The fermentation broth of the nice, edible mushroom known as Shiitake. Apart from the gourmet food industry, it is also used in several industrial applications as it contains biocatalytic enzymes (such as laccase, cellulase, and ligninolytic peroxidases) useful for breaking down things both in the paper and textile industries.
The latter one, the textile industry, uses Shiitake ferment to break down dyes in waste streams in an environmentally friendly way and this gave the skincare industry an idea: if Shiitake ferment can break down synthetic pigments, it might be able to do that to natural pigment, i.e: melanin.
Based on the in-vitro (in a test-tube) and in-vivo tests by the manufacturer, the idea seems to work. On a panel of ten volunteers, 2% Shiitake Ferment was compared to nothing, to 0.05% Glabridin (the powerful active ingredient in licorice root) and to 2% Kojic acid. The Shiitake formula came out on top. It lightened UVB-treated skin by 50% after 28 days (just for comparison, untreated skin lightened by 30%).
Overall, Shitakee ferment is an interesting new approach to skin-brightening, so if you suffer from extra pigmentation, it might be something to experiment with.
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.
- A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
- A super common, safe, effective and cheap molecule used for more than 50 years
- Not only a simple moisturizer but knows much more: keeps the skin lipids between our skin cells in a healthy (liquid crystal) state, protects against irritation, helps to restore barrier
- Effective from as low as 3% with even more benefits at higher concentrations up to 20-40% (around 10% is a good usability-effectiveness sweet spot)
- High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Propanediol is a natural alternative for the often used and often bad-mouthed propylene glycol. It's produced sustainably from corn sugar and it's Ecocert approved.
It's quite a multi-tasker: can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula.
A derivative of clinically proven, superstar ingredient Azelaic Acid and hydrating amino acid Glycine. Azelaic acid is an awesome ingredient with anti-inflammatory, skin lightening and anti-acne effects, but its insolubility (it's soluble neither in water nor in oil) makes it difficult to use it in a cosmetically elegant and versatile way.
The solution is supposed to be Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, at least according to the manufacturer. The derivative is very water soluble, easy to use in nice formulas and inherits all the lovely properties of Azelaic acid. It acts as a skin brightening agent via Tyrosinase (a famous enzyme needed to make melanin) inhibition and also has significant sebum normalizing activity.
Regarding research, we could find two studies where Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate's name popped up. One study examined the management of rosacea and the other one researched the treatment of melasma. Both were successful (we mean people showed improvement :)) but our Azelaic acid derivative was combined with other actives so it's hard to know what to attribute to this guy only.
Overall, a promising multi-function active that's worth checking out if you have pigmentation-prone, acne-prone or rosacea-prone skin.
Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.
BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.
It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive.
A skin-whitening peptide that goes by the trade name GenoWhite. The manufacturer claims that it hinders the mechanism of pigmentation in two ways: first, it inhibits melanin generating enzymes like Tyrosinase so that less pigment is formed and then it also hinders the transport of the pigment to the upper layers of the skin where it becomes visible (little organelles called melanosomes carry the pigment upwards).
The in-vivo (made on real people) test of the manufacturer shows great spot-fading results after 56 days using 2% GenoWhite (with the first visible results showing already after 14 days).
A newish peptide with the promise of mimicking the effects of the skincare superstar, retinol (vitamin A) but without its negative side effects. Similar to retinol, Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3 is claimed to increase cell turnover and to promote the synthesis of collagen but without skin irritation or stinging.
To back up its claim, the German manufacturer did a so-called gene array screening test, where they examined the effect of the molecule on 96 skin-related genes. They did screening for both retinoic acid (the active form of retinol) and our guy Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3. They found that retinoic acid upregulates 21 of the 92 studied genes, and amongst those, 16 genes are also upregulated by Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3. So they trade named the molecule as Retinopeptide 189, as in a peptide that mimics the effects of retinoic acid.
To further prove their point, Symrise (the manufacturer) went ahead and did some ex-vivo testing (meaning testing on human skin explants). They compared a 0.1% retinoic acid solution with 5% and 10% Retinopeptide 189 cream and found that the 10% cream induces a significant increase (43%) in collagen-1 that is comparable to the effect of 0.1% retinoic acid (which performed even better with more than a 50% increase).
They also found that both retinoic acid 0.1% and Retinopeptide 189 5% cream increased epidermal cellular layers in the skin explants showing that both ingredients can increase cell turnover, however retinoic acid did significantly better both in active effects as well as side effects.
Unfortunately, there are currently no in-vivo test results (at least with could not find any), so if you prefer the tried and true, stick with retinol. However, if you are the adventurous type or if your skin is sensitive and cannot tolerate retinoids, Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3 is a promising alternative.
A four amino acid peptide (Proline – Lysine – Glutamic Acid – Lysine; PKEK) whose main magic power is to fade hyperpigmentation (aka age spots) and even out the skin tone.
According to its German manufacturer, Tetrapeptide-30 has a nice anti-inflammatory function that leads to a dual action in hindering the pigmentation process. It acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor (the famous enzyme needed to create melanin), and it also blocks the transfer of the melanin up into the top layers of the skin.
The manufacturer has done several clinical studies to back up its claims and examined what Tetrapeptide-30 is doing on Caucasian, Asian as well as on ethnic skin. The results confirmed skin-brightening, reduction of age spots, reduction of skin redness and even some reduction of acne lesions. In the reduction of age spots, the peptide showed some synergistic effects with the nice vitamin-C derivative, called SAP.
A skin-brightening peptide that is claimed to have a unique mechanism of action on lightening both constitutive (our default skin color) and facultative (such as tanning) pigmentation. It works by inhibiting the MITF gene that plays an important role in controlling melanin producing skin cells called melanocytes.
In the in-vivo (made on real people) test of the manufacturer, 23 Asian volunteers used a 5% ß-White formula for 56 days twice a day and 87% reported a more uniform skin tone and 91% felt that their skin was brighter than before.
As for research, we found one study from 2016 that combined Oligopeptide-68 with sunscreen and another skin-lightening active called Diacetyl Boldine (DAB). The conclusion was that "combination of DAB serum at night and DAB/TGF-β1 biomimetic oligopeptide-68/sunscreen cream in the morning and at noon was effective and safe for facial melasma. They were superior to HQ in pigment reduction." HQ refers to the famous Hydroquinone that's the gold-standard skin-lightening ingredient, so having comparable or superior results is a very promising outcome.
Overall, if you are into skin-lightening or fading pigmentation spots, Oligopeptide-68 might be something to try.
A biotechnologically created molecule that is activated by the skin's microbiome (the massive amount of microorganisms living in symbiosis with the skin) to act as a skin-brightening, anti-inflammatory, and photo protectant ingredient.
Once applied on skin, THBG is partially converted by the skin microbiome into THBA (Tri Hydroxy Benzoic Acid – a natural inhibitor of the melanin-producing enzyme, tyrosinase), and the two molecule act in synergy to control the skin color. The duo are claimed to work on 7 (!) levels, from acting as antioxidants (inhibit ROS production and preventing UV induced DNA damage), through to being anti-inflammatory (decrease vasodilation and redness, reduce inflammation), to blocking the melanin creating process in multiple ways (control MITF gene, hinder melanin transfer to top skin layers, and block melanin synthesis even under UV conditions).
As for proof, the manufacturer published a pretty well-designed, double-blind, 12-week long study using 2% Brightenyl on 20 Korean women. They concluded that "THBG controls skin tone via the inhibition of melanin synthesis as well as the modulation of skin brightness, yellowness, and redness." They also included nice before and after photos which show visible skin tone improvement and spot fading (but do not expect magic, pigmentation did not disappear, only faded somewhat).
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
We have to admit that Algae Extract is not our favorite ingredient name. It does comply with the INCI standard (the official list about how ingredients on the product labels have to be called, the thing we help you to decode here :)), but there are about 20 000 different kinds of algae and an extract from them can be made in another 10 000 ways.
So, Algae Extract can be anything from La Mer's "Miracle Broth" to a simple brown algae extract that helps to smooth the hair. The official description in the Europiean Cosmetic Ingredient listing is this: "an extract of various species of Algae; Extract of the Seaweed, Fucus vesiculosus, Furaceae". Its official functions include being a humectant (helps skin to attract water), emollient (makes skin feel smooth and nice) and skin conditioner (a catchall phrase for saying it does something good for the skin).
A 2015 research paper on the potential of uses of algae in cosmetics summarizes that algae are rich sources of biologically active metabolites including antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, alginates, polysaccharides, and carotenoids. Currently, algae extracts are mostly used as moisturizing and thickening agents, but algae also have great potential to combat skin aging, pigmentation as well as working as an antimicrobial.
We have also browsed through Prospector to see what manufacturers say about their algae. There is, for example, an algae extract trade-named Lanablue that comes from blue-green algae (green algae is rare, less than 1% of the total macroalgae in the world) and is claimed to have retinoid like effects (i.e. reduce wrinkles, smooth skin) but without the side effects (though it seems now that the INCI name of Lanablue was changed to Aphanizomenon Flos-Aquae Extract).
There is another algae extract from another manufacturer that comes from red algae (much more common, about 40% of total macroalgae worldwide) and is claimed to have not only moisturizing but also skin smoothing and densifying effects.
Here is a brown algae extract (the most common type, about 59% of macroalgae), also just called Algae Extract on the product label that is simply claimed to be a free radical scavenger, aka antioxidant. These were just three random examples from three manufacturers all called Algae extract even though they all come from different algae with different claims.
Anyhow, the point is this; there are tons of different types of Algae Extracts out there. Unless the brand tells you what they use, it's impossible to know for sure. The most probable scenario for the Alge Extract is that it works as a moisturizer and emollient and it might have some additional anti-aging properties.
The emollient plant oil coming from the soybean. It is considered to be a nice, cost-effective base oil with moisturizing properties. As for its fatty acid profile, it contains 48-59% barrier-repairing linoleic acid, 17-30% nourishing oleic acid and also some (4.5-11%) potentially anti-inflammatory linolenic acid.
It's the chemically chopped up version of normal lecithin. Most often it's used to create liposomes and to coat and stabilize other ingredients.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.
A helper ingredient that helps to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water) so it stays nice longer. The special property of this particular ingredient is that it's more effective against more problematic ions, like Cu (copper) and Fe (iron) compared to less problematic ones like Ca (calcium) and Mg (magnesium).
A multi-functional, silky feeling helper ingredient that can do quite many things. It's used as an emulsion stabilizer, solvent and a broad spectrum antimicrobial. According to manufacturer info, it's also a moisturizer and helps to make the product feel great on the skin. It works synergistically with preservatives and helps to improve water-resistance of sunscreens.
A little helper ingredient that can boost the performance and enhance the delivery of active ingredients in a formula. It can penetrate deep layers of the skin helping actives to do the same.
It's especially useful to help active ingredients for self-tanning (DHA), anti-acne or skin-whitening to penetrate deeper and work better.
A nice odorless liquid used mainly as a superior solubilizer and efficacy booster for cosmetic active ingredients such as skincare bigshot vitamin C, self-tanning active DHA or the anti-acne gold standard, benzoyl peroxide.
Other than that it can also be used in hair care products where it gives a longer-lasting and more uniform coloring. According to a manufacturer, it might even prevent the formation of split ends.
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.
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.
BTW, it’s also a food preservative and even has an E number, E202.
A helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi.
It’s pH dependent and works best at acidic pH levels (3-5). It’s not strong enough to be used in itself so it’s always combined with something else, often with potassium sorbate.
A really multi-functional helper ingredient that can do several things in a skincare product: it can bring a soft and pleasant feel to the formula, it can act as a humectant and emollient, it can be a solvent for some other ingredients (for example it can help to stabilize perfumes in watery products) and it can also help to disperse pigments more evenly in makeup products. And that is still not all: it can also boost the antimicrobial activity of preservatives.
It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.
It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic.
Other than having a good safety profile and being quite gentle to the skin it has some other advantages too. It can be used in many types of formulations as it has great thermal stability (can be heated up to 85°C) and works on a wide range of pH levels (ph 3-10).
It’s often used together with ethylhexylglycerin as it nicely improves the preservative activity of phenoxyethanol.
It’s a handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel. At the same time, it also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives, such as the nowadays super commonly used phenoxyethanol.
The blend of these two (caprylyl glycol + phenoxyethanol) is called Optiphen, which not only helps to keep your cosmetics free from nasty things for a long time but also gives a good feel to the finished product. It's a popular duo.
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|what‑it‑does||solvent | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||skin brightening | anti-acne|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | solvent|
|irritancy, com.||0, 1|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 3|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | emulsifying|
|what‑it‑does||surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying | viscosity controlling|
|what‑it‑does||solvent | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | emollient|