MAC Lightful C Marine-Bright Formula Softening Lotion
MAC

Lightful C Marine-Bright Formula Softening Lotion

A brightening lotion spray that softens, conditions, smoothes and leaves skin supple.
Uploaded by: sarahlove on 20/05/2017

Ingredients overview

Water
what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
,
Butylene Glycol
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]
,
Glycerin
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
,
Ascorbyl Glucoside
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
A stable and easy to formulate form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. In-vitro studies show that it shows all the three anti-aging benefits (antioxidant protection + collagen boosting + fading hyperpigmentation) that pure vitamin C does. [more]
,
Polysorbate-20
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
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. 
,
Yeast Extract
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A silky clear liquid that has great moisturizing, skin protecting and film-forming properties on the skin. [more]
,
Tocopheryl Acetate
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A form of vitamin E that works as an antioxidant. Compared to the pure form it's more stable, has longer shelf life, but it's also more poorly absorbed by the skin. [more]
,
Sodium Hyaluronate
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]
,
Gentiana Lutea Root Extract, [more] Hydrolyzed Rice Bran Extract, Porphyra Yezoensis Extract, Palmaria Palmata Extract, Algae Extract
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]
,
Caffeine
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]
,
Arginine
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
An amino acid that is one of the primary building blocks of hair keratin and skin collagen. It's a natural moisturizing factor and might also help to speed up wound healing.  [more]
,
Tourmaline
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
,
Phospholipids
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient
A type of lipid that's the major component of all cell membranes. As for skincare, it works as an emollient and skin-identical ingredient. It's also often used to create liposomes. [more]
,
Silk Powder, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate
what‑it‑does soothing
The salt form of one of the main anti-inflammatory ingredients in the licorice plant, monoammonium glycyrrhizinate. It’s a yellowish powder with a nice sweet smell. It’s used mainly for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, but according to manufacturer info, it’s also sebum regulating so it' [more]
,
Magnesium Chloride
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A kind of salt that's used as a thickener in cosmetic products.
,
Caprylyl Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
,
Hexylene Glycol
what‑it‑does emulsifying | solvent | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1 2
Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable. Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® [more]
,
Pentylene Glycol
what‑it‑does solvent | moisturizer/humectant
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. [more]
,
Jojoba Wax Peg-120 Esters
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
,
Potassium Phosphate
what‑it‑does buffering
It’s a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be just right. [more]
,
Potassium Nitrate
what‑it‑does soothing
,
Potassium Hydroxide
what‑it‑does buffering
It's a very alkaline stuff that helps to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to be just right. [more]
,
Calcium Chloride
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
,
Sodium Sulfate
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
,
Disodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating | viscosity controlling
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]
,
Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [more]
,
Citric Acid
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]
,
Fragrance
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]
,
Phenoxyethanol
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
,
Yellow 5
what‑it‑does colorant
A super common colorant with the color yellow. [more]
[less]

Highlights

Key Ingredients

Anti-acne: Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [more]
Antioxidant: Ascorbyl Glucoside
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
A stable and easy to formulate form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. In-vitro studies show that it shows all the three anti-aging benefits (antioxidant protection + collagen boosting + fading hyperpigmentation) that pure vitamin C does. [more]
,
Tocopheryl Acetate
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A form of vitamin E that works as an antioxidant. Compared to the pure form it's more stable, has longer shelf life, but it's also more poorly absorbed by the skin. [more]
,
Caffeine
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]
Exfoliant: Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [more]
Skin brightening: Ascorbyl Glucoside
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
A stable and easy to formulate form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. In-vitro studies show that it shows all the three anti-aging benefits (antioxidant protection + collagen boosting + fading hyperpigmentation) that pure vitamin C does. [more]
Skin-identical ingredient: Glycerin
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
,
Sodium Hyaluronate
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]
,
Arginine
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
An amino acid that is one of the primary building blocks of hair keratin and skin collagen. It's a natural moisturizing factor and might also help to speed up wound healing.  [more]
,
Phospholipids
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient
A type of lipid that's the major component of all cell membranes. As for skincare, it works as an emollient and skin-identical ingredient. It's also often used to create liposomes. [more]
Soothing: Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate
what‑it‑does soothing
The salt form of one of the main anti-inflammatory ingredients in the licorice plant, monoammonium glycyrrhizinate. It’s a yellowish powder with a nice sweet smell. It’s used mainly for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, but according to manufacturer info, it’s also sebum regulating so it' [more]
,
Potassium Nitrate
what‑it‑does soothing
,
Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [more]

Show all ingredients by function

Other Ingredients

Buffering: Potassium Phosphate
what‑it‑does buffering
It’s a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be just right. [more]
,
Potassium Hydroxide
what‑it‑does buffering
It's a very alkaline stuff that helps to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to be just right. [more]
,
Citric Acid
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]
Chelating: Disodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating | viscosity controlling
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]
Colorant: Yellow 5
what‑it‑does colorant
A super common colorant with the color yellow. [more]
Emollient: Algae Extract
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]
,
Phospholipids
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient
A type of lipid that's the major component of all cell membranes. As for skincare, it works as an emollient and skin-identical ingredient. It's also often used to create liposomes. [more]
,
Caprylyl Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
Emulsifying: Polysorbate-20
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
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. 
,
Hexylene Glycol
what‑it‑does emulsifying | solvent | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1 2
Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable. Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® [more]
Exfoliant: Citric Acid
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]
Moisturizer/humectant: Butylene Glycol
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]
,
Glycerin
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
,
Yeast Extract
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A silky clear liquid that has great moisturizing, skin protecting and film-forming properties on the skin. [more]
,
Sodium Hyaluronate
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]
,
Algae Extract
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]
,
Caprylyl Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
,
Pentylene Glycol
what‑it‑does solvent | moisturizer/humectant
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. [more]
Perfuming: Fragrance
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]
Preservative: Salicylic Acid
what‑it‑does exfoliant | anti-acne | soothing | preservative
One of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin. It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed) and it's a potent anti-inflammatory agent. [more]
,
Phenoxyethanol
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
Solvent: Water
what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
,
Butylene Glycol
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]
,
Hexylene Glycol
what‑it‑does emulsifying | solvent | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1 2
Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable. Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® [more]
,
Pentylene Glycol
what‑it‑does solvent | moisturizer/humectant
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. [more]
Surfactant/cleansing: Polysorbate-20
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
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. 
,
Hexylene Glycol
what‑it‑does emulsifying | solvent | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1 2
Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable. Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® [more]
,
Jojoba Wax Peg-120 Esters
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
Viscosity controlling: Tourmaline
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
,
Magnesium Chloride
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A kind of salt that's used as a thickener in cosmetic products.
,
Calcium Chloride
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
,
Sodium Sulfate
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
,
Disodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating | viscosity controlling
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]

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water solvent
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent 0, 1
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Ascorbyl Glucoside antioxidant, skin brightening goodie
Polysorbate-20 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 0
Yeast Extract moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Gentiana Lutea Root Extract
Hydrolyzed Rice Bran Extract
Porphyra Yezoensis Extract
Palmaria Palmata Extract
Algae Extract emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Caffeine antioxidant goodie
Arginine skin-identical ingredient goodie
Tourmaline viscosity controlling
Phospholipids skin-identical ingredient, emollient goodie
Silk Powder
Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate soothing goodie
Magnesium Chloride viscosity controlling
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Hexylene Glycol emulsifying, solvent, surfactant/​cleansing 1, 2
Pentylene Glycol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Jojoba Wax Peg-120 Esters surfactant/​cleansing
Potassium Phosphate buffering
Potassium Nitrate soothing
Potassium Hydroxide buffering
Calcium Chloride viscosity controlling
Sodium Sulfate viscosity controlling
Disodium Edta chelating, viscosity controlling
Salicylic Acid exfoliant, anti-acne, soothing, preservative superstar
Citric Acid exfoliant, buffering goodie
Fragrance perfuming icky
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Yellow 5 colorant

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. 

Expand to read more

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.

Expand to read more

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. 

Glycerin - goodie
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • Super common, used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but plays an important role in keeping the stuff between our skin cells healthy
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening

A form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. If you do not know why vitamin C is such a big deal in skincare, we have a really detailed, geeky description that's good to read. :) 

So now you know that because pure vitamin C is such a diva (very unstable and hard to formulate) the cosmetic industry is trying to come up with some derivatives that have the badass anti-aging properties of vitamin C (antioxidant protection + collagen boosting + fading hyperpigmentation) but without the disadvantages. This is a hard task, and there is not yet a derivative that is really proven to be better in every aspect, but Ascorbyl Glucoside is one of the best options when it comes to vitamin C derivatives. Let's see why:

Expand to read more

First, it's really stable and easy to formulate, so the problems that come with pure vitamin C are solved here.

Second, in vitro (meaning made in the lab, not on real humans) studies show that ascorbyl glucoside can penetrate the skin. This is kind of important for an anti-aging ingredient to do the job, so this is good news, though in-vivo (made on real humans) studies are still needed. 

Third, in-vitro studies show that after ascorbyl glucoside is absorbed into the skin it is converted to pure vitamin C (though the rate of conversion is still a question mark). It also shows all the three anti-aging benefits (antioxidant protection + collagen boosting + fading hyperpigmentation) that pure vitamin C does

Bottom line: ascorbyl glucoside is one of the best and most promising vitamin C derivatives that shows similar benefits to that of pure vitamin C, but it's less proven (in vivo vs. in vitro studies) and the extent of the benefits are also not the same.  

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. 

Yeast Extract - goodie
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. 

Expand to read more

 

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". 

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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).

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.

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).

Expand to read more

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. 

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.

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. 

Expand to read more

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. 

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

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Phospholipids - goodie

A type of lipid that's the major (about 75%) component of all cell membranes. As for skincare, it works as an emollient and skin-identical ingredient.

It has a water-loving head with two water-hating tails and this structure gives the molecule emulsifying properties. It is also often used to create liposomes, small spheres surrounded by phospholipid bi-layer designed to carry some active ingredient and help its absorption.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Licorice | What-it-does: soothing

The salt form of one of the main anti-inflammatory ingredients in the licorice plant, monoammonium glycyrrhizinate. It’s a yellowish powder with a nice sweet smell. 

It’s used mainly for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, but according to manufacturer info, it’s also sebum regulating so it's a perfect ingredient for problem skin products. 

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Read more about licorice and why it's a skincare superstar here. 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A kind of salt that's used as a thickener in cosmetic products. 

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: emulsifying, solvent, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 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

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. 

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: buffering

It’s a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be just right.

What-it-does: soothing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: buffering

It's a very alkaline stuff that helps to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to be just right. It's similar to the more often used sodium hydroxide and pretty much the same of what we wrote there applies here too. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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.

Salicylic Acid - superstar
Also-called: BHA | What-it-does: exfoliant, anti-acne, soothing, preservative
  • It's one of the gold standard ingredients for treating problem skin
  • It can exfoliate skin both on the surface and in the pores (pH 3-4 needed)
  • It's a potent anti-inflammatory agent
  • It's more effective for treating blackheads than acne
  • For acne combine it with antibacterial agents like benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid
Read all the geeky details about Salicylic Acid here >>

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. 

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

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

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

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Also, if your skin is sensitive, fragrance is again not your best friend. It’s the number one cause of contact allergy to cosmetics. It’s definitely a smart thing to avoid with sensitive skin (and fragrance of any type - natural is just as allergic as synthetic, if not worse!). 

What-it-does: 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.

Also-called: Tartrazine, Yellow 5 | 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. 

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