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Olay Regenerist 3-Point Super Serum
Olay

Regenerist 3-Point Super Serum

Regenerist 3-Point Super Serum has a fast absorbing, non-greasy formula with highly concentrated amino-peptide complex that is specially designed to help give you dramatically firmer-feeling skin on the face, neck and décolletage—the areas most prone to sagging.
Uploaded by: aleryn on 02/01/2018

Ingredients overview

what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [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]
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]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient | skin brightening | anti-acne | moisturizer/humectant
A multi-functional skincare superstar that has clinically proven anti-aging, skin lightening, anti-inflammatory and barrier repair properties. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A handy helper ingredient that comes in a white powder form and works as an anti-caking and oil-absorbing agent. It also gives products good spreadability, long lasting and velvet touch characteristics.
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]
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
Pro-Vitamin B5 is a goodie that moisturises the skin, has anti-inflammatory, skin protecting and wound healing properties. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A high-molecular-weight silicone elastomer (rubber-like elastic material) that is usually blended with a base silicone fluid (such as dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane) to give the formula a silky smooth feel and to act as a thickening agent. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
The common plastic molecule that is used as a white wax to give hardness and slip to the formulas. It used to be used as microbeads as well but was banned in 2015 due to environmental reasons. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Matrixyl - A 5 amino acid peptide with promising research showing that it can reduce fine lines, wrinkles and improve skin texture. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | soothing | antimicrobial/antibacterial
Green Tea - one of the most researched natural ingredients that contains the superstar actives called catechins. It has proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic properties. [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]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | cell-communicating ingredient
A biomimetic peptide with antioxidant, anti-glycation and maybe collagen boosting abilities. It also protects against damages caused by infrared radiation. [more]
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]
what‑it‑does soothing
irritancy, com. 0, 0
Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. It's not only soothing but it' [more]
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]
what‑it‑does emollient | moisturizer/humectant
A thick, high molecular weight silicone that is usually diluted in a lighter silicone fluid. The dimethiconol containing silicone blends leave a silky smooth, non-greasy film on the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0-3, 0-3
Pure Vitamin E. Great antioxidant that gives significant photoprotection against UVB rays. Works in synergy with Vitamin C. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A film-forming and thickening polymer (a large molecule composed of many repeated subunits) that comes to the formula usually as part of an emulsifier, thickener trio. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
A petroleum-derived emollient and thickener. It often comes to the formula as part of an emulsifier, thickener trio. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 4, 5
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A not-very-interesting helper ingredient that is used as an emulsifier and/or surfactant. Comes from a coconut oil derived fatty alcohol, lauryl alcohol. [more]
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]
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]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A commonly used water-soluble surfactant and emulsifier. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A controversial preservative that has formaldehyde-releasing properties. It works great against bacteria and also has mild fungicide abilities.  [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 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]
what‑it‑does chelating
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]
what‑it‑does colorant
Far from the tin cans you find in the supermarket, Tin Oxide is mostly used when dealing with so-called effect pigments, tricky composite pigments that can do color travel (change color depending on the viewing angle) or give multiple color effect. It's often found alongside Mica (as a base material) and Titanium Dioxide (as a coating) to give a glossy, pearlescent effect. [more]
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]
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]
what‑it‑does perfuming
It’s a common fragrance ingredient that is one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
It’s a common fragrance ingredient that has a light floral smell.  It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient that has a nice floral scent and also goes by the name Lilial. It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like smell. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A common fragrance ingredient that smells like jasmine. It is one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately because of allergen potential. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. Its strong point is being effective against yeasts and molds, and as a nice bonus seems to be non-comedogenic as well.It is safe in concentrations of less than 0.1% but is acutely toxic when inhaled, so it's not the proper preservative choice for aerosol formulas like hairsprays. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming | solvent
A super common fragrance ingredient found naturally in many plants including citrus peel oils, rosemary or lavender. It autoxidizes on air exposure and counts as a common skin sensitizer. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
A super common fragrance ingredient that can be found among others in lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot or jasmine. The downside of it is that it oxidises on air exposure and might become allergenic. [more]

Highlights

Show all ingredients by function

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Aqua solvent
Cyclopentasiloxane emollient, solvent
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Niacinamide cell-communicating ingredient, skin brightening, anti-acne, moisturizer/​humectant superstar
Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate viscosity controlling
Dimethicone emollient 0, 1
Panthenol soothing, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Dimethicone Crosspolymer viscosity controlling
Polyethylene viscosity controlling
Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Camellia Sinensis Extract antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/​antibacterial superstar
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Carnosine antioxidant, cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent 0, 1
Allantoin soothing 0, 0 goodie
Mica
Dimethiconol emollient, moisturizer/​humectant
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 superstar
Polyacrylamide viscosity controlling
C13-14 Isoparaffin emollient, viscosity controlling
Laureth-4 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 4, 5
Laureth-7 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Citric Acid exfoliant, buffering goodie
Benzyl Alcohol preservative, perfuming, solvent, viscosity controlling
Peg-100 Stearate surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying 0, 0
Dmdm Hydantoin preservative icky
Methylparaben preservative 0, 0
Bht antioxidant, preservative
Disodium Edta chelating
Tin Oxide colorant
Titanium Dioxide sunscreen goodie
Parfum perfuming icky
Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone perfuming icky
Benzyl Salicylate perfuming icky
Butylphenyl Methylpropional perfuming icky
Citronellol perfuming icky
Hexyl Cinnamal perfuming icky
Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate preservative
Limonene perfuming, solvent icky
Linalool perfuming icky

Ingredients explained

Also-called: Water | 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. 

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 (aka stays on the skin) dimethicone as the two together form a water-resistant, breathable protective barrier on the skin without a negative tacky feel.

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 >>

Niacinamide - superstar
Also-called: vitamin B3, nicotinamide | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, skin brightening, anti-acne, moisturizer/humectant
  • A multi-functional skincare superstar with several proven benefits for the skin
  • Great anti-aging, wrinkle smoothing ingredient used at 4-5% concentration
  • Fades brown spots alone or in combination with amino sugar, acetyl glucosamine
  • Increases ceramide synthesis that results in a stronger, healthier skin barrier and better skin hydration
  • Can help to improve several skin conditions including acne, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Niacinamide here >>

A handy helper ingredient that comes in a white powder form and works as an anti-caking and oil-absorbing agent. It also gives products good spreadability, long lasting and velvet touch characteristics. It is popular both in skincare and makeup products.

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). 

Panthenol - goodie
Also-called: Pro-Vitamin B5 | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

An easy-to-formulate, commonly used, nice to have ingredient that’s also called pro-vitamin B5. As you might guess from the “pro” part, it’s a precursor to vitamin B5 (whose fancy name is pantothenic acid). 

Its main job in skincare products is to moisturise the skin. It’s a humectant meaning that it can help the skin to attract water and then hold onto it. There is also research showing that panthenol can help our skin to produce more lovely lipids that are important for a strong and healthy skin barrier. 

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Another great thing about panthenol is that it has anti-inflammatory and skin protecting abilities. A study shows that it can reduce the irritation caused by less-nice other ingredients (e.g. fragrance, preservatives or chemical sunscreens) in the product.

Research also shows that it might be useful for wound healing as it promotes fibroblast (nice type of cells in our skin that produce skin-firming collagen) proliferation. 

If that wasn’t enough panthenol is also useful in nail and hair care products. A study shows that a nail treatment liquide with 2% panthenol could effectively get into the nail and significantly increase the hydration of it.

As for the hair the hydration effect is also true there. Panthenol might make your hair softer, more elastic and helps to comb your hair more easily. 

A high-molecular-weight silicone elastomer (rubber-like elastic material) that is usually blended with a base silicone fluid (such as dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane) to give the formula a silky smooth feel and to act as a thickening agent.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

Polyethylene is the most common plastic in the world. It is a super versatile polymer (molecule from repeated subunits) and when it comes to cosmetics, it is often referred to as microbeads. Well, it used to be referred to as microbeads, as it was banned in 2015 in the " Microbead-Free Waters Act" due to the small plastic spheres accumulating in the waters and looking like food to fish. Well done by Obama. 

But being versatile means that polyethylene does not only come as scrub particles but also as a white wax. In its wax-form, it is still well, alive and pretty popular. It thickens up water-free formulas, increases hardness and raises the melting point of emulsions and water-less balms. It is particularly common in cleansing balms and stick-type makeup products due to its ability to add body, hardness and slip to these formulas. 

Also-called: Matrixyl, Pal-KTTKS, Formerly Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-3 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A pretty famous and better-researched peptide consisting of five amino acids (the building blocks of all proteins). It was created in a joint effort by the French ingredient supplier, Sederma and the cosmetics industry big shot, Procter&Gamble.

The amino acid sequence of the peptide is lysine–threonine–threonine–lysine–serine (KTTKS). Sometimes, it's also called collagen pentapeptide, as it's a subfragment of skin-structure-giving type I collagen. The KTTKS amino sequence is then attached for better oil solubility and skin penetration to palmitic acid and BOOM; we get Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4. 

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Though most research is manufacturer sponsored, the clinical studies about Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 are promising.  In short, it can reduce fine lines, wrinkles and improve skin texture significantly (and at crazy low concentrations, the studies were done with just 3 ppm that is 0.0003%).

There are also studies comparing Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 with anti-aging gold standard, retinol. One of them compared 3ppm Pal-KTTKS with 700 ppm (0.07%) retinol and found that they showed similar wrinkle improving ability with the peptide showing better skin tolerability.

Bottom line, if you are into peptides, this is a good one to try.

What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMFhyaluronic acid (HA). If HA does not tell you anything we have a super detailed, geeky explanation about it here.  The TL; DR version of HA is that it's a huge polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) found in the skin that acts as a sponge helping the skin to hold onto water, being plump and elastic. HA is famous for its crazy water holding capacity as it can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water.

As far as skincare goes, sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid are pretty much the same and the two names are used interchangeably. As cosmetic chemist kindofstephen writes on reddit  "sodium hyaluronate disassociates into hyaluronic acid molecule and a sodium atom in solution". 

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In spite of this, if you search for "hyaluronic acid vs sodium hyaluronate" you will find on multiple places that sodium hyaluronate is smaller and can penetrate the skin better. Chemically, this is definitely not true, as the two forms are almost the same, both are polymers and the subunits can be repeated in both forms as much as you like. (We also checked Prospector for sodium hyaluronate versions actually used in cosmetic products and found that the most common molecular weight was 1.5-1.8 million Da that absolutely counts as high molecular weight).

What seems to be a true difference, though, is that the salt form is more stable, easier to formulate and cheaper so it pops up more often on the ingredient lists. 

If you wanna become a real HA-and-the-skin expert you can read way more about the topic at hyaluronic acid (including penetration-questions, differences between high and low molecular weight versions and a bunch of references to scientific literature).

Also-called: Green Tea;Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial
  • Green tea is one of the most researched natural ingredients
  • The active parts are called polyphenols, or more precisely catechins (EGCG being the most abundant and most active catechin)
  • There can be huge quality differences between green tea extracts. The good ones contain 50-90% catechins (and often make the product brown and give it a distinctive smell)
  • Green tea is proven to be a great antioxidant, UV protectant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial
  • Because of these awesome properties green tea is a great choice for anti-aging and also for skin diseases including rosacea, acne and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract here >>

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. 

Carnosine - goodie

Though its name does not reveal it, Carnosine is a peptide, a small, two amino acid (β-Ala-His) one. It is naturally present in high concentrations in muscle and brain tissues, but the one used in cosmetic products is biomimetic, meaning that it is synthetically produced in a lab to copy the natural thing. 

A 2017 review paper on topical peptides writes about Carnosine that it is a "well-documented aqueous antioxidant with wound healing activity".  

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Other than that we can write about manufacturer-done in-vitro (in the lab, not on real people) studies that show Carnosine to have anti-glycation properties. Glycation is the not-so-nice process that happens when we bombard our body with too much sugar that results in damaged body proteins and eventually in more wrinkles.  

Also, a manufacturer done in vitro study shows that carnosine might have collagen-boosing magic power. However, the 2017 research paper also mentions that even though Carnosine is a small molecule, it is water soluble and does not penetrate the skin past the top layers so we have some doubt if the collagen-boosting works in real life. We could find one anti-aging study made on real people that mentions Carnosine, but it was combined with a bunch of other anti-aging actives so it is pretty much impossible to know what Carnosine did or did not. 

One last thing to mention is that there is also a manufacturer done clinical study (done on real people) that shows carnosine being effective against the damages caused by infrared (IR) radiation. (source)

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. 

Allantoin - goodie
What-it-does: soothing | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

Super common soothing ingredient. It can be found naturally in the roots & leaves of the comfrey plant, but more often than not what's in the cosmetic products is produced synthetically. 

It's not only soothing but it' also skin-softening and protecting and can promote wound healing.

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. 

A thick, high molecular weight silicone that is usually diluted in another, lighter silicone fluid (like dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane). The dimethiconol containing silicone blends leave a silky smooth, non-greasy film on the skin.

Tocopherol - superstar
Also-called: Vitamin E | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0-3 | Comedogenicity: 0-3
  • Primary fat-soluble antioxidant in our skin
  • Significant photoprotection against UVB rays
  • Vit C + Vit E work in synergy and provide great photoprotection
  • Has emollient properties
  • Easy to formulate, stable and relatively inexpensive
Read all the geeky details about Tocopherol here >>

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

It's a film-forming and thickening polymer (a large molecule composed of many repeated subunits) that comes to the formula usually as part of an emulsifier, thickener trio (with C13-14 Isoparaffin and Laureth-7, trade named Sepigel 305). This trio is an easy-to-use liquid that helps to create nice, non-tacky gel formulas

It's a petroleum derived emollient and thickener. It often comes to the formula as part of an emulsifier, thickener trio (with Polyacrylamide and Laureth-7). This trio is an easy-to-use liquid that helps to create nice, non-tacky gel formulas. 

What-it-does: emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 4 | Comedogenicity: 5

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A not-very-interesting helper ingredient that is used as an emulsifier and/or surfactant. Comes from a coconut oil derived fatty alcohol, lauryl alcohol.

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. 

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.  

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

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

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: preservative

A controversial preservative that has formaldehyde-releasing properties. It works great against bacteria and also has mild fungicide abilities. 

Cosmetic chemist, Colin wrote a great article about formaldehyde and DMDM Hydantoin.  He writes that formaldehyde is the perfect example of "the dose makes the poison" principle. It's a natural stuff that can also be found in fresh fruits and vegetables, and eating it in tiny amounts is totally ok. However, in larger amounts (according to Wikipedia 30 mL of a solution containing 37% formaldehyde) it's deadly. 

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The amount of formaldehyde used in cosmetics either neat or through formaldehyde-releasing preservatives is tiny. Probably that is why the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Broad concluded both in 1988 and in 2008 that DMDM Hydantoin is "safe as used in cosmetics".

However, Colins argues that in the case of formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, formaldehyde is released slowly and the skin has probably not evolved to deal with that. The lingering formaldehyde might be toxic to the Langerhans Cells that are important for the skin's defense system. Another potential issue is that formaldehyde-releasers might also release other things while reacting with amino acids in the skin that is probably the explanation why some people are not allergic to formaldehyde but are allergic to formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. These are all theories, far from proven facts, but we feel that there are some justified reasons why formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and Dmdm Hydantoin count as controversial. 

All in all, it's up to you to decide if you wanna avoid this preservative group or not. If so, there are other, less risky and more skin-friendly options out there.

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: Butylated Hydroxy Toluene;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. 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: chelating

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.

Also-called: CI 77861, Tin Dioxide | What-it-does: colorant

Far from the tin cans you find in the supermarket, Tin Oxide is mostly used when dealing with so-called effect pigments, tricky composite pigments that can do color travel (change color depending on the viewing angle) or give multiple color effect. 

It's often found alongside Mica (as a base material) and Titanium Dioxide (as a coating) to give a glossy, pearlescent effect. Together, they make up a trademarked technology called RonaFlair Blanace from the German manufacturer Merck. According to their info, this combination can balance out undesirable tones in the skin, making it a popular choice for brightening products and highlighters.

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Other than that, CosIng (the official EU INCI database) list its uses as also including being a bulking agent (to increase the volume of products), as well as a physical exfoliant or an opacifying agent, but being part of composite effect pigments seems to be a much more common use case. 

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).

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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. 

Parfum - icky
Also-called: Fragrance, Parfum;Parfum/Fragrance | 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!). 

What-it-does: perfuming

It’s a common fragrance ingredient that is one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

What-it-does: perfuming

It’s a common fragrance ingredient that has a light floral smell.  It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

Also-called: Lilial | What-it-does: perfuming

A common fragrance ingredient that has a nice floral scent and also goes by the name Lilial. It’s one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately (and cannot be simply included in the term “fragrance/perfume” on the label) because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive. 

What-it-does: perfuming

Citronellol is a very common fragrance ingredient with a nice rose-like odor. In the UK, it’s actually the third most often listed perfume on the ingredient lists. 

It can be naturally found in geranium oil (about 30%) or rose oil (about 25%). 

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As with all fragrance ingredients, citronellol can also cause allergic contact dermatitis and should be avoided if you have perfume allergy. In a 2001 worldwide study with 178 people with known sensitization to fragrances citronellol tested positive in 5.6% of the cases.

There is no known anti-aging or positive skin benefits of the ingredient. It’s in our products to make it smell nice. 

What-it-does: perfuming

A common fragrance ingredient that smells like jasmine. It is one of the “EU 26 fragrances” that has to be labelled separately because of allergen potential. Best to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

What-it-does: preservative

It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. Its strong point is being effective against yeasts and molds, and as a nice bonus seems to be non-comedogenic as well.

It is safe in concentrations of less than 0.1% but is acutely toxic when inhaled, so it's not the proper preservative choice for aerosol formulas like hairsprays. Used at 0.1%, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate has an extremely low rate of skin-irritation when applied directly for 24 hours (around 0.1% of 4,883 participants) and after 48 hours that figure was 0.5%, so it counts as mild and safe unless your skin is super-duper sensitive.

Limonene - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, solvent, deodorant

A super common and cheap fragrance ingredient. It's in many plants, e.g. rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and it's the main component (about 50-90%) of the peel oil of citrus fruits.

It does smell nice but the problem is that it oxidizes on air exposure and the resulting stuff is not good for the skin. Oxidized limonene can cause allergic contact dermatitis and counts as a frequent skin sensitizer

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Limonene's nr1 function is definitely being a fragrance component, but there are several studies showing that it's also a penetration enhancer, mainly for oil-loving components.

All in all, limonene has some pros and cons, but - especially if your skin is sensitive - the cons probably outweigh the pros.  

Linalool - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

Linalool is a super common fragrance ingredient. It’s kind of everywhere - both in plants and in cosmetic products. It’s part of 200 natural oils including lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, jasmine, geranium and it can be found in 90-95% of prestige perfumes on the market. 

The problem with linalool is, that just like limonene it oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. That’s why a product containing linalool that has been opened for several months is more likely to be allergenic than a fresh one.

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A study made in the UK with 483 people tested the allergic reaction to 3% oxidised linalool and 2.3% had positive test results. 

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