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Liz K First C Serum
Liz K

First C Serum

This treatment is formulated with 13% pure Vitamin C (Absorbic Acid) to help brighten and even out skin tone, fight premature aging, and soothe skin.
Uploaded by: dariak on 06/09/2018

Ingredients overview

Water , Butylene Glycol , Ascorbic Acid , Alcohol , Propanediol , Propylene Carbonate , Diethoxyethyl Succinate , Arbutin , Portulaca Oleracea Extract , [more] Viscum Album (Mistletoe) Extract , Ferulic Acid , Pinus Pinaster Bark Extract , Rosa Canina Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract , Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Extract , Cinnamomum Cassia Bark Extract, Aronia Arbutifolia Extract, Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Extract, Sparassis Crispa Extract , Hericium Erinaceum (Mushroom) Extract, Phellinus Linteus Extract, Lentinus Edodes Extract, Ganoderma Lucidum (Mushroom) Extract, Cordyceps Sinensis Extract , Phaseolus Radiatus Seed Extract, Tagetes Erecta Flower Extract , Cudrania Tricuspidata Bark Extract, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract, Cudrania Tricuspidata Fruit Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Rubus Coreanus Fruit Extract, Superoxide Dismutase , Thioctic Acid , Xanthophylls, Melatonin , Caffeic Acid , Glutathione, Nicotinoyl Sh-Pentapeptide-19, Caffeine , Ubiquinone , Hydroxycinnamic Acid, Dipropylene Glycol , Levan, Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract , Acetyl Cysteine , Polysorbate 60 , Allantoin , Panthenol , Octyldodeceth-25 , Decyltetradeceth-25 , Octyldodeceth-16 , Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract, Propyl Gallate , Tocopherol , Pentylene Glycol , Adenosine , Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6 , Bis-Peg-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane , Tromethamine , Ethylhexyl Methoxycrylene, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/​Vp Copolymer , 1,2-Hexanediol , Carnitine , Arginine , Glycine , Sodium Hyaluronate , Tetrasodium Edta , Sodium Carbonate , Pvp , Fullerenes , Sh-Oligopeptide-1 , Peg-240/​Hdi Copolymer Bis-Decyltetradeceth-20 Ether , Ethylhexyl Salicylate , Sodium Metabisulfite , Lecithin , Sodium Phosphate , Fragrance
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Highlights

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Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water solvent
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent 0, 1
Ascorbic Acid antioxidant, skin brightening superstar
Alcohol antimicrobial/​antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling icky
Propanediol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Propylene Carbonate solvent, viscosity controlling
Diethoxyethyl Succinate solvent
Arbutin antioxidant, skin brightening goodie
Portulaca Oleracea Extract soothing, antioxidant goodie
Viscum Album (Mistletoe) Extract soothing
Ferulic Acid antioxidant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Pinus Pinaster Bark Extract antioxidant goodie
Rosa Canina Fruit Extract
Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/​antibacterial superstar
Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Extract emollient
Cinnamomum Cassia Bark Extract
Aronia Arbutifolia Extract
Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Extract
Sparassis Crispa Extract moisturizer/​humectant
Hericium Erinaceum (Mushroom) Extract
Phellinus Linteus Extract
Lentinus Edodes Extract
Ganoderma Lucidum (Mushroom) Extract
Cordyceps Sinensis Extract antioxidant, emollient, moisturizer/​humectant
Phaseolus Radiatus Seed Extract
Tagetes Erecta Flower Extract perfuming
Cudrania Tricuspidata Bark Extract
Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract
Cudrania Tricuspidata Fruit Extract
Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract
Rubus Coreanus Fruit Extract
Superoxide Dismutase antioxidant goodie
Thioctic Acid antioxidant goodie
Xanthophylls
Melatonin antioxidant
Caffeic Acid antioxidant
Glutathione
Nicotinoyl Sh-Pentapeptide-19
Caffeine antioxidant goodie
Ubiquinone antioxidant goodie
Hydroxycinnamic Acid
Dipropylene Glycol solvent
Levan
Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Acetyl Cysteine antioxidant
Polysorbate 60 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Allantoin soothing 0, 0 goodie
Panthenol soothing, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Octyldodeceth-25 surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying
Decyltetradeceth-25 emulsifying
Octyldodeceth-16 emulsifying
Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract
Propyl Gallate antioxidant, perfuming
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 superstar
Pentylene Glycol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Adenosine cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6 viscosity controlling
Bis-Peg-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane emollient, moisturizer/​humectant
Tromethamine buffering
Ethylhexyl Methoxycrylene
Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Vp Copolymer viscosity controlling
1,2-Hexanediol solvent
Carnitine surfactant/​cleansing, viscosity controlling
Arginine skin-identical ingredient goodie
Glycine skin-identical ingredient goodie
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Tetrasodium Edta chelating
Sodium Carbonate buffering
Pvp viscosity controlling 0, 0
Fullerenes antimicrobial/​antibacterial
Sh-Oligopeptide-1 cell-communicating ingredient
Peg-240/Hdi Copolymer Bis-Decyltetradeceth-20 Ether viscosity controlling
Ethylhexyl Salicylate sunscreen 0, 0
Sodium Metabisulfite preservative
Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Sodium Phosphate buffering
Fragrance perfuming icky

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. 

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. 

Ascorbic Acid - superstar
Also-called: Vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening
  • Works best between a concentration of 5-20%
  • Boosts the skin’s own collagen production
  • Fades pigmentation and brown spots
  • If used under sunscreen it boosts its UV protection
  • Extremely unstable and oxidizes very easily in presence of light or air
  • Stable in solutions with water only if pH is less than 3.5 or in waterless formulations
  • Vit E + C work in synergy and provide superb photoprotection
  • Ferulic acid doubles the photoprotection effect of Vit C+E and helps to stabilize Vit C
  • Potent Vit. C serums might cause a slight tingling on sensitive skin
Read all the geeky details about Ascorbic Acid here >>

Alcohol - icky
Also-called: Ethanol | What-it-does: antimicrobial/antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling, astringent

Simply alcohol refers to ethanol and it's a pretty controversial ingredient. It has many instant benefits: it's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial. No wonder it's popular in toners and oily skin formulas. 

The downside is that it can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list. 

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Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion. If you wanna know more, we wrote a more detailed explanation about what's the deal with alcohol in skincare products at alcohol denat. (it's also alcohol, but with some additives to make sure no one drinks it).

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

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

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: solvent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Arbutin - goodie
Also-called: Beta-Arbutin | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening

A pretty well-known and often used ingredient with the magic ability to fade brown spots. It's used traditionally in Japan and can be found naturally in a couple of plants, including the leaves of pear trees, wheat and bearberry

Arbutin seems to work its magic and hinder the pigmentation process at the second step of it. An enzyme called tyrosinase is needed to create melanin (the pigment that causes the brown spots) and while several other skin lightening agents work to inhibit the synthesis of tyrosinase itself (like vitamin C or licorice), arbutin lets tyrosinase be and rather hinders the melanin-forming activity of the enzyme. (So it might be a good idea to combine arbutin with some direct tyrosinase inhibitors for more skin lightening effect.)

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All in all, arbutin is one of the better-known skin brightening agents, that's probably worth a try if pigmentation is an issue for you.

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

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

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

What-it-does: soothing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Ferulic Acid - goodie

Ferulic Acid (FA) is a goodie that can be found naturally in plant cell walls. There is a lot of it especially in the bran of grasses such as rice, wheat and oats. 

FA - whose main job is to be an antioxidant - owes its fame to a 2005 research that discovered that adding in 0.5% FA to a 15% Vitamin C + 1% Vitamin E solution not only stabilizes the highly unstable, divaish Vit C, but it also doubles the photoprotection abilities of the formula. 

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Couple of other studies show that FA just by itself is also a nice addition to cosmetic formulations: it can penetrate the skin (which is kind of important to do the job) and it has protecting properties against UV caused skin damage.

So if you spot it on the ingredient list be happy about it. :)

Also-called: Pycnogenol | What-it-does: antioxidant

A natural plant extract coming from the bark of the maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France. The extract contains potent antioxidant molecules, mainly procyanidins and phenolic acids.  Horphag Research trademarked the name 'Pycnogenol', which refers to a standardized, high-active content version of the pine bark extract. 

Pycnogenol is a very well researched ingredient with more than 370 published studies and review articles. Most of these are in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) or analyse Pycnogenol when taken orally. It's clear from them that Pycnogenol has a load of health benefits including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic magical properties (and a bunch of other things such as improving cognitive function, relieving premenstrual symptoms, or enhancing microcirculation). 

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Regarding Pycnogenol and the skin, we found a study from 2012 that examined its effect on the skin when taken as a supplement. After 12 weeks, Pycnogenol supplements resulted in increased skin hydration and elasticity. The researchers thought this was due to the increased synthesis of extracellular matrix molecules such as hyaluronic acid and perhaps collagen. 

As for topical application, the studies are also promising. A 2003 research paper, conducted on mice, showed that topical Pycnogenol (used at 0.05-0.2%) has the potential to provide photoprotection for humans in a complementary role to sunscreens. Meanwhile, a 2004 study concluded,  "pine bark extract is readily absorbed by human skin and can be used for topical application".

Overall, Pycnogenol, or Pinus Pinaster Bark Extract, as it will be listed on the product label, is a well-researched and potent antioxidant that is a welcome addition to any ingredient list. 

What-it-does: astringent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Acai Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Shiitake Mushroom Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Reishi Mushroom Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Bilberry Fruit Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Sea Buckthorn Berry Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: SOD | What-it-does: antioxidant

Superoxide Dismutase - or in short SOD - is the body's smart antioxidant enzyme that protects the cells from highly reactive, cell-damaging superoxide radicals (O2−).

You have probably read the terms "free radicals" and "antioxidants" a thousand times, and you know that free radicals are the evil guys, and antioxidants are the good guys. So superoxide radical is a very common free radical that can cause all kinds of cell damages and superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of superoxide radicals into molecular oxygen and hydrogen peroxide (btw, this one has to be further converted by other antioxidant enzymes, called catalases).

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The extra nice thing about SOD is that it remains intact during the neutralization process and can continue its magic, while non-enzymatic antioxidants (like vitamin E) are used up during neutralization.

The efficacy studies of topical SOD are promising. In-vitro (made in the lab) tests show that SOD is a more effective antioxidant than vitamin E, green tea extract, and MAP. There is also an in-vivo (made on real people) study that measured how SOD can reduce the redness caused by UV rays and it was much more effective than vitamin E (pure or acetate form) and ascorbyl palmitate

All in all, SOD is a really potent antioxidant and slathering it all over yourself is a great way to give the skin a little extra help in protecting itself from all the bad environmental things out there. 

Thioctic Acid - goodie
Also-called: Alpha-Lipoic Acid | What-it-does: antioxidant

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a great antioxidant that's also part of the body's natural antioxidant system. It's soluble both in water-rich and lipid-rich environments so it's versatile and can interact with many types of evil oxidants as well as other nice antioxidants. 

ALA seems to be a great choice for topical use as studies show it can penetrate the skin rapidly where it's converted to DHLA (dihydrolipoic acid), an even more potent antioxidant molecule.  A nicely designed (we mean double-blind, placebo-controlled) 12-week study from 2003 confirmed that 5% ALA cream can decrease skin roughness and improve general signs of photoaging statistically significantly.  A slight catch, though, is that burning and warmth in the skin was quite a common side effect, especially in the first 4 weeks. 

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All in all, ALA is definitely a research-proven, great antioxidant but if your skin is sensitive higher concentrations might not be for you.

Also-called: Lutein

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: 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.

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. 

Ubiquinone - goodie
Also-called: Coenzyme Q10 | What-it-does: antioxidant

Thanks to Nivea, Q10 is a pretty well-known ingredient and the fame and Beiersdorf's (the parent company of Nivea) obsession with it are not for no reason. It's an antioxidant found naturally in human cells where it plays a big role in energy production.

In fact, it's so important for energy production that if taken as an oral supplement it has a caffeine-like effect and if taken at night you will probably not sleep very well (so you should take it in the morning). Q10 supplementation is not a bad idea: it not only gives you energy but research also shows that oral Q10 increases the Q10 level of the skin (of course, it decreases with age like pretty much every good thing in the skin) and may help to reduce wrinkles. If you are not for supplements, dietary sources include fish, spinach, and nuts.

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As for skincare, Q10 comes in the form of a yellow, oil-soluble powder that's shown to absorb into the upper layer of the skin and act there like an awesome antioxidant. It not only has preventative effects but might also be able to reduce the depth of wrinkles, though 0.3% Q10 was used in the study that counts as really high (products containing that much should be very yellow!). 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: solvent

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

polysaccharide (a big sugar molecule) coming from the edible fruit bodies of the Silver Ear mushroom in China. It's claimed to be an awesome moisturizer with slightly greater water-holding capacities than HA. We wrote more about Tremella here >> 

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

Allantoin - goodie
What-it-does: soothing | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. 

It's not only soothing but it' also skin-softening and protecting and can promote wound healing.

Panthenol - goodie
Also-called: Pro-Vitamin B5 | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

An easy-to-formulate, commonly used, nice to have ingredient that’s also called pro-vitamin B5. As you might guess from the “pro” part, it’s a precursor to vitamin B5 (whose fancy name is pantothenic acid). 

Its main job in skincare products is to moisturise the skin. It’s a humectant meaning that it can help the skin to attract water and then hold onto it. There is also research showing that panthenol can help our skin to produce more lovely lipids that are important for a strong and healthy skin barrier. 

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Another great thing about panthenol is that it has anti-inflammatory and skin protecting abilities. A study shows that it can reduce the irritation caused by less-nice other ingredients (e.g. fragrance, preservatives or chemical sunscreens) in the product.

Research also shows that it might be useful for wound healing as it promotes fibroblast (nice type of cells in our skin that produce skin-firming collagen) proliferation. 

If that wasn’t enough panthenol is also useful in nail and hair care products. A study shows that a nail treatment liquide with 2% panthenol could effectively get into the nail and significantly increase the hydration of it.

As for the hair the hydration effect is also true there. Panthenol might make your hair softer, more elastic and helps to comb your hair more easily. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: antioxidant, perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Tocopherol - superstar
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 >>

A multi-functional, silky feeling helper ingredient that can do quite many things. It's used as an emulsion stabilizer, solvent and a broad spectrum antimicrobial. According to manufacturer info, it's also a moisturizer and helps to make the product feel great on the skin. It works synergistically with preservatives and helps to improve water-resistance of sunscreens. 

Adenosine - goodie

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

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

It's a helper ingredient that helps to thicken up formulas and form a nice gel texture. It leaves a rich, elegant feel with a velvety finish on the skin and works over a wide pH range.

It's 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. Often used in light, watery formulas to give them extra silky feel

What-it-does: buffering

It's a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of the products to be right. It has an alkaline pH and can neutralize acidic ingredients.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

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

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

What-it-does: solvent

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Arginine - goodie

A semi-essential (infants cannot synthesize it, but adults can) amino acid that is one of the primary building blocks of hair keratin and skin collagen. It's a natural moisturizing factor, a skin hydrator and might also help to speed up wound healing

Arginine usually has a positive charge (cationic) that makes it substantive to skin and hair (those are more negatively charged surfaces) and an excellent film former.  Thanks to the positive charge, it also creates a complex with AHAs (AHAs like to lose a hydrogen ion and be negatively charged, so the positive and the negative ions attract each other) that causes a "time-release AHA effect" and reduces the irritation associated with AHAs

Glycine - goodie

A non-essential amino acid (the building blocks of skin proteins, like collagen or elastin), that the body can produce itself, but its production decreases with age. When you put it all over your face, it works as a moisturizer and maybe more. 

According to great skincare blog Futurederm, glycine might help with wound healing and tissue repair and when used together with other amino acids, leucine and proline it might improve wrinkles

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BTW, it's also a building block of a bunch of important and famous peptides, including copper-tripeptide-1, palmitoyl tripeptide-1 or palmitoyl hexapeptide-12.

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: chelating

A handy 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.

What-it-does: buffering

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Poly Vinyl Pyrollidone;PVP | What-it-does: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

These three letters stand for Poly Vinyl Pyrollidone, a big molecule created from repeated units of Vinyl Pyrrolidone, aka VP. Its main thing is being an important film former. It was the first synthetic polymer introduced as a hair fixative in the 1950s instead of insect-derived Shellac. 

So PVP likes to attach itself to surfaces such as the hair and the skin and forms a nice, thin, even film there. The film is useful for holding a hairstyle or extending the wear of color cosmetics and sunscreens. The disadvantage of PVP is that the film is a bit brittle and that PVP loves water (hygroscopic) that tends to destroy the film. This is the reason why hair styled with a PVP based product loses its style in high humidity. To fix this problem, there are now several versions of VP containing film formers that are less sensitive to humidity, for example, the molecule called VP/VA Copolymer

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Epidermal Growth Factor, EGF, rh-Oligopeptide-1 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

Sh-Oligopeptide-1 is the famous molecule, which is also called Epidermal Growth Factor or EGF. Chemically speaking, Growth Factors are largish peptides or smallish proteins, or to put it in another way, medium-length amino acid sequences (EGF consists of 53 amino acids).  Biologically speaking, Growth Factors are cellular signal molecules that can stimulate cell growth, proliferation, healing and/or differentiation. 

There are lots of Growth Factors and EGF is just one of them. The topic of "Growth Factors and skincare" is a big, confusing and controversial one and we will try our best to summarize the story for you, including the pros and the cons. 

Expand to read more

EGF is a special snowflake when it comes to skincare as it was the first Growth Factor that made its way into cosmetic products and it is also the most common one. The American biochemist, Stanley Cohen discovered EGF and was awarded a Noble prize in 1986 for it. As the Noble prize may signify, the molecule is significant and powerful and directly stimulates the proliferation of epidermal cells. 

When it comes to Sh-Oligopeptide-1 in a cosmetic product, it has pretty well-established wound healing and skin renewal properties. It might even do more than that. According to a 2012 study on a serum containing barley bioengineered epidermal growth factor, "clinical evaluations showed statistically significant improvement in the appearance of fine lines and rhytids, skin texture, pore size, and various dyschromatic conditions apparent within the first month of use, and continuing improvement trends for the duration of the study" (which was 3 months).

This all sounds amazing, "give me some EGF Serum", we can hear you say! But as we wrote in the intro, the topic is complex and controversial so here are some of the questions that keep coming up around slathering EGF all over our face. 

The first and biggest concern is that if EGF is so good at stimulating cell proliferation, how does it relate to cancer? Is the definition of cancer not "cells proliferating out of control"?  Most experts agree on this answer: EGF is mitogenic (= stimulates cell proliferation) but not mutagenic (= does not alter the cell to make it cancerous)If you do not have cancer, you will not get cancer from EGF. However, if you have cancerous cells, EGF will help them to spread, just like it helps healthy cells. So if you have a lot of moles, excessive UV exposure in the past, or if you have any of the skin cancer risk factors, we suggest you should think twice about using EGF products. The same is true if you have psoriasis, a skin disease related to the abnormal growth of epidermal skin cells. You do not want to add fuel to the fire with EGF. 

Other (less serious) concerns are if EGF can properly penetrate the skin (as it is a medium-sized, polar molecule, so a special delivery system is probably needed), if it can affect collagen synthesis (or just works on the surface plumping up only the upmost layers of the skin) and if it has beneficial effects at all when used in isolation versus when used in a "conditioned media" that contains lots of growth factors resembling the synergistic balance found in the skin. 

Overall, our impression is that EGF is definitely a potent molecule. Some EGF products have a cult-like following adding anecdotal evidence to the clinical studies showing EGF has a beneficial effect on the skin. If you like experimenting, by all means, go ahead (unless you have psoriasis or high skin cancer risk factors), but if you are a better safe than sorry type, stick to daily SPF + a good retinoid product. This duo is still the golden standard of anti-aging.

Are you interested in Growth Factors and skincare? We have some more here:

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Octyl Salicylate, Octisalate | What-it-does: sunscreen | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A colorless to light yellowish oily liquid that works as a UVB (280-320nm) sunscreen filter with a peak absorbance at 306 nm. It's not a strong filter in itself, it's always used in combination with other sunscreen agents to further enhance the SPF and to solubilize other solid UV filters.

It has a good safety profile and is allowed to be used at a max concentration of 5% both in the US and in Europe (10% is allowed in Japan).

What-it-does: preservative

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Lecithin - goodie
What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A very common ingredient that can be found in all cell membranes. In cosmetics it's quite the multi-tasker: it's an emollient and water-binding ingredient but it's also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes

What-it-does: buffering

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

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

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

Expand to read more

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!). 

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irritancy, com. 0, 1
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what‑it‑does solvent
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Purslane Extract - a traditional Korean medicinal plant with skin-soothing, antioxidant and wound healing abilities. [more]
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A great antioxidant that is most famous for stabilizing the highly unstable Vitamin C. It also doubles the photoprotection abilities of Vit C+E formulas. [more]
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Superoxide Dismutase - or in short SOD - is the body's smart antioxidant enzyme that protects the cells from highly reactive, cell-damaging superoxide radicals (O2−). You have probably read the terms "free radicals" [more]
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Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a great antioxidant that's also part of the body's natural antioxidant system. It's soluble both in water-rich and lipid-rich environments so it's versatile and can interact with many types of evil oxidants as well as other nice antioxidants. ALA seems to be a great choice for topical use as studies show it can penetrate the skin rapidl [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
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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]
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Q10 - an antioxidant found naturally in human cells where it plays an important role in energy production. As for skincare, it works as an awesome antioxidant that might also be able to reduce wrinkle depth. [more]
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A clear, colorless liquid that works as a solvent and viscosity decreasing ingredient. It also has great skin-moisturizing abilities.  [more]
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A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.
what‑it‑does soothing
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An important compound in our body that has a vital cell-signalling role. It is wound healing, anti-inflammatory and can help with barrier repair. [more]
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A helper ingredient that helps to thicken up formulas and form a nice gel texture. It leaves a rich, elegant feel with a velvety finish on the skin.
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It's a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of the products to be right. It has an alkaline pH and can neutralize acidic ingredients.
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A kind of polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) that helps to create beautiful gel-like textures. It's also a texturizer and thickener for oil-in-water emulsions. [more]
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A multi-functional helper ingredient that acts as a humectant and emollient. It's also a solvent and can boost the effectiveness of preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | viscosity controlling
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irritancy, com. 0, 0
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A helper ingredient that helps to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.
what‑it‑does buffering
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Epidermal Growth Factor - a smallish protein that works as a potent cell signaling molecule. It stimulates cell proliferation, wound healing and skin renewal. Do not use if you have psoriasis or high skin cancer risk factors. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does sunscreen
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A colorless to light yellowish oily liquid that works as a UVB (280-320nm) sunscreen filter with a peak absorbance at 306 nm. It's not a strong filter in itself, it's always used in combination with other sunscreen agents. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
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It's quite the multi-tasker: an emollient and water-binding ingredient but also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes.  [more]
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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]
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