Hydralight One Step Cleanser
Paula's Choice

Hydralight One Step Cleanser

A unique gel cleanser that easily removes excess oil, impurities, and makeup while leaving skin feeling refreshed and smooth.
Uploaded by: None on 27/06/2017
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. 

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 >>

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

It’s probably the most common cleansing ingredient of all. It’s usually the Chief Bubble Officer responsible for beautiful bubbles in cleansing products.

As for mildness, it goes somewhere in the middle. It’s often confused with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), but they are absolutely not the same. SLES is milder and much less irritating and considered ok in the amount used in cosmetic products.

Sodium Pca - goodie

PCA stands for Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid and though it might not sound like it, it is a thing that can be found naturally in our skin. The sodium salt form of PCA is an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. 

Sodium Lactate - goodie

The sodium salt of lactic acid. It's a great skin moisturizer and also used to regulate the pH value of the cosmetic formula. It's a natural ingredient approved by both ECOCERT and COSMOS.

Glycine - goodie

A non-essential amino acid (the building blocks of skin proteins, like collagen or elastin), that the body can produce itself, but its production decreases with age. When you put it all over your face, it works as a moisturizer and maybe more. 

According to great skincare blog Futurederm, glycine might help with wound healing and tissue repair and when used together with other amino acids, leucine and proline it might improve wrinkles

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BTW, it's also a building block of a bunch of important and famous peptides, including copper-tripeptide-1, palmitoyl tripeptide-1 or palmitoyl hexapeptide-12.

Fructose - goodie
What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

Fancy name for fruit sugar. It has nice water-binding properties and helps to keep skin hydrated

Urea - goodie

Yes, it's the thing that can be found naturally in pee. But it is also a natural moisturizing factor (about 7% of skin NMF is urea) found in our skin cells where it helps the skin to cling onto water and stay nicely hydrated. 

Don't worry, the urea version used in skincare is not extracted from pee, but it is synthetic and it's a very effective moisturizer. Plusunlike a bunch of other water-binding ingredients, it is also nice to use as it's non-tacky and non-greasy. 

Niacinamide - superstar
Also-called: vitamin B3, nicotinamide | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, vitamins, 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 >>

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative

A helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi. 

It’s pH dependent and works best at acidic pH levels (3-5). It’s not strong enough to be used in itself so it’s always combined with something else, often with potassium sorbate.

Lactic Acid - superstar
  • It’s the second most researched AHA after glycolic acid
  • It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin
  • It also has amazing skin hydrating properties
  • In higher concentration (10% and up) it improves skin firmness, thickness and wrinkles
  • Choose a product where you know the concentration and pH value because these two greatly influence effectiveness
  • Don’t forget to use your sunscreen (in any case but especially so next to an AHA product)
Read all the geeky details about Lactic Acid here >>

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.

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 cushioning and lubrication agent. 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 and much 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 some questions around penetration, the usefulness of low molecular weight versions and a bunch of references to scientific literature).

A clear, light yellow water-loving oil that comes from coconut/palm kernel oil and glycerin. It's a mild cleansing agent popular in baby washes and sensitive skin formulas.

It's also a so-called solubilizer that helps to dissolve oils and oil-soluble ingredients (e.g.essential oils or salicylic acid) in water-based formulas. 

What-it-does: preservative

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

A mild and non-drying cleanser that gives skin a nice and soft after-feel. It also has great foaming properties, comes from coconuts and it's biodegradable. 

It's one of the most commonly used thickeners. If the product is too runny, a little of xanthan gum will help make it more gel-like. The slight problem with it though is that too much xanthan gum tends to make the product sticky. 

BTW, it’s natural stuff produced from some sugars called glucose and sucrose. It’s approved by Ecocert and also used in foods (E415). 

What-it-does: buffering, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

It’s a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be just right. It’s very alkaline (you know the opposite of being very acidic): a 1% solution has a pH of around 10.

It does not have the very best safety reputation but in general, you do not have to worry about it. 

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What is true is that if a product contains so-called N-nitrogenating agents (e.g.: preservatives like 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol, 5-Bromo-5-Nitro- 1,3-Dioxane or sodium nitrate - so look out for things with nitro, nitra in the name) that together with TEA can form some not nice carcinogenic stuff (that is called nitrosamines). But with proper formulation that does not happen, TEA in itself is not a bad guy. 

But let’s assume a bad combination of ingredients were used and the nitrosamines formed. :( Even in that case you are probably fine because as far as we know it cannot penetrate the skin. 

But to be on the safe side, if you see Triethanolamine in an INCI and also something with nitra, nitro in the name of it just skip the product, that cannot hurt.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

It’s a handy white powder that magically converts a product into a nice gel formula. If you see gel in the name of a moisturiser type thing, chances are carbomer will be in the ingredient list. 

It’s not too common, but sometimes there is also a number after it. The reason for it is that carbomer in itself actually refers to a group of stuff and the number shows the weight and type of the molecule. 

Also-called: Oxybenzone | What-it-does: sunscreen

A chemical sunscreen agent that absorbs UVB and short UVA rays (280-350nm) with its peak protection at 288 nm. Unlike many other chemical sunscreens, it is highly stable but its UV absorbing abilities are weak so it always has to be combined with other sunscreen agents for proper protection. More often than not, it's used as a photostabilizer rather than a proper sunscreen agent as it can protect formulas nicely from UV damage.

Regarding safety, BP-3 is controversial. First, its molecules are small (228 Da) and very lipophilic (oil loving) and these properties result in very good absorption. The problem is that you want sunscreens on the top of your skin and not in your bloodstream, so for BP-3 this is a problem. In fact, it absorbs so well that 4 hours after application of a sunscreen product with BP-3, it can be detected in urine

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Another concern of BP-3 is that it shows some estrogenic activity, though it's probably not relevant when applied topically to the skin. Estrogenic activity was confirmed only in-vitro (in test tubes) and when taken orally by lab animals, and not when used topically as you would normally. In fact, a 2004 follow-up study to examine the estrogenic effect of sunscreens when used topically on the whole body found that "the endogenous levels of reproductive hormones were unaffected" (even though BP-3 could be detected both in plasma and urine, so its absorption is no doubt too good).

If that was not enough, Wikipedia claims that BP-3 is nowadays the most common allergen found in sunscreens, and the always-trustworthy smartskincare writes that "[benzophenones] have been shown in some studies to promote the generation of potentially harmful free radicals".

On the up side, sunscreens are pretty well regulated in several parts of the world, and BP-3 is considered "safe as used" and is an allowed sunscreen agent everywhere. It can be used in concentrations of up to 10% in the EU and up to 6% in the US.

Overall, we feel that for BP-3 the potential cons outweigh the benefits. Not because the safety concerns are so big or well established for the normal topical use, but more so because the benefits are not that much bigger either, so why risk it? 

What-it-does: preservative

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. :))

What-it-does: preservative

A very 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.

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