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.
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.
Aloe Vera is one of today’s magic plants. It does have some very nice properties indeed, though famous dermatologist Leslie Baumann warns us in her book that most of the evidence is anecdotal and the plant might be a bit overhyped.
What research does confirm about Aloe is that it’s a great moisturizer and has several anti-inflammatory (among others contains salicylates, polysaccharides, magnesium lactate and C-glucosyl chromone) as well as some antibacterial components. It also helps wound healing and skin regeneration in general. All in all definitely a goodie.
The extract created from the leaves of the hazelnut bush like magic tree, commonly called Witch Hazel. We have gone into details about With Hazel in cosmetic products here (it's astringent, soothing, antioxidant and antibacterial), but the important part to know about the leafs is that they contain much-much less active components than the bark. In fact, it contains hardly any tannins (only 0.04%) and the most active component in the leafs is the antibacterial gallic acid.
Too many tannins can be very astringent and irritating to the skin, so this is not necessarily a bad thing. Even the small amount of active components in the leaves seem to give it nice soothing, astringent and antibacterial properties.
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.
- It’s the most researched AHA with the most proven skin benefits
- It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin
- It can help skin’s own collagen production that results in firmer, younger skin
- It can fade brown spots caused by sun damage or PIH
- 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)
- Slight stinging or burning with a stronger AHA product is normal
- If your skin is very sensitive, rosacea prone choose rather a BHA or PHA product
A synthetic form of famous AHA, glycolic acid. Usually used as a pH adjuster to make sure the product has the right pH (usually pH 3-4) for exfoliation to do its magic.
- 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
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.
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.
Similar to other glycols, it's a helper ingredient used as a solvent, or to thin out thick formulas and make them more nicely spreadable.
Hexylene Glycol is also part a preservative blend named Lexgard® HPO, where it helps the effectiveness of current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol.
Fancy name for fruit sugar. It has nice water-binding properties and helps to keep skin hydrated.
A fancy name for sugar. Luckily when you put it on your skin it's good for you not like when you eat it. :) It has water-binding properties, which means that it helps to keep your skin nice and hydrated.
A type fo sugar, usually refined from cane or beet sugar. On the skin, it has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated.
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. Plus, unlike a bunch of other water-binding ingredients, it is also nice to use as it's non-tacky and non-greasy.
A little helper ingredient that can be a thickener, a humectant, a foam booster, an adhesion promoter and a filler. It's a blend of polysaccharides that helps to moisturize and soften the skin.
A non-essential amino acid (a building block of skin proteins like collagen or elastin) that hydrates the skin.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
A non-essential amino acid (important building block of collagen and elastin) that hydrates the skin. It is also used to set the pH of the cosmetic product (buffering).
There is not too much info out there about Hexyl Nicotinate. It's an emollient, moisturizer ingredient. Also according to this study it increases blood flow.
A nice plant extract that has antioxidant properties and may help wound healing (source). Also according to manufacturer info it's a traditional Korean medicine, that improves circulation and restores balance and health.
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.
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.
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.
Also called vitamin H, biotin is the main component of many enzymes in our body. A nice ingredient to take as a supplement for stronger nails and hair. When you do not take it as a supplement its effects are a bit more questionable but according to manufacturer info it can smooth the skin and strengthen the hair.
It's a common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together. Also, it can help to increase the solubility of some other ingredients in the formula.
Exactly what it sounds: nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. Fragrance in the US and parfum in the EU is a generic term on the ingredient list that is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average (but it can have as much as 200 components!).
If you are someone who likes to know what you put on your face than fragrance is not your best friend - no way to know what’s really in it.
Also, if your skin is sensitive, fragrance is again not your best friend. It’s the number one cause of contact allergy to cosmetics. It’s definitely a smart thing to avoid with sensitive skin (and fragrance of any type - natural is just as allergic as synthetic, if not worse!).
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