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Mac Cosmetics Complete Comfort Cream

Complete Comfort Cream

Moisturizer
Uploaded by: leslienpereira on

Ingredients overview

Water\Aqua\Eau, Butylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Cetyl Esters, Caprylic/​Capric/​Myristic/​Stearic Triglyceride, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Myristyl Myristate, Aleurites Moluccana (Kukui) Seed Oil, Polyperfluoromethylisopropyl Ether, Isononyl Isononanoate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Lecithin, Squalane, Hypnea Musciformis (Algae) Extract, Gelidiella Acerosa (Algae) Extract, Algae Extract, Cola Nitida (Kola) Seed Extract, Astrocaryum Murumuru Seed Butter, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Selaginella Tamariscina (Spike Moss) Extract, Hordeum Vulgare (Barley) Extract\Extrait D'Orge, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Macrocystis Pyrifera (Kelp) Extract, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Peel Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Fruit Juice, Asparagopsis Armata Extract, Yeast Extract\Faex\Extrait De Levure, Ascophyllum Nodosum Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Acetyl Glucosamine, Myristyl Laurate, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Sorbitol, Propylene Glycol Laurate, Phytosphingosine, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Glycine, Sucrose, Cyclodextrin, Carbomer, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Polysorbate 20, Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Acrylate/​Acrylonitrogens Copolymer, Citric Acid, Linolenic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Polyglyceryl-10 Pentastearate, Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Behenyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol Stearate, Sodium Hydroxide, Myristyl Alcohol, Fragrance (Parfum), Ethylbisiminomethylguaiacol Manganese Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Iron Oxides (Ci 77491, Ci 77492, Ci 77499)

Highlights

#alcohol-free
Alcohol Free

Other Ingredients

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water\Aqua\Eau solvent
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Dimethicone emollient 0, 1
Cetyl Esters emollient
Caprylic/Capric/Myristic/Stearic Triglyceride emollient
Ethylhexyl Palmitate emollient, perfuming 0, 2-4
Myristyl Myristate emollient 2, 0-5
Aleurites Moluccana (Kukui) Seed Oil soothing, emollient goodie
Polyperfluoromethylisopropyl Ether
Isononyl Isononanoate emollient
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Squalane skin-identical ingredient, emollient 0, 1 goodie
Hypnea Musciformis (Algae) Extract
Gelidiella Acerosa (Algae) Extract
Algae Extract emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Cola Nitida (Kola) Seed Extract
Astrocaryum Murumuru Seed Butter emollient
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract antioxidant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract antimicrobial/​antibacterial
Selaginella Tamariscina (Spike Moss) Extract
Hordeum Vulgare (Barley) Extract\Extrait D'Orge emollient
Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract antioxidant
Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract soothing, antimicrobial/​antibacterial, emollient, perfuming
Macrocystis Pyrifera (Kelp) Extract
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract goodie
Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract antioxidant, soothing, skin brightening, perfuming goodie
Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Peel Extract
Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Fruit Juice
Asparagopsis Armata Extract
Yeast Extract\Faex\Extrait De Levure moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Ascophyllum Nodosum Extract
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Acetyl Glucosamine skin-identical ingredient, skin brightening goodie
Myristyl Laurate surfactant/​cleansing
Ethylhexyl Isononanoate emollient
PEG-10 Dimethicone emulsifying
Sorbitol moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0
Propylene Glycol Laurate surfactant/​cleansing 3, 0
Phytosphingosine skin-identical ingredient, cell-communicating ingredient, anti-acne, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Hexylene Glycol solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/​cleansing 0-1, 0-2
Glycine skin-identical ingredient goodie
Sucrose moisturizer/​humectant, soothing goodie
Cyclodextrin chelating
Carbomer viscosity controlling 0, 1
Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate emulsifying
Polysorbate 20 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 0
Sorbitan Laurate emulsifying 1-2, 1-2
Sodium Acrylate/Acrylonitrogens Copolymer viscosity controlling
Citric Acid buffering
Linolenic Acid skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/​cleansing, perfuming goodie
Linoleic Acid skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/​cleansing goodie
Polyglyceryl-10 Pentastearate
Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid antioxidant
Glyceryl Stearate emollient, emulsifying 0, 1-2
PEG-100 Stearate surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying 0, 0
Behenyl Alcohol emollient, viscosity controlling
Propylene Glycol Stearate surfactant/​cleansing 0-1, 0-3
Sodium Hydroxide buffering
Myristyl Alcohol emollient, viscosity controlling 4, 2
Fragrance (Parfum) perfuming icky
Ethylbisiminomethylguaiacol Manganese Chloride antioxidant goodie
Disodium EDTA chelating, viscosity controlling
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Iron Oxides (Ci 77491, Ci 77492, Ci 77499) colorant 0, 0

Mac Cosmetics Complete Comfort Cream
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. 

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, viscosity controlling | 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.

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. 

What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Probably the most common silicone of all. It is a polymer (created from repeating subunits) molecule and has different molecular weight and thus different viscosity versions from water-light to thick liquid.

As for skincare, it makes the skin silky smooth, creates a subtle gloss and forms a protective barrier (aka occlusive). Also, works well to fill in fine lines and wrinkles and give skin a plump look (of course that is only temporary, but still, it's nice). There are also scar treatment gels out there using dimethicone as their base ingredient. It helps to soften scars and increase their elasticity. 

As for hair care, it is a non-volatile silicone meaning that it stays on the hair rather than evaporates from it and smoothes the hair like no other thing. Depending on your hair type, it can be a bit difficult to wash out and might cause some build-up (btw, this is not true to all silicones, only the non-volatile types). 

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

A vegetable origin emollient that has a similar consistency to lard (solid at room temperature) but melts rapidly upon contact with the skin.  It's claimed to have great skin compatibility, penetrates easily, does not feel tacky or heavy on the skin and does not leave a greasy shine.

What-it-does: emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2-4

A super common, medium-spreading emollient ester that gives richness to the formula and a mild feel during rubout. It can be a replacement for mineral oil and is often combined with other emollients to achieve different sensorial properties.

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

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

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

Also-called: Kukui Nut Oil | What-it-does: soothing, emollient

Having such a cool name and coming from Hawaii how could this oil be not good? Well, it is good. It's absorbed excellently by the skin and is used traditionally by the Hawaiians to soothe sunburn and other inflammations. 

Research confirms this: it's shown to have anti-inflammatory, pain reducing, and wound healing properties. It's also a particularly rich source of moisturizing essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic (about 42 and 32%) and it's not so rich in oleic acid - around 15% - that can be good even for acne prone skin.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

An emollient ester with a rich and creamy but non-greasy skin feel. It makes skin supple and protects dry skin. 

Also-called: Vitamin E Acetate | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the most commonly used version of pure vitamin E in cosmetics. You can read all about the pure form here. This one is the so-called esterified version. 

According to famous dermatologist, Leslie Baumann while tocopheryl acetate is more stable and has a longer shelf life, it’s also more poorly absorbed by the skin and may not have the same awesome photoprotective effects as pure Vit E. 

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". 

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).

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

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

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

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

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

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Algae Extract - goodie

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).

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.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Grape Seed Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial

We wholeheartedly support the rise of seedless grapes as fruit snacks, but when it comes to skincare, we are big fans of the seeds.

They contain the majority of the skin goodies that -  similar to green tea - are mostly polyphenols (but not the same ones as in tea). The most abundant ones in grape are called proanthocyanidins, and 60-70% of them are found in the seeds (it's also often abbreviated as GSP - grape seed proanthocyanidins). In general, the darker the fruit, the more GSPs and other flavonoids it contains.

So what's so special about GSPs? Well, they are super-potent antioxidants, much stronger than Vitamin C or Vitamin E. And if that's not enough, GSPs and other flavonoids in grape also show UV protecting and anti-cancer properties.

It's definitely a goodie to spot on the INCI list.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

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.

Also-called: Kelp Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Wheat Germ Extract

It's a plant extract that comes from wheat germ. Used as skin- and hair conditioner and skin protectant.

Contains gluten, if you are allergic.

Also-called: Turmeric Root Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing, skin brightening, perfuming

Turmeric is the yellow spice you probably know from curry and Indian food. It's also a traditional herbal medicine used in Ayurveda for its bunch of anti-something magic abilities including being anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anticarcinogenic. 

As for turmeric and skincare, we have good news: studies show that the root extract and its main biologically active component, curcumin can do multiple good things for the skin. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity, it shows some promise for acne-prone skin and a small study from 2013 showed that it might be able to regulate sebum production

It's also a potent antioxidant and skin-brightening agent so it often shows up in anti-aging and/or radiance-boosting products. 

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

You probably know yeast from the kitchen where you put it into milk with a little sugar and then after a couple of minutes brownish bubbles form. That is the fungi fermenting the sugar

As for skin care, yeast contains beta-glucan that is a great soothing ingredient and also a mild antioxidant.  The yeast extract itself is a silky clear liquid that has some great moisturizing, skin protecting and film-forming properties on the skin. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A chemically chopped up version of wheat protein that consists mainly of amino acids (the building blocks), peptides (a couple of amino acids together), and proteins (lots of amino acids together). 

It has moisturizing and film-forming properties and  might be able to counteract the irritating effects of cleansing agents in cleansers and shampoos. It can also condition and repair damaged hair leaving it soft, silky and smooth.

An amino acid sugar that can be found in the skin and does there good and important things. One of them is that it's a precursor for the biosynthesis of superstar moisturizer, hyaluronic acid. So acetyl glucosamine itself is also an important skin-identical ingredient and natural moisturizing factor.

But that is not all, acetyl glucosamine has two other great properties proved by double-blind clinical trials. First, it's a promising ingredient against wrinkles:  2% can improve wrinkles, particularly in the eye area.

Second, the same amount can also fade - always stubborn - brown spots. (Do not expect magic, though - the photos from the study show the difference after 8 weeks of daily use. The difference is visible, but not that big. It's always good to have realistic expectations. :))  Combined with skincare superstar niacinamide the duo is synergistic and is more effective at improving hyperpigmentation, so if you are after the skin-lightening benefit look out for products that contain both. 

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying

A silicone emulsifier that helps water and silicone oils to mix nicely together. It can also be used together with plant oil + silicone oil mixtures. 

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

It's a sweet tasting sugar substitute that helps your skin to hold onto water when used in cosmetic products. It also helps to thicken up products and give them a bit more slip. 

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 3 | Comedogenicity: 0

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

It's a type of lipid, a so-called sphingoid base that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. It's found both in "free-form" and as part of famous skin lipids, ceramides.

There is emerging research about Phytosphingosine that shows that it has antimicrobial and cell-communicating properties and is considered part of the skin's natural defense system.

A 2007 study showed that Phytosphingosine even works against evil acne-causing bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes and shows promise as a complementing active ingredient in treating acne-prone skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activities.  

A nice one to spot in the ingredient list. :)

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.

What-it-does: solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/cleansing | 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

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

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.

Sucrose - goodie

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

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

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing | 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. 

What-it-does: emulsifying | Irritancy: 1-2 | Comedogenicity: 1-2

An ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier. Chemically speaking, it comes from the attachment of sorbitan (a dehydrated sorbitol (sugar) molecule) with the fatty acid Lauric Acid, that creates a partly water (the sorbitan part) and partly oil soluble (lauric part) molecule. 

Sorbitan Laurate is a good team player that likes to work with many other emulsifiers and is compatible with a wide range of other ingredients.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: 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. 

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. 

Also-called: alpha-Linolenic acid, ALA, omega-3 fatty acid, Form of Vitamin F | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/cleansing, perfuming

The famous omega-3 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-3 fatty acids in our body. Next to linoleic acid, it is the other essential fatty acid that our body cannot synthesize and we have to ingest it from our food. It is also a PUFA, aka polyunsaturated fatty acid with three double bonds, a kinky chemical structure and thus a liquid consistency.

While linoleic acid is abundant in the skin, this is not the case with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It is not entirely clear if it is meant to be like that or if this is a consequence of not eating enough Omega-3 with the typical Western diet.

Leafy green vegetables, walnuts, flax seeds and fish oils are rich sources of ALA and if you are not eating a lot from these, supplementing with fish oil is a pretty good idea backed by research. It is a good idea both in terms of general health benefits as well as potentially improving inflammation-related skin issues such as atopic dermatitis or acne.

As for using ALA topically, we have to say that its role and effects seem to be less direct than with LA. ALA's main role in the skin appears to be modulating the immune response of the epidermis. This is probably helpful for inflammatory skin diseases but most studies examine ALA as an oral supplement and not when applied topically. One exception, we could find, is a study that found that topically applied ALA has nice spot-fading abilities.

To be honest, it seems to us that oral supplementation of ALA is more important than smearing it all over your face. However, that is not to say that topical ALA is a bad thing, it is a good thing. It is a skin-identical ingredient, it is probably moisturizing and anti-inflammatory but its topical effects are less established than that of fellow omega fatty acid, linoleic acid

Linoleic Acid - goodie
Also-called: LA, omega-6 fatty acid, 18:2 cis-9,12, Form of Vitamin F | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/cleansing

The famous omega-6 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-6 fatty acids in our body. It is a so-called polyunsaturated fatty acid meaning it has more than one (in this case two) double bonds and a somewhat kinky structure that makes LA and LA-rich oils a thin liquid.

It is also an essential fatty acid meaning our body cannot synthesize it and has to take it from food. This is not hard at all as plenty of nuts (such as flax, poppy or sesame seeds) and vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower) are rich in LA. The hard thing seems to be eating enough omega-3-s, more specifically eating a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, but that is a topic for a what-is-good-to-eat-site and not for us. 

As for linoleic acid and the skin, LA is a really important little guy found naturally in our skin. It is the most abundant fatty acid in the epidermis and it serves as a structural precursor for important skin lipids called ceramides. Knowing this, it will not come as a surprise that Linoleic acid has a central role in the structure and function of stratum corneum permeability, aka healthy skin barrier.  LA deficiency leads to an impaired more permeable skin barrier and the topical application of LA-rich sunflower oil can fix this issue rapidly (while oleic-rich olive oil did not have the same barrier repairing effect).

LA is not only important for dry, barrier damaged skin types but also for acne-prone skin. Research shows that problem skin has lower levels of linoleic acid (and higher levels of oleic acid) than normal skin. So LA-deficiency in the skin seems to be connected not only to an impaired skin barrier but also to acne and smearing LA all over your face might help with your problem skin. A double-blind study using a 2.5% LA gel for 4 weeks found a 25% reduction in the size of microcomedones, the tiny blocked pores that can later lead to acne.

If that was not enough, we have one more thing to report about LA.  It lightens hyperpigmentation (aka UVB caused sun spots) both by blocking the melanin production of melanocytes (the skin cells that make the pigment melanin) and by enhancing the desquamation of melanin pigment from the upper layers of the skin.

Overall, linoleic acid is a multi-functional skin goodie with barrier repairing, acne-reducing, and skin-lightening magic abilities. It's a nice one to spot on the ingredient list pretty much for any skin type. 

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: emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-2

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

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

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

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

A very common water-loving surfactant and emulsifier that helps to keep water and oil mixed nicely together. 

It's often paired with glyceryl stearate - the two together form a super effective emulsifier duo that's salt and acid tolerant and works over a wide pH range. It also gives a "pleasing product aesthetics", so no wonder it's popular.

A fatty alcohol (the non-drying type with a long oil loving chain of 22 carbon atoms) that is used to increase the viscosity of the formula and it also helps the oily and the watery parts to stay nicely mixed together (called emulsion stabilizing). 

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 0-1 | Comedogenicity: 0-3

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: lye | What-it-does: buffering

The unfancy name for it is lye. It’s a solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amounts to adjust the pH of the product and make it just right. 

For example, in case of AHA or BHA exfoliants, the right pH is super-duper important, and pH adjusters like sodium hydroxide are needed.  

BTW, lye is not something new. It was already used by ancient Egyptians to help oil and fat magically turn into something else. Can you guess what? Yes, it’s soap. It still often shows up in the ingredient list of soaps and other cleansers.

Sodium hydroxide in itself is a potent skin irritant, but once it's reacted (as it is usually in skin care products, like exfoliants) it is totally harmless.

Also-called: Tetradecanol | What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 4 | Comedogenicity: 2

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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

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!). 

Also-called: EUK-134 | What-it-does: antioxidant

An interesting synthetic molecule that mimics two antioxidant skin enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase

If you are wondering what the heck SOD and catalase are, here is a little background: they are two smart enzymes found in our bodies that speed up the conversion of the evil, cell damaging free radicals (such as superoxide radicals) into friendly and harmless things such as water and oxygen. We wrote some more about SOD here.

So this unpronounceable guy is actually a nice molecule that mimics the behavior of the natural enzymes in our skin. Estee Lauder likes this ingredient, uses it and has done some studies to prove that Ethylbisiminomethylguaiacol Manganese Chloride, aka EUK-134, can nicely protect the cells from UVB damage. They hypothesize that "EUK-134, via direct protection of the membrane from UVB-induced oxidative damage, reduces oxidative stress induced MAPK signaling and consequently lowers the level of p53 induction. The protection conferred by EUK-134 results in a significant increase in cell survival following UVB irradiation."

Another study (also by Estee Lauder) found that EUK-134 lowers hydroperoxide levels at the surface of UVA-exposed skin in vivo and concluded that this salen–manganese compound is a "unique cosmetic tool to protect the skin surface from accumulating oxidative damage". 

Other than that, we found a study that examined a serum to manage skin redness in sensitive, pale skin types and contained EUK-134 along with a bunch of other ingredients. The formula examined did reduce facial redness so EUK-134 seems to be tolerated well even by redness-prone, sensitive skin types

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.

It is typically used in tiny amounts, around 0.1% or less.

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. 

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

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

Also-called: Ci 77491/77492/77499 | What-it-does: colorant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A bit of a sloppy ingredient name as it covers not one but three pigments: red, yellow and black iron oxide.

The trio is invaluable for "skin-colored" makeup products  (think your foundation and pressed powder) as blending these three shades carefully can produce almost any shade of natural-looking flesh tones. 

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what‑it‑does emollient
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what‑it‑does emollient
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what‑it‑does emollient
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what‑it‑does soothing | emollient
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what‑it‑does emollient
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what‑it‑does antioxidant
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what‑it‑does emollient
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what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial
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what‑it‑does antioxidant
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what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
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irritancy, com. 0-1, 0-2
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what‑it‑does emulsifying
irritancy, com. 1-2, 1-2
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what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient | surfactant/cleansing
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what‑it‑does antioxidant
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irritancy, com. 0, 1-2
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
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what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0-1, 0-3
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what‑it‑does preservative
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what‑it‑does colorant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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