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La Mer The Cleansing Gel

The Cleansing Gel

A light foaming gel that works to remove excess sebum without irritating, drying or stripping the skin.
Uploaded by: eituc on 04/11/2019

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Declustered Water/ Aqua/ Eau De Structuree (+) solvent
Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine surfactant/​cleansing, viscosity controlling
Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate surfactant/​cleansing
Coco-Betaine surfactant/​cleansing, viscosity controlling
Sodium Laureth Sulfate surfactant/​cleansing
Sodium Chloride viscosity controlling
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract soothing, emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract antioxidant, soothing, emollient goodie
Algae (Seaweed) Extract emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil emollient 0, 1-3 goodie
Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Seed Powder
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seedcake abrasive/​scrub
Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Seed Meal abrasive/​scrub
Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Leaf Oil perfuming, antimicrobial/​antibacterial icky
Sodium Gluconate chelating, moisturizer/​humectant
Copper Gluconate soothing goodie
Calcium Gluconate moisturizer/​humectant
Magnesium Gluconate
Zinc Gluconate anti-acne, soothing goodie
Tocopheryl Succinate antioxidant
Niacin
Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Powder
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent 0, 1
Sucrose moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Sodium Bicarbonate abrasive/​scrub, buffering
Tourmaline viscosity controlling
Hexylene Glycol solvent 0-1, 0-2
Fragrance (Parfum) perfuming icky
EDTA chelating
Disodium EDTA chelating
Methylchloroisothiazolinone icky
Methylisothiazolinone preservative icky
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone perfuming icky
Geraniol perfuming icky
Butylphenyl Methylpropional perfuming icky
Linalool perfuming icky
Green 5 (Ci 61570) colorant
Yellow 5 (Ci 19140) colorant

La Mer The Cleansing Gel
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua;Water | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

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Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

A thickening and foam-boasting co-surfactant with amphoteric structure meaning that its head contains both a positively and a negatively charged part (surfactants are most commonly anionic meaning their head has a negative charge). It's very mild and gentle, comes from coconut oil and is readily biodegradable. 

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

A mild and gentle cleansing agent derived from the amino acid sarcosine and coconut fatty acids. It is known for its good foam boosting abilities and improving the mildness of the formula. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: SLES | What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

It’s probably the most common cleansing ingredient of all. It’s usually the Chief Bubble Officer responsible for big bubbles in cleansing products through the foam it creates is a bit airy and loose and not as dense and luxurious as the foam created by infamous SLS

As for mildness, it goes somewhere in the middle. It’s often confused with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), but they are absolutely not the same. The SLES molecule has a bigger water-soluble head part that makes it milder and much less irritating. It is considered absolutely ok in the amount used in cosmetic products, though if you are looking for a mild facial cleanser, you have better chances with a formula without SLES. For an average shower gel? SLES works just fine.  

Also-called: Salt | What-it-does: viscosity controlling

Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt

If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. The reason for this is that salt acts as a fantastic thickener in cleansing formulas created with ionic cleansing agents (aka surfactants) such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate. A couple of percents (typically 1-3%) turns a runny surfactant solution into a nice gel texture.

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If you are into chemistry (if not, we understand, just skip this paragraph), the reason is that electrolytes (you know, the Na+ and Cl- ions) screen the electrostatic repulsion between the head groups of ionic surfactants and thus support the formation of long shaped micelles (instead of spherical ones) that entangle like spaghetti, and viola, a gel is formed. However, too much of it causes the phenomenon called "salting out", and the surfactant solution goes runny again. 

Other than that, salt also works as an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, that is when water droplets are dispersed in the outer oil (or silicone) phase. And last but not least, when salt is right at the first spot of the ingredient list (and is not dissolved), the product is usually a body scrub where salt is the physical exfoliating agent

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.

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

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). 

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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.

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: Sesame Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-3

A goldish to dark yellow emollient plant oil coming from Sesame seeds. Similar to many other plant oils, it contains high amounts of nourishing and moisturizing fatty acids (about 38% of oleic and 48% of linoleic acid) and is a nice oil to repair and regenerate dry skin. It is rapidly absorbed and gives the skin a soft and gentle feel.  

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: abrasive/scrub

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: abrasive/scrub

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Eucalyptus Essential Oil | What-it-does: perfuming, antimicrobial/antibacterial

The essential oil created by steam distilling the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree. It's a colorless, pale yellow oil with a camphoraceous aroma used traditionally in vapor rubs to treat coughs. Its name-giving main component is eucalyptol (also called 1,8-cineole, 80-91%) that has significant antibacterial and expectorant properties.   

Among essential oils, Eucalyptus Globulus counts as rather non-sensitising with an EU sensitizer total of 5% (due to limonene). However, if your skin is super-sensitive or you are allergic to fragrances, it is still better to avoid it. 

The neutralized form of gluconic acid. It's a great ingredient to neutralize metal (especially iron and copper) ions in a cosmetic product. This helps to prevent discoloration of the formula over time or rancidity of cosmetic oils. It can also be a pH regulator and a humectant (helps skin to cling onto water).

It's also used in oral care products where it reduces the bitterness of other ingredients. And it's natural, both Ecocert and Cosmos approved. (source: manufacturer info)

What-it-does: soothing

A copper salt (copper cation + gluconate anion) probably best known for promoting cellular regeneration and wound healing. It works mainly in the final healing phase that complements nicely with the wound healing abilities of its mineral salt sister, zinc gluconate

Other than that, copper is also involved in several enzyme systems: it is a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase and also a cofactor for the melanin stimulating enzyme, tyrosinase. This means that copper has some tan activating properties, though we think you should not be into tanning at all, as UV is so bad for the skin

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The gluconate part is there to promote the bioavailability of copper and it also plays a role in cellular regeneration (involved in the synthesis of ribose sugars, structural components of DNA and RNA).

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: anti-acne, soothing

If you are fighting acne and have looked into oral supplements, chances are that zinc gluconate sounds familiar to you. It is a zinc salt that has research proving it to be effective against inflammatory acne, though not quite as effective as the antibiotic minocycline (31.2% vs. 63.4% success rate). However, zinc supplements are easily available, have little-to-no side effects, so supplementing them with a 30mg per day dose can still be a good idea.

As for smearing zinc gluconate all over your face, it is also not a bad idea. Zinc has multiple magic abilities: it is antibacterial (including evil, acne-causing P. acnes) and sebum-regulating (5α-reductase inhibitor), great for acne-prone skin types. It also stimulates antioxidant enzyme systems (mainly superoxide dismutase) and has nice wound healing abilities acting mainly in the first, proliferation phase. So great for skin types in need of healing and soothing.

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What about the gluconate part? It is there to promote the absorption and bioavailability of zinc and also plays a role in cellular regeneration (involved in the synthesis of ribose sugars, structural components of DNA and RNA).

What-it-does: antioxidant

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: moisturizer/humectant, solvent | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.  

BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.

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It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive. 

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

A type fo sugar, usually refined from cane or beet sugar. On the skin, it has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated

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.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: solvent | Irritancy: 0-1 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

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

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

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 than fragrance is not your best friend - no way to know what’s really in it.  

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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: chelating

An abbreviation that pops up on a lot of ingredient lists. It stands for EthyleneDiamineTetraacetic Acid and it's a famous molecule for being an excellent chelating agent, i.e. a molecule that can bind to metal ions (coming usually from water) and make them harmless in a cosmetic formula. With a chelating agent, cosmetic formulas stay nice longer.

EDTA is an acid molecule and its salt versions are even more often used, such as the super common Disodium EDTA

What-it-does: chelating

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.

This totally unpronounceable ingredient (let’s take a shortcut: MCI) is a super effective preservative with both antibacterial and antifungal effects that works at very low concentrations. 

The bad news with it though is that it can sensitize the skin easily (it’s a so-called non-fragrance allergen). It’s not permitted to be used alone, but only with its BFF, methylisothiazolinone (MI), another icky preservative. Together they have a broad spectrum antimicrobial effect but are permitted to be used only in rinse-off products (under 0.0015%).

What-it-does: preservative

As you may guess, if something is only recommended in products that you rinse off (cleansers and shampoos), then it’s probably not the best ingredient for the skin.

Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a preservative that' super efficient against bacteria at surprisingly low concentrations. The problem with it though is that it can also sensitize and irritate the skin quite easily when it comes in leave-on formulas.

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Currently, some countries are considering to ban it entirely (like Denmark) and the permitted use level is very low (under 0.01%). Luckily there are plenty of products on the market with other preservative options so if you are a better safe than sorry type it's probably best to avoid it. 

What-it-does: preservative

It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.

It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic. 

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Other than having a good safety profile and being quite gentle to the skin it has some other advantages too. It can be used in many types of formulations as it has great thermal stability (can be heated up to 85°C) and works on a wide range of pH levels (ph 3-10). 

It’s often used together with ethylhexylglycerin as it nicely improves the preservative activity of phenoxyethanol.

What-it-does: perfuming

It’s a common fragrance ingredient that is 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.

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.

Also-called: Lilial | What-it-does: perfuming

A common fragrance ingredient that has a nice floral scent and also goes by the name Lilial. 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. 

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. 

Also-called: Ci 61570 | What-it-does: colorant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Tartrazine, Yellow 5;Ci 19140 | What-it-does: colorant

Ci 19140  or Tartrazine is a super common colorant in skincare, makeup, medicine & food. It’s a synthetic lemon yellow that's used alone or mixed with other colors for special shades. 

FDA says it's possible, but rare, to have an allergic-type reaction to a color additive. As an example, it mentions that Ci 19140 may cause itching and hives in some people but the colorant is always labeled so that you can avoid it if you are sensitive. 

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 | viscosity controlling
A very mild and gentle thickening and foam-boasting co-surfactant. Comes from coconut oil. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
A mild and gentle cleansing agent derived from the amino acid sarcosine and coconut fatty acids. It is known for its good foam boosting abilities and improving the mildness of the formula.  [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
It’s probably the most common cleansing ingredient of all. It’s usually the Chief Bubble Officer responsible for big bubbles in cleansing products through the foam it creates is a bit airy and loose and not as dense and luxurious as the foam created by infamous SLS. As for mildness, it goes somewhere in the middle. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt.  If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | emollient | moisturizer/humectant
The extract coming from the juice containing leaves of the Aloe vera plant with moisturizing, emollient and anti-inflammatory properties. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | soothing | emollient
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  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | moisturizer/humectant
An extract that comes from one or more of the 20 000 kinds of algae out there. In general algae extracts serve as moisturizing, emollient and thickening agents, and many of them also have additional anti-aging properties. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 1-3
Emollient plant oil coming from the seeds of Sesame. Contains high amounts of nourishing and moisturizing fatty acids (about 38% of oleic 48% of linoleic acid). [more]
what‑it‑does abrasive/scrub
what‑it‑does abrasive/scrub
what‑it‑does perfuming | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The essential oil created by steam distilling the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree. It's a colorless, pale yellow oil with a camphoraceous aroma used traditionally in vapor rubs to treat coughs. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating | moisturizer/humectant
The neutralized form of gluconic acid. It's a great ingredient to neutralize metal (especially iron and copper) ions in a cosmetic product. This helps to prevent discoloration of the formula over time or rancidity of cosmetic oils. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing
A copper salt that is known to promote cellular regeneration and also has some antioxidant and tan-activating properties. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
what‑it‑does anti-acne | soothing
A zinc salt known for its soothing and wound healing properties as well as for its anti-acne properties.  [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
irritancy, com. 0, 1
An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A type fo sugar, usually refined from cane or beet sugar. On the skin, it is water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated.
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does abrasive/scrub | buffering
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does solvent
irritancy, com. 0-1, 0-2
Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable.  Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The generic term for nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. It is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating
An abbreviation that pops up on a lot of ingredient lists. It stands for EthyleneDiamineTetraacetic Acid and it's a famous molecule for being an excellent chelating agent, i.e. a molecule that can bind to metal ions (coming usually from water) and make them harmless in a cosmetic formula. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
Preservative with relatively high irritation risk. It's always used together with Methylisothiazolinone. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
Preservative with relatively high irritation risk that is used mainly in rinse-off products. [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 perfuming
It’s a common fragrance ingredient that is one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient that smells like rose and can be found in rose oil. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient that has a nice floral scent and also goes by the name Lilial. It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A super common fragrance ingredient that can be found among others in lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot or jasmine. The downside of it is that it oxidises on air exposure and might become allergenic. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
what‑it‑does colorant
A super common colorant with the color yellow. [more]