Peter Thomas Roth Professional Strength 3% Retinoid Plus
Peter Thomas Roth

Professional Strength 3% Retinoid Plus

This powerful overnight treatment delivers high-potency retinoid into skin to effectively improve the appearance of the size, length, and depth of fine lines and deep wrinkles, unify skin tone, and [more] [more] smooth rough skin texture. Caffeine enhances penetration to deliver retinoid more effectively into the skin’s surface while a buffering complex of SymCalmin, SymSitive® 1609, allantoin, and bisabolol soothes and helps prevent the stinging and burning commonly experienced with retinoid usage—eliminating irritation. [less]
Uploaded by: klkxinci on 07/06/2017

Ingredients overview

Cyclopentasiloxane
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
It's a super commonly used water-thin volatile silicone that gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel.  [more]
,
Isononyl Isononanoate
what‑it‑does emollient
An emollient ester with a rich and creamy but non-greasy skin feel. [more]
,
Dimethyl Isosorbide
what‑it‑does solvent | viscosity controlling
A helper ingredient that can boost the performance and enhance the delivery of active ingredients. It can penetrate deep layers of the skin helping actives to do the same. [more]
,
Dimethiconol
what‑it‑does emollient | moisturizer/humectant
A thick, high molecular weight silicone that is usually diluted in a lighter silicone fluid. The dimethiconol containing silicone blends leave a silky smooth, non-greasy film on the skin. [more]
,
Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
The newest member of the retinoid family. Its big promise is that it's similarly active as retinoic acid but without the irritation. For now, it's a very promising but not properly proven active both for anti-aging and acne treatment. [more]
,
Ceramide Ap
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
A type of ceramide that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. Ceramides make up 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated. We have written way more about ceramides at ceramide 1, so click here to know more. [more]
,
Ceramide Eop
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
Ceramides get quite a lot of hype recently and good news: there is a reason for that. But before we go into the details, let's just quickly define what the heck ceramides are:They are waxy lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin (called stratum corneum - SC). [more]
,
Ceramide Eos, Ceramide Ns, [more] Ceramide Np
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
Ceramides make up 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated.  [more]
,
Sodium Hyaluronate
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]
,
Sodium Pca
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
It's an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. [more]
,
Glycerin
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]
,
Tocopherol
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 2 2
Pure Vitamin E. Great antioxidant that gives significant photoprotection against UVB rays. Works in synergy with Vitamin C. [more]
,
Ascorbyl Palmitate
what‑it‑does antioxidant
An oil soluble vitamin C derivative that has mixed data about its effectiveness. [more]
,
Caprooyl Phytosphingosine, Caprooyl Sphingosine, Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid
what‑it‑does soothing
An anti-irritant and anti-itch molecule that copies the active ingredient in the well-known soothing plant, oat.  [more]
,
Ethylhexylglycerin
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]
,
Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate
what‑it‑does emollient
A heavy-duty emollient ester that mainly stays on the surface of the skin and gives skin protection and occlusivity. 
,
Cholesterol
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient
It's one of the important lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin. About 25% of the goopy stuff between our skin cells consists of cholesterol. [more]
,
Water/​Aqua/​Eau
what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
,
Pentylene Glycol
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]
,
Butylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
irritancy, com. 0 1
An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
,
Behenic Acid
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 0
,
Hydroxystearic Acid
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
,
Ceteareth-25
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
,
Polysilicone-11
A type of silicone elastomer (rubber-like material with both viscosity and elasticity) whose major function is forming a nice film on the skin. [more]
,
4-T-Butylcyclohexanol
what‑it‑does soothing | cell-communicating ingredient
A soothing molecule whose special feature is to instantly decrease stinging and burning sensations. According to the manufacturer's impressive numbers, it can reduce stinging up to 78% and burning sensation by up to 80% after just 3 minutes. It is so effective because it works at a cellular level  [more]
,
Cetyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 2 2
A fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier).
,
Phenoxyethanol
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
[less]

Highlights

Key Ingredients

Antioxidant: Tocopherol
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 2 2
Pure Vitamin E. Great antioxidant that gives significant photoprotection against UVB rays. Works in synergy with Vitamin C. [more]
Cell-communicating ingredient: Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
The newest member of the retinoid family. Its big promise is that it's similarly active as retinoic acid but without the irritation. For now, it's a very promising but not properly proven active both for anti-aging and acne treatment. [more]
,
4-T-Butylcyclohexanol
what‑it‑does soothing | cell-communicating ingredient
A soothing molecule whose special feature is to instantly decrease stinging and burning sensations. According to the manufacturer's impressive numbers, it can reduce stinging up to 78% and burning sensation by up to 80% after just 3 minutes. It is so effective because it works at a cellular level  [more]
Skin-identical ingredient: Ceramide Ap
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
A type of ceramide that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. Ceramides make up 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated. We have written way more about ceramides at ceramide 1, so click here to know more. [more]
,
Ceramide Eop
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
Ceramides get quite a lot of hype recently and good news: there is a reason for that. But before we go into the details, let's just quickly define what the heck ceramides are:They are waxy lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin (called stratum corneum - SC). [more]
,
Ceramide Np
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
Ceramides make up 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated.  [more]
,
Sodium Hyaluronate
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]
,
Sodium Pca
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
It's an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. [more]
,
Glycerin
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]
,
Cholesterol
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient
It's one of the important lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin. About 25% of the goopy stuff between our skin cells consists of cholesterol. [more]
Soothing: Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid
what‑it‑does soothing
An anti-irritant and anti-itch molecule that copies the active ingredient in the well-known soothing plant, oat.  [more]
,
4-T-Butylcyclohexanol
what‑it‑does soothing | cell-communicating ingredient
A soothing molecule whose special feature is to instantly decrease stinging and burning sensations. According to the manufacturer's impressive numbers, it can reduce stinging up to 78% and burning sensation by up to 80% after just 3 minutes. It is so effective because it works at a cellular level  [more]

Show all ingredients by function

Other Ingredients

Antioxidant: Ascorbyl Palmitate
what‑it‑does antioxidant
An oil soluble vitamin C derivative that has mixed data about its effectiveness. [more]
Emollient: Cyclopentasiloxane
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
It's a super commonly used water-thin volatile silicone that gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel.  [more]
,
Isononyl Isononanoate
what‑it‑does emollient
An emollient ester with a rich and creamy but non-greasy skin feel. [more]
,
Dimethiconol
what‑it‑does emollient | moisturizer/humectant
A thick, high molecular weight silicone that is usually diluted in a lighter silicone fluid. The dimethiconol containing silicone blends leave a silky smooth, non-greasy film on the skin. [more]
,
Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate
what‑it‑does emollient
A heavy-duty emollient ester that mainly stays on the surface of the skin and gives skin protection and occlusivity. 
,
Cholesterol
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient
It's one of the important lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin. About 25% of the goopy stuff between our skin cells consists of cholesterol. [more]
,
Cetyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 2 2
A fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier).
Emulsifying: Behenic Acid
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0 0
,
Hydroxystearic Acid
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
,
Ceteareth-25
what‑it‑does surfactant/cleansing | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
,
Cetyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 2 2
A fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier).
Moisturizer/humectant: Dimethiconol
what‑it‑does emollient | moisturizer/humectant
A thick, high molecular weight silicone that is usually diluted in a lighter silicone fluid. The dimethiconol containing silicone blends leave a silky smooth, non-greasy film on the skin. [more]
,
Sodium Hyaluronate
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]
,
Sodium Pca
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0 0
It's an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. [more]
,
Glycerin
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]
,
Pentylene Glycol
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]
,
Butylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
irritancy, com. 0 1
An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
Preservative: Ethylhexylglycerin
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]
,
Phenoxyethanol
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
Solvent: Cyclopentasiloxane
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
It's a super commonly used water-thin volatile silicone that gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel.  [more]
,
Dimethyl Isosorbide
what‑it‑does solvent | viscosity controlling
A helper ingredient that can boost the performance and enhance the delivery of active ingredients. It can penetrate deep layers of the skin helping actives to do the same. [more]
,
Water/​Aqua/​Eau
what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
,
Pentylene Glycol
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]
,
Butylene Glycol
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
irritancy, com. 0 1
An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
Viscosity controlling: Dimethyl Isosorbide
what‑it‑does solvent | viscosity controlling
A helper ingredient that can boost the performance and enhance the delivery of active ingredients. It can penetrate deep layers of the skin helping actives to do the same. [more]
,
Cetyl Alcohol
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 2 2
A fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier).

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Cyclopentasiloxane emollient, solvent
Isononyl Isononanoate emollient
Dimethyl Isosorbide solvent, viscosity controlling
Dimethiconol emollient, moisturizer/​humectant
Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Ceramide Ap skin-identical ingredient goodie
Ceramide Eop skin-identical ingredient goodie
Ceramide Eos
Ceramide Ns
Ceramide Np skin-identical ingredient goodie
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Sodium Pca skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Tocopherol antioxidant 2, 2 superstar
Ascorbyl Palmitate antioxidant icky
Caprooyl Phytosphingosine
Caprooyl Sphingosine
Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid soothing goodie
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate emollient
Cholesterol skin-identical ingredient, emollient goodie
Water/Aqua/Eau solvent
Pentylene Glycol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent 0, 1
Behenic Acid surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying 0, 0
Hydroxystearic Acid surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Ceteareth-25 surfactant/​cleansing, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Polysilicone-11
4-T-Butylcyclohexanol soothing, cell-communicating ingredient goodie
Cetyl Alcohol emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling 2, 2
Phenoxyethanol preservative

Ingredients explained

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

A super commonly used 5 unit long, cyclic structured silicone that is water-thin and does not stay on the skin but evaporates from it (called volatile silicone). Similar to other silicones, it gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel

It's often combined with the non-volatile (aka stays on the skin) dimethicone as the two together form a water-resistant, breathable protective barrier on the skin without a negative tacky feel.

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. 

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.

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

Also-called: Form of Retinoids, HPR | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR) is the newest member of the "royal family of skincare" (read who is who in the family here), 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. 

Expand to read more

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 effect of HPR, 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: 

Ceramide Ap - goodie
Also-called: Ceramide 6 II, Ceramide AP | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient

A type of ceramide that can be found naturally in the upper layer of the skin. Ceramides make up 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells and play a super important role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated. 

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

Ceramide Eop - goodie
Also-called: Ceramide 1, Ceramide EOP | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient

Ceramides get quite a lot of hype recently and good news: there is a reason for that. But before we go into the details, let's just quickly define what the heck ceramides are:

They are waxy lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin (called stratum corneum - SC). And they are there in big amounts! The goopy stuff between our skin cells is called extracellular matrix that consists mainly of lipids. And ceramides are about 50% of those lipids (the other important ones are cholesterol with 25% and fatty acids with 15%). 

Expand to read more

Ok, so now we know what ceramides are, let's see what they do in our skin: research shows clearly that they play a super important role in keeping the skin barrier healthy and the skin hydrated. If ceramides in the skin are decreased, more water can evaporate from the skin and there is less water remaining in the skin. So ceramides form kind of a "water-proof" protecting layer and make sure that our skin remains nice and hydrated. 

Now the question is only this: If we put ceramides all over our face do they work as well as ceramides already naturally in our skin? Well, the answer is probably a no, but they do work to some extent. The BeautyBrains blog made a fantastic article about ceramides and they have listed a couple of examples about studies showing that ceramides - especially when used in certain ratios with cholesterol and fatty acids  - do hydrate the skin and can help to repair the skin barrier.

So far we were writing about ceramides in plural. It's because there are at least 9 types that can be found naturally in the skin. Chemically speaking, ceramides are a fatty acid and a sphingoid base and both parts can have different variations that result in different types of ceramides. 

Our current one, Ceramide 1 was the first one that was identified in 1982 and it's a special snowflake. It contains the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid and has a unique structure. It's believed that ceramide 1 plays a "binding role" in the lipid layers of the extracellular matrix. Along with ceramides 4 and 7, they also play a vital role in epidermal integrity and serve as the main storage areas for linoleic acid (that's also very important for barrier repair).  

Oh, and one more thing: alkaline pH inhibits enzymes that help ceramide synthesis in our skin. So if you use a soap and you notice your skin is becoming dry, now you know why. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Ceramide Np - goodie
Also-called: Ceramide 3 | 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 50% of the goopy stuff that's between our skin cells 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.

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". 

Expand to read more

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).

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

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. 

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 >>

Tocopherol - superstar
Also-called: Vitamin E | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2
  • 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 >>

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C | What-it-does: antioxidant

A form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. Even though we are massive vitamin C fans,  Ascorbyl Palmitate  (AP) is our least favorite. (Btw, if you do not know what the big deal with vitamin C is then you are missing out. You must go and read our geeky details about it.) 

So, AP is one of the attempts by the cosmetics industry to solve the stability issues with vitamin C while preserving its benefits,  but it seems to fall short on several things.

Expand to read more

What's the problem?

Firstly, it's stability is only similar to that of pure ascorbic acid (AA), which means it is not really stable. A great study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology compared a bunch of vitamin C derivatives and this derivative was the only one where the study said in terms of stability that it's "similar to AA". Not really that good.

Second, a study that examined the skin absorption of vitamin C found that ascorbyl palmitate did not increase the skin levels of AA. This does not mean that ascorbyl palmitate cannot penetrate the skin (because it can, it's oil soluble and the skin likes to absorb oil soluble things) but this means that it's questionable if ascorbyl palmitate can be converted into pure Vit C in the skin. Even if it can be converted, the palmitate part of the molecule is more than the half of it, so the efficacy will not be good and we have never seen a serum that contains a decent (and proudly disclosed) amount of AP.  We are highly skeptical what effect a tiny amount of AP has in a formula.

Third, another study that wanted to examine the antioxidant properties of AP was surprised to find that even though AP does have nice antioxidant properties; following UVB radiation (the same one that comes from the sun) it also promotes lipid peroxidation and cytotoxicity. It was only an in-vitro study meaning that it was done on cell cultures and not on real people, but still, this also does not support the use of AP too much. 

The only good thing we can write about Ascorbyl Palmitate is that there is an in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) study showing that it might be able to boost collagen production.

Regarding the skin-brightening properties of pure vitamin C, this is another magic property AP does not have, or at least there is no data, not even in-vitro, about it.

Overall, Ascorbyl Palmitate is our least favorite vitamin C derivative. It is there in lots of products in tiny amounts (honestly, we do not really understand why), however, we do not know about any vitamin C serum featuring AP in high amounts. That is probably no coincidence. If you are into vitamin C, you can take a look at more promising derivatives here

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: SymCalmin | What-it-does: soothing

An anti-irritant and anti-itch molecule that copies the active ingredient (Avenanthramides) in the well-known soothing plant, oat. 

According to the manufacturer's clinical study (double-blind, 40 people, 4 weeks long), 2% SymCalmin (the trade name of our diluted - 5% - molecule) reduced itchiness significantly by 65% and it also reduced redness by 50%. 

What-it-does: preservative

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

What-it-does: emollient

A heavy-duty emollient ester that comes in the form of a pale yellow semi-solid paste. It mainly stays on the surface of the skin and gives skin protection and occlusivity

Cholesterol - goodie

It's one of the important lipids that can be found naturally in the outer layer of the skin. About 25% of the goopy stuff between our skin cells consists of cholesterol. Together with ceramides and fatty acids, they play a vital role in having a healthy skin barrier and keeping the skin hydrated. 

Apart from being an important skin-identical ingredient, it's also an emollient and stabilizer

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. 

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: moisturizer/humectant, solvent | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.  

BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.

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It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive. 

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

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A type of silicone elastomer (rubber-like material with both viscosity and elasticity) whose major function is forming a nice film on the skin.

It is also cosmetically very elegant with a non-tacky, non-oily and smooth skin feel. It also works as a stable delivery system of active materials, has sebum absorption and control properties and upon application, it transforms into a matte appearance with a powdery after feel.

Also-called: SymSitive | What-it-does: soothing, cell-communicating ingredient

A soothing molecule whose special feature is to instantly decrease stinging and burning sensations. According to the manufacturer's impressive numbers, it can reduce stinging up to 78% and burning sensation by up to 80% after just 3 minutes. 

It is so effective because it works at a cellular level via intercepting the signals caused by the irritation before they can reach the neuro-receptor. This means that we feel stinging and burning sensations much less and the skin's tolerance threshold is increased

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The effectiveness of SymSitive was also backed up by a comparative study. It found that both 4‐t‐Butylcyclohexanol and fellow cell-communicating, soothing molecule acetyl dipeptide‐1 cetyl ester works, but 4‐t‐Butylcyclohexanol works better.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2

A so-called fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that does all kinds of things in a skincare product: it makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier). Can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.

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.

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