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Paula's Choice Clinical 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment

Clinical 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment

A triple-action blend of retinol, bakuchiol and peptides supports collagen-depleted skin to target fine lines, deep wrinkles and loss of firmness.
Uploaded by: peter on

Ingredients overview

Water (Aqua), Dimethicone (Hydration/​Skin-Softening), Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate (Texture Enhancer/​Stabilizer), Isononyl Isononanoate (Emollient), Butylene Glycol (Slip Agent/​Hydration), Bakuchiol (Skin-Restoring/​Antioxidant), Arachidyl Alcohol (Texture Enhancer/​Stabilizer), Glyceryl Polymethacrylate (Film-Forming Agent), Dimethicone Crosspolymer (Texture Enhancer), [more]Behenyl Alcohol (Texture Enhancer), Glycerin (Skin-Replenishing), PEG-75 Shea Butter Glycerides (Emollient), Glyceryl Stearate (Texture Enhancer), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (Emollient), Polysorbate 20 (Emulsifier), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C/​Antioxidant), Retinol (Vitamin A/​Skin-Restoring), Ceramide NG (Skin-Replenishing), Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (Skin-Restoring), Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12 (Skin-Restoring), Sodium Hyaluronate (Skin-Replenishing), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (Skin-Soothing), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (Skin-Soothing/​Antioxidant), Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract (Skin-Soothing/​Antioxidant), Arctium Lappa (Burdock) Root Extract (Skin-Soothing/​Antioxidant), Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract (Skin-Soothing/​Antioxidant), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols (Skin-Replenishing), Lecithin (Skin-Restoring), Allantoin (Skin-Soothing), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E/​Antioxidant), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein (Skin-Softening), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 (Skin-Restoring), Sodium Hydroxide (Ph Adjuster), Tribehenin (Emollient), Caprylyl Glycol (Skin-Softening), Dipeptide-2 (Skin-Restoring), Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract (Antioxidant), PEG-10 Phytosterol (Fatty Acid-Based Emollient), PEG-8 (Texture Enhancer), Magnesium Aluminum Silicate (Texture Enhancer), Arachidyl Glucoside (Texture Enhancer), Chrysin (Skin-Softening), Pentylene Glycol (Slip Agent), Sodium Acrylates Copolymer (Film-Forming Agent), Steareth-20 (Emulsifier), Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/​Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer (Texture Enhancer), Cetearyl Alcohol (Emollient), Coco-Glucoside (Surfactant), Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone (Antioxidant), N-Hydroxysuccinimide (Skin-Softening), Disodium EDTA (Chelating Agent), Phenoxyethanol (Preservative), Benzoic Acid (Preservative), Ethylhexylglycerin (Preservative)
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Highlights

#alcohol-free #fragrance & essentialoil-free
Alcohol Free
Fragrance and Essential Oil Free

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Other Ingredients

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water (Aqua) solvent
Dimethicone (Hydration/Skin-Softening) emollient 0, 1
Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate (Texture Enhancer/Stabilizer) emollient, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 2
Isononyl Isononanoate (Emollient) emollient
Butylene Glycol (Slip Agent/Hydration) moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Bakuchiol (Skin-Restoring/Antioxidant) cell-communicating ingredient, antimicrobial/​antibacterial, antioxidant, emollient goodie
Arachidyl Alcohol (Texture Enhancer/Stabilizer) emollient, viscosity controlling
Glyceryl Polymethacrylate (Film-Forming Agent) viscosity controlling
Dimethicone Crosspolymer (Texture Enhancer) viscosity controlling
Behenyl Alcohol (Texture Enhancer) emollient, viscosity controlling
Glycerin (Skin-Replenishing) skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
PEG-75 Shea Butter Glycerides (Emollient) emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Glyceryl Stearate (Texture Enhancer) emollient, emulsifying 0, 1-2
C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (Emollient) emollient, antimicrobial/​antibacterial
Polysorbate 20 (Emulsifier) emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 0
Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C/Antioxidant) antioxidant, skin brightening goodie
Retinol (Vitamin A/Skin-Restoring) cell-communicating ingredient superstar
Ceramide NG (Skin-Replenishing) skin-identical ingredient goodie
Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (Skin-Restoring) cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12 (Skin-Restoring) cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Sodium Hyaluronate (Skin-Replenishing) skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (Skin-Soothing) soothing, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (Skin-Soothing/Antioxidant) soothing, skin brightening superstar
Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract (Skin-Soothing/Antioxidant) antioxidant, soothing, emollient, abrasive/​scrub goodie
Arctium Lappa (Burdock) Root Extract (Skin-Soothing/Antioxidant) antioxidant, soothing goodie
Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract (Skin-Soothing/Antioxidant) soothing goodie
Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols (Skin-Replenishing) emollient
Lecithin (Skin-Restoring) emollient, emulsifying goodie
Allantoin (Skin-Soothing) soothing 0, 0 goodie
Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E/Antioxidant) antioxidant 0, 0
Hydrolyzed Soy Protein (Skin-Softening) moisturizer/​humectant
Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 (Skin-Restoring) cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Sodium Hydroxide (Ph Adjuster) buffering
Tribehenin (Emollient) emollient
Caprylyl Glycol (Skin-Softening) moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Dipeptide-2 (Skin-Restoring) cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract (Antioxidant) antioxidant
PEG-10 Phytosterol (Fatty Acid-Based Emollient) emulsifying
PEG-8 (Texture Enhancer) moisturizer/​humectant, solvent
Magnesium Aluminum Silicate (Texture Enhancer) viscosity controlling 0, 0
Arachidyl Glucoside (Texture Enhancer) emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Chrysin (Skin-Softening)
Pentylene Glycol (Slip Agent) solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Sodium Acrylates Copolymer (Film-Forming Agent) viscosity controlling
Steareth-20 (Emulsifier) emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 1, 2
Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer (Texture Enhancer) viscosity controlling
Cetearyl Alcohol (Emollient) emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 1, 2
Coco-Glucoside (Surfactant) surfactant/​cleansing
Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone (Antioxidant) antioxidant goodie
N-Hydroxysuccinimide (Skin-Softening)
Disodium EDTA (Chelating Agent) chelating, viscosity controlling
Phenoxyethanol (Preservative) preservative
Benzoic Acid (Preservative) preservative
Ethylhexylglycerin (Preservative) preservative

Paula's Choice Clinical 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment
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. 

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, emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A liquid emollient derived from isostearic acid that gives a rich, cushiony skin-feel and unusually high levels of gloss. It also has film-forming abilities but without leaving a sticky residue and it aids long-lasting and water-resistant properties. All this makes Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate an ideal emollient for long-lasting protective emulsions, like lip balms.

What-it-does: emollient

An emollient ester with a rich and creamy but non-greasy skin feel. It makes skin supple and protects dry skin. 

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. 

Also-called: Sytenol A, Phyto Retinol | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, antimicrobial/antibacterial, antioxidant, emollient

At first glance, you could think that Bakuchiol is your average plant extract. It is derived from the seeds of Psoralea Corylifolia, aka Babchi, a plant important in Indian and Chinese medicine. The molecule was first isolated in 1973 and several anti-something properties are known about it: it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-bacterial and hepatoprotective magical abilities like plenty of other Ayurvedic plant extracts.

What makes Bakuchiol a special snowflake is the recent discovery that it behaves on the skin in a way very similar to well-known skincare superstar, retinol. While chemically, it has nothing to do with the vitamin-A family, aka retinoids, comparative gene expression profiling (a fancy way of saying that they compared how retinol and bakuchiol modify the way  skin cells behave and produce important skin proteins such as collagen) shows that retinol and bakuchiol regulate skin cell behavior in a similar way. 

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To be more specific, both Bakuchiol and retinol upregulate collagen I, III and IV production and downregulate MMP, the evil collagen attacking enzyme in our skin. This means more collagen stays in our skin and we all know that more collagen equals firmer, more wrinkle-free skin.  A 12-week clinical study using a 0.5% Bakuchiol formula with 17 people using it twice a day confirmed a significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, elasticity, firmness and an overall reduction in photo-damage. Also, the test formula was very well tolerated, without any retinol-like side effects. 

What's more, a 2018 double-blind study with 44 people compared 0.5% Bakuchiol with 0.5% retinol cream and found that "bakuchiol is comparable to retinol in its ability to improve photoaging and is better tolerated than retinol". A super promising result after 12 weeks. 

If you are not a daredevil-type who doesn't want to stop using a super well-proven retinol for a newbie like Bakuchiol, we have good news. The two also work very nicely together and Bakuchiol can actually help to stabilize the otherwise unstable and hard to formulate retinol.

And we are still not done, as Bakuchiol shows not only anti-aging properties but also nice anti-acne effects. 1% Bakuchiol seems to be very effective in itself (57% reduction in acne after 6 weeks treatment) and even better when combined with 2% salicylic acid (67% reduction in acne after 6 weeks). We like that Bakuchiol is such a good team player!  The molecule works against acne in multiple ways: It downregulates 5α-reductase (a sebum-controlling enzyme), it is antibacterial (including P. acnes), anti-inflammatory and it inhibits lipid-peroxidation, an evil oxidative process that is recently thought to be a very early trigger in the acne process. 

We feel that this description is becoming very long so we will just mention that Bakuchiol also seems to positively regulate hydration-related genes such as Aquaporin 3 and also shows some melanin-inhibiting properties

Overall, we think Bakuchiol is an awesome molecule with lots of promise both for anti-aging and anti-acne. But the proof compared to the well-established superstars is far from solid, so in a skincare routine, we would rather add Bakuchiol next to retinol than straight up replace it. Unless you are a gimme-the-newest-shiny-thing-under-the-sun-type. 

A fatty alcohol (the non-drying type with a long oil loving chain of 20 carbon atoms) that is used to increase the viscosity of the formula and it also helps the oily and the watery parts to stay nicely mixed together (called emulsion stabilizing). 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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.

A fatty alcohol (the non-drying type with a long oil loving chain of 22 carbon atoms) 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: 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 >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-2

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

Chemically speaking, it is the attachment of a glycerin molecule to the fatty acid called stearic acid. It can be produced from most vegetable oils (in oils three fatty acid molecules are attached to glycerin instead of just one like here) in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.

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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".

An often used emollient with a light and silky feel. It's very mild to both skin and eyes and spreads nicely and easily. It's often used in sunscreens as it's also an excellent solvent for sunscreen agents. 

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

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. 

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C, Ascorbyl Isotetrapalmitate, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, ATIP | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a stable, oil-soluble form of skincare big shot Vitamin C. If you do not know, why Vitamin C is such a big deal in skincare, click here and read all about it. We are massive vitamin C fans and have written about it in excruciating detail.

So now, you know that Vitamin C is great and all, but it's really unstable and gives cosmetics companies many headaches. To solve this problem they came up with vitamin C derivatives, and one of them is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (let's call it ATIP in short).

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It's a really promising candidate (see below), but while reading all the goodness about it in a minute, do not forget that derivatives not only have to be absorbed into the skin but also have to be converted to pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid or AA) and the efficacy of the conversion is often unknown. In addition, vitamin C's three magic properties (antioxidant, collagen booster, skin brightener) are all properly proven in-vivo (on real people), but for the derivatives, it's mostly in-vitro studies or in the case of ATIP, it's in-vitro and done by an ingredient supplier.

With this context in mind let's see what ATIP might be able to do. First, it is stable (if pH < 5), easy to formulate and a joy to work with for a cosmetic chemist.

Second, because it's oil-soluble, its skin penetration abilities seem to be great. So great in fact, that it surpasses the penetration of pure vitamin C threefold at the same concentration and it penetrates successfully into the deeper layers of the skin (that is usually important to do some anti-aging work). There is also in-vitro data showing that it converts to AA in the skin. 

Third, ATIP seems to have all three magic abilities of pure vitamin C: it gives antioxidant protection from both UVB and UVA rays, it increases collagen synthesis (even more than AA) and it has a skin brightening effect by reducing melanogenesis by more than 80% in human melanoma cell cultures.

So this all sounds really great, but these are only in-vitro results at this point. We could find Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate mentioned only in one published in-vivo study that examined the anti-aging properties of a silicone formula containing 10% AA and 7% ATIP. The authors theorized that the 10% AA is released slowly from the silicon delivery system and probably stays in the upper layer of the skin to give antioxidant benefits, while ATIP penetrates more rapidly and deeply and gives some wrinkle-reducing benefits. The study was a small (10 patients), double-blind experiment, and the formula did show some measurable anti-aging results. However, it is hard to know how much pure vitamin C or ATIP can be thanked.

Bottom line: a really promising, but not well-proven vitamin C derivative that can be worth a try especially if you like experimenting (but if you like the tried and true, pure vitamin C will be your best bet).

Also-called: Vitamin A, Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient
  • Retinol (pure Vitamin A) is probably the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC
  • It has to be converted in the skin to retinoic acid to work its magic
  • Once converted, it has the same effect as all-trans-retinoic acid, aka tretinoin
  • A generally accepted ballpark number is that retinol is 10-to-20 times less potent than retinoic acid
  • It makes skin less wrinkled, smoother, firmer and tighter
  • It might also be helpful for acne prone skin as it normalizes keratinization and makes the pores produce less sebum
  • Possible side effects and irritation are also much less than with retinoic acid
  • Do not use whilst pregnant
Read all the geeky details about Retinol here >>

Also-called: Ceramide 2 | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient

One of the 9 types of ceramides that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. Ceramides make up a big part (about 50%) of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells (called extracellular matrix) and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated

We wrote way more about ceramides at ceramide 1, so click here to know more.

Also-called: Part of Matrixyl 3000, Pal-GQPR, Previously Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A four amino acid peptide with the amino sequence of glycine-glutamine-proline-arginine. It is attached to palmitic acid (a fatty acid)  to increase oil solubility and skin penetration. 

It works by reducing the production of the signal moleculeinteleukin-6 (IL-6) which promotes inflammation in the skin and less inflammation means slower degradation of important things (like collagen) that results in younger looking skin for a longer time. 

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It works in synergy with its pal, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 in the famous Matrixyl 3000 complex. You can read some more about the famous duo here.

Also-called: Biopeptide El, pal-VGVAPG, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide (old name) | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A six amino acid peptide that is claimed to improve firmness and skin tone. Its amino acid sequence is Val-Gly-Val-Ala-Pro-Gly that is also called the "spring fragment" and is repeated six times in the important skin protein, elastin molecule.

The manufacturer made a double-blind, one-month long clinical study on 10 women and found that twice a day application of 4%  Biopeptide El improved skin firmness by 33% and skin tone by 20%. 

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: Licorice | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant

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. 

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

Also-called: Licorice Root;Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract | What-it-does: soothing, skin brightening

You might know licorice as a sweet treat from your childhood, but it's actually a legume that grows around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, central and southern Russia. It's sweet and yellow and not only used for licorice all sorts but it's also a skincare superstar thanks to two magic properties:

Nr. 1 magic property is that it has skin-lightening or to say it another way depigmenting properties. The most active part is called glabridin. The topical application (meaning when you put it on your face) of 0.5% glabridin was shown to inhibit UVB caused pigmentation of guinea pigs. Another study even suggested that licorice is more effective than the gold standard skin-lightening agent hydroquinone. All in all, licorice is considered to be one of the safest skin lightening agents with the fewest side effects.

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There is just one catch regarding glabridin and licorice: the amount of glabridin in commercial licorice extracts can vary a lot. We have seen extracts with only 4% glabridin as well as 40% glabridin. The latter one is a very-very expensive ingredient, so if you are after the depigmenting properties try to choose a product that boasts its high-quality licorice extract. 

Nr. 2 magic property is that licorice is a potent anti-inflammatory. Glabridin has also some soothing properties but the main active anti-inflammatory component is glycyrrhizin. It’s used to treat several skin diseases that are connected to inflammation including atopic dermatitis, rosacea or eczema. 

Oh, and one more thing: glabridin seems to be also an antioxidant, which is just one more reason to be happy about licorice root extract on an ingredient list. 

Bottom line: Licorice is a great skincare ingredient with significant depigmenting, anti-inflammatory and even some antioxidant properties. Be happy if it's on the ingredient list. :)

Also-called: Oat Kernel Extract, Colloidal Oatmeal | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing, emollient, abrasive/scrub

When you hear oatmeal, you probably think of breakfast, but the finely ground version of whole oat kernels, aka colloidal oatmeal, can do good things for your skin, especially if it's dry, itchy or prone to skin-rashes or eczema.

Oat is loaded with compounds good for the body, inside or outside, such as soothing agent beta-glucan (5%),  lipids (3-11%) including barrier repairing omega-3 and 6 fatty acids or phenolic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents (avenanthramides). 

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The soothing, antioxidant and skin-protecting abilities of oat are so well-established that it is an active natural ingredient covered by the FDA OTC Skin Protectant monograph in the US, meaning that colloidal oatmeal can be claimed as an active ingredient on the INCI list and Aveeno is a mass-market brand built around oat-containing products.  

If your skin is dry, irritated, inflamed or eczema-prone, colloidal oatmeal is something to try.

Also-called: Burdock Root | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing

Burdock root is a goodie plant extract that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Also, it has some anti-fungal and seborrhea regulation magic powers that make the ingredient especially useful for greasy and flaky skin and scalp. 

Also-called: White Willow Bark Extract | What-it-does: soothing, astringent

The extract coming from the bark of the White Willow, a big (25 m/80 ft.) tree that likes to live on riverbanks. It's famous for containing anti-inflammatory natural salicylates (this powder, for example, is standardized to contain 53-65%), a close chemical relative to famous exfoliant salicylic acid.

Thanks to its salicin content, willow bark is often touted as a natural alternative to salicylic acid, though it's quite questionable how effective it is as a chemical exfoliant in the tiny amounts used in cosmetics. Apart from soothing salicin, it also contains flavonoids and phenolic acids that give willow bark tonic, astringent, and antiseptic properties.

Also-called: Soybean Sterols | What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A very common ingredient that can be found in all cell membranes. In cosmetics it's quite the multi-tasker: it's an emollient and water-binding ingredient but it's also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes

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: 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. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Part of Matrixyl 3000, Pal-GHK, Formerly also Palmitoyl Oligopeptide | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A really famous peptide that is part of Matrixyl 3000, the most sold peptide complex in the word. Before we go and find out what the big deal with Matrixyl 3000 is, let's just focus on Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 itself for a bit.

It's a small three amino acid (they are the building blocks of all proteins) peptide with the amino sequence of glycine-histidine-lysine, or GHK. GHK is attached to palmitic acid (a fatty acid) to increase oil solubility and skin penetration. 

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The GHK part is the important one as it's a type I collagen fragment. When collagen naturally breaks down in the skin, the resulting peptide fragments signal to the skin that it should get to work and create some nice, new collagen. Adding in collagen fragment peptides, like GHK, might trick the skin into thinking that collagen has broken down and it's time to create some more.

Therefore, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 is believed to be able to stimulate collagen production in the skin, and more collagen means fewer wrinkles and younger looking skin. 

In Matrixyl 3000, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 is coupled with Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7  and the duo works in synergy to reduce wrinkles and give younger looking skin. According to the manufacturer's in-vivo (made on real people) test, applying 3% Matrixyl 3000 twice a day for 2 months resulted in all of the following things:

  • 39.4% reduction in surface occupied by deep wrinkles
  • 32.9% reduction in main wrinkle density
  • 19.9% reduction in main wrinkle average depth
  • 16% improvement in roughness
  • 16.2% in lifting effect
  • 5.5% improvement in elasticity
  • 15.5% improvement in skin tone

Manufacturer results, of course, always have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but if you like peptides, the Matryxil 3000 duo is one of the best-proven and most well-known ones and it's something that is worth trying.

Also-called: lye | What-it-does: buffering

The unfancy name for it is lye. It’s a solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amounts to adjust the pH of the product and make it just right. 

For example, in case of AHA or BHA exfoliants, the right pH is super-duper important, and pH adjusters like sodium hydroxide are needed.  

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BTW, lye is not something new. It was already used by ancient Egyptians to help oil and fat magically turn into something else. Can you guess what? Yes, it’s soap. It still often shows up in the ingredient list of soaps and other cleansers.

Sodium hydroxide in itself is a potent skin irritant, but once it's reacted (as it is usually in skin care products, like exfoliants) it is totally harmless.

What-it-does: emollient

It's the triglyceride of behenic acid that works as a thickening or gelling agent, as a compacting agent for pressed powders, and improves heat stability of emulsions. 

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.

Also-called: Part of Eyeliss | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

A tiny peptide with only two amino acids (amino acids are the building block of proteins, and peptides are a few amino acids attached together), Valine and Tryptophan. It's part of a 3 actives complex called Eyeliss (with HMC and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7) that's supposed to fight under-eye bags

The manufacturer claims that this dipeptide in Eyeliss can increase lymphatic circulation and the three actives together represent a "global approach to treating puffy eyes". The clinical study of the manufacturer with 20 people and 3% Eyeliss showed improvement after 56 days for 70% of the participants.

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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: viscosity controlling, absorbent/mattifier | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A type of clay mineral that works as a nice helper ingredient to thicken and stabilize formulas. As a clay, it consists of platelets that have a negative charge on the surface (face) and a positive on the edge. So the face of one platelet attracts the edge of the other and this builds a so-called "house of card" structure meaning that Magnesium Aluminum Silicate (MAS) thickens up products and helps to suspend non-soluble particles such as color pigments or inorganic sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide).

As the "house of card" structure takes some time to form but collapses quickly if the formula is stirred, products thickened with MAS can be thick in the jar but become easily spreadable upon application (called thixotropy). MAS also gives nice sensory properties, it is not tacky or sticky and gives a rich, creamy skin feel. Also a good team player and works in synergy with other thickeners such as Cellulose Gum or Xanthan Gum

An ingredient that is created from the attachment of the water-loving sugar molecule, glucose, and an oil-loving 20 carbon long fatty chain. This makes it a partly water- and partly oil-soluble material, meaning it functions as an emulsifier helping oil and water to mix.  

Most often, it comes to the formula coupled with two fatty alcohol friends, Arachidyl and Behenyl alcohol, to make up an emulsifier trio trade named Montanov 202. As described by its manufacturer, the main thing of Montanonv 202 is that it gives creams a unique evanescent and light feel with a matt finish. It also leaves the skin soft, but not oily, is hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic making it perfect for both oily and sensitive skin formulas. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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. 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A big molecule from repeated subunits that is used to form gel-like textures and create a film on the skin. 

What-it-does: emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 2

A waxy solid material that helps oil and water to mix together, aka emulsifier. It is derived from the fatty alcohol called stearyl alcohol by ethoxylating it and thus making the molecule more water-soluble.

The end result is a mostly water-loving emulsifier, also called solubilizer that can help to dissolve small amounts of oil-loving ingredients into water-based products. Or it can be combined with more oil-loving emulsifiers (such as its sister, Steareth-2) to create stable emulsions. 

Also-called: Sepinov EMT 10 | What-it-does: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising

This long-named, polymer molecule (big molecule from repeated subunits) is a helper ingredient that's good at emulsifying and stabilizing oils into water-based formulas. It also acts as a thickening and gelling agent that creates nice, non-sticky and supple textures. It works over a very wide pH range (3-12) and can be used to thicken up low-ph formulas, such as exfoliants.

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsifying, emulsion stabilising, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 2

An extremely common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient) and gives body to creams and lotions. It also helps to stabilize oil-water mixes (emulsions), though it does not function as an emulsifier in itself. Its typical use level in most cream type formulas is 2-3%.  

It’s a so-called fatty alcohol, a mix of cetyl and stearyl alcohol, other two emollient fatty alcohols.  Though chemically speaking, it is alcohol (as in, it has an -OH group in its molecule), its properties are totally different from the properties of low molecular weight or drying alcohols such as denat. alcohol. Fatty alcohols have a long oil-soluble (and thus emollient) tail part that makes them absolutely non-drying and non-irritating and are totally ok for the skin.

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

A vegetable origin (coconut/palm kernel oil, glucose) cleansing agent that gives moderate to high stable foam. It's also biodegradable and mild to the skin.

Also-called: Part of Eyeliss | What-it-does: antioxidant

This guy - let's just call it simply HMC - is a so-called flavonoid (flavonoids are natural things found it lots of fruits and vegetables). Hesperidin, in particular, is a flavonone and is found in citrus fruits. The methylation of hesperidin gives HMC, that has well-established blood vessel protecting properties and can be found in drugs that treat problems related to blood vessels.

As for skincare, there is a mouse study showing HMC has very promising abilities in the "treatment of UVB irradiation-induced skin inflammation and oxidative stress", or English translation = it's an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

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HMC is also part of a 3 active ingredient complex called Eyeliss (with Dipeptide-2 and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7), that's supposed to fight under-eye bags. The manufacturer claims that in their ex-vivo test HMC decreased capillary permeability by 25%.

All in all, HMC definitely deserves a goodie status, at least as an antioxidant but it might even do something with under-eye bags.

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.

What-it-does: preservative

It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.

It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic. 

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

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

What-it-does: preservative

An Ecocert-approved, natural preservative that counts as gentle and non-irritating to the skin. Usually, it comes to the formula as part of a preservative blend as it's not enough on its own.

What-it-does: preservative, deodorant

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

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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
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 emollient | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0, 2
A liquid emollient that gives a rich, cushiony skin-feel and unusually high levels of gloss. Often used in lip balms. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
An emollient ester with a rich and creamy but non-greasy skin feel. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
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 cell-communicating ingredient | antimicrobial/antibacterial | antioxidant | emollient
At first glance, you could think that Bakuchiol is your average plant extract. It is derived from the seeds of Psoralea Corylifolia, aka Babchi, a plant important in Indian and Chinese medicine. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
A fatty alcohol (the non-drying type with a long oil loving chain of 20 carbon atoms) 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).  [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
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 emollient | viscosity controlling
A fatty alcohol (the non-drying type) that is used to increase the viscosity of the formula and stabilize emulsions. [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 emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 1-2
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | antimicrobial/antibacterial
An often used emollient with a light and silky feel. It's very mild to both skin and eyes and spreads nicely and easily. It's often used in sunscreens as it's also an excellent solvent for sunscreen agents. 
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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. 
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
A stable, oil-soluble form of Vitamin C, that might have (in-vitro results) all the magic abilities of pure vitamin C (antioxidant, collagen booster, skin brightener). [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Vitamin A - the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC that can smooth wrinkles and make skin firmer. It might also be useful for acne-prone skin as it normalizes keratinization. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
One of the 9 types of ceramides that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. Ceramides make up a big part (about 50%) of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells (called extracellular matrix) and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated.  [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
The pal of Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 in Matrixyl 3000. A four amino acid peptide that works by reducing the production of the signal molecule, inteleukin-6 (IL-6) that promotes inflammation in the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Biopeptide El - A six amino acid peptide that is claimed to improve firmness (by 33% in one month) and skin tone (by 20%). [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 soothing | moisturizer/humectant
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]
what‑it‑does soothing | skin brightening
You might know licorice as a sweet treat from your childhood, but it's actually a legume that grows around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, central and southern Russia. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | soothing | emollient | abrasive/scrub
When you hear oatmeal, you probably think of breakfast, but the finely ground version of whole oat kernels, aka colloidal oatmeal, can do good things for your skin, especially if it's dry, itchy or prone to skin-rashes or eczema.Oat is loaded with compounds good for the body, inside or outside, such as soothing agent beta-glucan  [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | soothing
Burdock root - anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant extract. Also has some anti-fungal and seborrhea regulation properties. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing
White Willow Bark Extract - Famous for containing anti-inflammatory natural salicylates. It also has tonic, astringent, and antiseptic properties. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
It's quite the multi-tasker: an emollient and water-binding ingredient but also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes.  [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]
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 moisturizer/humectant
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
A three amino acid peptide that is part of famous peptide duo, Matrixyl 3000. It's a type I collagen fragment that might be able to trick the skin to think that collagen broke down and it's time to create some new one. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
Lye - A solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amount to adjust the pH of the product.  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
thickening/gelling agent, as a compacting agent for pressed powders (ATO grade), and improves heat stability of emulsions.
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
A tiny peptide with only two amino acids (amino acids are the building block of proteins, and peptides are a few amino acids attached together), Valine and Tryptophan. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
what‑it‑does emulsifying
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
A smallish polymer molecule that is used as a solubilizer and viscosity control agent in cosmetic products. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A type of clay mineral that works as a nice helper ingredient to thicken and stabilize formulas. As a clay, it consists of platelets that have a negative charge on the surface (face) and a positive on the edge. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
An ingredient that is created from the attachment of the water-loving sugar molecule, glucose, and an oil-loving 20 carbon long fatty chain. This makes it a partly water- and partly oil-soluble material, meaning it functions as an emulsifier helping oil and water to mix.   Most often, it comes to the formula coupled with two fatty alcohol friends, Arachidyl and Behenyl alcohol, to make [more]
what‑it‑does solvent | moisturizer/humectant
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. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A big molecule from repeated subunits that is used to form gel-like textures and create a film on the skin.  [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1, 2
A waxy solid material that helps oil and water to mix together, aka emulsifier. It is derived from the fatty alcohol called stearyl alcohol by ethoxylating it and thus making the molecule more water-soluble.The end result is a mostly water-loving emulsifier, also called solubilizer that can help to dissolve small amounts of oil-loving ingredients into water-based  [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A helper ingredient that's good at stabilizing water-based formulas and also serves as a thickener. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1, 2
A super common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient) and gives body to creams. [more]
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing
A vegetable origin (coconut/palm kernel oil, glucose) cleansing agent that gives moderate to high stable foam. It's also biodegradable and mild to the skin.
what‑it‑does antioxidant
This guy - let's just call it simply HMC - is a so-called flavonoid (flavonoids are natural things found it lots of fruits and vegetables). Hesperidin, in particular, is a flavonone and is found in citrus fruits. [more]
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]
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
An Ecocert-approved, natural preservative that counts as gentle and non-irritating to the skin. Usually, it comes to the formula as part of a preservative blend as it's not enough on its own.
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]