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Kiehl’s Kiehl'S Ultra Facial Cream

Kiehl'S Ultra Facial Cream

Ultra facial cream
Uploaded by: nicoleta on

Highlights

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

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Glyceryl Stearate emollient, emulsifying 0, 1-2
Imperata Cylindrica Root Extract moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Cetyl Alcohol emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling, surfactant/​cleansing 2, 2
Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract soothing, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Sucrose Stearate emollient, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 0
Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil emollient 0, 1-3 goodie
Squalane skin-identical ingredient, emollient 0, 1 goodie
Stearic Acid emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 2-3
Stearyl Alcohol emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 2, 2
Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil antioxidant, emollient, perfuming 0, 0-2 goodie
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling
Carbomer viscosity controlling 0, 1
Collagen moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil emollient, perfuming 0, 3 goodie
Chitosan
Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil antioxidant, emollient 0, 0-3 goodie
Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate emollient, viscosity controlling
Hydroxypalmitoyl Sphinganine skin-identical ingredient goodie
Tocopherol (Vitamin E) antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie
Cyclohexasiloxane emollient, solvent
Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil antioxidant, emollient goodie
Chlorphenesin preservative, antimicrobial/​antibacterial
Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane emollient, moisturizer/​humectant, surfactant/​cleansing
Urea skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
PEG-8 moisturizer/​humectant, solvent
PEG-8 Stearate emulsifying, moisturizer/​humectant, surfactant/​cleansing 1, 3
Methylparaben preservative 0, 0
Triethanolamine buffering 0, 2
Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate sunscreen 0, 0
Propylparaben preservative, perfuming 0, 0
Myristyl Myristate emollient 2, 0-5
Sphinganine

Kiehl’s Kiehl'S Ultra Facial Cream
Ingredients explained

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-2

A super common, waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together, gives body to creams and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth.

Chemically speaking, it is the attachment of a glycerin molecule to the fatty acid called stearic acid. It can be produced from most vegetable oils (in oils three fatty acid molecules are attached to glycerin instead of just one like here) in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling, surfactant/cleansing, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2

A so-called fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that does all kinds of things in a skincare product: it makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier). Can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.

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

Though its name does not reveal it, this molecule is a relative of famous IT-moisturizer, Hyaluronic Acid. Just like HA, it is a glycosaminoglycan (aka GAG), meaning that it is a big sugar molecule from repeated subunits (what's more, one of the subunits is the same, glucuronic acid). Along with HA and other GAGs, it likes to hang out in the dermis (middle) layer of the skin where it is part of the gooey, bouncy stuff outside of the cells called extracellular matrix (ECM). 

As for skincare, Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate is probably too big to go right into the dermis (though much smaller than HA with 5000-50 000 Da molecular weight), but it has a comparable water binding ability to HA (which means a crazy water binding ability) and better affinity for the skin surface. This means that it forms a nice, water-rich film on the skin bringing an immediate and strong moisturising effect. 

A biotechnologically derived ingredient that is produced by the fermentation of a marine bacteria living in the cold Antarctic Ocean. According to the manufacturer's info, it seems to have two different sets of magic properties: 

The first set includes skin-protecting and anti-aging abilities: it can help to protect the skin from dryness and redness due to cold weather and it also promotes skin regeneration and smoother skin surface by stimulating protein synthesis in the skin.  More specifically, these proteins are type I and IV collagen and elastin, all super important stuff for wrinkle-free, young looking skin (though these results came only from in-vitro tests and might or might not apply to living human skin). 

As for in-vivo (tested on real people) efficacy, 1% Antarcticine (the trade name for the diluted version of the Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract) cream increased skin hydration by 14.8% in cold weather and 5% Antarcticine cream decreased the depth of wrinkles by 44% around the eyes.

The second set of magic properties are all about oily skin regulation, such as reducing sebum production, shininess, and pore size. It acts through reducing Melanocortin 5 receptor, a protein important in sebum production. According to the in-vivo tests of the manufacturer, it both immediately reduces skin gloss as well as significantly reduces the number of active follicles and their total surface with ongoing use (by 9.5% and 27.2% after 28 days).

Overall, an interesting, multifunctional ingredient both for anti-aging as well as oily skin control purposes.

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

A sugar ester (sucrose + stearic acid) that works as a natural emulsifier (helps water and oil to mix). It's popular in oily gel cleansers as it improves the high-temperature stability of the formula.

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).

Squalane - goodie
What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

It seems to us that squalane is in fashion and there is a reason for it. Chemically speaking, it is a saturated  (no double bonds) hydrocarbon (a molecule consisting only of carbon and hydrogen), meaning that it's a nice and stable oily liquid with a long shelf life. 

It occurs naturally in certain fish and plant oils (e.g. olive), and in the sebum (the oily stuff our skin produces) of the human skin. As f.c. puts it in his awesome blog post, squalane's main things are "emolliency, surface occlusion, and TEWL prevention all with extreme cosmetic elegance". In other words, it's a superb moisturizer that makes your skin nice and smooth, without being heavy or greasy.

Another advantage of squalane is that it is pretty much compatible with all skin types and skin conditions. It is excellent for acne-prone skin and safe to use even if you have fungi-related skin issues, like seborrhea or fungal acne.

The unsaturated (with double bonds) and hence less stable version of Squalane is Squalene, you can read about it here >> 

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

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

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising, emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2

A handy multi-tasker, white to light yellowish oil-loving wax that works very well in oil-in-water emulsions.  It makes your skin feel nice and smooth (emollient),  stabilizes oil-water mixes and gives body to them.

Oh, and one more thing: it's a so-called fatty alcohol - the good, emollient type of alcohol that is non-drying and non-irritating. It is often mixed with fellow fatty alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, and the mixture is called Cetearyl Alcohol in the ingredient list. 

Also-called: Olive Fruit Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

You probably know olive oil from the kitchen as a great and healthy option for salad dressing but it's also a great and healthy option to moisturize and nourish the skin, especially if it's on the dry side. 

Similar to other emollient plant oils, it's loaded with nourishing fatty acids: oleic is the main component (55-83%), and also contains linoleic (3.5-20%) and palmitic acids (7-20%). It also contains antioxidant polyphenols, tocopherols (types of vitamin E) and carotenoids and it's one of the best plant sources of skin-identical emollient, Squalene

Overall, a great option for dry skin but less so for acne-prone or damaged skin.

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: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

A big molecule created from repeated subunits (a polymer of acrylic acid) that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula.  It usually has to be neutralized with a base (such as sodium hydroxide) for the thickening to occur and it creates viscous, clear gels that also feel nice and non-tacky on the skin. No wonder, it is a very popular and common ingredient. Typically used at 1% or less in most formulations.

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

The big and important protein molecule that usually comes from animal skin such as fish or bovine. The gist of the "collagen in topical skincare" subject is to know that collagen in a jar has nothing to do with wrinkles but everything to do with skin hydration. We have a shiny explanation about this at soluble collagen, so click here to read more >> 

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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 high-molecular-weight emollient ester that makes your skin nice and smooth. It leaves a non-oily, light, "wet" feel on the skin. 

Also-called: Type of Ceramide | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient

Unlike most other ceramides, this is a tricky one to recognize by name, but Hydroxypalmitoyl Sphinganine is a type of ceramide. The TL;DR version of ceramides is that along with cholesterol and fatty acids, the lipid trio (in a 50%, 25% and 15% ratio) is in the outermost layer of the skin helping to maintain a healthy skin barrier. This means keeping nasty things out, and important things such as water in. We have a more detailed description of ceramides here

So as a ceramide, Hydroxypalmitoyl Sphinganine is a nice skin-identical ingredient that supports a healthy skin barrier. More specifically, a promising in-vitro study on reconstructed human skin shows that applying our molecule helps the skin to make some more ceramides (types 1,2 and 3). Interestingly, the extra ceramide production does not happen in the usual pathway, but the skin seems to process and transform Hydroxypalmitoyl Sphinganine into these other ceramides. 

Clinical, aka made on real people studies, have confirmed that products with Hydroxypalmitoyl Sphinganine improve skin hydration, reduce trans epidermal water loss (the amount of water that evaporates out of the skin), and increase the ceramide content of the skin in people with atopic dermatitis or who are being treated with topical tretinoin. A real goodie in our book. 

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 >>

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

A light-feeling, volatile (meaning it does not absorb into the skin but evaporates from it) silicone that gives skin a unique, silky and non-greasy feel. It has excellent spreading properties and leaves no oily residue or build-up. 

Also-called: Rice Bran Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

The oil coming from the bran of rice. Similar to many other emollient plant oils, it contains several skin-goodies: nourishing and moisturizing fatty acids (oleic acid:  40%, linoleic acid: 30%, linolenic acid:1-2%), antioxidant vitamin E, emollient sterols and potent antioxidant gamma-oryzanol

A little helper ingredient that works as a preservative. It works against bacteria and some species of fungi and yeast. It's often combined with IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol.

Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane is a silicone that is water dispersible (as opposed to most other silicones that are usually oil dispersible). It makes the skin smooth and nice (emollient), moisturizes, helps to reduce tackiness, and also has some foam boosting properties. It is often used in light, watery formulas to give them an extra silky feel

Urea - goodie
Also-called: Carbamide | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant

Yes, it's the thing that can be found naturally in pee. And in the skin. It is an awesome natural moisturizing factor, aka NMF.  NMFs are important components that help the skin to hold onto water and keep it plump, elastic and hydrated. Urea makes up about 7% of NMFs next to other things such as amino acids (40%), PCA (12%) or Lactate (12%).

What makes urea special, is that it is not only a simple moisturizer, but it is thought to be a "small-molecule regulator of epidermal structure and function" meaning that it has a bunch of extra biological activities. It acts as a mild keratolytic agent (some of its moisturizing action is thought to come from urea's ability to break down bonds in the protein called filaggrin and thus freeing up amino acids in the skin), enhances antimicrobial peptide expression and improves skin barrier function

Being a mild keratolytic agent and strong moisturizer means that high-percentage (10-40%) urea treatments are found effective in a bunch of skin disorders connected to excessive dryness and malfunctioning skin barrier such as ichthyosis, xerosis, psoriasis, eczema and seborrheic dermatitis.  

Overall, just like glycerin, urea is a real oldie but a goodie, a nice ingredient in any moisturizer.

A smallish polymer molecule (created from repeated units of Polyethylene glycol, aka PEG) that's used as a solubilizer and viscosity control agent.

It is a clear, colorless liquid that is water-soluble and water-binding (aka humectant) and can help to solubilize sparingly-water soluble things (e.g. vanilla, perfumes) into water-based formulas. Thanks to its water-binding ability, it also prevents the drying out of formulas, especially when combined with the fellow hygroscopic agent, sorbitol

What-it-does: emulsifying, moisturizer/humectant, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 3

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

The most common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon

Apart from the general controversy around parabens (we wrote about it more here), there is a 2006 in-vitro (made in the lab not on real people) research about methylparaben (MP) showing that when exposed to sunlight, MP treated skin cells suffered more harm than non-MP treated skin cells. The study was not done with real people on real skin but still - using a good sunscreen next to MP containing products is a good idea. (Well, in fact using a sunscreen is always a good idea. :))

What-it-does: buffering | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

It’s a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be just right. It’s very alkaline (you know the opposite of being very acidic): a 1% solution has a pH of around 10.

It does not have the very best safety reputation but in general, you do not have to worry about it. 

What is true is that if a product contains so-called N-nitrogenating agents (e.g.: preservatives like 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol, 5-Bromo-5-Nitro- 1,3-Dioxane or sodium nitrate - so look out for things with nitro, nitra in the name) that together with TEA can form some not nice carcinogenic stuff (that is called nitrosamines). But with proper formulation that does not happen, TEA in itself is not a bad guy. 

But let’s assume a bad combination of ingredients were used and the nitrosamines formed. :( Even in that case you are probably fine because as far as we know it cannot penetrate the skin. 

But to be on the safe side, if you see Triethanolamine in an INCI and also something with nitra, nitro in the name of it just skip the product, that cannot hurt.

Also-called: Octinoxate, Octyl Methoxycinnamate | What-it-does: sunscreen | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A clear, oil-soluble, "cosmetically-elegant" liquid that is the most commonly used chemical sunscreen. It absorbs UVB radiation (at wavelengths: 280-320 nm) with a peak protection at 310nm. 

It only protects against UVB and not UVA rays (the 320-400 nm range) – so always choose products that contain other sunscreens too. It is not very stable either, when exposed to sunlight, it kind of breaks down and loses its effectiveness (not instantly, but over time - it loses 10% of its SPF protection ability within 35 mins). To make it more stable it can be - and should be - combined with other sunscreen agents to give stable and broad-spectrum protection (the new generation sunscreen agent, Tinosorb S is a particularly good one for that).

Regarding safety, there are also some concerns around Octinoxate. In vitro (made in the lab not on real people) and animal studies have shown that it may produce hormonal (estrogen-like) effects. Do not panic, the studies were not conducted under real life conditions on real human people, so it is probably over-cautious to avoid Octinoxate altogether. However, if you are pregnant or a small child (under 2 yrs. old), choose a physical (zinc oxide/titanium dioxide) or new-generation Tinosorb based sunscreen, just to be on the super-safe side. :) 

Overall, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is an old-school chemical sunscreen agent. There are plenty of better options for sun protection today, but it is considered "safe as used" (and sunscreens are pretty well regulated) and it is available worldwide (can be used up to 10% in the EU and up to 7.5% in the US).

What-it-does: preservative, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A very common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon.

What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 0-5

It's a waxy emollient with a melting point near to skin temperature. It gives body and consistency to the formula and leaves a velvety feel on the skin. 

It has a high comedogenicity index (5 out of 5), so it might clog pores if you are prone to it. Famous dermatologist, Dr. Leslie Baumann also writes in her book, The Skin Type Solution to avoid this ingredient if you are acne-prone.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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irritancy, com. 0, 0
Octinoxate - an old-school chemical sunscreen that absorbs UVB radiation (wavelengths: 280-320 nm). Not photostable and does not protect against UVA. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative | perfuming
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A very common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 2, 0-5
It's a waxy emollient with a melting point near to skin temperature. It gives body and consistency to the formula and leaves a velvety feel on the skin. It has a high comedogenicity index (5 out of 5), so it might clog pores if you are prone to it. [more]