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Professional 20% Vitamin C Serum, 4 Fl Oz (118 Ml)

20% Vitamin C Serum, 4 Fl Oz (118 Ml)

An effective powerhouse of vitamin c to renew the skin overnight, with aloe vera for extra hydration, in addition to: retinol: helps eliminate age spots and discoloration, and with continued use, it helps increase collagen production; hyaluronic acid: counteracts the harmful effects of free radicals; ferulic acid: a super antioxidant, works to reduce wrinkles and fine lines for a more youthful complexion.
Uploaded by: both20 on

Professional 20% Vitamin C Serum, 4 Fl Oz (118 Ml)
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aloe Leaf Extract;Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract | What-it-does: soothing, emollient, moisturizer/humectant

The extract coming from the juice containing leaves of the Aloe vera plant. It's usually a hydroglycolic extract (though  oil extract for the lipid parts also exists) that has similar moisturizing, emollient and anti-inflammatory properties as the juice itself. We have written some more about aloe here.

Also-called: Vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid | What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening, buffering
  • Works best between a concentration of 5-20%
  • Boosts the skin’s own collagen production
  • Fades pigmentation and brown spots
  • If used under sunscreen it boosts its UV protection
  • Extremely unstable and oxidizes very easily in presence of light or air
  • Stable in solutions with water only if pH is less than 3.5 or in waterless formulations
  • Vit E + C work in synergy and provide superb photoprotection
  • Ferulic acid doubles the photoprotection effect of Vit C+E and helps to stabilize Vit C
  • Potent Vit. C serums might cause a slight tingling on sensitive skin
Read all the geeky details about Ascorbic Acid here >>

Also-called: Zemea | What-it-does: solvent, moisturizer/humectant

Propanediol is a natural alternative for the often used and often bad-mouthed propylene glycol. It's produced sustainably from corn sugar and it's Ecocert approved. 

It's quite a multi-tasker: can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. 

Witch Hazel - goodie
Also-called: Witch Hazel Extract;Hamamelis Virginiana Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial, astringent

Witch hazel is a smallish tree (up to 5m) that's native to North-America, has nice yellow flowers and is similar to the hazelnut bush (hence the name).  

As for skincare, it's loaded with active components that have a bunch of magic properties, like astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial. It's also a well-known vasoconstrictor (it makes the blood vessels narrower) and promotes the healing of broken skin by tightening up the skin proteins and thus creating a protective covering.

The complication, however, is that different extracts and distillates can be made from different parts of the plant (bark, twigs, and leaves are typically used) and different extraction methods from different parts produce different results. So if you see only Witch Hazel Extract or Witch Hazel Water on the ingredient list, it's a bit hard to know what you're actually getting but we will try to summarize the possibilities to give an idea.

The main biologically active components in Witch Hazel are hamamelitannin (a potent astringent and antioxidant), catechins (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant) and gallic acid (antibacterial). The bark extract contains by far the most hamamelitannin and it has the most gallic acid and catechins. The twigs contain fewer catechins, less gallic acid, and much less hamamelitannin (4.77% vs 0.18%). The leaves contain hardly any tannins (0.04%) or catechins and contain a medium amount of gallic acid (compared to the bark and twigs).

Witch Hazel also contains tiny amounts of the essential oil and fragrance component eugenol, but the amount is so small that it's probably not significant for the skin.

Apart from the differences in active components in different parts of the Witch Hazel bush, the extraction methods also vary. Witch Hazel Distillate contains 14% added alcohol according to the USP specifications  and alcohol is, at best drying, and at worst skin-damaging. Luckily, there are also alcohol-free distillates, so if you prefer no alcohol check the ingredient list carefully. Witch Hazel Extracts can also be made in different ways: browsing Ulprospector, we could find hydroglycolic, hydroalcoholic and glicerine/water based extracts.

Well-known skin care expert, Paula Begoun rates witch hazel as poor and says,  "depending on the form of witch hazel, you’re exposing your skin either to a sensitizing amount of alcohol or to tannins, or both." This might be the case if you are dealing with an alcoholic witch hazel bark water or extract, but looking at CosIng (the official INCI name listing of the EU), witch hazel bark water or witch hazel bark extract are not listed ingredients. Bark and leaf or bark and twig or all three are used together to create extracts, so the chance that there is too much hamamelitannin in the final cosmetic ingredient seems small. Also alcohol-free extracts and distillates exist; actually, the majority seem to be alcohol-free nowadays. So all in all, we think "Hamamelis Virginiana Extract" on the ingredient list is nothing to worry about.

We even found a German study that compared the efficacy of Hamamelis ointment to panthenol ointment for soothing the skin in children (from 27 days to 11 years old). They observed 309 children and concluded that both ointments were similarly effective but the one with Hamamelis was even better tolerated (98.2% vs. 92.3% tolerated well the ointments in the two groups).

All in all, Witch Hazel Extract is a sloppy INCI name (btw, not in the CosIng listing), and you do not really know what you're getting. Most probably though, you are getting a goody with nice astringent, soothing, antibacterial, and even antioxidant properties.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

polysaccharide (a big sugar molecule) coming from the edible fruit bodies of the Silver Ear mushroom in China. It's claimed to be an awesome moisturizer with slightly greater water-holding capacities than HA. We wrote more about Tremella here >> 

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

A sugar beet derived amino acid derivative with nice skin protection and moisturization properties. Betain's special thing is being an osmolyte, a molecule that helps to control cell-water balance.  It is also a natural osmoprotectant, meaning that it attracts water away from the protein surface and thus protects them from denaturation and increases their thermodynamic stability. 

It also gives sensorial benefits to the formula and when used in cleansers, it helps to make them milder and gentler. 

Glycerin * - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol;Glycerin | 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 >>

  • It’s naturally in our skin and behaves there like a sponge
  • It can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water
  • It is a big molecule from repeated subunits (polymer) so different molecular weight versions exist (unfortunately there is no way to determine MW from INCI list only)
  • High-molecular-weight-HA (>500 kDa) is an excellent surface hydrator, skin protectant and can act as an osmotic pump helping water-soluble actives to penetrate deeper into the skin
  • Low-molecular-weight-HA (< 500 kDa) can hydrate the skin somewhat deeper though it is still a big molecule and works mainly in the epidermis (outer layer of the skin)
  • Low-molecular-weight-HA might also help the skin to repair itself by increasing its self-defense (~ 200kDa used in the study)
  • Ultra-low-molecular-weight-HA (<50kDa) is a controversial ingredient and might work as a pro-inflammatory signal molecule
Read all the geeky details about Hyaluronic Acid here >>

Ferulic Acid - goodie

Ferulic Acid (FA) is a goodie that can be found naturally in plant cell walls. There is a lot of it especially in the bran of grasses such as rice, wheat and oats. 

FA - whose main job is to be an antioxidant - owes its fame to a 2005 research that discovered that adding in 0.5% FA to a 15% Vitamin C + 1% Vitamin E solution not only stabilizes the highly unstable, divaish Vit C, but it also doubles the photoprotection abilities of the formula. 

Couple of other studies show that FA just by itself is also a nice addition to cosmetic formulations: it can penetrate the skin (which is kind of important to do the job) and it has protecting properties against UV caused skin damage.

So if you spot it on the ingredient list be happy about it. :)

Also-called: Methylsulfonylmethane, MSM;Dimethyl Sulfone | What-it-does: solvent, viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Vitamin E;Tocopherol | 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 >>

Also-called: Argan Oil;Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

When it comes to cosmetic oils and hype, argan oil is for sure leading the way. Dubbed as the "liquid gold of Morocco", we have to admit we have some trouble determining why this oil enjoys such a special miracle status. Not that it's not good, it is good, even great but reading the research about argan and a bunch of other plant oils we just do not see the big, unique differentiating factor (though that might be our fault not reading enough, obvs.)

So, argan oil comes from the kernel of the argan fruit that comes from the argan tree that grows only in Morocco. The tree is slow growing and getting the oil is a hard job. The traditional process is that the ripe argan fruits fall from the tree, then goats eat them up and poop out the seeds. The seeds are collected and smashed with a stone to get the kernels inside. This part is the hard one as the seeds have extremely hard shells. Once the kernels are obtained, the oil is pressed out from them (the kernels contain about 50% oil).

As for skincare, argan oil is loaded with lots of skin goodies (but so are many other plant oils): it contains 80% nourishing and moisturizing unsaturated fatty acids, mainly oleic (38-50%), linoleic (28-38%) and palmitic (10-18%). It also contains a relatively large amount of antioxidant vitamin E (600-900 mg/kg, about twice as much as olive), small amounts of antioxidant phenols (including caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and epicatechin), as well as some rare sterols with soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Thanks to all the above goodness in argan oil, it can greatly nourish and moisturize the skin and hair. It's also claimed to be able to neutralize collagen-damaging free radicals, help reduce scars, and revitalize and improve skin elasticity. You can even read that argan might help acne-prone skin, but being a high oleic oil, we would be careful with that

All in all, argan oil is a real goodie but we do not fully understand the special miracle status it enjoys.

Also-called: Vitamin A, Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient
  • Retinol (pure Vitamin A) is probably the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC
  • It has to be converted in the skin to retinoic acid to work its magic
  • Once converted, it has the same effect as all-trans-retinoic acid, aka tretinoin
  • A generally accepted ballpark number is that retinol is 10-to-20 times less potent than retinoic acid
  • It makes skin less wrinkled, smoother, firmer and tighter
  • It might also be helpful for acne prone skin as it normalizes keratinization and makes the pores produce less sebum
  • Possible side effects and irritation are also much less than with retinoic acid
  • Do not use whilst pregnant
Read all the geeky details about Retinol here >>

Also-called: Jojoba Oil;Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

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.

Also-called: Sweet Orange Peel Oil, Citrus Sinensis Oil;Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Peel Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the rind of the orange (the sweet one). In general, the main component of citrus peel oils is limonene (83-97% for sweet orange peel), a super common fragrant ingredient that makes everything smell nice (but counts as a frequent skin sensitizer).

Other than that, citrus peel also contains the problematic compound called furanocoumarin that makes them mildly phototoxic. Orange peel contains less of it than some other citruses (like bergamot or lime), but still, be careful with it especially if it is in a product for daytime use.  

What-it-does: chelating

Though its name says acid, it's not really an exfoliant. It's a plant extract with some antioxidant properties. Its main thing in cosmetic products is to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.  It's a natural alternative to sometimes bad-mouthed chelating agents, EDTAs.

What-it-does: chelating, buffering

A little helper ingredient that is used to adjust the pH of the product. It also helps to keep products stay nice longer by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water). 

What-it-does: antioxidant, preservative

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

It's one of the most commonly used thickeners and emulsion stabilizers. If the product is too runny, a little 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). The typical use level of Xantha Gum is below 1%, it is usually in the 0.1-0.5% range. 

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). 

It’s a handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel. At the same time, it also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives, such as the nowadays super commonly used phenoxyethanol

The blend of these two (caprylyl glycol + phenoxyethanol) is called Optiphen, which not only helps to keep your cosmetics free from nasty things for a long time but also gives a good feel to the finished product. It's a popular duo.

What-it-does: chelating

A chelating agent that helps to preserve cosmetic products by neutralizing the metal ions (especially iron) in the formula (that usually get into there from water). Its special thing is that it also acts as a biostatic and fungistatic agent and remains active even at high pH.

It is often coupled with antimicrobial glycols (such as propanediol) to create a "preservative free preservative system" for cosmetic products.

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

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. 

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

what‑it‑does soothing | emollient | moisturizer/humectant
The extract coming from the juice containing leaves of the Aloe vera plant with moisturizing, emollient and anti-inflammatory properties. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening | buffering
Pure Vitamin C. A skincare superstar that is clinically proven to boost collagen production (in 5-20% concentration), fade hyperpigmentation and boost UV protection under sunscreen. Also, it's extremely unstable and hard to formulate. [more]
what‑it‑does solvent | moisturizer/humectant
A natural corn sugar derived glycol. It can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
With Hazel - loaded with active components (hamamelitannin, catechins, gallic acid) that have astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant or anti-bacterial properties. Also well-known vasoconstrictor and promotes skin healing. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A polysaccharide (a big sugar molecule) coming from the edible fruit bodies of the Silver Ear mushroom in China. It's claimed to be an awesome moisturizer with slightly greater water-holding capacities than HA. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A sugar beet derived amino acid derivative with nice skin protection and moisturization properties. Its special thing is being an osmolyte, a molecule that helps to control cell-water balance.  [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 skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
A famous natural moisturizing factor that can bind up to 1000 times its own weight in water. Works as an excellent surface hydrator in skincare. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
A great antioxidant that is most famous for stabilizing the highly unstable Vitamin C. It also doubles the photoprotection abilities of Vit C+E formulas. [more]
what‑it‑does solvent | viscosity controlling
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 | emollient
Argan oil - the "liquid gold of Morocco" that contains 80% unsaturated fatty acids (oleic and linoleic mainly), and antioxidant vitamin E and phenols. It's highly nourishing and moisturizing both for skin and hair. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Vitamin A - the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC that can smooth wrinkles and make skin firmer. It might also be useful for acne-prone skin as it normalizes keratinization. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 0-2
Jojoba oil - a wax ester (chemically not a real oil), that's very similar to human sebum. It's uniquely excellent at helping the skin with its protective barrier and helping it to stay moisturized. [more]
what‑it‑does perfuming
The essential oil coming from the rind of the orange. Its main component (83-97%) is limonene, the super common fragrant ingredient. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating
Though its name says acid, it's not really an exfoliant. It's a plant extract with some antioxidant properties. Its main thing in cosmetic products is to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating | buffering
A helper ingredient that is used to adjust the pH of the product. Also helps to keep products stay nice longer by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula. 
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient
A handy multi-tasking ingredient that gives the skin a nice, soft feel and also boosts the effectiveness of other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating
A chelating agent that helps to preserve cosmetic products by neutralizing the metal ions (especially iron) in the formula (that usually get into there from water). [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 0, 0
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.