Pestle & Mortar SuperstarIngredients explained
A goodie plant oil coming from the polyphenol-rich seeds of the grape. It's a light emollient oil that makes your skin feel smooth and nice and also contains a bunch of good-for-the-skin stuff. It's a great source of antioxidant polyphenols, barrier repair fatty acid linoleic acid (about 55-77%, while oleic acid is about 12-27%) and antioxidant, skin-protectant vitamin E.
Jojoba is a drought resistant evergreen shrub native to South-western North America. It's known and grown for jojoba oil, the golden yellow liquid coming from the seeds (about 50% of the weight of the seeds will be oil).
At first glance, it seems like your average emollient plant oil: it looks like an oil and it's nourishing and moisturizing to the skin but if we dig a bit deeper, it turns out that jojoba oil is really special and unique: technically - or rather chemically - it's not an oil but a wax ester (and calling it an oil is kind of sloppy).
So what the heck is a wax ester and why is that important anyway? Well, to understand what a wax ester is, you first have to know that oils are chemically triglycerides: one glycerin + three fatty acids attached to it. The fatty acids attached to the glycerin vary and thus we have many kinds of oils, but they are all triglycerides. Mother Nature created triglycerides to be easily hydrolyzed (be broken down to a glycerin + 3 fatty acid molecules) and oxidized (the fatty acid is broken down into small parts) - this happens basically when we eat fats or oils and our body generates energy from it.
Mother Nature also created wax esters but for a totally different purpose. Chemically, a wax ester is a fatty acid + a fatty alcohol, one long molecule. Wax esters are on the outer surface of several plant leaves to give them environmental protection. 25-30% of human sebum is also wax esters to give us people environmental protection.
So being a wax ester results in a couple of unique properties: First, jojoba oil is extremely stable. Like crazy stable. Even if you heat it to 370 C (698 F) for 96 hours, it does not budge. (Many plant oils tend to go off pretty quickly). If you have some pure jojoba oil at home, you should be fine using it for years.
Second, jojoba oil is the most similar to human sebum (both being wax esters), and the two are completely miscible. Acne.org has this not fully proven theory that thanks to this, jojoba might be able to "trick" the skin into thinking it has already produced enough sebum, so it might have "skin balancing" properties for oily skin.
Third, jojoba oil moisturizes the skin through a unique dual action: on the one hand, it mixes with sebum and forms a thin, non-greasy, semi-occlusive layer; on the other hand, it absorbs into the skin through pores and hair follicles then diffuses into the intercellular spaces of the outer layer of the skin to make it soft and supple.
On balance, the point is this: in contrast to real plant oils, wax esters were designed by Mother Nature to stay on the surface and form a protective, moisturizing barrier and jojoba oil being a wax ester is uniquely excellent at doing that.
The oil coming from the pulp of one of the most nutritious fruits in the world, the avocado. It's loaded with the nourishing and moisturizing fatty acid, oleic (70%) and contains some others including palmitic (10%) and linoleic acid (8%). It also contains a bunch of minerals and vitamins A, E and D.
Avocado oil has extraordinary skin penetration abilities and can nourish different skin layers. It's a very rich, highly moisturizing emollient oil that makes the skin smooth and nourished. Thanks to its vitamin E content it also has some antioxidant properties. As a high-oleic plant oil, it is recommended for dry skin.
The oil coming from the seeds of dog-rose, a wild rose species native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia. It's a nice emollient, moisturizing plant oil loaded with skin-nourishing fatty acids (linoleic acid - 51%, linolenic acid - 19% and oleic acid - 20%).
If you start to dig a bit deeper into the rosehip oil topic, you will soon see that there are lots of species of rose, and it's all a bit confusing to know what the differences and similarities between the oils of the different roses are. As far as our research can tell, here is the gist.
In skincare two major types of rosehip oil are used:
1. Rosa Rubiginosa that is a synonym for Rosa Eglanteria and for Rosa Mosqueta. We will call it RR from now on.
2. Rosa Canina, or RC
The oil content and composition of RR and RC is similar, but there are some differences: RR contains 8% of oil, while RC contains a bit more, 10%. However, the quality of RR oil seems to be a bit better: it contains 78% essential unsaturated fatty acids while RC contains only 71%. Also, the linoleic-oleic ratio of RR is better (3.3 vs 2.5) that might be important if your skin is acne-prone (as linoleic acid is good for acne and oleic is not).
There is one more important thing to mention: RR oil is famous for containing the miracle active, tretinoin. Though Wikipedia puts RR and RC oil under the same article called as Rose hip seed oil, the referenced research about tretinoin content examines only Rosa Rubiginosa. We looked for a research paper explicitly stating that Rosa Canina also contains tretinoin, but could not find one, so we can neither deny nor confirm it. What we could find is a paper mentioning the tocopherols (vitamin E) and carotenoids (pro-vitamin A) content of Rosa Canina oil that gives it some nice antioxidant properties.
All in all, it is a great emollient plant oil with great fatty acids beneficial for any skin type.
The emollient plant oil coming from the seeds of Pomegranate. The red fruit has lots of seeds (100-200 per fruit), but 7 kg of them are needed for 1 kg of oil. Among the many similar plant oils, Pomegranate oil is a really unique one, as its main fatty acid (60%) is a rare one called punic acid, a so-called conjugated fatty acid with three double bonds. It also contains the common linoleic (2-10%) and oleic acids (3-12%), but only in small amounts.
Punic acid is thought to be a biologically active compound, a powerful anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant agent. The oil itself is also claimed to have strong antioxidant properties as well as having excellent nourishing and moisturizing abilities. On top of that, we also found a research that examined Pomegranate as a cosmeceutical source and it concluded that the seed oil can nicely promote the regeneration of the epidermis (the top layer of the skin).
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR) is the newest member of the "royal family of skincare" (see who is who on this cool retinoids family tree), the retinoid family. The queen of the family is the FDA-approved anti-aging superstar, retinoic acid, aka tretinoin and HPR seems to be a gentle but influential sister princess to the queen.
It's a so-called retinoic acid ester, meaning that it's directly related to retinoic acid. If you've already read our description about retinol or retinyl palmitate, you know that the active ingredient our skin cells can interpret is retinoic acid. Other forms of retinoids have to be converted by our metabolic machinery to do something. That's not the case with HPR. It binds directly to the retinoid receptors of the skin cells to work its skincare magic.
The big promise of HPR is that it's similarly active as retinoic acid (no conversion needed, remember) but without the irritation. According to the manufacturer's tests, 24 hours of an occlusive patch with 0.5% HPR resulted in significantly lower irritation than 0.5% retinol. Also, there was a "dramatic reduction of lines and wrinkles" after applying 0.2% HPR around the eyes twice a day for 14 days.
These results sound sooo promising that we don't blame you if you wanna run out right now and get an HPR formula to slather on your face. But, before you do, you have to know that the info we have about HPR at the moment is mainly from the manufacturer, whose tests may or may not be accurate or properly designed (such as controlled, double-blind and conducted on an appropriate number of people).
As HPR is pretty new there isn't that much independent research we could find yet. We found two Italian studies both examining the efficacy of HPR combined with other things (retinol in both cases, and papain in one of them) for the treatment of acne. Both studies found the formulas effective but they contained other things too, so it's hard to judge how well HPR did.
Regarding anti-aging, there is a pretty recent, Estee Lauder sponsored study that compared the in-vitro (not on real human beings but on skin models) collagen-boosting effectiveness of Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, tretinoin, good old retinol and retinyl palmitate (RP). The results are pretty encouraging showing that "HPR had greater levels of gene transcription than retinol and RP (RP) at the same concentrations ... however, HPR did not achieve gene transcription levels of ATRA (tretinoin)." But, a much higher dose might be tolerated from HPR and the highest dose of HPR out-performed tretinoin. Pretty encouraging, though we are very much waiting for a study to confirm all this on real human beings.
Bottom line: We are really happy to see some innovation happening with retinoids, and we think Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate is a super promising rising star, but it’s not fully proven yet. If you are someone who likes to experiment and try out the newest things, grab your running shoes and try some HPR containing serum now (see product list below :)). If you like the tried and true, however, stick to retinol and tretinoin for now and re-examine the question in a couple of years when (hopefully) more research will be available.
Are you into Retinoids? Read our shiny description about other members of the retinoid family:
- Retinyl Propionate: the most promising retinol ester out there
- Retinyl Retinoate: a super interesting retinol-retinoic acid hybrid molecule
- Tretinoin: the FDA-proven, well-known active ingredient
- Retinol: the good old vitamin A molecule
- Retinyl Palmitate: a super common, but our least fav member of the retinoids
It's an ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that belongs to the "retinoid family". The retinoid family is pretty much the royal family of skincare, with the queen being the FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient tretinoin. Retinol is also a very famous member of the family, but it's like Prince William, two steps away from the throne. Retinyl palmitate will be then little Prince George, quite far (3 steps) away from the throne.
By steps, we mean metabolic steps. Tretinoin, aka retinoic acid, is the active ingredient our skin cells can understand and retinyl palmitate (RP) has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to actually do something. The conversion is a 3 step one and looks like this:
retinyl palmitate --> retinol -- > retinaldehyde --> all-trans-retinoic acid
As we wrote in our lengthy retinol description the problem is that the conversion is not terribly effective. The evidence that RP is still an effective anti-aging ingredient is not very strong, in fact, it's weak. Dr. Leslie Baumann in her fantastic Cosmetic Dermatology book writes that RP is topically ineffective.
What's more, the anti-aging effectiveness is not the only questionable thing about RP. It also exibits questionable behaviour in the presence of UV light and was the center of a debate between the non-profit group, EWG (whose intentions are no doubt good, but its credibility is often questioned by scientists) and a group of scientists and dermatologists lead by Steven Q. Wang, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre.
Dr. Leslie Baumann wrote a great review of the debate and summarized the research available about retinyl palmitate here. It seems that there is a study showing RP being photo protective against UVB rays but there is also a study showing RP causing DNA damage and cytotoxicity in association with UVA.
We think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we agree with Dr. Baumann's conclusion: "sufficient evidence to establish a causal link between RP and skin cancer has not been produced. Nor, I’m afraid, are there any good reasons to recommend the use of RP". We would add especially during the day!
Bottom line: If you wanna get serious about retinoids, RP is not your ingredient (retinol or tretinoin is!). However, if you use a product that you like and it also contains RP, there is no reason to throw it away. If possible use it at night, just to be on the safe side.
The oil coming from the seeds of the carrot, the orange root vegetable we all know and eat regularly. This oil is a really tricky one, as it can refer to two types of oil that can both be extracted from the carrot seeds: the essential oil (about 0.83% yield) and the fixed oil (about 7.84% yield).
The two seed oils are very different and to make matters even worse these two oils are also very different from carrot root oil, or carrot oil, that is basically carrot root extract macerated in a carrier oil such as sunflower or olive oil and is the one that contains the vitamin A precursor, carotene.
Let's start with the fixed oil: it's a nice emollient plant oil that is loaded with moisturizing fatty acids (petroselinic acid - 60% and linoleic acid - 12% are the main ones). Other important components are carotol (30%) and daucol (12%) that give the seed oil antifungal and antioxidant properties. Browsing cosmetic manufacturer info, the oil is also often described as revitalizing, toning and stimulating.
As for the essential oil, it is a light yellow colored oil with a rich, spicy and earthy fragrance. Its main component is carotol (about 65%) but similar to other essential oils, it is a chemically complex mixture with lots of compounds in small amounts. The essential oil also has antifungal and antioxidant properties but also contains fragrant components that might irritate sensitive skin types.
The (fixed or non-volatile) oil coming from the black seeds of Nigella Sativa, a smallish (20-30 cm) flowering plant native to Southwest Asia. The seed has a very complex chemical composition (it contains both fixed and volatile oil) and is used traditionally for a bunch of "anti-something" abilities including antitumor, antidiabetic, antihistaminic, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. In Islam, black cumin seed was considered "a healing seed for all diseases except death”.
As for modern research and chemical composition, the fixed oil from the seeds is rich in skin-nourishing unsaturated fatty acids (mainly linoleic acid at 50 – 60% and oleic acid at 20%, but also contains some rare ones like C20:2 arachidic and eicosadienoic acids), amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. A component called thymoquinone (it's the main component of the volatile oil part, but the fixed oil also contains some) is considered to give the seed its main therapeutic properties including strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities.
As for black seed oil and cosmetics, the oil is great to nourish and moisturize the skin and is highly recommended to treat inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema.
A green-yellowish oil coming from cool places like Tahiti, Bora Bora, and the island of Polynesia. Similar to other more common plant oils, it's loaded with nourishing and moisturizing fatty acids (oleic acid: 30-55%, linoleic acid: 15-45%, palmitic acid: 5-20% and stearic acid: 5-25%).
The special thing about Tamanu oil, though, is that it contains the totally unique fatty acid called calophyllic acid that is suspected to give the oil its amazing healing and regenerative properties. The traditional uses of Tamanu oil range from using it for all kinds of rheumatism (inflammation in joints) to burns, wounds, skin rashes, and chapped lips and modern studies do confirm the wisdom of the old Polynesians. In fact, the wound healing properties of Tamanu oil is so strong that it produces visible improvements even for old (older than 1 year) scars during a 6-9 week period.
Other than that, according to manufacturer info, Calophyllum Inophyllum Oil also has significant SPF boosting and antioxidant properties. This latter one is probably due to its significant vitamin E content with delta-tocotrienol (236mg/kg) being the main form in the oil.
Overall, Tamanu seems to be an amazing oil for skin that is in need of some regeneration and protection.
A yellow-greenish oil coming from the seeds of Cranberry. Similar to other emollient plant oils, it is loaded with nice fatty acids. It contains a very balanced 1:1 ratio of anti-inflammatory omega-3 (aka linolenic acid) and barrier repairing omega-6 (aka linoleic acid) (30-38%), and also a decent amount of skin-nourishing omega-9, aka oleic acid. It also has high vitamin E content and significant antioxidant properties.
Other than being a nice emollient plant oil, we also found a research showing that cranberry oil has wound-healing potential.
A little helper ingredient that can boost the performance and enhance the delivery of active ingredients in a formula. It can penetrate deep layers of the skin helping actives to do the same.
It's especially useful to help active ingredients for self-tanning (DHA), anti-acne or skin-whitening to penetrate deeper and work better.
- 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
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
A super common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. It comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. It’s a nice ingredient that just feels good on the skin, is super well tolerated by every skin type and easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular.
Sunflower does not need a big intro as you probably use it in the kitchen as cooking oil, or you munch on the seeds as a healthy snack or you adore its big, beautiful yellow flower during the summer - or you do all of these and probably even more. And by even more we mean putting it all over your face as sunflower oil is one of the most commonly used plant oils in skincare.
It’s a real oldie: expressed directly from the seeds, the oil is used not for hundreds but thousands of years. According to The National Sunflower Association, there is evidence that both the plant and its oil were used by American Indians in the area of Arizona and New Mexico about 3000 BC. Do the math: it's more than 5000 years – definitely an oldie.
Our intro did get pretty big after all (sorry for that), so let's get to the point finally: sunflower oil - similar to other plant oils - is a great emollient that makes the skin smooth and nice and helps to keep it hydrated. It also protects the surface of the skin and enhances the damaged or irritated skin barrier. Leslie Bauman notes in Cosmetic Dermatology that one application of sunflower oil significantly speeds up the recovery of the skin barrier within an hour and sustains the results 5 hours after using it.
It's also loaded with fatty acids (mostly linoleic (50-74%) and oleic (14-35%)). The unrefined version (be sure to use that on your skin!) is especially high in linoleic acid that is great even for acne-prone skin. Its comedogen index is 0, meaning that it's pretty much an all skin-type oil.
Truth be told, there are many great plant oils and sunflower oil is definitely one of them.
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