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Tom Ford Illuminating Primer

Illuminating Primer

The first step to flawless makeup application. This revolutionary hybrid product seamlessly blends the worlds of skincare and makeup by combining the tom ford infusing complex with skin retexturing ingredients. Hydrates to increase vitality while enhancing texture, and visibly brightening the skin.
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Highlights

#alcohol-free
Alcohol Free

Show all ingredients by function

Other Ingredients

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Water\Aqua\Eau solvent
Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) emollient, viscosity controlling goodie
Caprylic/Capric/Myristic/Stearic Triglyceride emollient
Methyl Trimethicone solvent
Di-C12-15 Alkyl Fumarate emollient, solvent
Dimethicone emollient 0, 1
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Steareth-2 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 2, 2
Stearyl Alcohol emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 2, 2
Propanediol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Glyceryl Stearate emollient, emulsifying 0, 1-2
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 superstar
Steareth-21 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract
Dipteryx Odorata Seed Extract
Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract antioxidant
Sapindus Mukurossi Fruit Extract surfactant/​cleansing goodie
Morinda Citrifolia Fruit Extract
Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil perfuming icky
Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract soothing, emollient goodie
Boswellia Serrata Extract soothing
Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Algae Extract emollient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil emollient, perfuming 0, 4 goodie
Pogostemon Cablin (Patchouli) Oil perfuming
Cananga Odorata Flower Oil perfuming icky
Amyris Balsamifera Bark Oil perfuming
Vetiveria Zizanoides Root Oil perfuming
Caffeine antioxidant, perfuming goodie
Lecithin emollient, emulsifying goodie
Glycine Soja (Soybean) Protein emulsifying
Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 cell-communicating ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Polysilicone-11
Trehalose moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Acetyl Glucosamine skin-identical ingredient, skin brightening goodie
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer viscosity controlling
Astrocaryum Murumuru Seed Butter emollient
Isohexadecane emollient, solvent
Sodium Dehydroacetate preservative
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Pentylene Glycol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Hexylene Glycol solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/​cleansing 0-1, 0-2
Polysorbate 80 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing 0, 0
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Decarboxy Carnosine Hcl
Carbomer viscosity controlling 0, 1
Sodium Hydroxide buffering
Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum viscosity controlling
Disodium EDTA chelating, viscosity controlling
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Limonene perfuming, solvent icky
Linalool perfuming icky
Iron Oxides (Ci 77491, Ci 77492, Ci 77499) colorant 0, 0
Yellow 5 (Ci 19140) colorant
Red 4 (Ci 14700) colorant

Tom Ford Illuminating Primer
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua;Water | 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. 

Also-called: Shea Butter;Butyrospermum Parkii Butter | What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling

Unless you live under a rock you must have heard about shea butter. It's probably the most hyped up natural butter in skincare today. It comes from the seeds of African Shea or Karite Trees and used as a magic moisturizer and emollient.

But it's not only a simple emollient, it regenerates and soothes the skin, protects it from external factors (such as UV rays or wind) and is also rich in antioxidants (among others vitamin A, E, F, quercetin and epigallocatechin gallate). If you are looking for rich emollient benefits + more, shea is hard to beat. 

What-it-does: emollient

A vegetable origin emollient that has a similar consistency to lard (solid at room temperature) but melts rapidly upon contact with the skin.  It's claimed to have great skin compatibility, penetrates easily, does not feel tacky or heavy on the skin and does not leave a greasy shine.

What-it-does: solvent

Methyl Trimethicone is a very light, volatile silicone (it evaporates from the skin rather than absorbs into it) that's similar to super commonly used Cyclopentasiloxane but it dries even faster when applied to the skin. 

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Probably the most common silicone of all. It is a polymer (created from repeating subunits) molecule and has different molecular weight and thus different viscosity versions from water-light to thick liquid.

As for skincare, it makes the skin silky smooth, creates a subtle gloss and forms a protective barrier (aka occlusive). Also, works well to fill in fine lines and wrinkles and give skin a plump look (of course that is only temporary, but still, it's nice). There are also scar treatment gels out there using dimethicone as their base ingredient. It helps to soften scars and increase their elasticity. 

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As for hair care, it is a non-volatile silicone meaning that it stays on the hair rather than evaporates from it and smoothes the hair like no other thing. Depending on your hair type, it can be a bit difficult to wash out and might cause some build-up (btw, this is not true to all silicones, only the non-volatile types). 

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. 

What-it-does: emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2

A waxy solid material that helps oil and water to mix together, aka emulsifier. It is derived from the fatty alcohol, stearyl alcohol by ethoxylating it and thus making the molecule a little water-soluble. This version has only a small amount of ethoxylation and thus the molecule is still largely oil soluble. It is often mixed with more water-soluble emulsifiers (such as Steareth-20) to create stable emulsion systems. 

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising, emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 2

A handy multi-tasker, white to light yellowish oil-loving wax that works very well in oil-in-water emulsions.  It makes your skin feel nice and smooth (emollient),  stabilizes oil-water mixes and gives body to them.

Oh, and one more thing: it's a so-called fatty alcohol - the good, emollient type of alcohol that is non-drying and non-irritating. It is often mixed with fellow fatty alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, and the mixture is called Cetearyl Alcohol in the ingredient list. 

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. 

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".

Glycerin - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol | 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 >>

A waxy solid material that helps oil and water to mix together, aka emulsifier. It is super similar to Steareth-20 with just a little more ethoxylation and thus a little more water solubility. It works very well when combined with mostly oil-soluble emulsifiers such as Steareth-2 and the two together can form exceptionally stable emulsions. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: antioxidant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Soapberry Fruit Extract | What-it-does: surfactant/cleansing

Sapindus Mukurossi is a nice, big tree living in tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia. Its fruit is commonly called soapberry or washnut - telltale names for its traditional use as a cleansing agent. It contains natural surfactants called saponins (10-11.5%) and forms a nice rich lather. It's great at cleansing the skin of oily secretion as well as washing the hair.

Apart from being a cleansing agent, Sapindus Mukurossi also has a bunch of other pharmacological effects: It's well-known for its insecticidal properties and is traditionally used for removing lice from the scalp. As for other skin-care relevant things, it has promising tyrosinase inhibition, free radical scavenging (antioxidant), antimicrobial and anticancer activity.  

Also-called: Noni Fruit Extract

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Bergamot Fruit Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

The essential oil coming from the fruit (probably the rind) of the bergamot orange.  It's a common top note in perfumes and contains (among others) fragrant compounds limonene (37%), linalyl acetate (30%) and linalool (8.8%). 

A well-known issue with bergamot oil (apart from the fragrance allergens) is that it contains phototoxic compounds called furanocoumarins, but more and more commonly furanocoumarin-free versions are used in cosmetic products. Still, if you have sensitive skin and prefer fragrance-free products, bergamot oil is not for you.

Also-called: Cucumber Fruit Extract | What-it-does: soothing, emollient

Cucumber is a nice, non-irritating plant extract that’s known for it’s soothing and emollient properties. It’s not something new to put it on our face: even Cleopatra used it to “preserve her skin”.

It’s commonly believed that cucumber is the answer to puffy eyes, but there is no research confirming this. What research does confirm is that it contains amino acids and organic acids that’s helpful for the skin’s acid mantle. There is also an enzyme (called shikimate dehydrigenase) in the pulp that’s shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Also-called: Indian Frankincense Extract | What-it-does: soothing

The extract coming from the Indian Frankincense, a medium-sized tree native to India. Mostly the gum-resin is used that is obtained from an incision made on the trunk of the tree.  It contains about 30-60% resin, 5-10% fragrant essential oil,  and the rest is made up of polysaccharides (mostly arabinose, galactose, xylose).

The biologically most active components of the resin are boswellic acids that have anti-inflammatory propertiesAccording to manufacturer info, the boswellic acids rich resin extract is also a potent inhibitor of elastase (an enzyme that breaks down proteins, including collagen) and has antiGAGase activity (protecting the important natural moisturizing factors, glycosaminoglycans in the skin) meaning that it can help the skin to stay firm for a longer time.

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The reason why we did not award Boswellia Serrata Extract a goodie status is that this INCI name is not clear enough on the type of the extract. It might be a boswellic acids rich, anti-inflammatory extract (that is a goodie) or it might be a fragrant essential oil rich extract used in perfumery or aromatherapy that can be a problem for sensitive skin types. 

Also-called: Apple Fruit Extract | What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

Apple needs no introduction as one of the most common fruits on planet Earth. It's not only a healthy fruit snack, it's also a goodie if you put in all over your face. 

It's loaded with proteins, starch, sugars, acids, vitamins and salts. The sugars (mainly fructose, glucose, sucrose) give apple fruit extract nice moisturizing and smoothing properties, while the acids (mainly malic  and gallic acid) give it mild exfoliant, skin brightening and antibacterial properties. 

Also-called: Skullcap Root Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antioxidant, antimicrobial/antibacterial, astringent, moisturizer/humectant

A traditional Chinese herbal medicine loaded with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids such as baicalin, baicalein, and wogonin.

If that would not be enough, Skullcap Root is also claimed to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties (also against P.acnes and Malassezia furfur) as well as some skin-brightening activity. A multi-functional skin-goodie.

Algae Extract - goodie

We have to admit that Algae Extract is not our favorite ingredient name. It does comply with the INCI standard (the official list about how ingredients on the product labels have to be called, the thing we help you to decode here :)), but there are about 20 000 different kinds of algae and an extract from them can be made in another 10 000 ways.

So, Algae Extract can be anything from La Mer's "Miracle Broth" to a simple brown algae extract that helps to smooth the hair. The official description in the Europiean Cosmetic Ingredient listing is this: "an extract of various species of Algae; Extract of the Seaweed, Fucus vesiculosus, Furaceae". Its official functions include being a humectant (helps skin to attract water), emollient (makes skin feel smooth and nice) and skin conditioner (a catchall phrase for saying it does something good for the skin).

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A 2015 research paper on the potential of uses of algae in cosmetics summarizes that algae are rich sources of biologically active metabolites including antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, alginates, polysaccharides, and carotenoids. Currently, algae extracts are mostly used as moisturizing and thickening agents, but algae also have great potential to combat skin aging, pigmentation as well as working as an antimicrobial.

We have also browsed through Prospector to see what manufacturers say about their algae. There is, for example, an algae extract trade-named Lanablue that comes from blue-green algae (green algae is rare, less than 1% of the total macroalgae in the world) and is claimed to have retinoid like effects (i.e. reduce wrinkles, smooth skin) but without the side effects (though it seems now that the INCI name of Lanablue was changed to Aphanizomenon Flos-Aquae Extract). 

There is another algae extract from another manufacturer that comes from red algae (much more common, about 40% of total macroalgae worldwide) and is claimed to have not only moisturizing but also skin smoothing and densifying effects. 

Here is a brown algae extract (the most common type, about 59% of macroalgae), also just called Algae Extract on the product label that is simply claimed to be a free radical scavenger, aka antioxidant. These were just three random examples from three manufacturers all called Algae extract even though they all come from different algae with different claims.

Anyhow, the point is this; there are tons of different types of Algae Extracts out there. Unless the brand tells you what they use, it's impossible to know for sure. The most probable scenario for the Alge Extract is that it works as a moisturizer and emollient and it might have some additional anti-aging properties.

Also-called: Coconut Oil | What-it-does: emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 4

There is definitely some craze going on for coconut oil both in the healthy eating space (often claimed to be the healthiest oil to cook with but this is a topic for another site) and in the skin and hair care space. 

We will talk here about the latter two and see why we might want to smear it all over ourselves. Chemically speaking, coconut oil has a unique fatty acid profile. Unlike many plant oils that mostly contain unsaturated fatty acids (fatty acids with double bonds and kinky structure such as linoleic or oleic), coconut oil is mostly saturated (fatty acids with single bonds only) and its most important fatty acid is Lauric Acid (about 50%).  Saturated fatty acids have a linear structure that can stack nice and tight and hence they are normally solid at room temperature. Coconut oil melts around 25 °C so it is solid in the tub but melts on contact with the skin. 

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The saturated nature of coconut oil also means that it is a heavy-duty-oil ideal for dry skin types. A double-blind research confirmed that extra virgin coconut oil is as effective in treating xerosis (aka very dry skin) as mineral oil. Another study found that coconut oil is more effective than mineral oil in treating mild to moderate atopic dermatitis (aka eczema) in children.

So when it comes to dry skin, coconut oil is a goodie, no question there. The question is if it is good or bad for acne-prone skin. Its main fatty acid, Lauric Acid has some research showing that it is a promising ingredient against evil acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes but at the same time, both Lauric Acid and coconut oil have a very high comedogenic rating (4 out of 5). Though comedogenic ratings are not very reliable, anecdotal evidence (i.e. people commenting in forums) shows that people have mixed experiences. While some claim that it worked wonders on their acne others say that it gave them serious blackheads and zits. Try it at your own risk. 

As for hair care, coconut oil has pretty solid research showing that it can penetrate into the hair very well (better than mineral oil and sunflower oil) and it can prevent hair protein loss as well as combing damage.  If you have problems with damaged hair, split ends, coconut oil is worth trying as a pre- or/and post-wash treatment.  Labmuffin has an awesome blogpost explaining in more detail why coconut oil is good for your hair.

A couple of other things worth mentioning: coconut oil might help with wound healing (promising animal study), it has some antifungal activity (against dermatophytes that cause the thing known as ringworm) and it also works as an insect repellent against black flies. 

Overall, coconut oil is definitely a goodie for the hair and dry skin. If that warrants for the magic oil status it enjoys, we don't know. 

Also-called: Patchouli Essential Oil;Pogostemon Cablin Leaf Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

If you are into perfumes, you must know patchouli as an important essential oil in the perfume industry. It boasts a pleasant woody, earthy and camphoraceous scent and has fixative properties (makes the fragrance long-lasting).

Its composition is pretty unique: it does not contain any of the EU's 26 most common fragrance allergens, but its most important components are patchoulol (30%) and alpha-patchoulene (6%) which are responsible for its aroma and antifungal properties.

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Among essential oils, the allergen profile of patchouli counts as pretty good (much better than ylang-ylang or lemongrass oils), but if your skin is sensitive, it's still best to avoid it.

Also-called: Ylang Ylang Essential Oil | What-it-does: perfuming

Sweet, exotic and floral, it’ no surprise that Ylang Ylang is a popular essential oil. It is coming from the yellow, fragrant flowers of the Cananga tree native to tropical Asia and, similar to other essential oils, it is a chemically complex mixture with several pros and cons. 

Unfortunately, these are a bit tricky to pin down as the composition varies largely depending on where it is sourced, how the oil is extracted and the grade of it that is used in the product, but we’ll do our best!

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Let’s start with the easy stuff.  The main components are fragrant molecules, including super common linalool (1-19%), benzyl benzoate (2-10%) and several others adding up to a max amount of 37.6% of EU sensitizers. The most expensive Extra grade is the most fragrant (has more benzyl acetate and cresyl methyl ether) and is used in high-end perfumes, while the First and Second grades are less fragrant, and used mainly in cosmetics.   

Other than smelling nice and making cosmetic formulas also smell nice, Ylang Ylang might have some antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits and also works as an insect repellent. Its nice smell is also commonly known as being relaxing and calming (also backed up by a few recent studies), but it is an aromatherapy use case (when inhaled) so this probably does not count much skincare-wise. 

On the other hand, the nice smell also means allergen fragrant components and 37.6% of EU sensitizers counts as quite high and the oil is considered to have high skin sensitization potential. It is a good idea to avoid if your skin is sensitive.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: perfuming

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Caffeine - goodie
What-it-does: antioxidant, perfuming

Hello, our favorite molecule that helps us wake up in the morning and then keeps us going through the day. As a super well-known stimulant from coffee, tea and plenty of other soft drinks, Caffeine needs no introduction. So we will skip right to the part where we talk about what the hell it does in so-so many cosmetic products.

Looking at the research, we were surprised to find how versatile Caffeine is. It is a small, water-loving molecule with pretty good skin penetration abilties. Once in the skin, it has nice antioxidant properties, meaning that it reduces the formation of evil free radicals and it might even be useful in preventing UV-induced skin cancers. 

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A well-known thing about Caffeine is that it improves the microcirculation of the blood vessels. Though conventional wisdom and anecdotal evidence says that this property is helpful for dark under-eye circles and puffy eyes, we have to mention that the double-blind research we have found about a 3% caffeine gel concluded that "the overall efficacy of the selected caffeine gel in reducing puffy eyes was not significantly different from that of its gel base."  But you know, the proof is in the pudding.

Another thing Caffeine is used for in body care products is its anti-cellulite effects. In theory, it can speed up the lipolysis process (the "fat burning"  by our cells) and stimulate the draining lymph system that might lead to the improvement of cellulite. But here again, the evidence that it actually makes a measurable, let alone visible,  improvement on actual human beings is limited (we could find only some animal skin studies or caffeine being combined with other actives). 

Last, but not least, we have to write about caffeine and hair growth. The theory is that it can inhibit the activity of the 5-α-reductase enzyme that plays an important role in hair loss and allows a renewed growth phase of the hair. We have found some recent and promising research to back this up. A 2017 study compared a 0.2% caffeine liquid with a 5% Minoxidil  (an FDA approved active to treat baldness) solution and found that  "a caffeine-based topical liquid should be considered as not inferior to minoxidil 5% solution in men with androgenetic alopecia", or English translation means that the caffeine liquid was pretty much as good as the FDA-approved Minoxidil stuff. Not bad!

Overall, we think that caffeine is a very versatile and biologically active ingredient. Even though some of its effects are more hyped up than backed up, it is still a nice to have on many ingredient lists. 

Lecithin - goodie
What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A very common ingredient that can be found in all cell membranes. In cosmetics it's quite the multi-tasker: it's an emollient and water-binding ingredient but it's also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Argireline, Acetyl Hexapeptide-3 | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient, moisturizer/humectant

If you see a cosmetic product that claims that it has "Botox-like effect" then two things are almost certain: one, the product overpromises and two, it contains Argireline. 

So this one is the famous peptide that's marketed by its manufacturer as the "Botox in a jar". The basis for this claim is that it targets the same wrinkle forming mechanism (wrinkles caused by facial muscle movement) as Botox, but the way it works is very different. In addition, the extent to which it can prevent muscles from contracting (and to smooth wrinkles) is very different (otherwise why would anyone use still Botox?). 

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The manufacturer did several studies to prove that Argireline really works and it does (just not as well as Botox). In-vivo (made on real people) tests showed that using 10% Argireline solution around the eyes for 15 days decreased wrinkles depth by 17%. A Spanish University also did some research and found that Argireline increased the level of skin moisturization and decreased both the depth and width of wrinkles "significantly". 

This means, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 does have some ability to smooth wrinkles (but not as well as Botox - sorry, if we sound like a broken record). Also, we have to agree with TruthInAging, that it's not a collagen builder and not a preventer of structural aging (think vitamin C, AHAs or retinol); it's just a quick fix. If you are looking for one, this could be your thing. If you are more of a "let's treat this aging thing properly" type, then it's probably not your thing.

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.

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

A type of sugar that has water-binding properties and helps to keep your skin hydrated

An amino acid sugar that can be found in the skin and does there good and important things. One of them is that it's a precursor for the biosynthesis of superstar moisturizer, hyaluronic acid. So acetyl glucosamine itself is also an important skin-identical ingredient and natural moisturizing factor.

But that is not all, acetyl glucosamine has two other great properties proved by double-blind clinical trials. First, it's a promising ingredient against wrinkles:  2% can improve wrinkles, particularly in the eye area.

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Second, the same amount can also fade - always stubborn - brown spots. (Do not expect magic, though - the photos from the study show the difference after 8 weeks of daily use. The difference is visible, but not that big. It's always good to have realistic expectations. :))  Combined with skincare superstar niacinamide the duo is synergistic and is more effective at improving hyperpigmentation, so if you are after the skin-lightening benefit look out for products that contain both. 

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.

A kind of polymer (big molecule from repeated subunits) that helps to thicken up and stabilize products. It usually comes to the formula as part of some thickener complex. For example, coupled with isohexadecane and polysorbate 80, the trio helps to create soft and supple textures

What-it-does: emollient

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient, solvent

A light, velvety, unique skin feel liquid that is a good solvent and also makes the skin feel nice and smooth (aka emollient). It's often used in makeup products mixed with silicones to give shine and slip to the product. It's also great for cleansing dirt and oil from the skin as well as for taking off make-up.

Also-called: Geogard 111S | What-it-does: preservative

A helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi and has only milder effect against bacteria. 

It is Ecocert and Cosmos approved, and is popular in natural products. 

Also-called: Vitamin E Acetate | What-it-does: antioxidant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It’s the most commonly used version of pure vitamin E in cosmetics. You can read all about the pure form here. This one is the so-called esterified version. 

According to famous dermatologist, Leslie Baumann while tocopheryl acetate is more stable and has a longer shelf life, it’s also more poorly absorbed by the skin and may not have the same awesome photoprotective effects as pure Vit E. 

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: solvent, emulsifying, perfuming, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 0-1 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

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

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

A common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier. 

The number at the end refers to the oil-loving part and the bigger the number  the more emulsifying power it has. 20 is a weak emulsifier, rather called solubilizer used commonly in toners while 60 and 80 are more common in serums and creams.

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).

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling, emulsion stabilising | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

A big molecule created from repeated subunits (a polymer of acrylic acid) that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula.  It usually has to be neutralized with a base (such as sodium hydroxide) for the thickening to occur and it creates viscous, clear gels that also feel nice and non-tacky on the skin. No wonder, it is a very popular and common ingredient. Typically used at 1% or less in most formulations.

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.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

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. It is typically used in tiny amounts, around 0.1% or even less.

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.

Limonene - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, solvent, deodorant

A super common and cheap fragrance ingredient. It's in many plants, e.g. rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and it's the main component (about 50-90%) of the peel oil of citrus fruits.

It does smell nice but the problem is that it oxidizes on air exposure and the resulting stuff is not good for the skin. Oxidized limonene can cause allergic contact dermatitis and counts as a frequent skin sensitizer

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Limonene's nr1 function is definitely being a fragrance component, but there are several studies showing that it's also a penetration enhancer, mainly for oil-loving components.

All in all, limonene has some pros and cons, but - especially if your skin is sensitive - the cons probably outweigh the pros.  

Linalool - icky
What-it-does: perfuming, deodorant

Linalool is a super common fragrance ingredient. It’s kind of everywhere - both in plants and in cosmetic products. It’s part of 200 natural oils including lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, jasmine, geranium and it can be found in 90-95% of prestige perfumes on the market. 

The problem with linalool is, that just like limonene it oxidises on air exposure and becomes allergenic. That’s why a product containing linalool that has been opened for several months is more likely to be allergenic than a fresh one.

Expand to read more

A study made in the UK with 483 people tested the allergic reaction to 3% oxidised linalool and 2.3% had positive test results. 

Also-called: Ci 77491/77492/77499 | What-it-does: colorant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A bit of a sloppy ingredient name as it covers not one but three pigments: red, yellow and black iron oxide.

The trio is invaluable for "skin-colored" makeup products  (think your foundation and pressed powder) as blending these three shades carefully can produce almost any shade of natural-looking flesh tones. 

Also-called: Tartrazine, Yellow 5;Ci 19140 | What-it-does: colorant

Ci 19140  or Tartrazine is a super common colorant in skincare, makeup, medicine & food. It’s a synthetic lemon yellow that's used alone or mixed with other colors for special shades. 

FDA says it's possible, but rare, to have an allergic-type reaction to a color additive. As an example, it mentions that Ci 19140 may cause itching and hives in some people but the colorant is always labeled so that you can avoid it if you are sensitive. 

Also-called: Ci 14700 | What-it-does: colorant

A common colorant that gives products a nice red color.

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