Nars Pro-Prime Light Optimizing Primer
Nars

Pro-Prime Light Optimizing Primer

NARS Light Optimizing Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 15 dramatically extends and transforms the appearance and vibrancy of makeup. Weightless and oil-free, it minimizes signs of fatigue to leave the skin luminous and revived.
Uploaded by: dariak on 24/07/2017

Ingredients overview

Active Ingredients: Avobenzone (2.5%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Avobenzone - the only globally available chemical sunscreen that gives proper UVA protection. It is not photostable so has to be combined with ingredients that help to stabilize it. [more]
,
Octinoxate (5.9%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Octinoxate - an old-school chemical sunscreen that absorbs UVB radiation (wavelengths: 280-320 nm). Not photostable and does not protect against UVA. [more]
,
Octocrylene (2%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects skin in the UVB and somewhat in the UVA II range with a peak absorption of 304 nm. [more]
Inactive Ingredients: 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]
,
Dimethicone
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0 1
A very common silicone that gives both skin and hair a silky smooth feel. It also forms a protective barrier on the skin and fills in fine lines. Also used for scar treatment. [more]
,
Dipropylene Glycol
what‑it‑does solvent | viscosity controlling
A clear, colorless liquid that works as a solvent and viscosity decreasing ingredient. 
,
Silica
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up cosmetic 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]
, [more]
Polysorbate 60
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.
,
Behenyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
A fatty alcohol (the non-drying type) that is used to increase the viscosity of the formula and stabilize emulsions. [more]
,
Phenoxyethyl Caprylate
what‑it‑does emollient
An almost water light emollient liquid that works especially great in sunscreen formulas. It gives a pleasant non-oily and non-tacky skin-feel, helps to solubilize chemical UV filters, and has a slight SPF boosting effect. 
,
Sorbitan Stearate
what‑it‑does emulsifying
A popular, vegetable-derived oil-loving emulsifier that helps water to mix with oil. In itself, it is suitable for water-in-oil emulsions (where water droplets are dispersed in oil), but it is more often used as a co-emulsifier next to other, water-loving emulsifiers.  [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]
,
Ethylhexylglycerin
what‑it‑does preservative
It can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too. [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]
,
Chlorphenesin
what‑it‑does preservative | antimicrobial/antibacterial
A little helper ingredient that works as a preservative. It works against bacteria and some species of fungi and yeast. [more]
,
Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
Common helper ingredient that stabilizes emulsions and helps to thicken up products. It's also a film-former. [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]
,
Carbomer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
It’s a handy white powder that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula. [more]
,
Xanthan Gum
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
,
Sea Water
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
,
Palmaria Palmata Extract, Trisodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating
A common helper ingredient that works as a so-called chelating agent.  It helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time 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]
,
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]
,
Ascorbic Acid
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
Pure Vitamin C. A skincare superstar that is clinically proven to boost collagen production (in 5-20% concentration), fade hyperpigmentation and boost UV protection under sunscreen. Also, it's extremely unstable and hard to formulate. [more]
,
Retinyl Palmitate
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
An ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that is pretty much the least effective member of the retinoid family. Its anti-aging effects are quite questionable as well as its behavior in the presence of UVA light. (Use it at night if possible!) [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]
,
Bht
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [more]
,
Barium Sulfate
what‑it‑does colorant
,
Potassium Sorbate
what‑it‑does preservative
A not so strong preservative that doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. [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]
,
Alumina
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A multi-functional helper ingredient that's used mainly as a pigment carrier helping pigments in mineral sunscreens and color cosmetics to flow freely and evenly and not to clump. [more]
,
Mica
A mineral powder used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product some light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent. A real multi-tasker. [more]
,
Ci 77891 (Titanium Dioxide)
what‑it‑does colorant
Titanium dioxide as a colorant. It's a white pigment with great color consistency and dispersibility.
,
Iron Oxides
what‑it‑does colorant
A mix of red, yellow and black iron oxide. [more]
[less]

Highlights

Key Ingredients

Antioxidant: Ascorbic Acid
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
Pure Vitamin C. A skincare superstar that is clinically proven to boost collagen production (in 5-20% concentration), fade hyperpigmentation and boost UV protection under sunscreen. Also, it's extremely unstable and hard to formulate. [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]
Cell-communicating ingredient: Retinyl Palmitate
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
An ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that is pretty much the least effective member of the retinoid family. Its anti-aging effects are quite questionable as well as its behavior in the presence of UVA light. (Use it at night if possible!) [more]
Skin brightening: Ascorbic Acid
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
Pure Vitamin C. A skincare superstar that is clinically proven to boost collagen production (in 5-20% concentration), fade hyperpigmentation and boost UV protection under sunscreen. Also, it's extremely unstable and hard to formulate. [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]
Sunscreen: Avobenzone (2.5%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Avobenzone - the only globally available chemical sunscreen that gives proper UVA protection. It is not photostable so has to be combined with ingredients that help to stabilize it. [more]
,
Octinoxate (5.9%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Octinoxate - an old-school chemical sunscreen that absorbs UVB radiation (wavelengths: 280-320 nm). Not photostable and does not protect against UVA. [more]
,
Octocrylene (2%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects skin in the UVB and somewhat in the UVA II range with a peak absorption of 304 nm. [more]

Show all ingredients by function

Other Ingredients

Abrasive/scrub: Silica
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up cosmetic products. [more]
Antimicrobial/antibacterial: Chlorphenesin
what‑it‑does preservative | antimicrobial/antibacterial
A little helper ingredient that works as a preservative. It works against bacteria and some species of fungi and yeast. [more]
Antioxidant: Bht
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [more]
Buffering: 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: Trisodium Edta
what‑it‑does chelating
A common helper ingredient that works as a so-called chelating agent.  It helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time 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: Barium Sulfate
what‑it‑does colorant
,
Ci 77891 (Titanium Dioxide)
what‑it‑does colorant
Titanium dioxide as a colorant. It's a white pigment with great color consistency and dispersibility.
,
Iron Oxides
what‑it‑does colorant
A mix of red, yellow and black iron oxide. [more]
Emollient: Dimethicone
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0 1
A very common silicone that gives both skin and hair a silky smooth feel. It also forms a protective barrier on the skin and fills in fine lines. Also used for scar treatment. [more]
,
Behenyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
A fatty alcohol (the non-drying type) that is used to increase the viscosity of the formula and stabilize emulsions. [more]
,
Phenoxyethyl Caprylate
what‑it‑does emollient
An almost water light emollient liquid that works especially great in sunscreen formulas. It gives a pleasant non-oily and non-tacky skin-feel, helps to solubilize chemical UV filters, and has a slight SPF boosting effect. 
,
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]
Emulsifying: Polysorbate 60
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.
,
Sorbitan Stearate
what‑it‑does emulsifying
A popular, vegetable-derived oil-loving emulsifier that helps water to mix with oil. In itself, it is suitable for water-in-oil emulsions (where water droplets are dispersed in oil), but it is more often used as a co-emulsifier next to other, water-loving emulsifiers.  [more]
,
Xanthan Gum
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [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]
,
Sea Water
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
,
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]
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: 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]
,
Ethylhexylglycerin
what‑it‑does preservative
It can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too. [more]
,
Chlorphenesin
what‑it‑does preservative | antimicrobial/antibacterial
A little helper ingredient that works as a preservative. It works against bacteria and some species of fungi and yeast. [more]
,
Bht
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [more]
,
Potassium Sorbate
what‑it‑does preservative
A not so strong preservative that doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. [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]
,
Dipropylene Glycol
what‑it‑does solvent | viscosity controlling
A clear, colorless liquid that works as a solvent and viscosity decreasing ingredient. 
,
Sea Water
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
Surfactant/cleansing: Polysorbate 60
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.
,
Xanthan Gum
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
Viscosity controlling: Dipropylene Glycol
what‑it‑does solvent | viscosity controlling
A clear, colorless liquid that works as a solvent and viscosity decreasing ingredient. 
,
Silica
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up cosmetic products. [more]
,
Behenyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
A fatty alcohol (the non-drying type) that is used to increase the viscosity of the formula and stabilize emulsions. [more]
,
Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
Common helper ingredient that stabilizes emulsions and helps to thicken up products. It's also a film-former. [more]
,
Carbomer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
It’s a handy white powder that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula. [more]
,
Xanthan Gum
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
,
Alumina
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A multi-functional helper ingredient that's used mainly as a pigment carrier helping pigments in mineral sunscreens and color cosmetics to flow freely and evenly and not to clump. [more]

Ingredients explained

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

The famous Avobenzone. It is a special snowflake as it is the only globally available chemical sunscreen agent that provides proper UVA protection (in the US, new generation sunscreen agents are not approved because of impossible FDA regulations). It is the global gold standard of UVA protection and is the most used UVA sunscreen in the world. 

It gives very good protection across the whole UVA range (310-400 nm that is both UVA1 and UVA2) with a peak protection at 360 nm. The problem with it, though, is that it is not photostable and degrades in the sunlight. Wikipedia says that avobenzone loses 36% of its UV-absorption capacity after just one hour of sunlight (yep, this is one of the reasons why sunscreens have to be reapplied after a few hours).

Expand to read more

The cosmetic's industry is trying to solve the problem by combining avobenzone with other UV filters that enhance its stability (like octocrylene, Tinosorb S or Ensulizole) or by encapsulating it and while both solutions help, neither is perfect. Interestingly, the combination of avobenzone with mineral sunscreens (that is titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) is not a good idea. In the US, it is flat out prohibited as avobenzone becomes unstable when combined with mineral sunscreens.

As for safety, avobenzone has a pretty good safety profile. It counts as non-irritating, and unlike some other chemical sunscreens, it shows no estrogenic effect. The maximum concentration of avobenzone permitted is 5% in the EU and 3% in the US.

Also-called: Octinoxate, Octyl Methoxycinnamate | What-it-does: sunscreen

A clear, oil-soluble, "cosmetically-elegant" liquid that is the most commonly used chemical sunscreen. It absorbs UVB radiation (at wavelengths: 280-320 nm) with a peak protection at 310nm. 

It only protects against UVB and not UVA rays (the 320-400 nm range) – so always choose products that contain other sunscreens too. It is not very stable either, when exposed to sunlight, it kind of breaks down and loses its effectiveness (not instantly, but over time - it loses 10% of its SPF protection ability within 35 mins). To make it more stable it can be - and should be - combined with other sunscreen agents to give stable and broad-spectrum protection (the new generation sunscreen agent, Tinosorb S is a particularly good one for that).

Expand to read more

Regarding safety, there are also some concerns around Octinoxate. In vitro (made in the lab not on real people) and animal studies have shown that it may produce hormonal (estrogen-like) effects. Do not panic, the studies were not conducted under real life conditions on real human people, so it is probably over-cautious to avoid Octinoxate altogether. However, if you are pregnant or a small child (under 2 yrs. old), choose a physical (zinc oxide/titanium dioxide) or new-generation Tinosorb based sunscreen, just to be on the super-safe side. :) 

Overall, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is an old-school chemical sunscreen agent. There are plenty of better options for sun protection today, but it is considered "safe as used" (and sunscreens are pretty well regulated) and it is available worldwide (can be used up to 10% in the EU and up to 7.5% in the US).

What-it-does: sunscreen

An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects skin in the UVB and somewhat in the UVA II range with a peak absorption of 304 nm. Its protection is not strong enough on its own but it is quite photostable (looses 10% of SPF protection in 95 mins) and is often used to stabilize other photo-unstable UV-filters, for example, Avobenzone. It is also often used to improve the water resistance of the products. 

Octocrylene's safety profile is generally quite good, though a review study in Contact Dermatitis reports an "increasing number of patients with photo contact allergy to octocrylene." Mainly adults with ketoprofen-sensitivity and children with sensitive skin are affected, so if you have a small kid, it is probably better to use octocrylene-free sunscreens.

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.

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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. 

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

Probably the cheapest and 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. 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. 

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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). 

A clear, colorless liquid that works as a solvent and viscosity decreasing ingredient. 

A white powdery thing that's the major component of glass and sand. In cosmetics, it’s often in products that are supposed to keep your skin matte as it has great oil-absorbing abilities. Sometimes it’s also used as a helper ingredient to thicken up products

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 >>

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

A fatty alcohol (the non-drying type) 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: emollient

An almost water light emollient liquid that works especially great in sunscreen formulas. It gives a pleasant non-oily and non-tacky skin-feel, helps to solubilize chemical UV filters, and has a slight SPF boosting effect. 

What-it-does: emulsifying

A popular, vegetable-derived oil-loving emulsifier that helps water to mix with oil. In itself, it is suitable for water-in-oil emulsions (where water droplets are dispersed in oil), but it is more often used as a co-emulsifier next to other, water-loving emulsifiers. 

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. 

Expand to read more

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

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

What-it-does: preservative

If you have spotted ethylhexylglycerin on the ingredient list, most probably you will see there also the current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol. They are good friends because ethylhexylglycerin can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too.

Also, it's an effective deodorant and a medium spreading emollient

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!). 

A little helper ingredient that works as a preservative. It works against bacteria and some species of fungi and yeast. It's often combined with IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol.

It’s a super commonly used, not-very-friendly-named helper ingredient that can help to stabilize emulsions (so that the water and the oil components stay nicely together). It can also be a thickener that helps to create nice gel formulas as well as a film-former. 

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. 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

It’s a handy white powder that magically converts a product into a nice gel formula. If you see gel in the name of a moisturiser type thing, chances are carbomer will be in the ingredient list. 

It’s not too common, but sometimes there is also a number after it. The reason for it is that carbomer in itself actually refers to a group of stuff and the number shows the weight and type of the molecule. 

It's one of the most commonly used thickeners and emulsion stabilizers. If the product is too runny, a little of xanthan gum will help make it more gel-like.  Used alone, it can make the formula sticky so it is usually combined with other thickeners and so-called rheology modifiers (helper ingredients that adjust the flow and thus the feel of the formula). 

Btw, Xanthan gum is all natural, a chain of sugar molecules (polysaccharide) produced from individual sugar molecules called glucose and sucrose. It’s approved by Ecocert and also used in the food industry (E415). 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: chelating

A common helper ingredient that works as a so-called chelating agent.  It helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

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).

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A 2015 research paper on the potential of uses of algae in cosmetics summarizes that algae are rich sources of biologically active metabolites including antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, alginates, polysaccharides, and carotenoids. Currently, algae extracts are mostly used as moisturizing and thickening agents, but algae also have great potential to combat skin aging, pigmentation as well as working as an antimicrobial.

We have also browsed through Prospector to see what manufacturers say about their algae. There is, for example, an algae extract trade-named Lanablue that comes from blue-green algae (green algae is rare, less than 1% of the total macroalgae in the world) and is claimed to have retinoid like effects (i.e. reduce wrinkles, smooth skin) but without the side effects. 

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.

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 >>

Also-called: Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

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:

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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.

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. 

Bht
Also-called: Butylated Hydroxy Toluene | What-it-does: antioxidant, preservative

It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.

There is some controversy around BHT. It's not a new ingredient, it has been used both as a food and cosmetics additive since the 1970s. Plenty of studies tried to examine if it's a carcinogen or not. This Truth in Aging article details the situation and also writes that all these studies examine BHT when taken orally.

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As for cosmetics, the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) concluded that the amount of BHT used in cosmetic products is low (usually around 0.01-0.1%),  it does not penetrate skin far enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and it is safe to use in cosmetics.

What-it-does: colorant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative

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

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

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

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. 

Also-called: Aluminum Oxide, Al2O3 | What-it-does: viscosity controlling, absorbent/mattifier

A multi-functional helper ingredient that's used mainly as a pigment carrier.  The pigment can be an inorganic sunscreen (such as titanium dioxide) or a colorant that is blended with alumina platelets and then often coated with some kind of silicone (such as triethoxycaprylylsilane). This special treatment enables pigments to be evenly dispersed in the formula and to be spread out easily and evenly upon application. It is super useful both for mineral sunscreens as well as for makeup products. 

Other than that, alumina can also be used as an absorbent (sometimes combined with the mattifying powder called polymethylsilsesquioxane), a viscosity controlling or an opacifying (reduces the transparency of the formula) agent.

Also-called: CI 77019

A super versatile and common mineral powder that comes in different particle sizes. It is a multi-tasker used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product some light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent. Popular both in makeup and in skin care products. 

Also-called: titanium dioxide/ci 77891 | What-it-does: colorant

Ci 77891 is the color code of titanium dioxide. It's a white pigment with great color consistency and dispersibility.

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

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

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