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Vivant Skin Care Derm-A-Gel Level 1

Derm-A-Gel Level 1

A transformative, targeted corrector serum for skin new to Vitamin A treatment. This patented, lightweight formula works to boost cellular metabolism, reduce fine lines, promote a more even skin tone, and clear blemishes, all while nourishing skin with anti-inflammatory and moisturizing ingredients.
Uploaded by: judit on 11/03/2019

Vivant Skin Care Derm-A-Gel Level 1
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua | 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. 

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

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

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

A mainly oil loving molecule that helps water and oil to mix nicely, aka emulsifier. In itself, it can create water-in-oil emulsions (when water droplets are dispersed in oil), but it is used mostly next to water-loving emulsifiers to create nice and smooth oil-in-water creams.  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, this molecule is "halfway" between Sorbitan Oleate and Sorbitan Trioleate, meaning that it is also an attachment of sorbitan (a dehydrated sorbitol (sugar) molecule) with the unsaturated fatty acid Oleic Acid, but in a ratio of 2:3 hence the "Sesqui" part in the molecule's name. 

Also-called: Form of Retinoids, Retinol Ester | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

Retinyl Propionate (RP) is a less well-known, but pretty interesting member of the retinoids, aka the "royal family of skincare". You can read the who's who here but the TL;DR version is that tretinoin is the queen herself (the FDA-proven anti-aging active molecule), retinol is like Prince William (two conversion steps needed to be active) and Retinyl Palmitate is like little Prince George (three conversion steps needed to be active).  

Similar to Retinyl Palmitate, Retinyl Propionate is also a retinol ester with retinol and propionic acid being attached together. This puts our molecule in the place of little Princess Charlotte on the family tree, quite far away from the throne.  However, not all retinol ester molecules are made equal when it comes to being transformed and being effective on the skin.

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As Dr. Fulton (the scientist behind both Retin-A and RP) puts it in his patent paper,  "Other esters of vitamin A obtained from, for example, palmitic acid and acetic acid do not have the therapeutic advantages found with vitamin A propionate ..... Presumably, the [Retinyl Palmitate] molecule is so large, it is not able to transdermally reach the necessary part of the skin for activity. Similarly, vitamin A acetate is too small molecularly and therefore easily recrystallizes from any solution.....vitamin A propionate is the appropriate molecular weight and configuration to both remain in a stable solution and to be transdermally delivered to a site where it is active." So while the effectiveness of other retinol esters is highly questionable, Retinyl Propionate seems to be the most effective retinol ester molecule, and it "unexpectedly provides all the benefits of vitamin A acid but minimizes the negative side effects", at least according to Dr. Fulton, the inventor of the molecule. 

We know what you are thinking! This sounds great and all, but what about some proof? Some backup data not from the inventor himself?  We looked into it and found three studies working with Retinyl Propionate.

In a 2007 study by Dr. Draelos, she references a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial that compared the effectiveness of 0.15% retinol with 0.3% Retinyl Propionate. Both actives were effective in reducing the appearance of facial wrinkles and hyperpigmentation and the 0.3% RP worked a bit better. 

Another research that was done by Procter & Gamble combined multiple anti-aging actives including niacinamide, peptides and 0.3% of Retinyl Propionate and they compared this regimen with a 0.02% tretinoin regimen. They found that the cosmetic regimen was tolerated better, worked faster and gave comparable results. All this sounds very promising for RP, however, it is hard to know how much the other actives contributed to the positive results. 

Last, but not least there is a study from 1998 that tested a 0.15% Retinyl Propionate cream and after 24 weeks found no statistically significant difference between the effects of the retinyl propionate cream and the placebo preparation for any of the clinical parameters of skin photoaging. However, after 48 weeks, the 0.15% RP worked wonders for actinic keratoses, a rough, scaly patch caused by UV damage (its name contains actinic, but it is not acne, has nothing to do with it (!)).

So, it seems that the minimum effective dose of Retinyl Propionate is larger than 0.15% which is not surprising given that it has to do three conversion steps to reach the active form, retinoic acid. But 0.3% RP (or more, obvs) seems to be an effective dose, and even though the proof is not as solid as it is for retinol itself, if you are looking for a more gentle alternative, or if you are in the mood for experimentation, Retinyl Propionate looks like a noteworthy alternative and the most promising option among retinol esters.

Also-called: Padimate O, Octyl Dimethyl PABA, Eusolex 6007 | What-it-does: sunscreen

Ethylhexyl Dimethyl PABA is a chemical sunscreen agent that protects in the UVB range (290-320 nm) with a peak absorbance at 312nm. Other than that, we struggle to write anything positive about this guy, as it is photo unstable (looses 10% efficacy in 20 mins and 50% in 85 mins), not an unfrequent allergen in sunscreens and shows some endocrine effect in animal studies. 

All this does not mean that it is not considered safe as used, it is (and is approved up to 8% in the EU and US and up to 3% in Japan), but we do think that there are plenty of other and better UV filters out there. 

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

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

What-it-does: antioxidant, skin brightening

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

Also-called: Butylated Hydroxy Toluene | What-it-does: antioxidant, preservative

It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.

There is some controversy around BHT. It's not a new ingredient, it has been used both as a food and cosmetics additive since the 1970s. Plenty of studies tried to examine if it's a carcinogen or not. This Truth in Aging article details the situation and also writes that all these studies examine BHT when taken orally.

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As for cosmetics, the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) concluded that the amount of BHT used in cosmetic products is low (usually around 0.01-0.1%),  it does not penetrate skin far enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and it is safe to use in cosmetics.

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • It's a helper ingredient that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products
  • It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer
  • It has a bad reputation among natural cosmetics advocates but cosmetic scientists and toxicology experts do not agree (read more in the geeky details section)
Read all the geeky details about Propylene Glycol here >>

The sodium salt of lactic acid. It's a great skin moisturizer and also used to regulate the pH value of the cosmetic formula. It's a natural ingredient approved by both ECOCERT and COSMOS.

Sodium PCA - goodie
What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

PCA stands for Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid and though it might not sound like it, it is a thing that can be found naturally in our skin. The sodium salt form of PCA is an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. 

Glycine - goodie

A non-essential amino acid (the building blocks of skin proteins, like collagen or elastin), that the body can produce itself, but its production decreases with age. When you put it all over your face, it works as a moisturizer and maybe more. 

According to great skincare blog Futurederm, glycine might help with wound healing and tissue repair and when used together with other amino acids, leucine and proline it might improve wrinkles

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BTW, it's also a building block of a bunch of important and famous peptides, including copper-tripeptide-1, palmitoyl tripeptide-1 or palmitoyl hexapeptide-12.

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

Fancy name for fruit sugar. It has nice water-binding properties and helps to keep skin hydrated

Urea - goodie
Also-called: Carbamide | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant

Yes, it's the thing that can be found naturally in pee. And in the skin. It is an awesome natural moisturizing factor, aka NMF.  NMFs are important components that help the skin to hold onto water and keep it plump, elastic and hydrated. Urea makes up about 7% of NMFs next to other things such as amino acids (40%), PCA (12%) or Lactate (12%).

What makes urea special, is that it is not only a simple moisturizer, but it is thought to be a "small-molecule regulator of epidermal structure and function" meaning that it has a bunch of extra biological activities. It acts as a mild keratolytic agent (some of its moisturizing action is thought to come from urea's ability to break down bonds in the protein called filaggrin and thus freeing up amino acids in the skin), enhances antimicrobial peptide expression and improves skin barrier function

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Being a mild keratolytic agent and strong moisturizer means that high-percentage (10-40%) urea treatments are found effective in a bunch of skin disorders connected to excessive dryness and malfunctioning skin barrier such as ichthyosis, xerosis, psoriasis, eczema and seborrheic dermatitis.  

Overall, just like glycerin, urea is a real oldie but a goodie, a nice ingredient in any moisturizer.

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: moisturizer/humectant

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative

A helper ingredient that helps to make the products stay nice longer, aka preservative. It works mainly against fungi. 

It’s pH dependent and works best at acidic pH levels (3-5). It’s not strong enough to be used in itself so it’s always combined with something else, often with potassium sorbate.

Lactic Acid - superstar
  • It’s the second most researched AHA after glycolic acid
  • It gently lifts off dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher, smoother skin
  • It also has amazing skin hydrating properties
  • In higher concentration (10% and up) it improves skin firmness, thickness and wrinkles
  • 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)
Read all the geeky details about Lactic Acid here >>

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

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

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

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

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

What-it-does: chelating

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

What-it-does: preservative

An antimicrobial preservative that helps your products not to go wrong too quickly. It works especially well against bacteria, specifically gram-negative species, yeast, and mold.

Somewhat controversial, it belongs to an infamous family of formaldehyde-releasers. That is, it slowly breaks down to form formaldehyde when it is added to a formula. We have written more about formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and the concerns around them at Dmdm Hydantoin, but do not get too scared, those are more theories than proven facts.

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As for Diazolidinyl Urea itself, a study from 1990 writes that at concentrations up to 0.4%, it was a mild cumulative skin irritant, but the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) reviewed it in 2006 and found that, in concentrations of <0.5%, it is safe as used, as the amount of formaldehyde released will be smaller than the recommended limit (of less than 0.2%).

All in all, it is up to your personal decision and skin sensitivity. 

What-it-does: preservative | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

The most common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon

Apart from the general controversy around parabens (we wrote about it more here), there is a 2006 in-vitro (made in the lab not on real people) research about methylparaben (MP) showing that when exposed to sunlight, MP treated skin cells suffered more harm than non-MP treated skin cells. The study was not done with real people on real skin but still - using a good sunscreen next to MP containing products is a good idea. (Well, in fact using a sunscreen is always a good idea. :))

What-it-does: preservative | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0

A very common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon.

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 moisturizer/humectant | emollient
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's a nice glycerin-based humectant and emollient that gives skin a smooth and luxurious feel.
what‑it‑does emulsifying
irritancy, com. 0, 0-1
A mainly oil loving molecule that helps water and oil to mix nicely, aka emulsifier. In itself, it can create water-in-oil emulsions (when water droplets are dispersed in oil), but it is used mostly next to water-loving emulsifiers to create nice and smooth oil-in-water creams.  It can also function as a wetting and dispersing agent helping insoluble particles such as color pigments [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
A retinol ester that is a less well-known, but pretty interesting member of the retinoids. Its promise is to give similar anti-aging benefits to retinol but with less negative side effects. [more]
what‑it‑does sunscreen
Ethylhexyl Dimethyl PABA is a chemical sunscreen agent that protects in the UVB range (290-320 nm) with a peak absorbance at 312nm. Other than that, we struggle to write anything positive about this guy, as it is photo unstable (looses 10% efficacy in 20 mins and 50% in 85 mins), not an unfrequent allergen in sunscreens and shows some endocrine effect in animal studies. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 1
A handy white powder that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | skin brightening
what‑it‑does antioxidant | preservative
It's the acronym for Butylated Hydroxy Toluene. It's a common synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative.There is some controversy around BHT. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A common glycol that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products. It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering | moisturizer/humectant
The sodium salt of lactic acid. It's a great skin moisturizer and also used to regulate the pH value of the cosmetic formula. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
It's an important skin-identical ingredient and great natural moisturizer that helps the skin to hold onto water and stay nicely hydrated. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient
An amino acid (the building blocks of skin proteins, like collagen) that hydrates the skin and might help wound healing and improve wrinkles. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant
Fancy name for fruit sugar. It has nice water-binding properties and helps to keep skin hydrated. 
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
The thing in the pee that is also a natural moisturizing factor (NMF) with mild keratolytic and strong skin moisturizing superpowers. [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 moisturizer/humectant
what‑it‑does preservative
A preservative that works mainly against fungi. Has to be combined with other preservatives. [more]
what‑it‑does exfoliant | moisturizer/humectant
A superstar AHA that not only exfoliates skin but is also a very good moisturizer. In higher concentration (10% and up) it can even improve skin firmness, thickness, and wrinkles. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 1
A handy white powder that magically converts a liquid into a nice gel formula. [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 chelating
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A common glycol that improves the freeze-thaw stability of products. It's also a solvent, humectant and to some extent a penetration enhancer. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
An antimicrobial preservative that helps your products not to go wrong too quickly. It works especially well against bacteria, specifically gram-negative species, yeast, and mold.Somewhat controversial, it belongs to an infamous family of formaldehyde-releasers. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
irritancy, com. 0, 0
The most common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon.  Apart from the general controversy around parabens (we wrote about it more here), there is a 2006 in-vitro (made in the lab not on real people) research about methylparaben (MP) sho [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A very common type of feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason parabens. It's a cheap, effective and well-tolerated ingredient to make sure the cosmetic formula does not go wrong too soon. [more]
what‑it‑does colorant
A super common colorant with the color yellow. [more]