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Nivea Sun Protect Water Milk Mild

Sun Protect Water Milk Mild

Take this travel-friendly Nivea sun milk on the go for effortless and optimal UV protection without the worries of sensitivity to skin! The milky, white formula absorbs easily into skin without leaving any greasy or white cast.
Uploaded by: kurisukina on

Nivea Sun Protect Water Milk Mild
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

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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. 

Zinc Oxide - goodie
What-it-does: sunscreen, colorant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

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. 

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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. 

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

A super commonly used 5 unit long, cyclic structured silicone that is water-thin and does not stay on the skin but evaporates from it (called volatile silicone). Similar to other silicones, it gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel

It's often combined with the non-volatile (i.e. stays on the skin) dimethicone as the two together form a water-resistant, breathable protective barrier on the skin without a negative tacky feel.

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: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Probably the 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 (aka occlusive). 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). 

What-it-does: emollient, moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Cyclomethicone is not one type of silicone, but a whole mixture of them: it's a mix of specific chain length (4 to 7) cyclic structured silicone molecules. (There seems to be a confusion on the internet whether Cyclomethicone and Cyclopentasiloxane are the same. They are not the same, but Cyclopentasiloxane is part of the mixture that makes up Cyclomethicone). 

All the silicones in the Cyclomethicone mixture are volatile, meaning they evaporate from the skin or hair rather than stay on it. This means that Cyclomethicone has a light skin feel with none-to-minimal after-feel.  It also makes the formulas easy to spread and has nice emollient properties.

What-it-does: sunscreen, colorant

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).

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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. 

spherical texturizing powder that's used as a texture enhancer and soft focus agent. It's claimed to give silicone type softness to the formula and also works as a (temporary) wrinkle filler. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | 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: emulsifying

A silicone emulsifier that helps water and silicone oils to mix nicely together. It can also be used together with plant oil + silicone oil mixtures. 

Glycerin - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • 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
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate is a variation of current IT moisturizer, Hyaluronic acid, where some water-loving -OH groups are replaced by amphipathic (partly water-loving and partly water-hating) acetyl groups. The modified molecule is claimed to have even better moisture retention ability than normal HA and better affinity to the skin surface. 

The better affinity comes from the acetyl groups that act as tiny "anchors" to attach the HA molecule to the skin. Staying on top of the skin better and longer means longer-lasting surface hydration and improved elasticity. It is also less sticky and more cosmetically elegant than normal HA, so no wonder the nickname of this molecule is super hyaluronic acid. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A biocompatible copolymer (a big molecule that consists of more than one type of building blocks) that has the same structure as important cell membrane ingredient, phospholipid. It's a good skin moisturizer, leaves a silky, smooth feel on the skin and can help to reduce irritation caused by some not-so-nice ingredients (like surfactants).

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. 

A silicone molecule that is half-way between Dimethicone and Methicone, meaning that some of the methyl (-CH3) groups are replaced with a hydrogen atom (in Methicone half of the CH3 groups are replaced). This makes Hydrogen Dimethicone a handy pigment bonding agent used for the hydrophobization treatment of powders as the H atoms can absorb traces of water from the surface of pigments.

It almost always comes stuck together with either Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide or Mica. In suncare products, it binds to physical UV filters to maximize their protection while minimizing any white casts. It also has good chemical stability with no irritation. In makeup, it is often paired with Mica where it offers nice hydrophobic properties and improves skin adhesion - meaning it will make it easier for products to stay where they should be.

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

Probably the 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 (aka occlusive). 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). 

Officially, CosIng (the official EU ingredient database) lists Aluminum Hydroxide 's functions as opacifying (making the product white and non-transparent), as well as emollient and skin protectant.

However, with a little bit of digging, it turns out Aluminum Hyroxide often moonlights as a protective coating for UV filter superstar Titanium Dioxide. Specifically, it protects our skin from the harmful effects of nasty Reactive Oxygen Species (free radicals derived from oxygen such as Superoxide and Hydrogen Peroxide) generated when Titanium Dioxide is exposed to UV light. Btw, chlorine in swimming pool water depletes this protective coating, so one more reason to reapply your sunscreen after a dip in the pool on holiday.

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Other than that, Aluminum Hydroxide also often shows up in composite pigment technologies where it is used the other way around (as the base material and not as the coating material) and helps to achieve higher color coverage with less pigment

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. 

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. It’s also used as a helper ingredient to thicken up products or suspend insoluble particles. 

What-it-does: preservative | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

The most common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon

Apart from the general controversy around parabens (we wrote about it more here), there is a 2006 in-vitro (made in the lab not on real people) research about methylparaben (MP) showing that when exposed to sunlight, MP treated skin cells suffered more harm than non-MP treated skin cells. The study was not done with real people on real skin but still - using a good sunscreen next to MP containing products is a good idea. (Well, in fact using a sunscreen is always a good idea. :))

Also-called: Epsom salt | What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A helper ingredient that is used as a bulking and viscosity controlling agent. It is also an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, where water droplets are dispersed in the continuous oil phase and not the other way round.

It can also be used as a heat generating agent in water-less formulas as it has an instant heat-generating chemical reaction with water. 

What-it-does: emulsifying

A silicone emulsifier that helps water to mix nicely with silicone oils (aka water-in-silicone emulsifier). 

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Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
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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]
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
It's a super commonly used water-thin volatile silicone that gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel.  [more]
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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]
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A mixture of 4 to 7 chain length cyclic silicones. It's a light, volatile ingredient that gives skin or hair a smooth feel and has emollient properties. [more]
what‑it‑does sunscreen | colorant
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]
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An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
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A silicone emulsifier that helps water and silicone oils to mix nicely together. [more]
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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]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate is a variation of current IT moisturizer, Hyaluronic acid, where some water-loving -OH groups are replaced by amphipathic (partly water-loving and partly water-hating) acetyl groups. [more]
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A biocompatible copolymer with a similar structure to cell membrane ingredient, phospholipid. It's a good skin moisturizer and can also help to reduce irritation. [more]
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]
A silicone molecule that is half-way between Dimethicone and Methicone, meaning that some of the methyl (-CH3) groups are replaced with a hydrogen atom (in Methicone half of the CH3 groups are replaced). [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
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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]
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Officially, CosIng (the official EU ingredient database) lists Aluminum Hydroxide 's functions as opacifying (making the product white and non-transparent), as well as emollient and skin protectant. However, with a little bit of digging, it turns out Aluminum Hyroxide often moonlights as a protective coating for UV filter superstar Titanium Dioxide. [more]
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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]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up cosmetic products. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
irritancy, com. 0, 0
The most common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon.  Apart from the general controversy around parabens (we wrote about it more here), there is a 2006 in-vitro (made in the lab not on real people) research about methylparaben (MP) sho [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A helper ingredient that is used as a bulking and viscosity controlling agent. It is also an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, where water droplets are dispersed in the continuous oil phase and not the other way round. It can also be used as a heat generating agent in water-less formulas as it has an instant heat-generating chemical reaction with water. [more]
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A silicone emulsifier that helps water to mix nicely with silicone oils.