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PCA Total Strength Serum

PCA
Total Strength Serum

This next generation peptide and epidermal growth factor formulation minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and pores while firming, tightening and strengthening aging skin.
Uploaded by: lacyladean on 22/02/2017

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water/Aqua/Eau solvent
Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water soothing goodie
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Glycosaminoglycans emollient
Alcohol antimicrobial/​antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling icky
Alcohol Denat. antimicrobial/​antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling icky
Gluconolactone exfoliant, chelating superstar
Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin goodie
Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Vp Copolymer viscosity controlling
Sodium Benzoate preservative
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling
Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Juice emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract perfuming
Adenosine cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract soothing goodie
Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil emollient
Lavandula Hybrida Oil emollient
Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract soothing, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil soothing, anti-acne, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
Menthyl Lactate
Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38 cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Phospholipids skin-identical ingredient, emollient goodie
Rh-Oligopeptide-1 cell-communicating ingredient
Santalum Austrocaledonicum Wood Oil perfuming
Silybum Marianum Extract antioxidant, soothing goodie
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 superstar
Tocotrienols
Totarol antioxidant
Citric Acid exfoliant, buffering goodie
Potassium Sorbate preservative

PCA Total Strength Serum
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua;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. 

Expand to read more

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: soothing, astringent

The distillate created from different parts of the hazelnut-bush-like magic tree, commonly called Witch Hazel. Hamamelis Virginiana Water is a bit of a sloppy ingredient name as the leaves, the twigs and the bark can be used to create extracts or distillates and the different parts contain different amounts of biologically active components. But what you are getting is probably a nice water with astringent, soothing, antioxidant and antibacterial magic properties.  

We went into great detail about Witch Hazel in cosmetics here, detailing the main biologically active components and how they are different in different parts of the plant. Click here and read more >>

Glycerin - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • A super common, safe, effective and cheap molecule used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but knows much more: keeps the skin lipids between our skin cells in a healthy (liquid crystal) state, protects against irritation, helps to restore barrier
  • Effective from as low as 3% with even more benefits at higher concentrations up to 20-40% (around 10% is a good usability-effectiveness sweet spot)
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Alcohol - icky
Also-called: Ethanol | What-it-does: antimicrobial/antibacterial, solvent, viscosity controlling, astringent

Simply alcohol refers to ethanol and it's a pretty controversial ingredient. It has many instant benefits: it's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial. No wonder it's popular in toners and oily skin formulas. 

The downside is that it can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list. 

Expand to read more

Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion. If you wanna know more, we wrote a more detailed explanation about what's the deal with alcohol in skincare products at alcohol denat. (it's also alcohol, but with some additives to make sure no one drinks it).

  • It's a super common and super debated skincare ingredient
  • It has several benefits: great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial
  • It can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list
  • Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion (read more in geeky details tab)
Read all the geeky details about Alcohol Denat. here >>

Gluconolactone - superstar
What-it-does: exfoliant, chelating
  • It’s a polyhydroxy acid (PHA), that is often referred to as next generation AHA
  • It gently lifts off dead skin cells form the skin surface making skin smooth and even
  • In the long term it provides anti-aging benefits, like increased skin thickness and decreased wrinkles (though a tad less than even more proven superstar AHAs)
  • It’s a great moisturizer and even helps to repair impaired skin barrier
  • It’s antioxidant, and does not make your skin more sensitive to the sun
  • It can be used even if your skin is very sensitive, rosacea prone or if you are post cosmetic procedure
Read all the geeky details about Gluconolactone here >>

It goes by the trade name "Phytodermina Lifting" that refers to two things: it's a "lifting" ingredient and it comes from plant raw materials. 

The manufacturer claims that it gives the skin a marked lifting effect, moisturizes, makes the skin soft and smooth, enhances brightness, and helps make-up to stay on after application.

Also-called: Aristoflex AVC;Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer | What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A kind of polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) that helps to create beautiful gel-like textures. It's also a texturizer and thickener for oil-in-water emulsions. It gives products a good skin feel and does not make the formula tacky or sticky. 

It works over a wide pH range and is used between 0.5-1.2%.

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.

It's one of the most commonly used thickeners and emulsion stabilizers. If the product is too runny, a little of xanthan gum will make it more gel-like.  Used alone, it can make the formula sticky and it is a good team player so it is usually combined with other thickeners and so-called rheology modifiers (helper ingredients that adjust the flow and thus the feel of the formula). 

Btw, Xanthan gum is all natural, a chain of sugar molecules (polysaccharide) produced from individual sugar molecules (glucose and sucrose) via fermentation. It’s approved by Ecocert and also used in the food industry (E415). 

Also-called: Coconut Endosperm, Cococin | What-it-does: emollient, moisturizer/humectant

The freeze-dried, powder form of coconut water (also called the liquid coconut endosperm) that's claimed to be loaded with all kinds of skin-nourishing thingsproteins, amino acids, sugars, vitamins, minerals and growth hormones (kinetin) that support healthy cell growth and skin hydration.

According to the manufacturer's double blind placebo controlled clinical study, 8 weeks of using a 1% Cococin cream increased skin elasticity by 31.1%. 

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Adenosine - goodie

Adenosine is an important little compound in our body that has a vital cell-signalling role. Research on smearing it on our face is also promising and shows so far a couple of things:

  • It can help with wound healing
  • It’s a good anti-inflammatory agent
  • It might even help with skin’s own collagen production and improve skin firmness and elasticity
  • It helps with barrier repair and protection
  • It might be even useful for the hair helping with hair thickness and hair growth
Also-called: Horse Chestnut | What-it-does: soothing

Horse Chestnut is quite a common and often used ingredient thanks to a couple of nice magic properties. It contains the active ingredient called escin that helps to maintain healthy blood circulation and strengthen capillaries. This makes horse chestnut useful for rosacea prone skin and it’s also often used in toners for a fresh skin feeling. 

It also has some anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties, so all in all, a nice one to spot on the ingredient list. 

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Japanese Honeysuckle Flower Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial

Lonicera Japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle as normal people call it, is a white-flowered honeysuckle known for being a traditional Chinese medicine. Modern research confirms that the plant has a super complex chemical composition with more than 140 compounds identified with possible anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidative and hepatoprotective activities.

As for Lonicera Japonica Flower Extract in skin care, it can have two main roles. The first one is being an anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient, probably due to chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol thought to be the main bioactive component of the flower.

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The other possible role is being a natural preservative. If this is the case, it is coupled with its Italian Honeysuckle cousin to form a broad spectrum antimicrobial preservative blend. You can read about this more here.  

Also-called: Tea Tree Oil, TTO | What-it-does: soothing, anti-acne, antimicrobial/antibacterial

The famous tea tree oil. One of the best known essential oils which comes from Australia where it has been used for almost 100 years for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions. Legend has it that the medicinal benefits of the oil were considered so important that Australian soldiers were supplied with some tea tree oil in their World War II military kit.

Similar to other essential oils, tea tree oil is a very complex chemical mixture consisting of about 100 components, the major ones being terpinen-4-ol (40%), γ-Terpinene (23%) and α-Terpinene (10%). Terpinen-4-ol is considered to be the main active component but as a great article in Clinical Microbiology Reviews states "while some TTO components may be considered less active, none can be considered inactive" and most components contribute to TTO's strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects

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Regarding skincare and tea tree oil, its most well-known effect is probably being a well established anti-acne ingredient. Multiple studies confirm that TTO is effective against the evil acne-causing bacteria called P. acnes and the effectiveness of 5% TTO gel is comparable to the gold standard anti-acne treatment, 5% Benzoyl Peroxide lotion. You need to be a bit more patient with TTO, though, as its effects come slower but also with fewer side effects.

Regarding TTO and sensitive skin, we say that you should be careful. Even if your skin is not sensitive you should never put undiluted TTO on your skin. Luckily, it contains only very small amounts of the common allergens (such as limonene), but irritant and allergic reactions still happen, especially by oxidation products that occur in older or not properly stored oil.  So if you have some pure TTO at home, know that storage matters, keep it in a cool, dry, dark place and use it up in a reasonable amount of time.

Overall, we do not often give a goodie status to essential oils, but we feel that TTO's unique antibacterial and anti-acne properties with its minimal allergen content warrant an exception. If your skin is acne-prone, TTO is something to experiment with.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Matrixyl synthe'6 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

It's a pretty new peptide trade-named MATRIXYL™ synthe’6. The manufacturer claims that it can boost the production of 6 major components of the skin matrix (collagen I, III, IV, fibronectin, hyaluronic acid and laminin 5) that result in more even skin and fewer wrinkles particularly on the forehead and crow's feet. Using 2% of the active for two months daily, women reported a decrease in wrinkles by 31% up to 100%.

Phospholipids - goodie

A type of lipid that's the major (about 75%) component of all cell membranes. As for skincare, it works as an emollient and skin-identical ingredient.

It has a water-loving head with two water-hating tails and this structure gives the molecule emulsifying properties. It is also often used to create liposomes, small spheres surrounded by phospholipid bi-layer designed to carry some active ingredient and help its absorption.

Also-called: Epidermal Growth Factor, EGF, rh-Oligopeptide-1;SH-Oligopeptide-1 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

Sh-Oligopeptide-1 is the famous molecule, which is also called Epidermal Growth Factor or EGF. Chemically speaking, Growth Factors are largish peptides or smallish proteins, or to put it in another way, medium-length amino acid sequences (EGF consists of 53 amino acids).  Biologically speaking, Growth Factors are cellular signal molecules that can stimulate cell growth, proliferation, healing and/or differentiation. 

There are lots of Growth Factors and EGF is just one of them. The topic of "Growth Factors and skincare" is a big, confusing and controversial one and we will try our best to summarize the story for you, including the pros and the cons. 

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EGF is a special snowflake when it comes to skincare as it was the first Growth Factor that made its way into cosmetic products and it is also the most common one. The American biochemist, Stanley Cohen discovered EGF and was awarded a Noble prize in 1986 for it. As the Noble prize may signify, the molecule is significant and powerful and directly stimulates the proliferation of epidermal cells. 

When it comes to Sh-Oligopeptide-1 in a cosmetic product, it has pretty well-established wound healing and skin renewal properties. It might even do more than that. According to a 2012 study on a serum containing barley bioengineered epidermal growth factor, "clinical evaluations showed statistically significant improvement in the appearance of fine lines and rhytids, skin texture, pore size, and various dyschromatic conditions apparent within the first month of use, and continuing improvement trends for the duration of the study" (which was 3 months).

This all sounds amazing, "give me some EGF Serum", we can hear you say! But as we wrote in the intro, the topic is complex and controversial so here are some of the questions that keep coming up around slathering EGF all over our face. 

The first and biggest concern is that if EGF is so good at stimulating cell proliferation, how does it relate to cancer? Is the definition of cancer not "cells proliferating out of control"?  Most experts agree on this answer: EGF is mitogenic (= stimulates cell proliferation) but not mutagenic (= does not alter the cell to make it cancerous)If you do not have cancer, you will not get cancer from EGF. However, if you have cancerous cells, EGF will help them to spread, just like it helps healthy cells. So if you have a lot of moles, excessive UV exposure in the past, or if you have any of the skin cancer risk factors, we suggest you should think twice about using EGF products. The same is true if you have psoriasis, a skin disease related to the abnormal growth of epidermal skin cells. You do not want to add fuel to the fire with EGF. 

Other (less serious) concerns are if EGF can properly penetrate the skin (as it is a medium-sized, polar molecule, so a special delivery system is probably needed), if it can affect collagen synthesis (or just works on the surface plumping up only the upmost layers of the skin) and if it has beneficial effects at all when used in isolation versus when used in a "conditioned media" that contains lots of growth factors resembling the synergistic balance found in the skin. 

Overall, our impression is that EGF is definitely a potent molecule. Some EGF products have a cult-like following adding anecdotal evidence to the clinical studies showing EGF has a beneficial effect on the skin. If you like experimenting, by all means, go ahead (unless you have psoriasis or high skin cancer risk factors), but if you are a better safe than sorry type, stick to daily SPF + a good retinoid product. This duo is still the golden standard of anti-aging.

Are you interested in Growth Factors and skincare? We have some more here:

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Lady's Thistle Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing

The extract of a plant with nice purple flowers that's loaded with the phytochemical called silymarin. You have probably never heard of silymarin but let us tell you it's a pretty awesome ingredient. 

There are quite a lot of research showing it can do all kinds of good things when taken orally: it has a proven ability to protect you from liver damage, and it also shows powerful antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, protective and regenerative properties with no more side effects than placebo. 

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But what about skincare? Well, there is less research about its topical use but it definitely deserves the goodie status: it's a potent antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory agent and it's  also a great UV-protectant. It's useful as a complementary treatment for rosacea, keeping the skin hydrated and it's also a super nice addition to any sunscreen product thanks to its unique UV-protecting abilities. 

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).

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 >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: antioxidant, deodorant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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. 

Expand to read more

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. 

What-it-does: preservative

It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It’s not a strong one and doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. To do that it has to break down to its active form, sorbic acid. For that to happen, there has to be water in the product and the right pH value (pH 3-4). 

But even if everything is right, it’s not enough on its own. If you see potassium sorbate you should see some other preservative next to it too.

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BTW, it’s also a food preservative and even has an E number, E202.

You may also want to take a look at...

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 soothing
The distillate created from the hazelnut-bush-like magic tree, commonly called Witch Hazel. It might have astringent, soothing, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. [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 emollient
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial | solvent | viscosity controlling
Simple alcohol that's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent, and antimicrobial. In large amount can be very drying. [more]
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial | solvent | viscosity controlling
Alcohol with some additives to make it unconsumable. It is great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent, and antimicrobial. In large amounts, it can be very drying to the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does exfoliant | chelating
A next generation AHA, a so-called PHA that gently exfoliates skin without irritation. It also moisturizes and helps the skin barrier. It also has antioxidant properties. [more]
It's a "lifting" ingredient coming from plant raw materials. The manufacturer claims that it moisturizes, gives the skin softness and smoothness, and helps make-up to stay on after application. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A kind of polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) that helps to create beautiful gel-like textures. It's also a texturizer and thickener for oil-in-water emulsions. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi. Has to be combined with other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | moisturizer/humectant
The freeze-dried, powder form of coconut water (also called the liquid coconut endosperm) that's claimed to be loaded with all kinds of skin-nourishing things: proteins, amino acids, sugars, vitamins, minerals and growth hormones (kinetin) that support healthy cell growth and skin hydration.According to the manufacturer' [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
An important compound in our body that has a vital cell-signalling role. It is wound healing, anti-inflammatory and can help with barrier repair. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing
Horse Chestnut - contains the active called escin that helps to maintain healthy blood circulation and strengthen capillaries and veins. It also has some anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
what‑it‑does emollient
what‑it‑does soothing | antimicrobial/antibacterial
Lonicera Japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle as normal people call it, is a white-flowered honeysuckle known for being a traditional Chinese medicine. Modern research confirms that the plant has a super complex chemical composition with more than 140 compounds identified with possible anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidative and hepatoprotective activities. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | anti-acne | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The famous tea tree oil. One of the best known essential oils which comes from Australia where it has been used for almost 100 years for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Matrixyl synthe'6 - A peptide that is claimed to be able to boost the production of 6 major components of the skin matrix (including collagen and hyaluronic acid). [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient
A type of lipid that's the major component of all cell membranes. As for skincare, it works as an emollient and skin-identical ingredient. It's also often used to create liposomes. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Epidermal Growth Factor - a smallish protein that works as a potent cell signaling molecule. It stimulates cell proliferation, wound healing and skin renewal. Do not use if you have psoriasis or high skin cancer risk factors. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
what‑it‑does antioxidant | soothing
Lady's Thistle Extract that's loaded with the phytochemical called silymarin. It's a potent antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory agent and it's also a great UV-protectant. [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
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 antioxidant
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
A not so strong preservative that doesn’t really work against bacteria, but more against mold and yeast. [more]