Under Eye Primer
Ulta Beauty Collection Under Eye PrimerIngredients explained
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.
A super commonly used 5 unit long, cyclic structured silicone that is water-thin and does not stay on the skin but evaporates from it (called volatile silicone). Similar to other silicones, it gives skin and hair a silky, smooth feel.
It's often combined with the non-volatile (i.e. stays on the skin) dimethicone as the two together form a water-resistant, breathable protective barrier on the skin without a negative tacky feel.
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.
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.
A so-called polymer microsphere, i.e. little spherical shaped particles from repeated subunits. Similar to other microsphere powders, it can scatter the light to give products a soft focus or blurring effect. It also works as a texture enhancer giving formulas an exceptional smoothness and a velvet touch.
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.
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.
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.
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 longer, creating a light and smooth skin feel and enhancing the water-resistance of sunscreen formulas.
A white powdery thing that's the major component of glass and sand. In cosmetics, it’s often in products that are supposed to keep your skin matte as it has great oil-absorbing abilities. It’s also used as a helper ingredient to thicken up products or suspend insoluble particles.
A super common, medium-spreading emollient ester that gives richness to the formula and a mild feel during rubout. It can be a replacement for mineral oil and is often combined with other emollients to achieve different sensorial properties.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
Little, porous spheres that have magic blurring powers, meaning they can optically blur fine lines, wrinkles, and pores.
Penstia Powder also improves product texture as the little particles roll on the skin rather than "drag", so the ingredient gives a nice slip and thus silky, creamy texture to the formulas. It can also reduce tackiness and has some oil/sebum absorption capacity.
A chemically modified version of castor oil that results in a solid, waxy material that serves as an emollient and consistency building material.
It also has some unique moisturizing properties as it is both occlusive and humectant. The former one is common for oils and waxes and it means that it sits on top of the skin hindering water to evaporate out of the top layers. The latter one, the humectant property, is surprising and comes from the unique property of ricinoleic acid (the dominant fatty acid in castor oil) having an extra water-loving -OH group on its otherwise oil-loving fatty chain. We have some more info about this at castor oil, so if you are interested, read on here.
A solid silicone resin that creates a permeable film over the skin. It makes makeup formulas more long-lasting and can enhance the water resistance of sunscreens. It leaves a non-tacky film when dried.
Sodium chloride is the fancy name of salt. Normal, everyday table salt.
If (similar to us) you are in the weird habit of reading the label on your shower gel while taking a shower, you might have noticed that sodium chloride is almost always on the ingredient list. The reason for this is that salt acts as a fantastic thickener in cleansing formulas created with ionic cleansing agents (aka surfactants) such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate. A couple of percents (typically 1-3%) turns a runny surfactant solution into a nice gel texture.
If you are into chemistry (if not, we understand, just skip this paragraph), the reason is that electrolytes (you know, the Na+ and Cl- ions) screen the electrostatic repulsion between the head groups of ionic surfactants and thus support the formation of long shaped micelles (instead of spherical ones) that entangle like spaghetti, and viola, a gel is formed. However, too much of it causes the phenomenon called "salting out", and the surfactant solution goes runny again.
Other than that, salt also works as an emulsion stabilizer in water-in-oil emulsions, that is when water droplets are dispersed in the outer oil (or silicone) phase. And last but not least, when salt is right at the first spot of the ingredient list (and is not dissolved), the product is usually a body scrub where salt is the physical exfoliating agent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A handy 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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).
A mainly oil-loving, vegetable raw material based ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier. It can also function as a wetting and dispersing agent helping insoluble particles such as color pigments or inorganic sunscreens (zinc/titanium dioxide) to disperse nice and even in liquids.
Chemically speaking, it comes from the attachment of sorbitan (a dehydrated sorbitol (sugar) molecule) with the unsaturated fatty acid Oleic Acid, that creates a partly water (the sorbitan part) and partly oil soluble (oleic part) molecule.
A big polymer (created from repeating subunits) molecule that works as a film former and hair fixative agent.
It is a modified version of the first and classic hair fixative, PVP that alternates the water-loving VP (Vinyl Pyrrolidone) units with water-hating VA (Vinyl Acetate) units to create a film that is less brittle and less sensitive to air humidity.
A clear, light yellow liquid that is used to coat pigments (such as inorganic sunscreen agents or colorants) in cosmetic products. The coating helps to stabilize pigments in the formulas and also helps them to spread easily and evenly on the skin.
An ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier. Chemically speaking, it comes from the attachment of sorbitan (a dehydrated sorbitol (sugar) molecule) with the fatty acid Lauric Acid, that creates a partly water (the sorbitan part) and partly oil soluble (lauric part) molecule.
Sorbitan Laurate is a good team player that likes to work with many other emulsifiers and is compatible with a wide range of other ingredients.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
A handy helper ingredient (a polymer, i.e. big molecule from repeated subunits) that is used to stabilize emulsions as well as to thicken up products. It can also stabilize foam in cleansing products.
This guy - let's just call it simply HMC - is a so-called flavonoid (flavonoids are natural things found it lots of fruits and vegetables). Hesperidin, in particular, is a flavonone and is found in citrus fruits. The methylation of hesperidin gives HMC, that has well-established blood vessel protecting properties and can be found in drugs that treat problems related to blood vessels.
As for skincare, there is a mouse study showing HMC has very promising abilities in the "treatment of UVB irradiation-induced skin inflammation and oxidative stress", or English translation = it's an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
HMC is also part of a 3 active ingredient complex called Eyeliss (with Dipeptide-2 and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7), that's supposed to fight under-eye bags. The manufacturer claims that in their ex-vivo test HMC decreased capillary permeability by 25%.
All in all, HMC definitely deserves a goodie status, at least as an antioxidant but it might even do something with under-eye bags.
A waxy solid material that helps oil and water to mix together, aka emulsifier. It is derived from the fatty alcohol called stearyl alcohol by ethoxylating it and thus making the molecule more water-soluble.
The end result is a mostly water-loving emulsifier, also called solubilizer that can help to dissolve small amounts of oil-loving ingredients into water-based products. Or it can be combined with more oil-loving emulsifiers (such as its sister, Steareth-2) to create stable emulsions.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
It's one of the most commonly used thickeners and emulsion stabilizers. If the product is too runny, a little xanthan gum will make it more gel-like. Used alone, it can make the formula sticky and it is a good team player so it is usually combined with other thickeners and so-called rheology modifiers (helper ingredients that adjust the flow and thus the feel of the formula). The typical use level of Xantha Gum is below 1%, it is usually in the 0.1-0.5% range.
Btw, Xanthan gum is all natural, a chain of sugar molecules (polysaccharide) produced from individual sugar molecules (glucose and sucrose) via fermentation. It’s approved by Ecocert and also used in the food industry (E415).
Myristyl Malate Phosphonic Acid (let’s call it MMPA) is a synthetic phospholipid. You may have heard of phospholipids in your biology class, since they’re a main component in human cell membranes. Because of this, it makes sense that cosmetic companies want to try making some similar molecules for skin care - our skin is made of cells, after all!
So MMPA is the main advertised component of the complex trade named Revidrate, which the manufacturer claims will act on the outer layers of the skin to promote the activity of natural moisturizing factors. This is basically to say that MMPA helps your skin hydrate itself. It is said to do this through promoting some complex pathways within your cells that help mature keratinocytes (the cells in the outer layer of the skin). A 38-person clinical study was conducted by the company to substantiate these claims that showed promising moisturization results after 2 months of using a cream twice a day with 3% Revidrate.
All in all, MMPA seems like a promising goodie and there is no reason not to try it, especially if it’s included in a formulation with other proven ingredients.
A tiny peptide with only two amino acids (amino acids are the building block of proteins, and peptides are a few amino acids attached together), Valine and Tryptophan. It's part of a 3 actives complex called Eyeliss (with HMC and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7) that's supposed to fight under-eye bags.
The manufacturer claims that this dipeptide in Eyeliss can increase lymphatic circulation and the three actives together represent a "global approach to treating puffy eyes". The clinical study of the manufacturer with 20 people and 3% Eyeliss showed improvement after 56 days for 70% of the participants.
A four amino acid peptide with the amino sequence of glycine-glutamine-proline-arginine. It is attached to palmitic acid (a fatty acid) to increase oil solubility and skin penetration.
It works by reducing the production of the signal molecule, inteleukin-6 (IL-6) which promotes inflammation in the skin and less inflammation means slower degradation of important things (like collagen) that results in younger looking skin for a longer time.
- 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
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.
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.
Carmine is a natural pigment that gives a bright, strawberry red shade. It counts as a special snowflake as it is the only organic pink/red colorant permitted for use around the eye area in the US.
Outside of the US though, it is not that often used, as unlike most other colorants (that tend to be synthetic or if natural, plant-derived), Carmine is animal-derived and comes from an insect called Coccus cacti. This makes it both very expensive and excludes it from animal-friendly, vegan cosmetic products.
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