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Secret Key Witch-Hazel Pore Clear Toner

Secret Key
Witch-Hazel Pore Clear Toner

Secret Key's Witch Hazel Toner is composed of Witch Hazel to contract pores, regulate sebum, and supply moisture with its excellent clearing and astringent effect. Your skin is simultaneously soothed [more] [more] with naturally skin relieving extracts such as Aloe Leaf and Centella Asiatica. Its Witch Hazel substance increases elasticity and prevents waste deposit in your pores as it removes bacterial residue after facial cleansing. [less]
Uploaded by: mosswine on 17/04/2019

Secret Key Witch-Hazel Pore Clear Toner
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Witch Hazel Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial

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.

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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.

  • 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 >>

What-it-does: solvent

A really multi-functional helper ingredient that can do several things in a skincare product: it can bring a soft and pleasant feel to the formula, it can act as a humectant and emollient, it can be a solvent for some other ingredients (for example it can help to stabilize perfumes in watery products) and it can also help to disperse pigments more evenly in makeup products. And that is still not all: it can also boost the antimicrobial activity of preservatives

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.

Also-called: Purslane Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant

Portulaca Oleracea is a nice succulent with bright yellow flowers and edible nutritious vegetables. It's a famous plant in Korean traditional medicine to treat infection and irritated skin.

Modern research confirms that it's loaded with skin-goodies: it's the richest green plant source of omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid), contains NMFs (polysaccharides and amino acids),  vitamins (β-carotene), minerals, and antioxidants (yellow betaxanthins and reddish betacyanins). Thanks to all its beneficial components, Purslane Extract has several magic properties: it's a great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent and also has wound healing abilities

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Aloe 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: Gotu Kola, Tiger Grass | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, moisturizer/humectant

Centella Asiatica - or gotu kola as normal people call it  - has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years. It’s traditionally used to improve small wounds, burns and scratches and it’s also a well known anti-inflammatory agent for eczema.

Recently science has taken an interest in Gotu Kola as well and it turns out it really has many active compounds with several benefits. Just for hard-core geeks, the main biologically active compounds are pentacyclic triterpenoid saponins called asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic and madecassic acid (also called centellosides).

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One of the biological activities of the centellosides is to be able to stimulate GAGs  (glycosaminoglycans - polysaccharides that are part of the liquidy stuff between our skin cells), and especially hyaluronic acid synthesis in our skin. This is probably one of the reasons why Centella Asiatica Extract has nice skin moisturizing properties that was confirmed by a 25 people, four weeks study along with Centella's anti-inflammatory effects.

Madecassoside can also help in burn wound healing through increasing antioxidant activity and enhancing collagen synthesis. Asiaticoside was shown to increase antioxidant levels on rats skin when applied at 0.2%. 

Centella Asiatica also often shows up in products that try to treat cellulite or striae. Of course, it cannot make a miracle but it might have some effect via regulating microcirculation and normalizing the metabolism in the cells of connective tissues. 

Bottom line: Gotu Kola is a great plant ingredient with proven wound healing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Nice to spot on any ingredient list.  

Also-called: Japanese Pepper, Korean Pepper, Sanshō, Chopi | What-it-does: antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial, preservative

If you are into Japanese cuisine, you might know this guy as Japanese pepper or Sanshō pepper that is known for its unique fresh aroma and appetite increasing spicy sensation.

As for the skin benefits of Zanthoxylum Piperitum, it might have antioxidant effects (with active components called hyperoside and quercitrin), but more importantly, it is an antibacterial and natural preservative agent. It is pretty common in K-Beauty products, as it's one of the three natural extracts that make up the popular Korean preservative called EURO-NApre. 

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Combined with Usnea Barbata and Pulsatilla Koreana, these three extracts are claimed to form a natural preservative system that also has anti-inflammatory effects and might help with skin conditions such as blemishes, atopic dermatitis, and dandruff. 

On the flip side, Zanthoxylum Piperitum contains fragrant components (Limonene and Citrone), that might irritate sensitive skin. 

Also-called: Korean Pasque Flower Extract | What-it-does: antimicrobial/antibacterial, preservative

The extract of Korean Pasque Flower that is mostly used for its antimicrobial and natural preservative activities. It usually comes to the formula combined with Zanthoxylum Piperitum and Usnea Barbata, as the three extracts make up a popular Korean natural preservative system trade named EURO-NApre.  

The plant extract is also a traditional oriental herbal medicine that is known for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent effects. 

Also-called: Lichen Extract | What-it-does: preservative, antimicrobial/antibacterial, deodorant

The extract coming from the alpine lichen, Usnea Barbata. It is known for its excellent efficacy against gram-positive bacteria, meaning that it can serve as a natural preservative and deodorant agent.

Its main biologically active component is usnic acid (a molecule produced only by lichens) that's not only an antibacterial agent, but also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing promoting effects. According to manufacturer info,  the antibacterial activity of Usnea Barbata makes the ingredient helpful against body odor, blemished skin, and dandruff. 

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It is also very common in K-Beauty products, as it is part of a popular Korean natural preservative system trade named EURO-Napre (combined with Zanthoxylum Piperitum and Pulsatilla Koreana). 

What-it-does: emulsifying

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 >> 

What-it-does: emollient, soothing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Snail Slime, Snail Mucin | What-it-does: antioxidant, moisturizer/humectant

If you are into the K-Beauty trend, you must have bumped into snail slime like a thousand times. Korean brands love the ingredient and tout it for its miraculous repair and hydration properties. It's claimed to be able to repair everything from dry patches, acne breakouts to signs of aging and we are happy to say that it might be just true.

So snail slime is the yucky stuff that snails (in cosmetics the secretion of Cornu Aspersum, the garden snail is used) produce when they are in stress (it's not the same as the one they secret to be able to move nicely and smoothly). As the cosmetic chemists at the Beauty Brains blog write, "chemically speaking, snail slime is a complex mixture of proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, glycoprotein enzymes, hyaluronic acid, copper peptides, antimicrobial peptides and trace elements including copper, zinc, and iron."   English translation equals it's loaded with a bunch of good-for-the-skin stuff.

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As for scientific proof that snail slime does something for the skin, we did find a couple of studies to go by. A Spanish radiation oncologist, Rafael Abad Iglesias MD discovered for the first time that snail mucin can be used to treat radiation dermatitis (skin irritation caused by radiotherapy, a form of cancer treatment). He did a clinical study with 100 patients and reported a "statistically significant clinical improvement in erythema, itching and burning pain" in the group treated with snail slime. 

A 2007 study examined the molecular basis for the great regeneration properties of the ingredient. It found that snail slime (SS) indeed does a bunch of positive things that could be the reason for its great repair abilities. First, it has serious antioxidant properties thanks to two great antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase and glutathione s-transferase. Second, SS induces fibroblast proliferation, that's particularly important during wound healing. Third SS was also found to downregulate MMP, an evil enzyme that's out there to destroy skin-firming collagen. These properties add up to give SS not only wound healing and regenerative properties but also serious anti-aging potential. 

Regarding anti-aging, a 2013 study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology examined the effect of SS on photoaged skin. The 14-week, double-blind, 25 participant study found that "there was a significant degree of improvement in fines lines", though the participants did not report a significant difference in the quality of their skin.

All in all, we think that snail slime definitely deserves the skin goodie status it already enjoys in the K-beauty space. If you have no problem with somewhat strange, yucky things or animal derived ingredients in your products, it's worth a try.

What-it-does: chelating

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

Fragrance - icky
Also-called: Fragrance, Parfum;Parfum/Fragrance | What-it-does: perfuming

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.  

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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!). 

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

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 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 solvent
A multi-functional helper ingredient that acts as a humectant and emollient. It's also a solvent and can boost the effectiveness of preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial
what‑it‑does soothing | antioxidant
Purslane Extract - a traditional Korean medicinal plant with skin-soothing, antioxidant and wound healing abilities. [more]
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 soothing | antioxidant | moisturizer/humectant
Centella Asiatica - or gotu kola as normal people call it  - has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years. It’s traditionally used to improve small wounds, burns and scratches and it’s also a well known anti-inflammatory agent for eczema.Recently science has taken an interest in Gotu Kola as well and it turns out it really has many active compounds with several benefits. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | antimicrobial/antibacterial | preservative
Japanese pepper extract that has natural antibacterial and preservative activities. Combined with Usnea Barbata and Pulsatilla Koreana, it is part of a popular Korean preservative system called EURO-NApre. [more]
what‑it‑does antimicrobial/antibacterial | preservative
The extract of Korean Pasque Flower that is mostly used for its antimicrobial and natural preservative activities. It usually comes to the formula combined with Zanthoxylum Piperitum and Usnea Barbata, as the three extracts make up a popular Korean natural preservative system trade named EURO-NApre.  [more]
what‑it‑does preservative | antimicrobial/antibacterial
The extract coming from the alpine lichen, Usnea Barbata. It is known for its excellent efficacy against gram-positive bacteria, meaning that it can serve as a natural preservative and deodorant agent.Its main biologically active component is usnic acid (a molecule produced only by lichens) that's not only an antibacterial agent, but also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and wound-h [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying
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 emollient | soothing
what‑it‑does antioxidant | moisturizer/humectant
If you are into the K-Beauty trend, you must have bumped into snail slime like a thousand times. Korean brands love the ingredient and tout it for its miraculous repair and hydration properties. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing 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 perfuming
The generic term for nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. It is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average. [more]