Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum Spf 60+
Neutrogena

Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum Spf 60+

This oil-free sunscreen lotion for sensitive skin goes on evenly, absorbs quickly, and feels ultra light, all while providing superior broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection.
Uploaded by: randoboy on 01/05/2018

Ingredients overview

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (4.9%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with pretty broad spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection and good stability. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]
,
Zinc Oxide (4.7%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with the broadest spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection available today. It also has good stability and also works as a skin protectant, anti-irritant. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [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]
,
Butyloctyl Salicylate
what‑it‑does solvent
Multi-functional helper ingredient in sunscreens. It can solubilize and stabilize commonly used UV-filters and has a cosmetically elegant, emollient skin feel. [more]
,
Beeswax
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling
The yellow solid stuff produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb. As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. [more]
,
Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer
A film-forming polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) to create water-resistant sunscreen formulas.  [more]
,
Silica
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up 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]
,
Peg-8
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
A smallish polymer molecule that is used as a solubilizer and viscosity control agent in cosmetic products. [more]
, [more]
Glyceryl Stearate
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
,
Peg-100 Stearate
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 1
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
,
Cetyl Dimethicone
what‑it‑does emollient
A helpful emollient ingredient that gives products a light, smooth-skin feeling. You’ll find it mostly in products containing SPF, as, according to several manufacturers, it can increase the water resistance and spreadability of UV filters. [more]
,
Benzyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does preservative | perfuming | solvent | viscosity controlling
It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically.No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. [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]
,
Methicone
what‑it‑does emollient
Bearing a close relationship to the famous Dimethicone, Methicone is the slightly trimmed down version missing the methyl (-CH3)  groups on one side of the silicone chain. [more]
,
Arachidyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
,
Polyhydroxystearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying
A dispersing agent that's used in inorganic (titanium dioxide/zinc oxide based) sunscreens or in make-up products to help to distribute the pigments nicely and evenly on the skin. [more]
,
Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A helper ingredient that's good at stabilizing water-based formulas and also serves as a thickener. It's especially recommended for low pH products, like exfoliants.
,
Peg-8 Laurate
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
,
Xanthan Gum
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
,
Isohexadecane
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
A light, velvety, unique skin feel liquid that is a good solvent and also makes the skin feel nice and smooth. [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]
,
Trisiloxane
A clear, colorless, very easily spreadable and very volatile (evaporates from the skin easily) silicone fluid. It leaves a non-greasy, dry-smooth feel on the skin. 
,
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]
,
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]
,
Trimethylsiloxysilicate
what‑it‑does emollient
A solid silicone resin that creates a permeable film over the skin. It makes makeup formulas more long-lasting and can enhance the water resistance of sunscreens. It leaves a non-tacky film when dried. 
,
Arachidyl Glucoside
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
,
Bisabolol
what‑it‑does soothing
One of the active parts of Chamomile that is used in skincare as a nice anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient. [more]
,
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]
,
Triethoxycaprylylsilane
A clear, light yellow liquid that is used to coat pigments (such as inorganic sunscreen agents or colorants) in cosmetic products.  [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]
,
Polysorbate 60
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.
,
Stearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 2
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, emulsifier and thickener. [more]
,
Methylisothiazolinone
what‑it‑does preservative
Preservative with relatively high irritation risk that is used mainly in rinse-off products. [more]
,
Polyaminopropyl Biguanide
what‑it‑does preservative
,
Polymethyl Methacrylate
A microsphere powder that can scatter the light to give products a soft focus effect. It also works as a texture enhancer giving formulas an exceptional smoothness and a velvet touch. [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]
,
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]
,
Pantothenic Acid, 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]
,
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]
[less]

Highlights

Key Ingredients

Antioxidant: 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]
,
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]
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]
Soothing: Bisabolol
what‑it‑does soothing
One of the active parts of Chamomile that is used in skincare as a nice anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient. [more]
,
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]
Sunscreen: Titanium Dioxide (4.9%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with pretty broad spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection and good stability. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]
,
Zinc Oxide (4.7%)
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with the broadest spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection available today. It also has good stability and also works as a skin protectant, anti-irritant. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [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]
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]
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]
Emollient: Beeswax
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling
The yellow solid stuff produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb. As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. [more]
,
Glyceryl Stearate
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
,
Cetyl Dimethicone
what‑it‑does emollient
A helpful emollient ingredient that gives products a light, smooth-skin feeling. You’ll find it mostly in products containing SPF, as, according to several manufacturers, it can increase the water resistance and spreadability of UV filters. [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]
,
Methicone
what‑it‑does emollient
Bearing a close relationship to the famous Dimethicone, Methicone is the slightly trimmed down version missing the methyl (-CH3)  groups on one side of the silicone chain. [more]
,
Arachidyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
,
Isohexadecane
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
A light, velvety, unique skin feel liquid that is a good solvent and also makes the skin feel nice and smooth. [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]
,
Trimethylsiloxysilicate
what‑it‑does emollient
A solid silicone resin that creates a permeable film over the skin. It makes makeup formulas more long-lasting and can enhance the water resistance of sunscreens. It leaves a non-tacky film when dried. 
,
Stearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 2
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, emulsifier and thickener. [more]
Emulsifying: Beeswax
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling
The yellow solid stuff produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb. As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. [more]
,
Glyceryl Stearate
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
,
Peg-100 Stearate
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 1
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
,
Polyhydroxystearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying
A dispersing agent that's used in inorganic (titanium dioxide/zinc oxide based) sunscreens or in make-up products to help to distribute the pigments nicely and evenly on the skin. [more]
,
Peg-8 Laurate
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
,
Xanthan Gum
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
,
Arachidyl Glucoside
what‑it‑does emulsifying | 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.
,
Stearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 2
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, emulsifier and thickener. [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]
,
Peg-8
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
A smallish polymer molecule that is used as a solubilizer and viscosity control agent in cosmetic products. [more]
Perfuming: Benzyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does preservative | perfuming | solvent | viscosity controlling
It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically.No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. [more]
Preservative: Benzyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does preservative | perfuming | solvent | viscosity controlling
It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically.No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. [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]
,
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]
,
Methylisothiazolinone
what‑it‑does preservative
Preservative with relatively high irritation risk that is used mainly in rinse-off products. [more]
,
Polyaminopropyl Biguanide
what‑it‑does preservative
Solvent: Water
what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
,
Butyloctyl Salicylate
what‑it‑does solvent
Multi-functional helper ingredient in sunscreens. It can solubilize and stabilize commonly used UV-filters and has a cosmetically elegant, emollient skin feel. [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]
,
Peg-8
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
A smallish polymer molecule that is used as a solubilizer and viscosity control agent in cosmetic products. [more]
,
Benzyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does preservative | perfuming | solvent | viscosity controlling
It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically.No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. [more]
,
Isohexadecane
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
A light, velvety, unique skin feel liquid that is a good solvent and also makes the skin feel nice and smooth. [more]
Surfactant/cleansing: Peg-100 Stearate
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 1
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
,
Peg-8 Laurate
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
,
Xanthan Gum
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
,
Arachidyl Glucoside
what‑it‑does emulsifying | 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.
Viscosity controlling: Beeswax
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling
The yellow solid stuff produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb. As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. [more]
,
Silica
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up cosmetic products. [more]
,
Benzyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does preservative | perfuming | solvent | viscosity controlling
It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically.No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. [more]
,
Arachidyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
,
Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A helper ingredient that's good at stabilizing water-based formulas and also serves as a thickener. It's especially recommended for low pH products, like exfoliants.
,
Xanthan Gum
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [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]
,
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]
,
Stearic Acid
what‑it‑does emulsifying | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0 2
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, emulsifier and thickener. [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]

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Titanium Dioxide (4.9%) sunscreen goodie
Zinc Oxide (4.7%) sunscreen goodie
Water solvent
Butyloctyl Salicylate solvent
Beeswax emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling
Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer
Silica viscosity controlling, abrasive/​scrub
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent 0, 1
Peg-8 moisturizer/​humectant, solvent
Glyceryl Stearate emollient, emulsifying
Peg-100 Stearate surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying 0, 1
Cetyl Dimethicone emollient
Benzyl Alcohol preservative, perfuming, solvent, viscosity controlling
Dimethicone emollient 0, 1
Methicone emollient
Arachidyl Alcohol emollient, viscosity controlling
Polyhydroxystearic Acid emulsifying
Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer viscosity controlling
Peg-8 Laurate emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Isohexadecane emollient, solvent
Behenyl Alcohol emollient, viscosity controlling
Trisiloxane
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Disodium Edta chelating, viscosity controlling
Trimethylsiloxysilicate emollient
Arachidyl Glucoside emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Bisabolol soothing goodie
Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate soothing goodie
Triethoxycaprylylsilane
Bht antioxidant, preservative
Polysorbate 60 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Stearic Acid emulsifying, emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 2
Methylisothiazolinone preservative icky
Polyaminopropyl Biguanide preservative
Polymethyl Methacrylate
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Ascorbic Acid antioxidant, skin brightening superstar
Pantothenic Acid
Retinyl Palmitate cell-communicating ingredient
Alumina viscosity controlling

Ingredients explained

What-it-does: sunscreen

Titanium Dioxide is one of the two members of the elite sunscreen group called physical sunscreens (or inorganic sunscreens if you’re a science geek and want to be precise).

Traditionally, UV-filters are categorized as either chemical or physical. The big difference is supposed to be that chemical agents absorb UV-light while physical agents reflect it like a bunch of mini umbrellas on top of the skin. While this categorization is easy and logical it turns out it's not true. A recent, 2016 study shows that inorganic sunscreens work mostly by absorption, just like chemical filters, and only a little bit by reflection (they do reflect the light in the visible spectrum, but mostly absorb in the UV spectrum).

Expand to read more

Anyway, it doesn't matter if it reflects or absorbs, Titanium Dioxide is a pretty awesome sunscreen agent for two main reasons: it gives a nice broad spectrum coverage and it's highly stable. Its protection is very good between 290 - 350 nm (UVB and UVA II range), and less good at 350-400 nm (UVA I) range. Regular sized Titanium Dioxide also has a great safety profile, it's non-irritating and is pretty much free from any health concerns (like estrogenic effect worries with some chemical filters).

The disadvantage of Titanium Dioxide is that it's not cosmetically elegant, meaning it's a white, "unspreadable" mess. Sunscreens containing Titanium Dioxide are often hard to spread on the skin and they leave a disturbing whitish tint. The cosmetic industry is, of course, really trying to solve this problem and the best solution so far is using nanoparticles. The itsy-bitsy Nano-sized particles improve both spreadability and reduce the whitish tint a lot, but unfortunately, it also introduces new health concerns. 

The main concern with nanoparticles is that they are so tiny that they are absorbed into the skin more than we want them (ideally sunscreen should remain on the surface of the skin). Once absorbed they might form unwanted complexes with proteins and they might promote the formation of evil free radicals. But do not panic, these are concerns under investigation. A 2009 review article about the safety of nanoparticles summarizes this, "to date, in-vivo and in-vitro studies have not demonstrated percutaneous penetration of nanosized particles in titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens". The English translation is, so far it looks like sunscreens with nanoparticles do stay on the surface of the skin where they should be.  

All in all, Titanium Dioxide is a famous sunscreen agent and for good reason, it gives broad spectrum UV protection (best at UVB and UVA II), it's highly stable, and it has a good safety profile. It's definitely one of the best UV-filter agents we have today, especially in the US where new-generation Tinosorb filters are not (yet) approved. 

What-it-does: sunscreen

When it comes to sunscreen agents, Zinc Oxide is pretty much in a league of its own. It's a physical (or inorganic) sunscreen that has a lot in common with fellow inorganic sunscreen Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) but a couple of things make it superior even to TiO2.

If physical sunscreens don't tell you anything, go ahead and read about the basics here. Most of what we wrote about Titanium Dioxide is also true for Zinc Oxide so we will focus here on the differences. 

Expand to read more

The first main difference is that while TiO2 gives a nice broad spectrum protection, Zinc Oxide has an even nicer and even broader spectrum protection. It protects against UVB, UVA II, and UVA I almost uniformly, and is considered to be the broadest range sunscreen available today

It's also highly stable and non-irritating. So much so that Zinc Oxide also counts as a skin protectant and anti-irritant. It's also often used to treat skin irritations such as diaper rash.

As for the disadvantages, Zinc Oxide is also not cosmetically elegant. It leaves a disturbing whitish tint on the skin, although, according to a 2000 research paper by Dr. Pinnell, it's slightly less white than TiO2. Still, it's white and disturbing enough to use Zinc Oxide nanoparticles more and more often. 

We wrote more about nanoparticles and the concerns around them here, but the gist is that if nanoparticles were absorbed into the skin that would be a reason for legitimate health concerns. But luckily, so far research shows that sunscreen nanoparticles are not absorbed but remain on the surface of the skin or in the uppermost (dead) layer of the skin. This seems to be true even if the skin is damaged, for example, sunburnt. 

All in all, if you've found a Zinc Oxide sunscreen that you are happy to use every single day, that's fantastic and we suggest you stick with it. It's definitely one of the best, or probably even the best option out there for sun protection available worldwide. 

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: solvent

A nice, multi-functional helper ingredient that's especially useful in sunscreens. It can solubilize some commonly used UV-filters like Oxybenzone or Avobenzone and it can also help to increase the SPF rating of sunscreens. It's also cosmetically elegant, has excellent spreadability and a pleasant, moisturizing skin feel. Oh, and according to Wikipedia, it even helps to stabilize famously unstable UVA-filter, Avobenzonee.

Also-called: Beeswax | What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling

It's the yellow, solid stuff that you probably know from beeswax candles. It's a natural material produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb.

As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. It's super common in lip balms and lipsticks. 

A film-forming polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) to create water-resistant sunscreen formulas. It also improves the SPF value of sunscreen formulas (approx. 11-18% boost in SPF per 1% Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer). 

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

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. 

A smallish polymer molecule (created from repeated units of Polyethylene glycol, aka PEG) that's used as a solubilizer and viscosity control agent.

It is a clear, colorless liquid that is water-soluble and water-binding (aka humectant) and can help to solubilize sparingly-water soluble things (e.g. vanilla, perfumes) into water-based formulas. Thanks to its water-binding ability, it also prevents the drying out of formulas, especially when combined with the fellow hygroscopic agent, sorbitol

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

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

It can be produced from most vegetable oils in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.

Expand to read more

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

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

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

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

What-it-does: emollient

A helpful emollient ingredient that gives products a light, smooth-skin feeling. You’ll find it mostly in products containing SPF, as, according to several manufacturers, it can increase the water resistance and spreadability of UV filters. With better spreadability, less filters are needed to provide the same SPF, making the formula lighter and nicer to use and with improved water resistance, your protection will last that bit longer in the pool.

It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically.

No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. Has to be combined with some other nice preservatives, like potassium sorbate to be broad spectrum enough.  

Expand to read more

In high amounts, it can be a skin irritant, but don’t worry, it’s never used in high amounts.

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. 

Expand to read more

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

What-it-does: emollient

Bearing a close relationship to the famous Dimethicone, Methicone is the slightly trimmed down version missing the methyl (-CH3)  groups on one side of the silicone chain. Like most silicones, it has nice emollient properties and improves the spreadability of products.

But Methicone's main thing in practice is not being an emollient but a silicone fluid for hydrophobization treatment of powders, i.e. making solid powders (mineral filters & color pigments) very water resistant and easily spreadable. Methicone does this by absorbing traces of water from the surface of pigments that is very useful for mineral sunscreens and makeup products. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying

A so-called dispersant or dispersing agent that's used in inorganic (titanium dioxide/zinc oxide based) sunscreens or in make-up products to help to distribute the pigments nicely and evenly on the skin. It's also claimed to increase the UV absorption of the sunscreen formula as well as to reduce the annoying white cast left behind by inorganic sunscreens.

This horribly long named thing is a helper ingredient that's good at stabilizing water-based formulas and also serves as a thickener. It's especially recommended for low pH products, like exfoliants.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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). 

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

A light, velvety, unique skin feel liquid that is a good solvent and also makes the skin feel nice and smooth (aka emollient). It's often used in makeup products mixed with silicones to give shine and slip to the product. It's also great for cleansing dirt and oil from the skin as well as for taking off make-up.

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). 

Also-called: Hexamethyldisiloxane

A clear, colorless, very easily spreadable and very volatile (evaporates from the skin easily) silicone fluid. It leaves a non-greasy, dry-smooth feel on the skin. 

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

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.

What-it-does: emollient

A solid silicone resin that creates a permeable film over the skin. It makes makeup formulas more long-lasting and can enhance the water resistance of sunscreens. It leaves a non-tacky film when dried. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Bisabolol - goodie
Also-called: Alpha-Bisabolol | What-it-does: soothing

It's one of the active parts of Chamomile that contains about 30% of bisabolol. It's a clear oily fluid that is used in skincare as a nice anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient. 

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. 

Expand to read more

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

A clear, light yellow liquid that is used to coat pigments (such as inorganic sunscreen agents or colorants) in cosmetic products.  The coating helps to stabilize pigments in the formulas and also helps them to spread easily and evenly on the skin. 

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.

Expand to read more

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.

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

What-it-does: emulsifying, emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It helps water and oil to mix (emulsifier), it makes your skin feel smooth (emollient) and can help to thicken up products.

What-it-does: preservative

As you may guess, if something is only recommended in products that you rinse off (cleansers and shampoos), then it’s probably not the best ingredient for the skin.

Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is a preservative that' super efficient against bacteria at surprisingly low concentrations. The problem with it though is that it can also sensitize and irritate the skin quite easily when it comes in leave-on formulas.

Expand to read more

Currently, some countries are considering to ban it entirely (like Denmark) and the permitted use level is very low (under 0.01%). Luckily there are plenty of products on the market with other preservative options so if you are a better safe than sorry type it's probably best to avoid it. 

What-it-does: preservative

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A so-called polymer microsphere, i.e. little spherical shaped particles from repeated subunits. Similar to other microsphere powders, it can scatter the light to give products a soft focus or blurring effect. It also works as a texture enhancer giving formulas an exceptional smoothness and a velvet touch. 

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. 

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 >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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:

Expand to read more

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: 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.

You may also want to take a look at...