Verso Night CreamIngredients 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 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
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.
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.
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, and it’s also easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular.
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 >>
An ester that comes from Cetearyl alcohol and the fatty acids of olive oil. It often comes to the formula coupled with Sorbitan Olivate as the two together form the well-known, natural emulsifier trade named Olivem 1000.
Other than helping oil and water to blend, the main thing of Olivem 1000 is generating liquid crystal structures that are similar to the lipid structures of the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin). Thanks to this, Olivem 1000 doubles as an active ingredient with significant moisturizing, barrier-repairing and soothing properties.
It also helps to deliver water-soluble actives such as caffeine more effectively, and can even boost SPF in sunscreen formulas. Its typical use level is 1-5% and has wide compatibility with other actives and oils.
Overall, a real multi-tasker with nice sensorial properties. No wonder it is so popular.
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).
Jojoba-derived emollient wax esters (fatty acid + fatty alcohol) that make your skin feel nice and smooth. Chemically speaking, pure jojoba oil is also a wax ester (read our shiny explanation here), however, the ingredients called jojoba esters on the ingredient lists are made from jojoba oil and/or hydrogenated jojoba oil via interesterification.
They have multiple versions with variable fatty acid chain length and the ingredient can have a liquid, a creamy, a soft or firm paste, or even a hard wax consistency. The common thing between all versions is, that unlike most normal triglyceride oils, jojoba esters have superior stability, provide non-greasy emolliency and are readily absorbed into the skin.
Retinyl Retinoate (RR) is a less well known but super interesting member of the retinoids (vitamin A derivatives), aka the "royal family of skincare". Unless you live under a skincare-news-shielding rock, you must have heard about tretinoin, the FDA-approved anti-aging superstar, and retinol, the most common OTC version of tretinoin. You can read more about whos-who in the retinoid family here.
Enter Retinyl Retinoate, a molecule that is created by attaching retinol to retinoic acid. The attachment makes the molecule more stable (pure retinol is unstable and hard to formulate) as well as more active. If you read our shiny description about retinol you will know that it is not active and has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to become retinoic acid, the biologically active molecule. The conversion is not very effective and takes two steps. Retinyl Retinoate also has to be converted, but in the first step, our cells break up the molecule to become retinoic acid (the active) and retinol, meaning that it becomes active both after the first conversion step as well as later on once retinol is further converted.
The Korean research group, who invented the molecule, did several studies published in well-respected journals to prove that Retinyl Retinoate has better anti-aging activity than retinol. In marketing materials, RR is often touted to be 8 times as active as retinol, but as far as research goes we can cite that "the biological activity of retinyl retinoate was in between the properties of retinol and retinoic acid. Retinyl retinoate showed higher biological activity than that of retinol, such as RAR activity and collagen synthesis. Also, retinyl retinoate showed a similar side-effect to that of retinol, and not retinoic acid."
As for in-vivo, aka done on real people studies, there is one from 2010 that compares 0.06% Retinyl Retinoate to placebo and to 0.075% retinol. The conclusion of this study was that 0.06% RR is "significantly" more effective than placebo or retinol, and RR also had a faster-acting effect. Another study (in test tubes + mouse skin) concluded that RR increases the Hyaluronic acid production more than other retinoids and is also less of an irritant.
RR shows promise for treating acne. In an 8 week, double-blind clinical study, 0.05% retinyl retinoate "showed a significant decrease in both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions, and in sebum amount". It even had some activity against P.acnes that makes it a promising ingredient for acne prone skin, especially when combined with other actives.
Overall, we find Retinyl Retinoate a very interesting and promising member of the retinoid family. It is not as proven as good old retinol (the multiple studies on RR come from the same research guys), but it promises several advantages (more stable, more active, less irritating), so we say that if you like retinoids, RR is worth trying.
A standardized powdered extract from the roots of the Curcuma longa (Turmeric) plant (together with this and this). The trio is called Tetrahydrocurcuminoids (THC) and has skin-brightening, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant magic properties.
Other turmeric extracts have brilliant yellow color that makes them difficult to use but this one is color-free.
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.
This long-named, polymer molecule (big molecule from repeated subunits) is a helper ingredient that's good at emulsifying and stabilizing oils into water-based formulas. It also acts as a thickening and gelling agent that creates nice, non-sticky and supple textures. It works over a very wide pH range (3-12) and can be used to thicken up low-ph formulas, such as exfoliants.
Turmeric is the yellow spice you probably know from curry and Indian food. It's also a traditional herbal medicine used in Ayurveda for its bunch of anti-something magic abilities including being anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anticarcinogenic.
As for turmeric and skincare, we have good news: studies show that the root extract and its main biologically active component, curcumin can do multiple good things for the skin. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity, it shows some promise for acne-prone skin and a small study from 2013 showed that it might be able to regulate sebum production.
It's also a potent antioxidant and skin-brightening agent so it often shows up in anti-aging and/or radiance-boosting products.
We don't have description for this ingredient yet.
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%.
Simply alcohol refers to ethanol and it's a pretty controversial ingredient. It has many instant benefits: it's a great solvent, penetration enhancer, creates cosmetically elegant, light formulas, great astringent and antimicrobial. No wonder it's popular in toners and oily skin formulas.
The downside is that it can be very drying if it's in the first few ingredients on an ingredient list.
Some experts even think that regular exposure to alcohol damages skin barrier and causes inflammation though it's a debated opinion. If you wanna know more, we wrote a more detailed explanation about what's the deal with alcohol in skincare products at alcohol denat. (it's also alcohol, but with some additives to make sure no one drinks it).
A white, waxy emollient that gives "body" to skincare formulas. Comes from coconut or palm kernel oil.
A creamy solid that helps water and oil to mix, aka emulsifier. Its solid, wax-like nature is useful for oil-based formulas where some rigidity is needed.
It’s the - sodium form - cousin of the famous NMF, hyaluronic 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).
Soy isoflavones are also thought to be useful for situations when natural estrogen levels are low, such as during and after menopause. Low estrogen levels can cause skin thinning and collagen loss and soy isoflavones might be able to help with that.
A very common ingredient that can be found in all cell membranes. In cosmetics it's quite the multi-tasker: it's an emollient and water-binding ingredient but it's also an emulsifier and can be used for stabilization purposes. It's also often used to create liposomes.
A form of skincare superstar, vitamin C. Even though we are massive vitamin C fans, Ascorbyl Palmitate (AP) is our least favorite. (Btw, if you do not know what the big deal with vitamin C is then you are missing out. You must go and read our geeky details about it.)
So, AP is one of the attempts by the cosmetics industry to solve the stability issues with vitamin C while preserving its benefits, but it seems to fall short on several things.
What's the problem?
Firstly, it's stability is only similar to that of pure ascorbic acid (AA), which means it is not really stable. A great study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology compared a bunch of vitamin C derivatives and this derivative was the only one where the study said in terms of stability that it's "similar to AA". Not really that good.
Second, a study that examined the skin absorption of vitamin C found that ascorbyl palmitate did not increase the skin levels of AA. This does not mean that ascorbyl palmitate cannot penetrate the skin (because it can, it's oil soluble and the skin likes to absorb oil soluble things) but this means that it's questionable if ascorbyl palmitate can be converted into pure Vit C in the skin. Even if it can be converted, the palmitate part of the molecule is more than the half of it, so the efficacy will not be good and we have never seen a serum that contains a decent (and proudly disclosed) amount of AP. We are highly skeptical what effect a tiny amount of AP has in a formula.
Third, another study that wanted to examine the antioxidant properties of AP was surprised to find that even though AP does have nice antioxidant properties; following UVB radiation (the same one that comes from the sun) it also promotes lipid peroxidation and cytotoxicity. It was only an in-vitro study meaning that it was done on cell cultures and not on real people, but still, this also does not support the use of AP too much.
The only good thing we can write about Ascorbyl Palmitate is that there is an in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) study showing that it might be able to boost collagen production.
Regarding the skin-brightening properties of pure vitamin C, this is another magic property AP does not have, or at least there is no data, not even in-vitro, about it.
Overall, Ascorbyl Palmitate is our least favorite vitamin C derivative. It is there in lots of products in tiny amounts (honestly, we do not really understand why), however, we do not know about any vitamin C serum featuring AP in high amounts. That is probably no coincidence. If you are into vitamin C, you can take a look at more promising derivatives here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 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.
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.
Exactly what it sounds: nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. Fragrance in the US and parfum in the EU is a generic term on the ingredient list that is made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average (but it can have as much as 200 components!).
If you are someone who likes to know what you put on your face than fragrance is not your best friend - no way to know what’s really in it.
Also, if your skin is sensitive, fragrance is again not your best friend. It’s the number one cause of contact allergy to cosmetics. It’s definitely a smart thing to avoid with sensitive skin (and fragrance of any type - natural is just as allergic as synthetic, if not worse!).
Copy and paste into your blog
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant | perfuming | solvent | viscosity controlling|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling|
|irritancy, com.||0, 1|
|what‑it‑does||solvent | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | perfuming|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | emollient|
|irritancy, com.||0, 1|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | viscosity controlling|
|irritancy, com.||0, 2-3|
|what‑it‑does||soothing | emollient | moisturizer/humectant|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | skin brightening | soothing|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||antioxidant | soothing | skin brightening | perfuming|
|what‑it‑does||antimicrobial/antibacterial | solvent | viscosity controlling|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant|
|irritancy, com.||0, 0|
|what‑it‑does||emollient | emulsifying|
|irritancy, com.||0, 2|
|what‑it‑does||moisturizer/humectant | emollient|
|what‑it‑does||exfoliant | buffering | chelating|
|irritancy, com.||0-3, 0-3|