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Valjean Labs Clarify Vitamin A + Witch Hazel

Clarify Vitamin A + Witch Hazel

A encourages skin cell production, helps protect against UV damage, even skin tone, and smoothes wrinkles.
Uploaded by: hnnhk on

Valjean Labs Clarify Vitamin A + Witch Hazel
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: 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: moisturizer/humectant, emollient, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

It's a nice glycerin-based humectant and emollient that gives skin a smooth and luxurious feel.

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: Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient | Irritancy: 1-3 | Comedogenicity: 1-3

It's an ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that belongs to the "retinoid family". The retinoid family is pretty much the royal family of skincare, with the queen being the FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient tretinoin. Retinol is also a very famous member of the family, but it's like Prince William, two steps away from the throne. Retinyl palmitate will be then little Prince George, quite far (3 steps) away from the throne. 

By steps, we mean metabolic steps. Tretinoin, aka retinoic acid, is the active ingredient our skin cells can understand and retinyl palmitate (RP) has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to actually do something. The conversion is a 3 step one and looks like this:

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retinyl palmitate --> retinol -- > retinaldehyde --> all-trans-retinoic acid

As we wrote in our lengthy retinol description the problem is that the conversion is not terribly effective. The evidence that RP is still an effective anti-aging ingredient is not very strong, in fact, it's weak. Dr. Leslie Baumann in her fantastic Cosmetic Dermatology book writes that RP is topically ineffective

What's more, the anti-aging effectiveness is not the only questionable thing about RP. It also exibits questionable behaviour in the presence of UV light and was the center of a debate between the non-profit group, EWG (whose intentions are no doubt good, but its credibility is often questioned by scientists) and a group of scientists and dermatologists lead by Steven Q. Wang, MD,  director of dermatologic surgery at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. 

Dr. Leslie Baumann wrote a great review of the debate and summarized the research available about retinyl palmitate here.  It seems that there is a study showing RP being photo protective against UVB rays but there is also a study showing RP causing DNA damage and cytotoxicity in association with UVA. 

We think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we agree with Dr. Baumann's conclusion: "sufficient evidence to establish a causal link between RP and skin cancer has not been produced. Nor, I’m afraid, are there any good reasons to recommend the use of RP". We would add especially during the day!

Bottom line: If you wanna get serious about retinoids, RP is not your ingredient (retinol or tretinoin is!). However, if you use a product that you like and it also contains RP, there is no reason to throw it away. If possible use it at night, just to be on the safe side.

Also-called: Witch Hazel Leaf Extract;Hamamelis Virginiana Leaf Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial, astringent

The extract created from the leaves of the hazelnut-bush-like-magic-tree, commonly called Witch Hazel. We have gone into detail about Witch Hazel in cosmetic products here (it's astringent, soothing, antioxidant and antibacterial), but the important part to know about the leaves is that they contain much, much less active components than the bark. In fact, it contains hardly any tannins (only 0.04%) and the most active component in the leaves is the antibacterial gallic acid

Too many tannins can be very astringent and irritating to the skin, so this is not necessarily a bad thing. Even the small amount of active components in the leaves seem to give it nice soothing, astringent, and antibacterial properties

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

What-it-does: buffering

Citric acid comes from citrus fruits and is an AHA. If these magic three letters don’t tell you anything, click here and read our detailed description on glycolic acid, the most famous AHA. 

So citric acid is an exfoliant, that can - just like other AHAs - gently lift off the dead skin cells of your skin and make it more smooth and fresh. 

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There is also some research showing that citric acid with regular use (think three months and 20% concentration) can help sun-damaged skin, increase skin thickness and some nice hydrating things called glycosaminoglycans in the skin. 

But according to a comparative study done in 1995, citric acid has less skin improving magic properties than glycolic or lactic acid. Probably that’s why citric acid is usually not used as an exfoliant but more as a helper ingredient in small amounts to adjust the pH of a formulation. 

What-it-does: buffering

An alkaline (high pH, aka basic) material that is used to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to the right value

A fluid silicone that reduces surface tension. It can improve oil (or silicone) in water emulsions with faster absorption, better spreading, and a lighter feel

Zinc Pca - goodie

If you have oily, acne-prone skin, Zinc PCA is one of the actives to put on your "TO TRY" list.

It's a synergistic association of two great things: Zinc and L-PCA. The Zinc part is there to help normalize sebum production and limit the proliferation of evil acne-causing bacteria. L-PCA stands for pyrrolidone carboxylic acid and it's a key molecule in the skin that helps with processes of hydration and energy (it's actually an NMF, a natural moisturizing factor).

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L-PCA is not only there to hydrate the skin, but it also helps to increase the efficacy and bioavailability of zinc. An in-vivo (done on real people) test done by the manufacturer shows that Zinc PCA reduces sebum production statistically significantly after 28 days of application (1% was used in the test), and in-vitro (made in the lab) measurements show that Zinc PCA has strong anti-microbial activity against P. acnes (between 0.1-0.25%) and other bacterial strains.

If that would not be enough there is also a 2011 research paper saying that based on in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people)  findings Zinc PCA might be a promising anti-aging active that helps with the production of type I collagen (and we all know more collagen = firmer skin). 

All in all, definitely a goodie for oily, acne-prone skin

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

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

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

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

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

Also-called: Japanese Honeysuckle Flower Extract | What-it-does: soothing, antimicrobial/antibacterial

Lonicera Japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle as normal people call it, is a white-flowered honeysuckle known for being a traditional Chinese medicine. Modern research confirms that the plant has a super complex chemical composition with more than 140 compounds identified with possible anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidative and hepatoprotective activities.

As for Lonicera Japonica Flower Extract in skin care, it can have two main roles. The first one is being an anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient, probably due to chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol thought to be the main bioactive component of the flower.

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The other possible role is being a natural preservative. If this is the case, it is coupled with its Italian Honeysuckle cousin to form a broad spectrum antimicrobial preservative blend. You can read about this more here.  

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

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.

Also-called: Geogard 111A | 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, works quite well at low concentrations (0.1-0.6%) and is popular in natural products.

It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically.

No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. Has to be combined with some other nice preservatives, like potassium sorbate to be broad spectrum enough.  

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In high amounts, it can be a skin irritant, but don’t worry, it’s never used in high amounts.

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. 

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

what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
what‑it‑does solvent | moisturizer/humectant
A natural corn sugar derived glycol. It can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | emollient | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's a nice glycerin-based humectant and emollient that gives skin a smooth and luxurious feel.
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
A super commonly used thickener and emulsion stabilizer. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
irritancy, com. 1-3, 1-3
An ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that is pretty much the least effective member of the retinoid family. Its anti-aging effects are quite questionable as well as its behavior in the presence of UVA light. (Use it at night if possible!) [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | antimicrobial/antibacterial
Witch Hazel Leaf Extract - well known soothing, astringent and antibacterial ingredient. In general, the leaves contain much less active components than the bark so it's more gentle to the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient | skin brightening | anti-acne | moisturizer/humectant
A multi-functional skincare superstar that has clinically proven anti-aging, skin lightening, anti-inflammatory and barrier repair properties. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
An AHA that comes from citrus fruits. It is usually used as a helper ingredient to adjust the pH of the formula. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
An alkaline (high pH, aka basic) material that is used to set the pH of the cosmetic formula to the right value.  [more]
A fluid silicone that reduces surface tension. It can improve oil (or silicone) in water emulsions with faster absorption, better spreading, and a lighter feel. 
what‑it‑does anti-acne | moisturizer/humectant
A synergistic combination of Zinc and l-PCA that can reduce sebum production and limit the proliferation of evil acne-causing bacteria. A goodie for oily, acne-prone skin. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
Lye - A solid white stuff that’s very alkaline and used in small amount to adjust the pH of the product.  [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | antimicrobial/antibacterial
Lonicera Japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle as normal people call it, is a white-flowered honeysuckle known for being a traditional Chinese medicine. Modern research confirms that the plant has a super complex chemical composition with more than 140 compounds identified with possible anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidative and hepatoprotective activities. [more]
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]
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi and has only milder effect against bacteria. Popular in natural products.  [more]
what‑it‑does preservative | perfuming | solvent | viscosity controlling
It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. It can be naturally found in fruits and teas but can also be made synthetically. No matter the origin, in small amounts (up to 1%) it’s a nice, gentle preservative. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
A super common colorant with the color yellow. [more]