the most gallic acid and catechins. The twigs contain fewer catechins, less gallic acid, and much less hamamelitannin (4.77% vs 0.18%). The leaves contain hardly any tannins (0.04%) or catechins and contain a medium amount of gallic acid (compared to the bark and twigs).

Witch Hazel also contains tiny amounts of the essential oil and fragrance component eugenol, but the amount is so small that it's probably not significant for the skin.

Apart from the differences in active components in different parts of the Witch Hazel bush, the extraction methods also vary. Witch Hazel Distillate contains 14% added alcohol according to the USP specifications  and alcohol is, at best drying, and at worst skin-damaging. Luckily, there are also alcohol-free distillates, so if you prefer no alcohol check the ingredient list carefully. Witch Hazel Extracts can also be made in different ways: browsing Ulprospector, we could find hydroglycolic, hydroalcoholic and glicerine/water based extracts.

Well-known skin care expert, Paula Begoun rates witch hazel as poor and says,  "depending on the form of witch hazel, you’re exposing your skin either to a sensitizing amount of alcohol or to tannins, or both." This might be the case if you are dealing with an alcoholic witch hazel bark water or extract, but looking at CosIng (the official INCI name listing of the EU), witch hazel bark water or witch hazel bark extract are not listed ingredients. Bark and leaf or bark and twig or all three are used together to create extracts, so the chance that there is too much hamamelitannin in the final cosmetic ingredient seems small. Also alcohol-free extracts and distillates exist; actually, the majority seem to be alcohol-free nowadays. So all in all, we think "Hamamelis Virginiana Extract" on the ingredient list is nothing to worry about.

We even found a German study that compared the efficacy of Hamamelis ointment to panthenol ointment for soothing the skin in children (from 27 days to 11 years old). They observed 309 children and concluded that both ointments were similarly effective but the one with Hamamelis was even better tolerated (98.2% vs. 92.3% tolerated well the ointments in the two groups).

All in all, Witch Hazel Extract is a sloppy INCI name (btw, not in the CosIng listing), and you do not really know what you're getting. Most probably though, you are getting a goody with nice astringent, soothing, antibacterial, and even antioxidant properties.

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

A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier. 

The number at the end refers to the oil-loving part and the bigger the number  the more emulsifying power it has. 20 is a weak emulsifier, rather called solubilizer used commonly in toners while 60 and 80 are more common in serums and creams.

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Grapefruit Peel Oil;Citrus Grandis Peel Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the rind of the grapefruit. In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (86-95% for grapefruit peel), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer).

Other than that, citrus peel also contains the problematic compound called furanocoumarin that makes them mildly phototoxic. In general, the more sour-bitter the fruit, the more problematic it is regarding phototoxicity: orange and clementine peel contain less of it while lemon, grapefruit, and bergamot contain some more. Be careful with it if it is in a product for daytime use.  

Also-called: Sweet Orange Peel Oil, Citrus Sinensis Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the rind of the orange (the sweet one). In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (83-97% for sweet orange peel), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer).

Other than that, citrus peel also contains the problematic compound called furanocoumarin that makes them mildly phototoxic. Orange peel contains less of it than some other citruses (like bergamot or lime), but still, be careful with it especially if it is in a product for daytime use.  

Also-called: Mandarin Orange Oil, Tangor Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the peel of the mandarin orange or tangor. In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (77-86% for mandarin peel), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer).  Apart from smelling nice (and thus being a popular natural fragrance alternative), Mandarin Orange Oil also has significant antioxidant properties that's comparable to synthetic antioxidant BHT or oil-soluble antioxidant big shot vitamin E

On the con side, the fragrant components of citrus peels might irritate sensitive skin and citrus peels also contain the problematic compound called furanocoumarin that makes them (mildly) phototoxic. Orange mandarin peel contains less from it than some other citruses (like bergamot or lime), but still, be careful with it especially if it's in a product for daytime use.  

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". 

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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).

What-it-does: antioxidant

Galactoarabinan is a natural polysaccharide (a big carbohydrate molecule) that comes from the Larch trees.

According to the manufacturer it can do all kinds of good in a formula: it can reduce trans-epidermal-water-loss (a fancy way of saying that it's moisturizing), improve the appearance of skin’s superficial fine lines, improve the uniformity and spreadability of a formulation and provides SPF enhancement. What's more it can also help to boost the efficacy of AHA exfoliants (while not boosting the irritation side effect). 

Gluconolactone - superstar
What-it-does: exfoliant, chelating
  • It’s a polyhydroxy acid (PHA), that is often referred to as next generation AHA
  • It gently lifts off dead skin cells form the skin surface making skin smooth and even
  • In the long term it provides anti-aging benefits, like increased skin thickness and decreased wrinkles (though a tad less than even more proven superstar AHAs)
  • It’s a great moisturizer and even helps to repair impaired skin barrier
  • It’s antioxidant, and does not make your skin more sensitive to the sun
  • It can be used even if your skin is very sensitive, rosacea prone or if you are post cosmetic procedure
Read all the geeky details about Gluconolactone here >>

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: 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.

Also-called: CI 77019 | What-it-does: colorant

A super versatile and common mineral powder that comes in different particle sizes. It is a multi-tasker used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent.

It is also the most commonly used "base" material for layered composite pigments such as pearl-effect pigments. In this case, mica is coated with one or more metal oxides (most commonly titanium dioxide) to achieve pearl effect via the physical phenomenon known as interference. 

What-it-does: sunscreen, colorant

Titanium Dioxide is one of the two members of the elite sunscreen group called physical sunscreens (or inorganic sunscreens if you’re a science geek and want to be precise).

Traditionally, UV-filters are categorized as either chemical or physical. The big difference is supposed to be that chemical agents absorb UV-light while physical agents reflect it like a bunch of mini umbrellas on top of the skin. While this categorization is easy and logical it turns out it's not true. A recent, 2016 study shows that inorganic sunscreens work mostly by absorption, just like chemical filters, and only a little bit by reflection (they do reflect the light in the visible spectrum, but mostly absorb in the UV spectrum).

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Anyway, it doesn't matter if it reflects or absorbs, Titanium Dioxide is a pretty awesome sunscreen agent for two main reasons: it gives a nice broad spectrum coverage and it's highly stable. Its protection is very good between 290 - 350 nm (UVB and UVA II range), and less good at 350-400 nm (UVA I) range. Regular sized Titanium Dioxide also has a great safety profile, it's non-irritating and is pretty much free from any health concerns (like estrogenic effect worries with some chemical filters).

The disadvantage of Titanium Dioxide is that it's not cosmetically elegant, meaning it's a white, "unspreadable" mess. Sunscreens containing Titanium Dioxide are often hard to spread on the skin and they leave a disturbing whitish tint. The cosmetic industry is, of course, really trying to solve this problem and the best solution so far is using nanoparticles. The itsy-bitsy Nano-sized particles improve both spreadability and reduce the whitish tint a lot, but unfortunately, it also introduces new health concerns. 

The main concern with nanoparticles is that they are so tiny that they are absorbed into the skin more than we want them (ideally sunscreen should remain on the surface of the skin). Once absorbed they might form unwanted complexes with proteins and they might promote the formation of evil free radicals. But do not panic, these are concerns under investigation. A 2009 review article about the safety of nanoparticles summarizes this, "to date, in-vivo and in-vitro studies have not demonstrated percutaneous penetration of nanosized particles in titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens". The English translation is, so far it looks like sunscreens with nanoparticles do stay on the surface of the skin where they should be.  

All in all, Titanium Dioxide is a famous sunscreen agent and for good reason, it gives broad spectrum UV protection (best at UVB and UVA II), it's highly stable, and it has a good safety profile. It's definitely one of the best UV-filter agents we have today, especially in the US where new-generation Tinosorb filters are not (yet) approved. 

Also-called: Iron Oxide Red;Ci 77491 | What-it-does: colorant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Red Iron Oxide is the super common pigment that gives the familiar, "rust" red color. It is also the one that gives the pink tones in your foundation. Chemically speaking, it is iron III oxide (Fe2O3). 

You may also want to take a look at...

what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
A vegetable origin (coconut or palm kernel oil and glucose) cleansing agent with great foaming abilities. It's also mild to the skin and readily biodegradable.
what‑it‑does emulsifying
A helper ingredient that's used as a co-emulsifier and as a stabilization agent for foams. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
With Hazel - loaded with active components (hamamelitannin, catechins, gallic acid) that have astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant or anti-bacterial properties. Also well-known vasoconstrictor and promotes skin healing. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A cellulose (the big molecule found in the cell wall of green plants) derivative that is used as an emulsion stabilizer and thickener. 
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the rind of the grapefruit. Its main component (86-95%) is limonene, the super common fragrant ingredient. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the rind of the orange. Its main component (83-97%) is limonene, the super common fragrant ingredient. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the peel of the mandarin orange. Contains the fragrant component limonene (77-86%) and makes things smell nice. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
Galactoarabinan is a natural polysaccharide (a big carbohydrate molecule) that comes from the Larch trees.According to the manufacturer it can do all kinds of good in a formula: [more]
what‑it‑does exfoliant | chelating
A next generation AHA, a so-called PHA that gently exfoliates skin without irritation. It also moisturizes and helps the skin barrier. It also has antioxidant properties. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi. Has to be combined with other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
A mineral powder used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product some light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent. A real multi-tasker. [more]
what‑it‑does sunscreen | colorant
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with pretty broad spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection and good stability. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
Iron Oxide - a super common colorant with the color red.  [more]