|Ingredient name||what-it-does||irr., com.||ID-Rating|
|Rosa Damascena Distillate|
|Polysorbate 80||emulsifying||0, 0|
|Sodium Hyaluronate||skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant||0, 0||goodie|
|Dimethyl Sulfone||solvent, viscosity controlling|
|Hydrolyzed Collagen||emollient, moisturizer/humectant||goodie|
|Alcohol||antimicrobial/antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling||icky|
|Polysorbate 20||emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing||0, 0|
|Tocopheryl Acetate||antioxidant||0, 0|
|Linum Usitatissimum Seed Oil||emollient||goodie|
|Retinyl Palmitate||cell-communicating ingredient||1-3, 1-3|
|Boswellia Serrata Resin Extract|
|Ascorbic Acid||antioxidant, skin brightening||superstar|
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.
The flower water coming from the flowers of the Damask Rose. In general, flower waters (also called hydrosols) are diluted versions of essential oils coming from the same plant. They contain the same components but in much-reduced concentrations.
Similar to its big sister, rose oil, rose water also has a lovely, relaxing scent. It contains some antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds, as well as some fragrant components.
If your skin is super sensitive, it is a good idea to choose products without fragrant floral waters.
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.
The number at the end refers to the oil-loving part and the bigger the number the more emulsifying power it has. 20 is a weak emulsifier, rather called solubilizer used commonly in toners while 60 and 80 are more common in serums and creams.
It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMF, hyaluronic 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).
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
The chemically chopped up version of the big protein molecule, collagen. It is often derived from fish or bovine sources and works as a nice moisturizer and humectant that helps the skin to hold onto water.
To understand a bit more what Hydrolyzed Collagen is, you have to know that proteins are large chains of amino acids connected with so called-peptide bonds. These bonds can be broken up when a water molecule is added and the resulting thing is a mix of shorter length amino acids, also called peptides. So Hydrolyzed Collagen is not really collagen, it is rather an undefined and varying mix of largish peptides. Based on a manufacturer's data, the whole, soluble collagen has an average molecular weight of 300 000 Da, while this chopped up mixture has an average MW of 12 000 Da (still pretty big).
The main thing of these largish peptides is to act as water-binding agents, and to make the skin nice and smooth (aka emollient). Hydrolyzed Collagen is also often used in cleansers as it can make harsh surfactants milder and in hair conditioners as it improves the flexibility and manageability of hair.
If you wanna know more about collagen in cosmetics, we have a shiny explanation about soluble collagen here >>
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.
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).
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.
A very common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. It comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. It’s a nice ingredient that just feels good on the skin, and it’s also easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular.
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.
The oil coming from the plant Linum Usitatissimum or commonly called Flax. If you are into healthy eating, you probably know flaxseeds as a rich source of hard-to-eat-enough omega-3 fatty acids, or if you are into fashion, you probably have some light summer cloth made from linen.
As for skincare, flaxseed oil is one of the few natural plant oils that is a rich source (35-65%) of moisturizing and probably anti-inflammatory ω-3 fatty acid, aka linolenic acid. It also contains skin-nourishing oleic acid (11-35%) and barrier repairing linoleic acid (11-24%).
According to manufacturer claims, it is used as an emollient, anti-inflammatory and healing agent and it is well-known to create smooth and soft skin.
It's an ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that belongs to the "retinoid family". The retinoid family is pretty much the royal family of skincare, with the queen being the FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient tretinoin. Retinol is also a very famous member of the family, but it's like Prince William, two steps away from the throne. Retinyl palmitate will be then little Prince George, quite far (3 steps) away from the throne.
By steps, we mean metabolic steps. Tretinoin, aka retinoic acid, is the active ingredient our skin cells can understand and retinyl palmitate (RP) has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to actually do something. The conversion is a 3 step one and looks like this:
retinyl palmitate --> retinol -- > retinaldehyde --> all-trans-retinoic acid
As we wrote in our lengthy retinol description the problem is that the conversion is not terribly effective. The evidence that RP is still an effective anti-aging ingredient is not very strong, in fact, it's weak. Dr. Leslie Baumann in her fantastic Cosmetic Dermatology book writes that RP is topically ineffective.
What's more, the anti-aging effectiveness is not the only questionable thing about RP. It also exibits questionable behaviour in the presence of UV light and was the center of a debate between the non-profit group, EWG (whose intentions are no doubt good, but its credibility is often questioned by scientists) and a group of scientists and dermatologists lead by Steven Q. Wang, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre.
Dr. Leslie Baumann wrote a great review of the debate and summarized the research available about retinyl palmitate here. It seems that there is a study showing RP being photo protective against UVB rays but there is also a study showing RP causing DNA damage and cytotoxicity in association with UVA.
We think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we agree with Dr. Baumann's conclusion: "sufficient evidence to establish a causal link between RP and skin cancer has not been produced. Nor, I’m afraid, are there any good reasons to recommend the use of RP". We would add especially during the day!
Bottom line: If you wanna get serious about retinoids, RP is not your ingredient (retinol or tretinoin is!). However, if you use a product that you like and it also contains RP, there is no reason to throw it away. If possible use it at night, just to be on the safe side.
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.
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.
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.
All in all, ALA is definitely a research-proven, great antioxidant but if your skin is sensitive higher concentrations might not be for you.
- 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
Citronellol is a very common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like odor. In the UK, it’s actually the third most often listed perfume on the ingredient lists.
It can be naturally found in geranium oil (about 30%) or rose oil (about 25%).
As with all fragrance ingredients, citronellol can also cause allergic contact dermatitis and should be avoided if you have perfume allergy. In a 2001 worldwide study with 178 people with known sensitization to fragrances citronellol tested positive in 5.6% of the cases.
There is no known anti-aging or positive skin benefits of the ingredient. It’s in our products to make it smell nice.
Geraniol is a common fragrance ingredient. It smells like rose and can be found in rose oil or in small quantities in geranium, lemon and many other essential oils.
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|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||solvent | viscosity controlling|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||antimicrobial/antibacterial | solvent | viscosity controlling|
|what‑it‑does||emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|irritancy, com.||1-3, 1-3|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | skin brightening|