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SK-II Atmosphere Airy Light UV Cream SPF50+/PA++++

Atmosphere Airy Light UV Cream SPF50+/PA++++

This sunscreen improves radiance by protecting your skin against dullness caused by environmental aggressors and reduces the appearance of spots due to damage caused by UV.
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SK-II Atmosphere Airy Light UV Cream SPF50+/PA++++
Ingredients explained

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. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | 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. 

Also-called: Pitera | What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

A famous water-like, yeast-derived ingredient that the whole SKII brand is built on. As legend has it, SKII scientists in the 1970's discovered by chance that aged Japanese sake brewers have amazingly soft and youthful hands in contrast to their aged and wrinkled faces. They concluded that the secret must lie in the yeast that the brewers’ hands were in constant contact with during the sake fermentation process. 

So Pitera - obtained by a fermentation process of a certain yeast belonging to the genus Galactomyces -  was discovered as an anti-aging, skin-nourishing magic liquidThe company claims that the clear, water-like liquid is loaded with good-for-the-skin stuff and is rich in vitamins, amino acids, minerals and organic acids.  

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As for the science behind Pitera, SKII parent company P&G did an in-vitro (made in the lab) study that confirmed that Pitera-containing moisturizers do indeed help to protect the skin against damage. More specifically, they found that Pitera has antioxidant effects and increases hyaluronan production in epidermal cells. And more hyaluronic acid in the skin means better hydrated, plumper, healthier skin.

If that would not be enough, there is also a 2014 study showing that Pitera might be able to help with skin pigmentation and a 2015 study finding that Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate can activate aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) that's important in epidermal homeostasis by upregulating epidermal barrier proteins. English translation equals: Pitera might be able to help with a healthy skin barrier

All in all, both anecdotal and scientific evidence show that Pitera is a skin goodie so if you are into essences and yeast-derived fermentations, it's definitely worth a try. 

Also-called: Octinoxate, Octyl Methoxycinnamate | What-it-does: sunscreen | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A clear, oil-soluble, "cosmetically-elegant" liquid that is the most commonly used chemical sunscreen. It absorbs UVB radiation (at wavelengths: 280-320 nm) with a peak protection at 310nm. 

It only protects against UVB and not UVA rays (the 320-400 nm range) – so always choose products that contain other sunscreens too. It is not very stable either, when exposed to sunlight, it kind of breaks down and loses its effectiveness (not instantly, but over time - it loses 10% of its SPF protection ability within 35 mins). To make it more stable it can be - and should be - combined with other sunscreen agents to give stable and broad-spectrum protection (the new generation sunscreen agent, Tinosorb S is a particularly good one for that).

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Regarding safety, there are also some concerns around Octinoxate. In vitro (made in the lab not on real people) and animal studies have shown that it may produce hormonal (estrogen-like) effects. Do not panic, the studies were not conducted under real life conditions on real human people, so it is probably over-cautious to avoid Octinoxate altogether. However, if you are pregnant or a small child (under 2 yrs. old), choose a physical (zinc oxide/titanium dioxide) or new-generation Tinosorb based sunscreen, just to be on the super-safe side. :) 

Overall, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is an old-school chemical sunscreen agent. There are plenty of better options for sun protection today, but it is considered "safe as used" (and sunscreens are pretty well regulated) and it is available worldwide (can be used up to 10% in the EU and up to 7.5% in the US).

What-it-does: sunscreen

An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects skin in the UVB and somewhat in the UVA II range with a peak absorption of 304 nm. Its protection is not strong enough on its own but it is quite photostable (looses 10% of SPF protection in 95 mins) and is often used to stabilize other photo-unstable UV-filters, for example, Avobenzone. It is also often used to improve the water resistance of the products. 

Octocrylene's safety profile is generally quite good, though a review study in Contact Dermatitis reports an "increasing number of patients with photo contact allergy to octocrylene." Mainly adults with ketoprofen-sensitivity and children with sensitive skin are affected, so if you have a small kid, it is probably better to use octocrylene-free sunscreens.

Also-called: Octyl Salicylate, Octisalate | What-it-does: sunscreen | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A colorless to light yellowish oily liquid that works as a UVB (280-320nm) sunscreen filter with a peak absorbance at 306 nm. It's not a strong filter in itself, it's always used in combination with other sunscreen agents to further enhance the SPF and to solubilize other solid UV filters.

It has a good safety profile and is allowed to be used at a max concentration of 5% both in the US and in Europe (10% is allowed in Japan).

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 (i.e. stays on the skin) dimethicone as the two together form a water-resistant, breathable protective barrier on the skin without a negative tacky feel.

Also-called: Ensulizole | What-it-does: sunscreen

A chemical sunscreen agent that gives strong protection in the UVB (280-320nm) range with its peak protection at 306 nm. Its special property is that unlike most sunscreen agents, it is not oil but water soluble, so it is ideal to create light, oily skin compatible formulas.  It is also fairly photostable and can be used to protect other less stable UV filters (like famous UVA blocker, avobenzone) in the formula. It is approved worldwide and can be used up to 4% in the US and up to 8% in the EU.

What-it-does: sunscreen, colorant

Titanium Dioxide is one of the two members of the elite sunscreen group called physical sunscreens (or inorganic sunscreens if you’re a science geek and want to be precise).

Traditionally, UV-filters are categorized as either chemical or physical. The big difference is supposed to be that chemical agents absorb UV-light while physical agents reflect it like a bunch of mini umbrellas on top of the skin. While this categorization is easy and logical it turns out it's not true. A recent, 2016 study shows that inorganic sunscreens work mostly by absorption, just like chemical filters, and only a little bit by reflection (they do reflect the light in the visible spectrum, but mostly absorb in the UV spectrum).

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Anyway, it doesn't matter if it reflects or absorbs, Titanium Dioxide is a pretty awesome sunscreen agent for two main reasons: it gives a nice broad spectrum coverage and it's highly stable. Its protection is very good between 290 - 350 nm (UVB and UVA II range), and less good at 350-400 nm (UVA I) range. Regular sized Titanium Dioxide also has a great safety profile, it's non-irritating and is pretty much free from any health concerns (like estrogenic effect worries with some chemical filters).

The disadvantage of Titanium Dioxide is that it's not cosmetically elegant, meaning it's a white, "unspreadable" mess. Sunscreens containing Titanium Dioxide are often hard to spread on the skin and they leave a disturbing whitish tint. The cosmetic industry is, of course, really trying to solve this problem and the best solution so far is using nanoparticles. The itsy-bitsy Nano-sized particles improve both spreadability and reduce the whitish tint a lot, but unfortunately, it also introduces new health concerns. 

The main concern with nanoparticles is that they are so tiny that they are absorbed into the skin more than we want them (ideally sunscreen should remain on the surface of the skin). Once absorbed they might form unwanted complexes with proteins and they might promote the formation of evil free radicals. But do not panic, these are concerns under investigation. A 2009 review article about the safety of nanoparticles summarizes this, "to date, in-vivo and in-vitro studies have not demonstrated percutaneous penetration of nanosized particles in titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens". The English translation is, so far it looks like sunscreens with nanoparticles do stay on the surface of the skin where they should be.  

All in all, Titanium Dioxide is a famous sunscreen agent and for good reason, it gives broad spectrum UV protection (best at UVB and UVA II), it's highly stable, and it has a good safety profile. It's definitely one of the best UV-filter agents we have today, especially in the US where new-generation Tinosorb filters are not (yet) approved. 

Niacinamide - superstar
Also-called: vitamin B3, nicotinamide | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, skin brightening, anti-acne, moisturizer/humectant
  • A multi-functional skincare superstar with several proven benefits for the skin
  • Great anti-aging, wrinkle smoothing ingredient used at 4-5% concentration
  • Fades brown spots alone or in combination with amino sugar, acetyl glucosamine
  • Increases ceramide synthesis that results in a stronger, healthier skin barrier and better skin hydration
  • Can help to improve several skin conditions including acne, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Niacinamide here >>

What-it-does: absorbent/mattifier

Porous spherical microbeads (tiny little balls) that can give an elegant silky texture to the products. They are also used to scatter light to reduce the look of fine lines on the skin, as well as to absorb excess oil and give a matt finish. 

What-it-does: emulsifying | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 3

An oily kind of ingredient that can magically blend with water all by itself. This is called self-emulsifying and SE in its name stands for that.

The difference between "normal" Glyceryl Stearate and this guy is that the SE grade contains a small amount of water-loving soap molecules, such as sodium stearate. This increases Glyceryl Stearate's affinity for water and gives it stronger emulsifying abilities.    

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Other than that, it’s a nice emollient that gives a smooth and soft appearance to the skin.

You can read some more at Glyceryl Stearate >>

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-2

A super common, waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together, gives body to creams and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth.

Chemically speaking, it is the attachment of a glycerin molecule to the fatty acid called stearic acid. It can be produced from most vegetable oils (in oils three fatty acid molecules are attached to glycerin instead of just one like here) in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.

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It also occurs naturally in our body and is used as a food additive. As cosmetic chemist Colins writes it, "its safety really is beyond any doubt".

Also-called: Tinosorb S, Bemotrizinol | What-it-does: sunscreen

Its INCI name is a bit of a mouthful, but Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine is worth recognizing it as it is one of the best sunscreen agents known today. Unfortunately, it's not FDA-approved so you will not find it in sunscreens coming from the US (not because it's not good, but because US regulations make it impossible for newer sunscreen agents to get approved), but it is widely available in other parts of the world like Europe, Australia or Asia. 

It is a broad-spectrum (covers the whole UVB and UVA range, 280-400 nm) chemical sunscreen agent with peak protections at about 310 and 345 nm and unlike older UV filters, it's very photostable. It hardly deteriorates in the presence of UV light and it's also useful in stabilizing other less stable sunscreen agents, like the famous UVA protector, avobenzone.

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It's a new generation sunscreen agent that was specifically designed for high SPF and good UVA protection and based on a 2007 study that compared 18 sunscreen agents available in the EU it really had the best SPF protection (they used the highest concentration allowed by EU regulations from each 18 sunscreens and Trinosorb S gave an SPF 20 all by itself). 

It is an oil-soluble, slightly yellowish powder that is not absorbed into the skin too much. This is good news for a sunscreen agent as it needs to be on the surface of the skin to do its job properly. Regarding Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine side effects, we have good news here as well: it has a great safety profile and unlike a couple of other chemical sunscreens, Trinosorb S (and M) does not show estrogenic activity. 

Overall, we think Trinosorb S is one of the best sunscreen options available today.

Are you into sunscreen agents? We have shiny explanations (along with product lists) about others as well:

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising, surfactant/cleansing | 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: viscosity controlling

A big polymer molecule that has a bunch of different versions and thus different uses. It can act as a film former,  as thickening agent, or it can increase the water-resistance in sunscreens. It is also used to entrap pigments/inorganic sunscreens within a micron size matrix for even coverage and easy application.

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.

A superabsorbent polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) that has crazy water binding abilities. Sometimes its referred to as "waterlock" and can absorb 100 to 1000 times its mass in water. 

As for its use in cosmetic products, it is a handy multi-tasker that thickens up water-based formulas and also has some emulsifying and emulsion stabilizing properties. 

Also-called: lye | What-it-does: buffering

The unfancy name for it is lye. It’s a solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amounts to adjust the pH of the product and make it just right. 

For example, in case of AHA or BHA exfoliants, the right pH is super-duper important, and pH adjusters like sodium hydroxide are needed.  

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BTW, lye is not something new. It was already used by ancient Egyptians to help oil and fat magically turn into something else. Can you guess what? Yes, it’s soap. It still often shows up in the ingredient list of soaps and other cleansers.

Sodium hydroxide in itself is a potent skin irritant, but once it's reacted (as it is usually in skin care products, like exfoliants) it is totally harmless.

Also-called: Aluminum Oxide, Al2O3 | What-it-does: viscosity controlling, absorbent/mattifier, abrasive/scrub

A multi-functional helper ingredient that's used mainly as a pigment carrier.  The pigment can be an inorganic sunscreen (such as titanium dioxide) or a colorant that is blended with alumina platelets and then often coated with some kind of silicone (such as triethoxycaprylylsilane). This special treatment enables pigments to be evenly dispersed in the formula and to be spread out easily and evenly upon application. It is super useful both for mineral sunscreens as well as for makeup products. 

Other than that, alumina can also be used as an absorbent (sometimes combined with the mattifying powder called polymethylsilsesquioxane), a viscosity controlling or an opacifying (reduces the transparency of the formula) agent.

What-it-does: preservative | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

The most common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon

Apart from the general controversy around parabens (we wrote about it more here), there is a 2006 in-vitro (made in the lab not on real people) research about methylparaben (MP) showing that when exposed to sunlight, MP treated skin cells suffered more harm than non-MP treated skin cells. The study was not done with real people on real skin but still - using a good sunscreen next to MP containing products is a good idea. (Well, in fact using a sunscreen is always a good idea. :))

What-it-does: preservative

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.

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). 

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!). 

What-it-does: soothing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A very common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon.

A white powdery thing that's the major component of glass and sand. In cosmetics, it’s often in products that are supposed to keep your skin matte as it has great oil-absorbing abilities. It’s also used as a helper ingredient to thicken up products or suspend insoluble particles. 

Tocopherol - goodie
Also-called: Vitamin E | 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 >>

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: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: abrasive/scrub

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
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]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A famous water-like, yeast-derived ingredient that the whole SKII brand is built on. It probably helps with a healthy skin barrier, hydrates and has some antioxidant and skin-brightening effect. [more]
what‑it‑does sunscreen
irritancy, com. 0, 0
Octinoxate - an old-school chemical sunscreen that absorbs UVB radiation (wavelengths: 280-320 nm). Not photostable and does not protect against UVA. [more]
what‑it‑does sunscreen
An oil-soluble chemical sunscreen agent that protects skin in the UVB and somewhat in the UVA II range with a peak absorption of 304 nm. [more]
what‑it‑does sunscreen
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A colorless to light yellowish oily liquid that works as a UVB (280-320nm) sunscreen filter with a peak absorbance at 306 nm. It's not a strong filter in itself, it's always used in combination with other sunscreen agents. [more]
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]
what‑it‑does sunscreen
A chemical sunscreen agent that gives a strong protection in the UVB (280-320nm) range with a peak protection at 306 nm. [more]
what‑it‑does sunscreen | colorant
A physical/inorganic sunscreen with pretty broad spectrum (UVB and UVA II, less good at UVA I) protection and good stability. Might leave some whitish tint on the skin, though. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient | skin brightening | anti-acne | moisturizer/humectant
A multi-functional skincare superstar that has clinically proven anti-aging, skin lightening, anti-inflammatory and barrier repair properties. [more]
Porous spherical microbeads that can give an elegant silky texture to the products. They are also used to scatter light to reduce the look of fine lines on the skin, as well as to absorb excess oil and give a matt finish. 
what‑it‑does emulsifying
irritancy, com. 2, 3
An oily ingredient that can magically blend with water all by itself (called Self Emulsifying). Other than that it’s a nice emollient that gives a smooth and soft appearance to the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 1-2
Waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. [more]
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Tinosorb S - a new generation, broad-spectrum and very photostable sunscreen agent with great safety profile. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying | viscosity controlling | surfactant/cleansing
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).
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A big polymer molecule that has a bunch of different versions and thus different uses. It can act as a film former,  as a thickening agent, or it can increase the water-resistance in sunscreens. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emollient
A big polymer (a molecule from repeated subunits) with crazy water binding abilities. Used as a thickening and emulsion stabilizing agent. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
Lye - A solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amount to adjust the pH of the product.  [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | abrasive/scrub
A multi-functional helper ingredient that's used mainly as a pigment carrier helping pigments in mineral sunscreens and color cosmetics to flow freely and evenly and not to clump. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
irritancy, com. 0, 0
The most common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon.  Apart from the general controversy around parabens (we wrote about it more here), there is a 2006 in-vitro (made in the lab not on real people) research about methylparaben (MP) sho [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi. Has to be combined with other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [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]
what‑it‑does soothing
what‑it‑does preservative | perfuming
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A very common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A white powdery thing that can mattify the skin and thicken up cosmetic products. [more]
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 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 moisturizer/humectant
what‑it‑does abrasive/scrub