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U Beauty The Super Smart Hydrator

The Super Smart Hydrator

A rich, intuitive cream that boosts barrier function and adds major moisture.
Uploaded by: ivoryemily on

Highlights

#alcohol-free #fragrance & essentialoil-free
Alcohol Free
Fragrance and Essential Oil Free

Other Ingredients

Skim through

Ingredient name what-it-does irr., com. ID-Rating
Aqua (Water) solvent
Squalane skin-identical ingredient, emollient 0, 1 goodie
Octyldodecanol emollient, perfuming
Pentylene Glycol solvent, moisturizer/​humectant
Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) emollient, viscosity controlling goodie
Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil antioxidant, emollient goodie
Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil antioxidant, emollient 0, 0-3 goodie
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil antioxidant, emollient goodie
Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil emollient 0, 1-3 goodie
Ethylhexyl Stearate emollient
Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Sorbitol moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0
Methyldihydrojasmonate
Magnesium Sulfate viscosity controlling
Passiflora Incarnata Seed Oil
Panthenol soothing, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Tocopherol antioxidant 0-3, 0-3 goodie
Acacia Decurrens/Jojoba/Sunflower Seed Wax/Polyglyceryl-3 Esters emollient
Tocopheryl Acetate antioxidant 0, 0
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate antioxidant, anti-acne goodie
Superoxide Dismutase antioxidant goodie
Titanium Dioxide sunscreen, colorant goodie
Palmitoyl Tripeptide-8 soothing goodie
Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer skin-identical ingredient, antioxidant, moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Caprylyl Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, emollient
Mandelic Acid exfoliant, antimicrobial/​antibacterial goodie
N-Prolyl Palmitoyl Tripeptide-56 Acetate
Acetyl Hexapeptide-37
Polyglyceryl-4 Diisostearate/Polyhydroxystearate/Sebacate emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Diisostearoyl Polyglyceryl-3 Dimer Dilinoleate emollient
Polyglyceryl-3 Oleate emulsifying
Cera Alba (Beeswax) emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsifying, perfuming 0, 0-2
Linoleic Acid skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/​cleansing goodie
Oleic Acid emollient, emulsifying
Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate moisturizer/​humectant goodie
Sodium Hyaluronate skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant 0, 0 goodie
Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate moisturizer/​humectant
Linolenic Acid skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/​cleansing, perfuming goodie
Lactobionic Acid exfoliant, buffering superstar
Glycolic Acid exfoliant, buffering superstar
Glutathione
Palmitic Acid skin-identical ingredient, emollient, emulsifying 0, 2
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride emollient
Xanthan Gum viscosity controlling
Mica colorant
Stearic Acid emollient, viscosity controlling 0, 2-3
Butylene Glycol moisturizer/​humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling 0, 1
Disteardimonium Hectorite viscosity controlling
Dextran viscosity controlling
Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid soothing goodie
Propylene Carbonate solvent, viscosity controlling
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Phenethyl Alcohol

U Beauty The Super Smart Hydrator
Ingredients explained

Also-called: 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. 

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. 

Squalane - goodie
What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

It seems to us that squalane is in fashion and there is a reason for it. Chemically speaking, it is a saturated  (no double bonds) hydrocarbon (a molecule consisting only of carbon and hydrogen), meaning that it's a nice and stable oily liquid with a long shelf life. 

It occurs naturally in certain fish and plant oils (e.g. olive), and in the sebum (the oily stuff our skin produces) of the human skin. As f.c. puts it in his awesome blog post, squalane's main things are "emolliency, surface occlusion, and TEWL prevention all with extreme cosmetic elegance". In other words, it's a superb moisturizer that makes your skin nice and smooth, without being heavy or greasy.

Another advantage of squalane is that it is pretty much compatible with all skin types and skin conditions. It is excellent for acne-prone skin and safe to use even if you have fungi-related skin issues, like seborrhea or fungal acne.

The unsaturated (with double bonds) and hence less stable version of Squalane is Squalene, you can read about it here >> 

What-it-does: emollient, perfuming

A clear, slightly yellow, odorless oil  that's a very common, medium-spreading emollient. It makes the skin feel nice and smooth and works in a wide range of formulas.

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. 

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. 

Also-called: Argan 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: Avocado Oil, Persea Americana Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-3

The oil coming from the pulp of one of the most nutritious fruits in the world, the avocado. It's loaded with the nourishing and moisturizing fatty acid, oleic (70%) and contains some others including palmitic (10%) and linoleic acid (8%). It also contains a bunch of minerals and vitamins A, E and D

Avocado oil has extraordinary skin penetration abilities and can nourish different skin layers. It's a very rich, highly moisturizing emollient oil that makes the skin smooth and nourished. Thanks to its vitamin E content it also has some antioxidant properties. As a high-oleic plant oil, it is recommended for dry skin

Also-called: Grape Seed Oil | What-it-does: antioxidant, emollient

A goodie plant oil coming from the polyphenol-rich seeds of the grape. It's a light emollient oil that makes your skin feel smooth and nice and also contains a bunch of good-for-the-skin stuff. It's a great source of antioxidant polyphenols, barrier repair fatty acid linoleic acid (about 55-77%, while oleic acid is about 12-27%) and antioxidant, skin-protectant vitamin E

Also-called: Sweet Almond Oil | What-it-does: emollient | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1-3

The emollient plant oil that comes from almonds. Similar to other plant oils, it is loaded with skin-nourishing fatty acids (oleic acid - 55-86% and linoleic acid 7-35%) and contains several other skin goodies such as antioxidant vitamin E and vitamin B versions. 

It's a nice, basic oil that is often used due to its great smoothing, softening and moisturizing properties. It's also particularly good at treating dry brittle nails (source).

What-it-does: emollient

A clear, almost colorless (or slightly yellowish) oily liquid (an ester to be precise) that's used as a medium spreading emollient. It gives skin a nice and smooth after-feel and it's very good at reducing oiliness or greasiness coming from other heavier oils in the formula.

Also-called: Cetyl Dimethicone Copolyol | What-it-does: emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing

A silicone emulsifier that helps water and silicone oils to mix nicely together. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It's a sweet tasting sugar substitute that helps your skin to hold onto water when used in cosmetic products. It also helps to thicken up products and give them a bit more slip. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Epsom salt | What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A helper ingredient that is used as a bulking and viscosity controlling agent. It is also an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, where water droplets are dispersed in the continuous oil phase and not the other way round.

It can also be used as a heat generating agent in water-less formulas as it has an instant heat-generating chemical reaction with water. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Panthenol - goodie
Also-called: Pro-Vitamin B5 | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

An easy-to-formulate, commonly used, nice to have ingredient that’s also called pro-vitamin B5. As you might guess from the “pro” part, it’s a precursor to vitamin B5 (whose fancy name is pantothenic acid). 

Its main job in skincare products is to moisturise the skin. It’s a humectant meaning that it can help the skin to attract water and then hold onto it. There is also research showing that panthenol can help our skin to produce more lovely lipids that are important for a strong and healthy skin barrier. 

Another great thing about panthenol is that it has anti-inflammatory and skin protecting abilities. A study shows that it can reduce the irritation caused by less-nice other ingredients (e.g. fragrance, preservatives or chemical sunscreens) in the product.

Research also shows that it might be useful for wound healing as it promotes fibroblast (nice type of cells in our skin that produce skin-firming collagen) proliferation. 

If that wasn’t enough panthenol is also useful in nail and hair care products. A study shows that a nail treatment liquide with 2% panthenol could effectively get into the nail and significantly increase the hydration of it.

As for the hair the hydration effect is also true there. Panthenol might make your hair softer, more elastic and helps to comb your hair more easily. 

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 >>

Also-called: Acticire;Acacia Decurrens/Jojoba/ Sunflower Seed Wax Polyglyceryl-3 Esters | What-it-does: emollient, emulsion stabilising

A 100% plant-based moisturizing and texturizing agent that is based on the transesterification of Sunflower, Jojoba, and Mimosa waxes. The resulting material is a soft, smooth butter halfway between liquid emollients and solid butters. 

It has similar emollient and moisturizing properties to lanolin, however, it is much more compatible with water in oil emulsions. 5% of the wax ester makes it possible to include up to 15% water into traditionally water-free formulas such as lip balms or massage oils. 

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. 

Also-called: Form of Vitamin C, SAP | What-it-does: antioxidant, anti-acne

The sodium salt form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. If you do not know what the big fuss about vitamin C is, you are missing out and you have to click here and read all the geeky details about it.

Pure vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid, AA) is great and all, but its lack of stability is a big challenge for the cosmetics industry. One solution is to create stable derivatives that can be absorbed into the skin, convert there to AA and do all the magic AA is proven to do (which is being an antioxidant, a collagen booster, and a skin brightener).

SAP (the vit C derivative, not the enterprise software, obvs) is a promising derivative that has great stability up to pH 7. The challenge with it though is skin penetration. Unfortunately, it seems to be limited, or to quote a great article from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology "topically applied ascorbyl phosphate salts are, at very best, poorly absorbed in comparison with AA". Regarding conversion to AA, there seems to be no data about it, so we can neither deny nor confirm it.

We have better news regarding the three magic abilities of vitamin C: there is in-vivo (tested on real people) data showing that SAP does have photo-protective (aka antioxidant) properties, though less than pure AA. SAP might also aid collagen boosting; in-vitro (made in the lab) data shows that it works, but is less effective than another vitamin C derivative, called MAP (that seems to be as effective as pure AA). As for skin-brightening, there is a trade publication with in-vivo data showing that SAP can fade brown spots

Another thing SAP might be able to do is to help with acne. A 2005 study showed in vitro (in test tubes) that 1% SAP has a strong antimicrobial activity on evil acne causing P. acnes and it also showed in vivo (on real people) that 5% SAP can strongly improve the inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions of acne vulgaris. In fact, the results were comparable or even slightly better than with 5% benzoyl peroxide. 

And there is even more regarding SAP and acne. A nice double-blind study from 2009 showed that  5% SAP reduced the inflammatory lesions by 20.14% and 48.82% within 4 and 8 weeks respectively and when combined with 0.2% retinol the results were even better. With this combination treatment, the improvement was 29.28% after 4 weeks and 63.10% after 8 weeks of application. 

Aside from research studies, anecdotal evidence also supports SAP being a promising vitamin C derivative. One of the best-selling (vitamin C) serums in Sephora is the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, while on Amazon it's the OzNaturals Vitamin C 20 Serum. Another popular choice is the Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum, and all of these contain vitamin C in the form of SAP. 

Overall, we think SAP is a goody!  In terms of anti-aging, it's probably not as effective as pure Ascorbic Acid, but it's totally worth a try. However, if your skin is acne-prone, SAP is your form of Vitamin C and it's a must-try.

Also-called: SOD | What-it-does: antioxidant

Superoxide Dismutase - or in short SOD - is the body's smart antioxidant enzyme that protects the cells from highly reactive, cell-damaging superoxide radicals (O2−).

You have probably read the terms "free radicals" and "antioxidants" a thousand times, and you know that free radicals are the evil guys, and antioxidants are the good guys. So superoxide radical is a very common free radical that can cause all kinds of cell damages and superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of superoxide radicals into molecular oxygen and hydrogen peroxide (btw, this one has to be further converted by other antioxidant enzymes, called catalases).

The extra nice thing about SOD is that it remains intact during the neutralization process and can continue its magic, while non-enzymatic antioxidants (like vitamin E) are used up during neutralization.

The efficacy studies of topical SOD are promising. In-vitro (made in the lab) tests show that SOD is a more effective antioxidant than vitamin E, green tea extract, and MAP. There is also an in-vivo (made on real people) study that measured how SOD can reduce the redness caused by UV rays and it was much more effective than vitamin E (pure or acetate form) and ascorbyl palmitate

All in all, SOD is a really potent antioxidant and slathering it all over yourself is a great way to give the skin a little extra help in protecting itself from all the bad environmental things out there. 

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).

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. 

Also-called: Neutrazen | What-it-does: soothing

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

It's a special "cross-linked" from of IT-moisturizer, hyaluronic acid (HA). Cross-linked means that "normal" HA pieces (1-2 million Da molecular weight) are chemically bound togeather to create a big, "infinite" mesh.

The special HA mesh has a remarkable water-binding capacity, 5 times more than the already crazy water-binding capacity of "normal" HA. This water filled crosslinked HA gel forms a smooth film on the skin and continuously delivers the bound water, so it gives long-term moisturizing benefits.

Btw, crosslinking HA was developed for dermal fillers (as crosslinking helps their longevity), and this guy is the topical version of FDA approved dermal filler called Hylan B gel. Smearing crosslinked version all over ourselves is a newish thing, and incoming evidence so far suggests that it's a great idea, even better than normal HA. 

A very recent, 2016 research article compared the topical moisturizing effect of crosslinked HA (not Hylan B gel specifically, but something called Resilient HA or RHA), HMW-HA and LMW-HA and found that "TEWL (that is trans-epidermal water loss, the water that evaporates from the skin) was reduced by 27.8% with RHA, and by 15.6% with HMW HA, but increased by 55.5% with LMW HA." (You can read much more about HMW and LMW HA here in the geeky details section.)

All in all, we think Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer is an awesome version of HA, probably superior to traditional versions, so be happy to spot it on the ingredient list. 

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid is a low molecular weight, chemically chopped up version of the naturally big molecule and current IT-moisturizer, Hyaluronic Acid (HA). 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 retain water, making it plump and elastic. As HA is a polymer, the subunits can be repeated many times (as a high-molecular-weight version), or just a few times (as a low-molecular-weight version).

We wrote in detail at HA about how different molecular weight versions do different things both as a component of the skin and as a skincare ingredient, so click here and read about all the details. Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid can also come in different molecular-weight versions with different properties:

  • 100-300 kDa version: apart from moisturizing, this size might also help the skin to repair itself by increasing its self-defense. It is also claimed to boost the wound healing process and is especially helpful for sensitive skin types (acne, rosacea, inflammation-related skin diseases). 
  • 50k Da version: this is the size that is claimed to be able to absorb into the skin and plump up wrinkles, so it is used mainly as an "anti-aging ingredient" 
  • below 50k, around 10k Da version: there is a Japanese version trade named Hyalo-Oligo that has only a 10k molecular weight and is claimed to penetrate the skin very well, have a unique touch and give deep and long-lasting moisturization. Based on the Evonik-research and the natural role of LMW-HA in the body working as a pro-inflammatory signal molecule, this ultra-low molecular weight version is a controversial ingredient

If you wanna become a real HA-and-the-skin expert, you can read much 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).

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.

Mandelic Acid - goodie
  • Mandelic acid is an AHA that comes from bitter almond
  • It can gently lift off dead surface skin cells and make the skin more smooth and even
  • It has antibacterial properties
  • It’s promising against acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
  • It’s light sensitive, so choose a product with opaque packaging
Read all the geeky details about Mandelic Acid here >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient

A viscous oily liquid (ester) that is known for providing extraordinarily long-lasting coverage. It is used to enhance water resistance in sunscreen formulas or to give long-wear properties to makeup items such as lipsticks or smudge-proof mascaras.

What-it-does: emulsifying

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Beeswax | What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsifying, perfuming | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

It's the yellow, solid stuff that you probably know from beeswax candles. It's a natural material produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb.

As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. It's super common in lip balms and lipsticks. 

Linoleic Acid - goodie
Also-called: LA, omega-6 fatty acid, 18:2 cis-9,12, Form of Vitamin F | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/cleansing

The famous omega-6 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-6 fatty acids in our body. It is a so-called polyunsaturated fatty acid meaning it has more than one (in this case two) double bonds and a somewhat kinky structure that makes LA and LA-rich oils a thin liquid.

It is also an essential fatty acid meaning our body cannot synthesize it and has to take it from food. This is not hard at all as plenty of nuts (such as flax, poppy or sesame seeds) and vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower) are rich in LA. The hard thing seems to be eating enough omega-3-s, more specifically eating a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, but that is a topic for a what-is-good-to-eat-site and not for us. 

As for linoleic acid and the skin, LA is a really important little guy found naturally in our skin. It is the most abundant fatty acid in the epidermis and it serves as a structural precursor for important skin lipids called ceramides. Knowing this, it will not come as a surprise that Linoleic acid has a central role in the structure and function of stratum corneum permeability, aka healthy skin barrier.  LA deficiency leads to an impaired more permeable skin barrier and the topical application of LA-rich sunflower oil can fix this issue rapidly (while oleic-rich olive oil did not have the same barrier repairing effect).

LA is not only important for dry, barrier damaged skin types but also for acne-prone skin. Research shows that problem skin has lower levels of linoleic acid (and higher levels of oleic acid) than normal skin. So LA-deficiency in the skin seems to be connected not only to an impaired skin barrier but also to acne and smearing LA all over your face might help with your problem skin. A double-blind study using a 2.5% LA gel for 4 weeks found a 25% reduction in the size of microcomedones, the tiny blocked pores that can later lead to acne.

If that was not enough, we have one more thing to report about LA.  It lightens hyperpigmentation (aka UVB caused sun spots) both by blocking the melanin production of melanocytes (the skin cells that make the pigment melanin) and by enhancing the desquamation of melanin pigment from the upper layers of the skin.

Overall, linoleic acid is a multi-functional skin goodie with barrier repairing, acne-reducing, and skin-lightening magic abilities. It's a nice one to spot on the ingredient list pretty much for any skin type. 

Also-called: Omega-9 fatty acid | What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A common fatty acid that can be found in lots of plant oils. Its name, "oleic", means derived from olive oil, a plant oil rich in oleic acid, but avocado, macadamia and marula oils, just to name a few, are also oleic rich.

Its chemical structure is monounsaturated, meaning it has one double bond (cis-9) that makes it less kinky than polyunsaturated fatty acids with multiple double bonds. Less kinkiness means that oleic acid and OA-rich oils are a bit thicker and heavier than their LA-rich siblings.

Maybe this thickness is the reason that Oleic acid is considered comedogenic, and if you have acne-prone skin avoid OA-rich plant oils, and choose linoleic acid-rich versions instead.

The thickness of OA also means that OA-rich oils are considered more nourishing and moisturizing than their LA-rich counterparts, and are generally considered to be more suitable for dry, mature skin types. 

As for oleic acid in its free form (and by free we mean that it is not bound up in a triglyceride structure like it is in oils), it mostly serves as an emulsifier or emulsion stabilizer in small amounts in regular cosmetic products. It is also quite well researched and is used in the pharmaceutical industry as a penetration enhancer

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant

Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate is a variation of current IT moisturizer, Hyaluronic acid, where some water-loving -OH groups are replaced by amphipathic (partly water-loving and partly water-hating) acetyl groups. The modified molecule is claimed to have even better moisture retention ability than normal HA and better affinity to the skin surface. 

The better affinity comes from the acetyl groups that act as tiny "anchors" to attach the HA molecule to the skin. Staying on top of the skin better and longer means longer-lasting surface hydration and improved elasticity. It is also less sticky and more cosmetically elegant than normal HA, so no wonder the nickname of this molecule is super hyaluronic acid. 

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". 

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).

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

It's a super small, chemically chopped up version of sodium hyaluronate. Its trade name is miniHA, and its molecular weight is 10 kDa. This counts as really tiny given that "normal" HA has a molecular weight of 0.5-2 million Da.

To be honest, low molecular weight (LMW), and especially this ultra-low molecular weight HA is a controversial ingredient. On the upside, it can penetrate the skin better (though 10kDa still counts as big!) and might be able to moisturize the deeper layers of the skin where normal HA cannot get. Also, according to the manufacturer of miniHA, it has better antioxidant activity than a 1.6MDa version HA and it also has better sun protection and after-sun repair abilities than the higher MW versions. It also works in synergy with higher molecular weight versions, and the combination of 0.1% 1.45MDa-HA + 0.1% 380 kDa-HA + 0.1% miniHA hydrated the skin significantly better than 0.3% 1.45MDa-HA alone.

On the downside, the biological role of LMW-HA in the skin is being a pro-inflammatory signaling agent and there is a study by another manufacturer called Evonik showing that HA versions with smaller than 50kDa molecular weight might be pro-inflammatory when put on the skin. Granted, the study was only done on reconstituted human epidermis, so it might or might not be like this on real human skin. 

If you wanna get confused and read much more about hyaluronic acid and what the different molecular weight versions might or might not do, click here and read our excruciatingly long description

Also-called: alpha-Linolenic acid, ALA, omega-3 fatty acid, Form of Vitamin F | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, surfactant/cleansing, perfuming

The famous omega-3 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-3 fatty acids in our body. Next to linoleic acid, it is the other essential fatty acid that our body cannot synthesize and we have to ingest it from our food. It is also a PUFA, aka polyunsaturated fatty acid with three double bonds, a kinky chemical structure and thus a liquid consistency.

While linoleic acid is abundant in the skin, this is not the case with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It is not entirely clear if it is meant to be like that or if this is a consequence of not eating enough Omega-3 with the typical Western diet.

Leafy green vegetables, walnuts, flax seeds and fish oils are rich sources of ALA and if you are not eating a lot from these, supplementing with fish oil is a pretty good idea backed by research. It is a good idea both in terms of general health benefits as well as potentially improving inflammation-related skin issues such as atopic dermatitis or acne.

As for using ALA topically, we have to say that its role and effects seem to be less direct than with LA. ALA's main role in the skin appears to be modulating the immune response of the epidermis. This is probably helpful for inflammatory skin diseases but most studies examine ALA as an oral supplement and not when applied topically. One exception, we could find, is a study that found that topically applied ALA has nice spot-fading abilities.

To be honest, it seems to us that oral supplementation of ALA is more important than smearing it all over your face. However, that is not to say that topical ALA is a bad thing, it is a good thing. It is a skin-identical ingredient, it is probably moisturizing and anti-inflammatory but its topical effects are less established than that of fellow omega fatty acid, linoleic acid

Lactobionic Acid - superstar
Also-called: PHA | What-it-does: exfoliant, buffering

Lactobionic acid is the brother or maybe the sister of gluconolactone. Usually, it’s called a PHA, though some studies call it bionic acid or aldobionic acid. Not that this matters too much. What matters is that it’s similarly awesome to gluconolactone. So go read about gluconolactone to get the idea.

In a nutshell,  it’s a next generation AHA, with almost all the benefits and more and without the irritation. It gently lifts off dead skin cells and makes your skin smooth and even. It moisturizes and helps the skin barrier. Can be used on sensitive skin too or post cosmetic procedure.  In the long run, it has anti-aging benefits (though a tad less than AHAs), and it’s even an antioxidant.  

Must try, just like the other AHAs. 

Glycolic Acid - superstar
What-it-does: exfoliant, buffering
  • It’s the most researched AHA with the most proven skin benefits
  • It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin
  • It can help skin’s own collagen production that results in firmer, younger skin
  • It can fade brown spots caused by sun damage or PIH
  • Choose a product where you know the concentration and pH value because these two greatly influence effectiveness
  • Don’t forget to use your sunscreen (in any case but especially so next to an AHA product)
  • Slight stinging or burning with a stronger AHA product is normal
  • If your skin is very sensitive, rosacea prone choose rather a BHA or PHA product
Read all the geeky details about Glycolic Acid here >>

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, emollient, emulsifying | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

A fatty acid that can be found naturally in the skin. In fact, it's the most common saturated fatty acid found in animals and plants.

As for skincare, it can make the skin feel nice and smooth in moisturizers (emollient) or it can act as a foam building cleansing agent in cleansers. It's also a very popular ingredient in shaving foams. 

What-it-does: emollient

A super common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. It comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. It’s a nice ingredient that just feels good on the skin, is super well tolerated by every skin type and easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular. 

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). 

Also-called: CI 77019 | What-it-does: colorant

A super versatile and common mineral powder that comes in different particle sizes. It is a multi-tasker used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent.

It is also the most commonly used "base" material for layered composite pigments such as pearl-effect pigments. In this case, mica is coated with one or more metal oxides (most commonly titanium dioxide) to achieve pearl effect via the physical phenomenon known as interference. 

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2-3

A common multi-tasker fatty acid. It makes your skin feel nice and smooth (emollient), gives body to cream type products and helps to stabilize water and oil mixes (aka emulsions).

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.

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: viscosity controlling

An organic derivative of hectorite clay, Disteardimonium Hectorite is used as a viscosity controller - it thickens up formulations to make them less runny.

It’s most popular use in cosmetics is in sunscreens, under the trademarked name Bentone 38 from Elementis. According to the manufacturer info, it is a real multi-tasker, including the ability to prevent pigments settling during storage, stabilizing a formula for longercreating a light and smooth skin feel and enhancing the water-resistance of sunscreen formulas
 

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: SymCalmin | What-it-does: soothing

An anti-irritant and anti-itch molecule that copies the active ingredient (Avenanthramides) in the well-known soothing plant, oat. 

According to the manufacturer's clinical study (double-blind, 40 people, 4 weeks long), 2% SymCalmin (the trade name of our diluted - 5% - molecule) reduced itchiness significantly by 65% and it also reduced redness by 50%. 

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative, deodorant

If you have spotted ethylhexylglycerin on the ingredient list, most probably you will see there also the current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol. They are good friends because ethylhexylglycerin can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too.

Also, it's an effective deodorant and a medium spreading emollient

A colorless liquid used in small amounts as a so-called masking ingredient, meaning it can hide the natural not-so-nice smell of other cosmetic ingredients. It has a nice rose-like scent and can be found in several essential oils such as rose, neroli or geranium. It also has some antimicrobial activity and can boost the performance of traditional preservatives.

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An emollient and natural moisturizer that can be found also in the sebum (oily stuff our skin produces). It leaves a nice non-greasy, non-heavy feeling on the skin. [more]
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A clear, slightly yellow, odorless oil  that's a very common, medium-spreading emollient. It makes the skin feel nice and smooth and works in a wide range of formulas.
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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. [more]
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Shea butter that's considered to be a magic moisturizer and emollient. It is also soothing and rich in antioxidants. [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]
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Avocado oil - a highly moisturizing, rich emollient oil that is loaded with fatty acids (oleic - 70%) and vitamin A, E and D. [more]
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A goodie plant oil coming from the polyphenol-rich seeds of the grape. It's a light emollient oil that is a great source of antioxidant polyphenols, barrier repair fatty acid linoleic acid and antioxidant, skin-protectant vitamin E. 
what‑it‑does emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 1-3
The emollient plant oil that comes from almonds. Similar to other plant oils, it is loaded with skin-nourishing fatty acids (oleic acid - 55-86% and linoleic acid 7-35%) and contains several other skin goodies such as antioxidant vitamin E and vitamin B versions. It's a nice, basic oil that is often used due  [more]
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A clear, almost colorless oily liquid that's used as a medium spreading emollient. It gives skin a nice and smooth after-feel and it's very good at reducing oiliness or greasiness coming from other heavier oils in the formula.
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A silicone emulsifier that helps water and silicone oils to mix nicely together. 
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
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It's a sweet tasting sugar substitute that helps your skin to hold onto water when used in cosmetic products. It also helps to thicken up products and give them a bit more slip.  [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A helper ingredient that is used as a bulking and viscosity controlling agent. It is also an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, where water droplets are dispersed in the continuous oil phase and not the other way round. It can also be used as a heat generating agent in water-less formulas as it has an instant heat-generating chemical reaction with water. [more]
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Pro-Vitamin B5 is a goodie that moisturises the skin, has anti-inflammatory, skin protecting and wound healing properties. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
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Pure Vitamin E. Great antioxidant that gives significant photoprotection against UVB rays. Works in synergy with Vitamin C. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
A 100% plant-based moisturizing and texturizing agent that is based on the transesterification of Sunflower, Jojoba, and Mimosa waxes. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A form of vitamin E that works as an antioxidant. Compared to the pure form it's more stable, has longer shelf life, but it's also more poorly absorbed by the skin. [more]
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The sodium salt form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. If you do not know what the big fuss about vitamin C is, you are missing out and you have to click here and read all the geeky details about it. Pure vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid, AA) is great and all, but its lack of stability is a big challenge for the cosmetics industry. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant
Superoxide Dismutase - or in short SOD - is the body's smart antioxidant enzyme that protects the cells from highly reactive, cell-damaging superoxide radicals (O2−). You have probably read the terms "free radicals" [more]
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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 soothing
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | antioxidant | moisturizer/humectant
A special, "cross-linked" from of hyaluronic acid (HA). Claimed to have five times the water-binding capacity of normal HA, also acts as an antioxidant and gives skin long-term moisture. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid is a low molecular weight, chemically chopped up version of the naturally big molecule and current IT-moisturizer, Hyaluronic Acid (HA). The TL; [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 exfoliant | antimicrobial/antibacterial
An AHA that comes from bitter almond. Its exfoliation action is slower but also safer than glycolic acid. It's also antibacterial and is a promising ingredient against acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
what‑it‑does emollient
A viscous oily liquid (ester) that is known for providing extraordinarily long-lasting coverage. It is used to enhance water resistance in sunscreen formulas or to give long-wear properties to makeup items such as lipsticks or smudge-proof mascaras. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling | emulsifying | perfuming
irritancy, com. 0, 0-2
The yellow solid stuff produced by honey bees to build their honeycomb. As for skincare, it's used as an emollient and thickening agent. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient | surfactant/cleansing
The famous omega-6 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-6 fatty acids in our body. It is a so-called polyunsaturated fatty acid meaning it has more than one (in this case two) double bonds and a somewhat kinky structure that makes LA and LA-rich oils a thin liquid.It is also an essential fatty acid meaning our body cannot synthesize  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | emulsifying
A common fatty acid that can be found in lots of plant oils. Its name, "oleic", means derived from olive oil, a plant oil rich in oleic acid, but avocado, macadamia and marula oils, just to name a few, are also oleic rich. Its chemical structure is monounsaturated, meaning it has one double bond (cis-9) that makes it less kinky than polyunsaturated fatty acids with multi [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate is a variation of current IT moisturizer, Hyaluronic acid, where some water-loving -OH groups are replaced by amphipathic (partly water-loving and partly water-hating) acetyl groups. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's the salt form of famous humectant and natural moisturizing factor, hyaluronic acid. It can bind huge amounts of water and it's pretty much the current IT-moisturizer. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
A super small, chemically chopped up version of sodium hyaluronate. Small molecular weight (SMW) HA is a controversial ingredient: it can penetrate deep into the skin and moisturize deeper layers but might act as a pro-inflammatory agent. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient | surfactant/cleansing | perfuming
The famous omega-3 fatty acid, the mother of all ω-3 fatty acids in our body. Next to linoleic acid, it is the other essential fatty acid that our body cannot synthesize and we have to ingest it from our food. [more]
what‑it‑does exfoliant | buffering
A next generation AHA, a so-called PHA that gently exfoliates skin without irritation. It also moisturizes and helps the skin barrier. [more]
what‑it‑does exfoliant | buffering
The most researched and well-known AHA exfoliant. It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin. In larger concentration (>10%) it's a proven collagen booster. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | emollient | emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 2
A fatty acid that can be found naturally in the skin. It can make the skin feel nice and smooth in moisturizers (emollient) or it can act as a foam building cleansing agent in cleansers. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
A very common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. Comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
A mineral powder used to improve skin feel, increase product slip, give the product some light-reflecting properties, enhance skin adhesion or serve as an anti-caking agent. A real multi-tasker. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 2-3
A common multi-tasker fatty acid that works as an emollient, thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [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 viscosity controlling
An organic derivative of hectorite clay, Disteardimonium Hectorite is used as a viscosity controller - it thickens up formulations to make them less runny.It’s most popular use in cosmetics is in sunscreens, under the trademarked name Bentone 38 from Elementis. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does soothing
An anti-irritant and anti-itch molecule that copies the active ingredient in the well-known soothing plant, oat.  [more]
what‑it‑does solvent | viscosity controlling
what‑it‑does preservative
It can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too. [more]
A colorless liquid used in small amounts as a so-called masking ingredient, meaning it can hide the natural not-so-nice smell of other cosmetic ingredients.  [more]