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La Mer The Tonic

The Tonic

A toner with marine-rich ingredients to refresh and tone skin after cleansing, serving as a cooling, soothing and balancing step.
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
Methyl Gluceth-20 moisturizer/​humectant
Glycereth-26 moisturizer/​humectant, emollient 0, 0
Laminaria Saccharina Extract moisturizer/​humectant, soothing 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
PPG-28-Buteth-35
PPG-5-Ceteth-20 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing, emollient
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Citric Acid exfoliant, buffering goodie
Sodium Citrate chelating, buffering
Polysorbate 20 emulsifying 0, 0
Sucrose moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Caffeine antioxidant goodie
Disodium EDTA chelating
Benzophenone-4 sunscreen
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Potassium Sorbate preservative
Fragrance (Parfum) perfuming icky
Linalool perfuming icky
Yellow 5 (Ci 19140) colorant
Red 33 (Ci 17200) colorant 2, 1

La Mer The Tonic
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. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A corn sugar derived, water-soluble, pale yellow syrup, that nicely moisturizes the skin. It has a light and smooth skin feel, it is non-tacky, and it can improve the after-feel of the formula. It is also mild and gentle, popular in sensitive skin formulas.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It's a nice glycerin-based humectant and emollient that gives skin a smooth and luxurious feel.

The extract coming from Laminaria Saccharina, a brown algae. According to manufacturer info, it's loaded with a bunch of good-for-the-skin thingsalginates are polysaccharides (a big molecule from repeating sugar units) that are water-loving and can form a protective film on the skin. This means moisturizing, skin protecting and soothing magic properties.

The extract also contains another polysaccharide called laminarin, that has decongestant and lipid-reducing action that might be useful for combination, acne-prone skin types.

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The third major type of actives in the Laminaria Saccharina Extract are phenolic compounds that have antioxidant and soothing properties. They can also trap heavy metal ions, and give sensitive skin some protection against polluted urban air.

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. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A helper ingredient that can solubilize challenging oils and oil-loving actives into cleansing products. It also has emollient, emulsifying, and wetting properties.

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).

Citric Acid - goodie
What-it-does: exfoliant, buffering

Citric acid comes from citrus fruits and is an AHA. If these magic three letters don’t tell you anything, click here and read our detailed description on glycolic acid, the most famous AHA. 

So citric acid is an exfoliant, that can - just like other AHAs - gently lift off the dead skin cells of your skin and make it more smooth and fresh. 

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There is also some research showing that citric acid with regular use (think three months and 20% concentration) can help sun-damaged skin, increase skin thickness and some nice hydrating things called glycosaminoglycans in the skin. 

But according to a comparative study done in 1995, citric acid has less skin improving magic properties than glycolic or lactic acid. Probably that’s why citric acid is usually not used as an exfoliant but more as a helper ingredient in small amounts to adjust the pH of a formulation. 

What-it-does: chelating, buffering

A little helper ingredient that is used to adjust the pH of the product. It also helps to keep products stay nice longer by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water). 

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

It's a common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together. Also, it can help to increase the solubility of some other ingredients in the formula. 

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

Caffeine - goodie
What-it-does: antioxidant

Hello, our favorite molecule that helps us wake up in the morning and then keeps us going through the day. As a super well-known stimulant from coffee, tea and plenty of other soft drinks, Caffeine needs no introduction. So we will skip right to the part where we talk about what the hell it does in so-so many cosmetic products.

Looking at the research, we were surprised to find how versatile Caffeine is. It is a small, water-loving molecule with pretty good skin penetration abilties. Once in the skin, it has nice antioxidant properties, meaning that it reduces the formation of evil free radicals and it might even be useful in preventing UV-induced skin cancers. 

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A well-known thing about Caffeine is that it improves the microcirculation of the blood vessels. Though conventional wisdom and anecdotal evidence says that this property is helpful for dark under-eye circles and puffy eyes, we have to mention that the double-blind research we have found about a 3% caffeine gel concluded that "the overall efficacy of the selected caffeine gel in reducing puffy eyes was not significantly different from that of its gel base."  But you know, the proof is in the pudding.

Another thing Caffeine is used for in body care products is its anti-cellulite effects. In theory, it can speed up the lipolysis process (the "fat burning"  by our cells) and stimulate the draining lymph system that might lead to the improvement of cellulite. But here again, the evidence that it actually makes a measurable, let alone visible,  improvement on actual human beings is limited (we could find only some animal skin studies or caffeine being combined with other actives). 

Last, but not least, we have to write about caffeine and hair growth. The theory is that it can inhibit the activity of the 5-α-reductase enzyme that plays an important role in hair loss and allows a renewed growth phase of the hair. We have found some recent and promising research to back this up. A 2017 study compared a 0.2% caffeine liquid with a 5% Minoxidil  (an FDA approved active to treat baldness) solution and found that  "a caffeine-based topical liquid should be considered as not inferior to minoxidil 5% solution in men with androgenetic alopecia", or English translation means that the caffeine liquid was pretty much as good as the FDA-approved Minoxidil stuff. Not bad!

Overall, we think that caffeine is a very versatile and biologically active ingredient. Even though some of its effects are more hyped up than backed up, it is still a nice to have on many ingredient lists. 

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.

Also-called: Sulisobenzone | What-it-does: sunscreen

A water-soluble, chemical sunscreen agent that is a secondary UVB absorber with some activity in the short UVA range as well. Being a secondary UV absorber means that its protection is weak and it has to be combined with other sunscreen filters for proper sun protection. 

More often than not, Benzophenone-4 is not used as a sunscreen agent but as a photoprotectant to extend product shelf life, or as a color-protectant for products in clear packages. 

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A Contact Dermatitis article from 2007 names BP-4 as an emerging allergen, as it was the most frequently positive chemical UV filter and third most frequently positive ingredient overall among the 35 substances patch tested in the study (13 positives of 1693 people tested).

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: preservative

It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It’s not a strong one and doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. To do that it has to break down to its active form, sorbic acid. For that to happen, there has to be water in the product and the right pH value (pH 3-4). 

But even if everything is right, it’s not enough on its own. If you see potassium sorbate you should see some other preservative next to it too.

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BTW, it’s also a food preservative and even has an E number, E202.

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!). 

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: 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. 

Also-called: Red 33, D&C Red 33, Red 33 Lake;Ci 17200 | What-it-does: colorant | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 1

A super common synthetic colorant that adds a purple-red color - similar to red beet - to a product.

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 moisturizer/humectant
A corn sugar-derived, water-soluble, pale yellow syrup, that nicely moisturizes the skin. It has a light and smooth skin feel. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's a nice glycerin-based humectant and emollient that gives skin a smooth and luxurious feel.
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | soothing
Brown algae extract with moisturizing, skin protecting and soothing properties. [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 emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing | emollient
A helper ingredient that can solubilize challenging oils and oil-loving actives into cleansing products. It also has emollient and emulsifying, and wetting properties.
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 exfoliant | buffering
An AHA that comes from citrus fruits. It is usually used as a helper ingredient to adjust the pH of the formula. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating | buffering
A helper ingredient that is used to adjust the pH of the product. Also helps to keep products stay nice longer by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula. 
what‑it‑does emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's a common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together. Also, it can help to increase the solubility of some other ingredients in the formula. 
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 antioxidant
The well-known stimulant from coffee. It has nice antioxidant properties and can improve the microcirculation. Might be helpful for dark circles, puffy eyes, as well as cellulite and hair loss. [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]
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A water-soluble, chemical sunscreen agent that is a secondary UVB absorber with some activity in the short UVA range as well. Being a secondary UV absorber means that its protection is weak and it has to be combined with other sunscreen filters for proper sun protection. More often than not, Benzophenone-4 is not used as a sunscreen agent but as a photoprotectant to extend product&nb [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 preservative
A not so strong preservative that doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. [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 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
A super common colorant with the color yellow. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
irritancy, com. 2, 1
A super common synthetic colorant that adds a purple-red color - similar to red beet - to a product.