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Powerful Ingredient

INGREDIENT library

  • Allantoin

    Rating: BEST

    Allantoin helps to soften and protect while actively soothing skin. It also stimulates cell regeneration promoting healthy skin. It comes from an extract from the root of the comfrey plant and is a soothing, non-irritating ingredient that has the ability to help heal the skin and stimulate the growth of healthy tissue. It works as an effective skin softener. By-product of uric acid extracted from urea and considered an effective anti-irritant.

  • Aloe barbadensis

    Rating: Good

    There is no real evidence that Aloe barbadenis helps the skin in any significant way, but it’s not a throwaway ingredient. Some brands use aloe in place of water in their products, but aloe is actually 99.5% water.

  • Algin

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Thickeners/Emulsifiers , Emollients , Plant Extracts , Antioxidants

    Algae are very simple, chlorophyll-containing organisms in a family that includes more than 20,000 different known species. In cosmetics, algae act as thickening agents, water-binding agents, and antioxidants. Some algae are also potential skin irritants. For example, the phycocyanin present in blue-green algae has been suspected of allergenicity and of causing dermatitis on the basis of patch tests.

    Other forms of algae, such as Irish moss and carrageenan, contain proteins, vitamin A, sugar, starch, vitamin B1, iron, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and calcium. Most of these are beneficial for skin, as emollients, anti-inflammatory agents, or antioxidants. However, claims that algae can stop or eliminate wrinkling, heal skin, or provide other elaborate benefits are unsubstantiated.

    Other forms of algae, such as Irish moss and carrageenan, contain proteins, vitamin A, sugar, starch, vitamin B1, iron, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and calcium. Most of these are beneficial for skin, as emollients, anti-inflammatory agents, or antioxidants. However, claims that algae can stop or eliminate wrinkling, heal skin, or provide other elaborate benefits are unsubstantiated.

  • Algae extract

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Plant Extracts , Antioxidants , Thickeners/Emulsifiers , Emollients

    Algae are very simple, chlorophyll-containing organisms in a family that includes more than 20,000 different known species. In cosmetics, algae act as thickening agents, water-binding agents, and antioxidants. Some algae are also potential skin irritants. For example, the phycocyanin present in blue-green algae has been suspected of allergenicity and of causing dermatitis on the basis of patch tests.

    Other forms of algae, such as Irish moss and carrageenan, contain proteins, vitamin A, sugar, starch, vitamin B1, iron, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and calcium. Most of these are beneficial for skin, as emollients, anti-inflammatory agents, or antioxidants. However, claims that algae can stop or eliminate wrinkling, heal skin, or provide other elaborate benefits are unsubstantiated.

    Other forms of algae, such as Irish moss and carrageenan, contain proteins, vitamin A, sugar, starch, vitamin B1, iron, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and calcium. Most of these are beneficial for skin, as emollients, anti-inflammatory agents, or antioxidants. However, claims that algae can stop or eliminate wrinkling, heal skin, or provide other elaborate benefits are unsubstantiated.

  • Alanine

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antioxidants , Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients

    Fundamental constituents of all proteins found in the body, such as: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, cystine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine, and valine. Some of these amino acids can be synthesized by the body; others (known as essential amino acids) must be obtained from protein in the diet.

    In skincare products, amino acids act as water-binding agents, and some have antioxidant properties and wound-healing abilities as well. Amino acids can be combined with other ingredients that have cell communicating ability to work in unison to fight wrinkles and other signs of aging.

  • Acetyl hexapeptide-8(argireline)

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Cell-Communicating Ingredients

    Synthetically derived peptide that is used in a wide range of skincare and makeup products, especially those claiming to have a muscle-relaxing effect similar to Botox injections. These claims typically have to do with relaxing muscle contractions when making facial expressions, thus reducing the appearance of expression lines.

    If acetyl hexapeptide-8 really worked to relax facial muscles, it would work all over the face (assuming you’re using the products as directed). If all the muscles in your face were relaxed you’d have sagging, not youthful, skin, not to mention that it would affect the hand and fingers you use to apply it, which would inhibit you from picking up a cup or holding the steering wheel of your car. For all the fear espoused by companies that feature this peptide in their “works-like-Botox” products, there is considerably more efficacy, usage, and safety documentation available for Botox.

    Despite claims being made for acetyl hexapeptide-8 (argireline), there is a clinical study revealing that this ingredient is not even remotely as effective as Botox in reducing wrinkles.

    It is also interesting to note that Botox, applied topically to skin, has no impact on skin or muscles in any way, shape, or form. Still, like all peptides, acetyl hexapeptide-8 has water-binding properties and theoretical cell-communicating ability. It’s not a throwaway ingredient, but neither is it as miraculous as the manufacturer would lead you to believe.

  • Arctostaphylos uva ursi leaf(Bearberry)

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Plant Extracts , Antioxidants , Antibacterial/Anti-Acne

    Arctostaphylos uva ursi has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, and there is a small amount of research showing it can have skin-lightening properties. Bearberry extract’s potential efficacy is derived from its active components: hydroquinone and arbutin.

    Hydroquinone is well established as a melanin-inhibiting agent; arbutin has far less quantitative information available, but in high concentrations has been shown to inhibit melanin production. However, the small amount of bearberry extract present in skincare products makes it unlikely that these products can affect melanin production.

  • Ascorbic acid

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Vitamins , Antioxidants

    Ascorbic acid—also known as L-ascorbic acid—has the most research of any form of vitamin C when it comes to benefits for skin. It is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that can improve the appearance of wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and brown spots.

    Ascorbic acid is also a powerhouse when mixed with other antioxidants, or when used alone in higher concentrations, such as 15% or 20% or greater, amounts that can be great for treating extra-stubborn dark spots, red marks or wrinkles.

    A particularly vulnerable antioxidant when exposed to UV light and air, ascorbic acid must be packaged to protect it from these elements during routine use, or its effectiveness will gradually become diminished to the point of not working at all (you will see this as oxidized discoloration, meaning the product turns a copper to brownish color).For this reason, avoid any vitamin C (ascorbic acid) products packaged in jars.

  • Benzyl alcohol

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Miscellaneous

    Organic alcohol that occurs naturally in some fruits (apricots, cranberries) and teas. Its chief function in cosmetics is as a preservative, and it’s among the least irritating preservatives in use. High amounts of benzyl alcohol can impart a noticeable floral-like scent to products, as it is part of the fragrance makeup of some essential oils such as jasmine.

    As a volatile alcohol, it can pose a risk of irritation when used in high amounts, but is considered safe as used in cosmetics.

  • Butylene glycol

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Miscellaneous , Slip Agents

    Commonly-used ingredient that has multiple functions in cosmetics, including as a slip agent and a penetration enhancer. It’s similar to propylene glycol, but has a lighter texture. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review board has evaluated several toxicology tests and other research concerning butylene glycol and has determined it is safe as used in cosmetics products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even determined that butylene glycol is safe as a food additive.

  • Butyrospermum parkii(shea butter)

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Plant Extracts , Emollients

    Plant lipid, extracted from the karite tree, that is used as an emollient in cosmetics. Shea butter is a rich source of antioxidants, including epicatechin gallate, gallocatechin, epigallocatechin, gallocatechin gallate, and epigallocatechin gallate, as well as quercetin.

  • C13-14 isoparaffin

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Thickeners/Emulsifiers

    A petroleum-derived ingredient whose wax-like texture functions as a thickening or gelling agent.

    Substances that can have a soft to hard wax-like texture or a creamy, emollient feel, and that can be great lubricants. There are literally thousands of ingredients in this category that give each and every lotion, cream, lipstick, foundation, and mascara, as well as other cosmetics products, their distinctive feel and form. The various combinations of thickeners play a large role in whether or not you prefer one product over another.

  • Thickening agent

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Thickeners/Emulsifiers

    Substances that can have a soft to hard wax-like texture or a creamy, emollient feel, and that can be great lubricants. There are literally thousands of ingredients in this category that give each and every lotion, cream, lipstick, foundation, and mascara, as well as other cosmetics products, their distinctive feel and form. The various combinations of thickeners play a large role in whether or not you prefer one product over another.

  • Carbomer

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Thickeners/Emulsifiers

    Group of thickening agents used primarily to create gel-like formulations. High amounts of carbomers in a gel may result in the product rolling or balling up on skin, but this depends on other formulary steps taken to minimize this effect.

  • Camellia oleifera seed extract (green Tea)

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Plant Extracts , Anti-Irritants , Antioxidants

    Significant amounts of research have established that tea, including black, green, and white tea, has many intriguing health benefits, including anti-aging. Dozens of studies point to tea’s potent antioxidant as well as anticarcinogenic properties.

    The Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology (December 31, 2001) stated that the polyphenols “are the active ingredients in green tea and possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties.

    Green tea and the other teas (e.g., white tea, which is what green tea begins as) show a good deal of promise for skin, but they are not the miracle that cosmetics and health food companies make them out to be. Most researchers agree that tea (black, green, or white) has potent anti-inflammatory properties and that it is a potent antioxidant whether consumed orally or applied topically. Current research also indicates that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), green tea’s active component, can prevent collagen breakdown and reduce UV damage to skin, which is a very good reason to use skincare products that contain one or more forms of tea.

  • Cellulose

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Plant Extracts , Thickeners/Emulsifiers

    Primary fiber component of plants. Used in cosmetics as a thickening agent and to bind other ingredients together.

  • Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract(chamomile)

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antibacterial/Anti-Acne , Antioxidants , Plant Extracts

    Ingredient derived from plant species Chamomilla recutita, Matricaria recutita, and Matricaria chamomilla. Chamomile tea, brewed from dried flower heads, has been used traditionally for medicinal purposes. The main constituents of the flowers include phenolic compounds, primarily the flavonoids apigenin, quercetin, patuletin, luteolin, and their glucosides.

    The principal components of the essential oil extracted from the flowers are the terpenoids a-bisabolol and its oxides and azulenes, including chamazulene. Chamomile has moderate antioxidant and antimicrobial activities, and significant anti-platelet activity in vitro. Animal model studies indicate it may have potent anti-inflammatory action, some antimutagenic and cholesterol-lowering action, as well as antispasmotic and anxiolytic effects.

    Adverse reactions to chamomile, when consumed as a tisane or applied topically, have been reported among those with allergies to other plants in the daisy family.

  • Citric acid

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Miscellaneous

    Extract derived from citrus and used primarily in small amounts to adjust the pH of products to prevent them from being too alkaline.

  • Cyclopentasiloxane (silicone)

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Slip Agents , Emollients , Silicones

    Substance derived from silica (sand is a silica). The unique fluid properties of silicone give it a great deal of slip, and in its various forms it can feel like silk on skin, impart emollience, and be a water-binding agent that holds up well, even when skin becomes wet. In other forms, it’s used extensively for wound healing and for improving the appearance of scars.

    There are numerous forms of silicones used in cosmetic products, particularly leave-on skincare products and all manner of hair-care products. Common forms of silicone are cyclopentasiloxane and cyclohexasiloxane; other forms include various types of dimethicone and phenyl trimethicone. Claims that silicones in any form cause or worsen acne have not been substantiated in published research, nor have reports that silicones are irritating to or “suffocate” skin. Almost all of these claims are either myths or based on anecdotal evidence, which isn’t the best way to determine the safety or efficacy of any cosmetic ingredient. How do we know that silicones don’t suffocate skin? Because of their molecular properties they are at the same time porous and resistant to air. Think of silicones in a skincare formula like the covering of a tea bag. When you steep the tea bag in water the tea and all of its antioxidant properties are released.

    Silicones remain on the surface of your skin and the other ingredients it’s mixed with “steep” through. All ingredients must be suspended in some base formula; some of the ingredients remain on the surface, some are absorbed. The intent is for the “actives” to get through. Think of how many topical medications are suspended in petrolatum or mineral oil and the active ingredients absolutely get through, and petrolatum is far more effective at preventing moisture loss than silicones are.

    Moreover, the molecular structure of commonly used silicones makes it impossible for them to suffocate skin (not to mention skin doesn’t breathe). The unique molecular structure of silicones (large molecules with wide spaces between each molecule) allows them to form a permeable barrier and also explains why silicones rarely feel heavy or occlusive, although they offer protection against moisture loss.

    Interestingly, silicone has been shown to be helpful for offsetting dryness and flaking from common anti-acne active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and topical antibiotics. Also, silicones are sometimes used as fillers to improve the appearance of acne scars, which certainly wouldn’t be the case if silicone were a pore-clogging ingredient. Perhaps the most telling reason why silicones do not clog pores and cause acne (or blackheads) is because, from a chemistry standpoint, most silicones are volatile. That means their initially viscous (thick) texture evaporates quickly and does not penetrate the pore lining where acne is formed. Instead, they help ensure the even application of other ingredients and leave behind a silky, almost imperceptible feel that noticeably enhances skin’s texture and appearance—without irritation.

  • Deionized/demineralized water

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Miscellaneous

    Filtered water used in cosmetics. All water used in cosmetic formulations goes through this process to remove components that could interfere with a product’s stability and performance.

  • Diazolidinyl urea

    Rating: AVERAGE

    Categories:Preservatives

    Water-soluble preservative that is very effective against a broad range of bacteria, while also having some antifungal ability. This preservative is considered safe for use at concentrations up to 0.5%, although it is usually present at lower concentrations because it is only one part of a blend with other preservatives (such as parabens).

    Diazolidinyl urea can be a formaldehyde-releasing preservative. Although that sound scary, the amount of formaldehyde released is well below the recommended limits of exposure. Moreover, other ingredients (such as proteins) in a product cause the free formaldehyde to evaporate and become inactive before it could possibly harm skin.

  • DMDM hydantoin

    Rating: AVERAGE

    Categories:Preservatives

    Synthetic, formaldehyde-releasing preservative that has mixed research, some showing it can be more sensitizing AND some showing it can be less sensitizing than many other preservatives, although the majority of comparative studies indicate DMDM hydantoin is more sensitizing.

    Despite its connection to formaldehyde, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board has confirmed the safety of this preservative in three separate reviews, each spaced several years apart.

    In terms of effectiveness, DMDM hydantoin is strongly antibacterial, but rather weak against fungi. Therefore, it shouldn’t be (and typically isn’t) used as the sole preservative in a water-based product.

  • Ethoxydiglycol(solvent)

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Miscellaneous

    Large group of ingredients, including water, that are used to dissolve or break down other ingredients. Solvents are also used to degrease skin and to remove sebum.

  • Glycerin

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients

    Also called glycerol or glycerine, glycerin is present in all natural lipids (fats), whether animal or vegetable. It can be derived from natural substances by hydrolysis of fats and by fermentation of sugars; it also can be synthetically manufactured.

    Also called glycerol or glycerine, glycerin is present in all natural lipids (fats), whether animal or vegetable. It can be derived from natural substances by hydrolysis of fats and by fermentation of sugars; it also can be synthetically manufactured.

    Humectants such as glycerin have always raised the question as to whether or not they take too much water from skin. Pure glycerin (100% concentration) on skin is not helpful and can actually be drying, causing blisters if left on too long. So, a major drawback of any humectant (including glycerin) when used in pure form is that it can increase water loss by attracting water from the lower layers of skin (dermis) into the surface layers of skin (epidermis), where the water can easily be lost to the environment—that doesn’t help dry skin or any skin type. For this reason, glycerin and humectants in general are always combined with other ingredients to soften skin. Glycerin combined with other emollients and/or oils is a fundamental cornerstone of most moisturizers.

    Humectants such as glycerin have always raised the question as to whether or not they take too much water from skin. Pure glycerin (100% concentration) on skin is not helpful and can actually be drying, causing blisters if left on too long. So, a major drawback of any humectant (including glycerin) when used in pure form is that it can increase water loss by attracting water from the lower layers of skin (dermis) into the surface layers of skin (epidermis), where the water can easily be lost to the environment—that doesn’t help dry skin or any skin type. For this reason, glycerin and humectants in general are always combined with other ingredients to soften skin. Glycerin combined with other emollients and/or oils is a fundamental cornerstone of most moisturizers.

  • Glycyrrhetic acid

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Plant Extracts , Anti-Irritants

    One of the active, anti-inflammatory components of licorice extract.

  • Soy protein

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Plant Extracts , Anti-Irritants , Antioxidants

    Potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent for skin. Soy is one of many phytochemicals (phyto = plant) chemicals that are biologically active against free radicals. Soy extract’s increasing use in anti-aging products is largely due to studies showing that its antioxidant genistein (a component of soy) has a collagen-stimulating effect and that various compounds in soy influence skin thickness and elasticity.

    Potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent for skin. Soy is one of many phytochemicals (phyto = plant) chemicals that are biologically active against free radicals. Soy extract’s increasing use in anti-aging products is largely due to studies showing that its antioxidant genistein (a component of soy) has a collagen-stimulating effect and that various compounds in soy influence skin thickness and elasticity.

    Soy extract has been shown to help reduce the effects of UVB exposure on human skin cells.Research hasn’t shown that soy extract or soy oil has estrogenic effects when applied to skin, as it can when taken orally.

  • Soy extract

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antioxidants , Anti-Irritants , Plant Extracts

    Potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent for skin. Soy is one of many phytochemicals (phyto = plant) chemicals that are biologically active against free radicals. Soy extract’s increasing use in anti-aging products is largely due to studies showing that its antioxidant genistein (a component of soy) has a collagen-stimulating effect and that various compounds in soy influence skin thickness and elasticity.

    Potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent for skin. Soy is one of many phytochemicals (phyto = plant) chemicals that are biologically active against free radicals. Soy extract’s increasing use in anti-aging products is largely due to studies showing that its antioxidant genistein (a component of soy) has a collagen-stimulating effect and that various compounds in soy influence skin thickness and elasticity.

    Soy extract has been shown to help reduce the effects of UVB exposure on human skin cells.Research hasn’t shown that soy extract or soy oil has estrogenic effects when applied to skin, as it can when taken orally.

  • Hippophae rhamnoides

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Antioxidants , Plant Extracts

    Berry extract that grows on a shrub-like tree. The fruit of this plant contains malic and acetic acids (AHA-like ingredients that give the fruit an astringent, acidic taste) as well as beneficial compounds known as flavonoids, plus fatty oils. Sea buckthorn is a rich source of vitamin C, but most of it is lost when the fruit is processed for production (which includes manufacture for use in cosmetics products).

    Sea buckthorn is believed to have several topical benefits, including for acne, but the research to support such claims is lacking. More convincing is the research pertaining to sea buckthorn’s ability to help skin heal when applied to wounds, and it does appear to have some antioxidant ability.

    Research has also shown that oral consumption of sea buckthorn can help reduce topical symptoms of UV damage by controlling the rate of collagen degradation and by increasing the activity of superoxide dismutase, a naturally occurring antioxidant that helps skin repair damage.

  • Sea buckthorn

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Antioxidants , Plant Extracts

    Berry extract that grows on a shrub-like tree. The fruit of this plant contains malic and acetic acids (AHA-like ingredients that give the fruit an astringent, acidic taste) as well as beneficial compounds known as flavonoids, plus fatty oils. Sea buckthorn is a rich source of vitamin C, but most of it is lost when the fruit is processed for production (which includes manufacture for use in cosmetics products).

    Sea buckthorn is believed to have several topical benefits, including for acne, but the research to support such claims is lacking. More convincing is the research pertaining to sea buckthorn’s ability to help skin heal when applied to wounds, and it does appear to have some antioxidant ability.

    Research has also shown that oral consumption of sea buckthorn can help reduce topical symptoms of UV damage by controlling the rate of collagen degradation and by increasing the activity of superoxide dismutase, a naturally occurring antioxidant that helps skin repair damage.

  • Hyaluronic acid

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Hyaluronic acid

    Component of skin tissue. Synthetic variations are used in skincare products to function as a superior skin-identical ingredient. Hyaluronic acid has cell-communicating abilities and can boost skin’s moisture content, reduce inflammation, and help prevent moisture loss.

  • Laureth-7

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Surfactants/Detergent Cleansing Agents , Thickeners/Emulsifiers

    Form of lauryl alcohol (a non-irritating fatty alcohol derived from coconut oil) that can function as an emulsifier or as a surfactant. Despite information found on the Internet, there’s no substantiated evidence that this ingredient is comedogenic.

  • Lysine

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Antioxidants , Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients

    Fundamental constituents of all proteins found in the body, such as: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, cystine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine, and valine. Some of these amino acids can be synthesized by the body; others (known as essential amino acids) must be obtained from protein in the diet.

    In skincare products, amino acids act as water-binding agents, and some have antioxidant properties and wound-healing abilities as well. Amino acids can be combined with other ingredients that have cell communicating ability to work in unison to fight wrinkles and other signs of aging.

  • Amino acid

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antioxidants , Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients

    Fundamental constituents of all proteins found in the body, such as: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, cystine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine, and valine. Some of these amino acids can be synthesized by the body; others (known as essential amino acids) must be obtained from protein in the diet.

    In skincare products, amino acids act as water-binding agents, and some have antioxidant properties and wound-healing abilities as well. Amino acids can be combined with other ingredients that have cell communicating ability to work in unison to fight wrinkles and other signs of aging.

  • Magnesium ascorbyl palmitate

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Antioxidants , Vitamins

    Fatty acid–based derivative of vitamin C that can be an effective antioxidant. Research shows this form of vitamin C is less stable than others such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, which is why we don’t rate it as highly as other forms of vitamin C.

  • Niacinamide (Niacin)

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antioxidants , Vitamins , Anti-Irritants , Cell-Communicating Ingredients

    Also known as vitamin B3 and nicotinic acid, niacinamide is a potent cell-communicating ingredient that offers multiple benefits for aging skin. Assuming skin is being protected from sun exposure, niacinamide can improve skin’s elasticity, dramatically enhance its barrier function, help erase discolorations, and revive skin’s healthy tone and texture.

    Topically applied niacinamide has been shown to increase ceramide and free fatty acid levels in skin, prevent skin from losing water content, and stimulate microcirculation in the dermis. It also has a growing reputation for being able to treat an uneven skin tone and to mitigate acne and the red marks it leaves behind (known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). Niacinamide, an excellent ingredient for those struggling with wrinkles and breakouts, is stable in the presence of heat and light.

  • Oxido reductase

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antioxidants

    Large group of enzymes that reduce or block oxygen in different forms from generating free-radical damage.

  • Phenoxyethanol

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Preservatives

    Common cosmetics preservative that’s considered one of the least irritating for use in formulations. It does not release formaldehyde. Phenoxyethanol is approved worldwide (including in Japan and in the EU) for use in all types of water-based cosmetics, up to a 1% concentration.

    The safety of phenoxyethanol has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel several times. This group evaluated the foundational scientific data plus the newer relevant data, and concluded that phenoxyethanol is safe as a cosmetic ingredient. Interestingly, although the phenoxyethanol used in skincare products is almost always synthetic, this chemical occurs naturally in green tea.

    Further studies and accumulated safety data have shown that phenoxyethanol is practically nontoxic via oral and dermal (skin) administration. In a study examining oral intake, increased weights of some organs were noted when high doses of phenoxyethanol were swallowed. The doses in this study were considered much higher than those that would result from using cosmetics and personal care products that contain phenoxyethanol (plus cosmetics aren’t meant to be eaten). In short, phenoxyethanol is considered a safe and effective preservative when used in amounts approved for use in leave-on or rinse-off cosmetics products.

  • Polyhydroxy stearic acid

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Miscellaneous

    Synthetic polymer related to stearic acid that functions as a suspending agent.

  • Apricot kernel oil

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Emollients , Plant Extracts

    Emollient plant oil pressed from the seeds of apricots, and similar to other non-fragrant plant oils in terms of its emollient, skin-smoothing, and antioxidant benefit.

  • Pyridoxine hydrochloride (HCL)

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Antibacterial/Anti-Acne , Antioxidants , Vitamins

    Scientific name for vitamin B6; may have antibacterial and antioxidant benefits for skin when applied topically.

  • Vitamin A

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antioxidants , Vitamins

    Name for the entire vitamin A molecule. Retinol has value for skin on several fronts: It’s a cell-communicating ingredient and an antioxidant. Skin cells have a receptor site that’s very accepting of retinoic acid, which is a component of retinol. This relationship between retinoic acid and skin cells allows for a type of communication in which the cell is told to function normally (that is, not like a damaged or older cell), and it can, to some extent, conform to that request. That’s one of the reasons retinol is an exciting anti-aging ingredient. Retinol cannot communicate with a cell until the retinol is broken down into retinoic acid.

    Retinol helps skin cells create better, healthier skin cells, provides antioxidant support, and increases the amount of substances that enhance skin’s structural elements. Packaging is still a key issue, so any container that lets in air (like jar packaging) or sunlight (clear containers) just won’t cut it, which applies to most state-of-the-art skincare ingredients. Lots of retinol products come in unacceptable packaging; these should be avoided because the retinol will most likely be (or quickly become) ineffective.

    Many consumers are concerned about the percentage of retinol in anti-aging products such as serums or moisturizers. Although the percentage can make a difference (especially if it’s too low), it is not helpful in understanding how a retinol product will benefit your skin. Far more important is the delivery system, packaging, and the other ingredients present with the retinol. Using a product with a range of anti-aging ingredients plus retinol is far more valuable for skin than using a product with only a supposedly high percentage of retinol. Skin is the largest organ of the body and needs far more than any one ingredient can provide. It doesn’t make sense to fixate on the percentage of retinol when so many other elements are also important.

    Because retinol is one of the ingredients known to help improve skin structure, it has some value in anti-cellulite products. Of all the ingredients to look for in a cellulite product, this should be at the top of the list. However, most cellulite products contain only teeny amounts of retinol (at best) and they are often in packaging that won’t keep this air-sensitive ingredient stable.

  • Retinol

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Cell-Communicating Ingredients , Antioxidants , Vitamins

    Name for the entire vitamin A molecule. Retinol has value for skin on several fronts: It’s a cell-communicating ingredient and an antioxidant. Skin cells have a receptor site that’s very accepting of retinoic acid, which is a component of retinol. This relationship between retinoic acid and skin cells allows for a type of communication in which the cell is told to function normally (that is, not like a damaged or older cell), and it can, to some extent, conform to that request. That’s one of the reasons retinol is an exciting anti-aging ingredient. Retinol cannot communicate with a cell until the retinol is broken down into retinoic acid.

    Retinol helps skin cells create better, healthier skin cells, provides antioxidant support, and increases the amount of substances that enhance skin’s structural elements. Packaging is still a key issue, so any container that lets in air (like jar packaging) or sunlight (clear containers) just won’t cut it, which applies to most state-of-the-art skincare ingredients. Lots of retinol products come in unacceptable packaging; these should be avoided because the retinol will most likely be (or quickly become) ineffective.

    Many consumers are concerned about the percentage of retinol in anti-aging products such as serums or moisturizers. Although the percentage can make a difference (especially if it’s too low), it is not helpful in understanding how a retinol product will benefit your skin. Far more important is the delivery system, packaging, and the other ingredients present with the retinol. Using a product with a range of anti-aging ingredients plus retinol is far more valuable for skin than using a product with only a supposedly high percentage of retinol. Skin is the largest organ of the body and needs far more than any one ingredient can provide. It doesn’t make sense to fixate on the percentage of retinol when so many other elements are also important.

    Because retinol is one of the ingredients known to help improve skin structure, it has some value in anti-cellulite products. Of all the ingredients to look for in a cellulite product, this should be at the top of the list. However, most cellulite products contain only teeny amounts of retinol (at best) and they are often in packaging that won’t keep this air-sensitive ingredient stable.

  • Saccharide isomerate

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients , Emollients

    Good water-binding agent and emollient for skin, and particularly helpful for dry skin because it seems to have the ability to bind to skin’s proteins and to stick around longer than other emollients, which are more easily washed away.

  • Serine

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Antioxidants , Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients

    Fundamental constituents of all proteins found in the body, such as: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, cystine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine, and valine. Some of these amino acids can be synthesized by the body; others (known as essential amino acids) must be obtained from protein in the diet.

    In skincare products, amino acids act as water-binding agents, and some have antioxidant properties and wound-healing abilities as well. Amino acids can be combined with other ingredients that have cell communicating ability to work in unison to fight wrinkles and other signs of aging.

  • Simmondsia chinensis

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Plant Extracts , Emollients , Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients

    Emollient, non-fragrant oil similar to other non-fragrant plant oils. Jojoba oil has been shown to enhance skin’s barrier-repair properties and ability to heal from damage. As a plant oil that’s a rich source of fatty acids skin recognizes and can use, jojoba oil also seems to stimulate collagen production and help skin better defend itself against UV light damage. Jojoba oil can also provide topical anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • Jojoba oil

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Emollients , Plant Extracts , Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients

    Emollient, non-fragrant oil similar to other non-fragrant plant oils. Jojoba oil has been shown to enhance skin’s barrier-repair properties and ability to heal from damage. As a plant oil that’s a rich source of fatty acids skin recognizes and can use, jojoba oil also seems to stimulate collagen production and help skin better defend itself against UV light damage. Jojoba oil can also provide topical anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • Sodium hyaluronate

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients , Cell-Communicating Ingredients

    Salt form of skin-identical ingredient hyaluronic acid; considered more bioavailable to skin than pure hyaluronic acid.

    Component of skin tissue. Synthetic variations are used in skincare products to function as a superior skin-identical ingredient. Hyaluronic acid has cell-communicating abilities and can boost skin’s moisture content, reduce inflammation, and help prevent moisture loss.

  • Hyaluronic acid

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients , Cell-Communicating Ingredients

    Component of skin tissue. Synthetic variations are used in skincare products to function as a superior skin-identical ingredient. Hyaluronic acid has cell-communicating abilities and can boost skin’s moisture content, reduce inflammation, and help prevent moisture loss.

  • Sodium PCA

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients

    Natural component of skin, PCA (pyrrolidone carboxylic acid) is also a very good water-binding agent. Sodium PCA also functions as a skin-repairing ingredient.

  • Sodium ascorbyl phosphate

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antibacterial/Anti-Acne , Vitamins , Antioxidants , Anti-Irritants

    Stable, water-soluble form of vitamin C that functions as an antioxidant. [1,2]There’s limited, but promising, research demonstrating that concentrations above 1% have antibacterial action against acne-causing bacteria, while concentrations of 5% reduce the inflammatory response related to acne. [3,4] This form of vitamin C is also potentially effective for lightening skin discolorations, although there isn’t much research supporting its use for this purpose over other forms of vitamin C.

  • Sorbitol

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Slip Agents , Thickeners/Emulsifiers

    Can be created synthetically or derived from natural sources. Similar to glycerin, it is a humectant, thickening agent, and slip agent.

  • Squalene

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Emollients , Antioxidants , Skin-Identical/Repairing Ingredients

    Oil derived from shark liver or from plants (usually olives) and sebum. Its derivative squalane is a natural component of skin and a good emollient that has antioxidant and immune-stimulating properties

  • Tartaric acid

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Leave-On Exfoliant

    Acronym for alpha hydroxy acid. AHAs are derived naturally from various plant sources and from milk, but 99% of the AHAs used in cosmetics are synthetically derived. In low concentrations (less than 3%), AHAs work as water-binding agents. At concentrations greater than 4% and in a base with an acid pH of 3 to 4, these ingredients can exfoliate skin cells by breaking down the substance in skin that holds skin cells together.

    The most effective and well-researched AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid. Malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid may also be effective, but are considered less stable and less skin-friendly; there is little research showing them to have benefit for skin.

    AHAs may irritate mucous membranes and cause irritation. However, AHAs have been widely used for therapy of photodamaged skin, and also have been reported to normalize hyperkeratinization (over-thickened skin) and to increase viable epidermal thickness and dermal glycosaminoglycans content, all of which lead to younger-looking skin.

    There is a vast amount of research that substantially describes how the aging process affects skin and that demonstrates that many of the unwanted changes can be improved by topical application of AHAs, including glycolic and lactic acids. Because AHAs exfoliate sun damaged cells from the surface of skin, and because this layer imparts some minimal sun protection for skin, there is a risk of increased sun sensitivity when using an AHA. However, wearing a sunscreen daily eliminates this risk.

    Note: AHAs are of little benefit when added to rinse-off products, as their contact with skin is too brief for them to function as exfoliants or absorb into skin.

  • AHA

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Leave-On Exfoliant

    Acronym for alpha hydroxy acid. AHAs are derived naturally from various plant sources and from milk, but 99% of the AHAs used in cosmetics are synthetically derived. In low concentrations (less than 3%), AHAs work as water-binding agents. At concentrations greater than 4% and in a base with an acid pH of 3 to 4, these ingredients can exfoliate skin cells by breaking down the substance in skin that holds skin cells together.

    The most effective and well-researched AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid. Malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid may also be effective, but are considered less stable and less skin-friendly; there is little research showing them to have benefit for skin.

    AHAs may irritate mucous membranes and cause irritation. However, AHAs have been widely used for therapy of photodamaged skin, and also have been reported to normalize hyperkeratinization (over-thickened skin) and to increase viable epidermal thickness and dermal glycosaminoglycans content, all of which lead to younger-looking skin.

    There is a vast amount of research that substantially describes how the aging process affects skin and that demonstrates that many of the unwanted changes can be improved by topical application of AHAs, including glycolic and lactic acids. Because AHAs exfoliate sun damaged cells from the surface of skin, and because this layer imparts some minimal sun protection for skin, there is a risk of increased sun sensitivity when using an AHA. However, wearing a sunscreen daily eliminates this risk.

    Note: AHAs are of little benefit when added to rinse-off products, as their contact with skin is too brief for them to function as exfoliants or absorb into skin.

  • Tetrasodium EDTA

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Miscellaneous

    Chelating agent used to prevent minerals present in formulations from bonding to other ingredients.

  • Triethanolamine

    Rating: GOOD

    Categories:Miscellaneous

    Used in cosmetics as a pH balancer. Like all amines, it has the potential for creating nitrosamines. There’s controversy as to whether or not this poses a real problem for skin, given the low concentrations used in cosmetics and the theory that nitrosamines cannot penetrate skin.

  • Tocopherol

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antioxidants , Vitamins

    One of the most well-known and researched antioxidants, both when taken orally and when used in skincare products. If there were an antioxidant hall of fame, vitamin E would likely be its inaugural member (though do not take that to mean it is the “best” antioxidant—there is no single best, just lots of great options). It’s fat-soluble and available in various forms; the most biologically active form is alpha-tocopherol.

    There are eight basic forms of the entire vitamin E molecule, which are either synthetically or naturally derived. The most typical forms are d-alpha-tocopherol, d-alpha-tocopherol acetate, dl-alpha tocopherol, and dl-alpha tocopherol acetate. The “d” prefix in front of the “alpha” indicates that the product was derived from natural sources, such as vegetable oils or wheat germ; the “dl” prefix indicates that the vitamin was created from a synthetic base. Research has shown that natural forms of vitamin E are more potent and have a higher retention rate in skin than their synthetic counterparts, but both definitely have antioxidant activity.

    What about using pure vitamin E for scars? Low amounts of pure vitamin E can be a helpful addition when mixed with other skin-healing ingredients, but high amounts can be a problem. Research published in Dermatologic Surgery concluded that the “… study shows that there’s no benefit to the cosmetic outcome of scars by applying (pure) vitamin E after skin surgery and that the application of topical vitamin E (such as what you may squeeze from a vitamin E pill) may actually be detrimental to the cosmetic appearance of a scar.” In 90% of the cases in this study, topical vitamin E either had no effect on, or actually worsened the cosmetic appearance of scars. However, as many dermatologists will attest, many patients believe vitamin E prevents or reduces the appearance of scars, thus its usage and anecdotal results continue.

    Small amounts of vitamin E can have antioxidant effects without the risk of the contact dermatitis that high amounts present. In that sense, vitamin E can be a helpful addition to skin-healing products.

  • Vitamin E

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Vitamins , Antioxidants

    One of the most well-known and researched antioxidants, both when taken orally and when used in skincare products. If there were an antioxidant hall of fame, vitamin E would likely be its inaugural member (though do not take that to mean it is the “best” antioxidant—there is no single best, just lots of great options). It’s fat-soluble and available in various forms; the most biologically active form is alpha-tocopherol.

    There are eight basic forms of the entire vitamin E molecule, which are either synthetically or naturally derived. The most typical forms are d-alpha-tocopherol, d-alpha-tocopherol acetate, dl-alpha tocopherol, and dl-alpha tocopherol acetate. The “d” prefix in front of the “alpha” indicates that the product was derived from natural sources, such as vegetable oils or wheat germ; the “dl” prefix indicates that the vitamin was created from a synthetic base. Research has shown that natural forms of vitamin E are more potent and have a higher retention rate in skin than their synthetic counterparts, but both definitely have antioxidant activity.

    What about using pure vitamin E for scars? Low amounts of pure vitamin E can be a helpful addition when mixed with other skin-healing ingredients, but high amounts can be a problem. Research published in Dermatologic Surgery concluded that the “… study shows that there’s no benefit to the cosmetic outcome of scars by applying (pure) vitamin E after skin surgery and that the application of topical vitamin E (such as what you may squeeze from a vitamin E pill) may actually be detrimental to the cosmetic appearance of a scar.” In 90% of the cases in this study, topical vitamin E either had no effect on, or actually worsened the cosmetic appearance of scars. However, as many dermatologists will attest, many patients believe vitamin E prevents or reduces the appearance of scars, thus its usage and anecdotal results continue.

    Small amounts of vitamin E can have antioxidant effects without the risk of the contact dermatitis that high amounts present. In that sense, vitamin E can be a helpful addition to skin-healing products.

  • Vitis vinifera

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Antioxidants , Emollients , Plant Extracts

    Latin name for the vines that produce wine grapes. More commonly known as grape seed oil or grape seed extract.

    Contains chemical constituents such as proanthocyanidins, polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins, all of which are very potent antioxidants that help to diminish the sun’s damaging effects and reduce free-radical damage. Grape extract has also been shown to have wound-healing properties. When combined with other antioxidants, topical application reduces the biomarkers in skin responsible for skin cancer. Red grapes contain resveratrol, considered a very potent antioxidant and believed to be chiefly responsible for the health benefits of red wine (and grape juice).

  • Grape seed extract

    Rating: BEST

    Categories:Plant Extracts , Antioxidants

    Contains chemical constituents such as proanthocyanidins, polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins, all of which are very potent antioxidants that help to diminish the sun’s damaging effects and reduce free-radical damage. Grape extract has also been shown to have wound-healing properties. When combined with other antioxidants, topical application reduces the biomarkers in skin responsible for skin cancer. Red grapes contain resveratrol, considered a very potent antioxidant and believed to be chiefly responsible for the health benefits of red wine (and grape juice).

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