Dechipher the INCI: Caffeine Eye Serum

Hello and welcome back to Decipher the INCI, where we go through the ingredients of a Q+A product top to bottom so you know exactly what you're using on your skin, literally! Today, we're jumping into another of your favourites, our Caffeine Eye Serum

And remember, I am merely the messenger, as our Head Chemist James and Assistant Development Chemist Faye have lent me their technical expertise on the subject. 

If you're new on this series and would like to start with our top tips on reading the INCI, you can do so here


But first, the INCI...

Aqua (Water), Propylene Glycol, Betaine, Pentylene Glycol, Caffeine, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Water, Collagen, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle) Extract, Cocoyl Proline, Lactobacillus Ferment Filtrate, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Sodium Phytate, Glycerin, Lactobacillus Ferment, Xanthan Gum, Alcohol, Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Hydroxide, Glyceryl Caprylate, Sodium Anisate, Lactic Acid.


The Base

Aqua (Water). Your under eye area is delicate, so only the most gentle substance can make our base - beautiful H2O!

The Actives

Caffeine. As great for your skin as it is a delicious morning wakeup call, Caffeine contains diuretic and vasoconstrictive properties (vasoconstriction is when you blood vessels contract), which help to deflate puffiness around the eyes, boost your blood circulation, minimise dark circles and lift any bags. It is also a great antioxidant for reducing the effects of UV damage, which is especially important regarding photo-ageing around the eyes, like fine lines and wrinkles. (We also have an entire blog on how great Caffeine is, if you want to check it out!) 

Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract. One of our favourite super foods for antioxidant action, Green Tea is rich in proanthocyanidins, a class of polyphenols, which increase the strength of your capillaries and support the collagen and elastin structures in the thin skin around your eyes. Weaker capillary strength is what leads to blood pooling under your eyes (sounds terrifying, right?) and producing those dark circles, so this ingredient is a must for brightening! 

Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract. Both nutritional and unique in its antioxidant capabilities, Pomegranate is able to tighten and lift skin upon application, perfect for reducing sagging and wrinkles. It is also revered for aiding in skin repair, hydration, and minimising TEWL (Transepidermal Water Loss) - the loss of water from your skin into the surrounding atmosphere (in most cases, the air) which often lead to dryness. 

Biosaccharide Gum-1. This ingredient is cherished by Q+A, and if you're a regular on the Q+A blog you'll have heard me raving about it several times! Biosaccharide Gum-1 has S.M.A.R.T performance, an acronym for Soothing, Moisturising, Anti-ageing, Restructuring, Touch. It plays a part in DNA repair, calming skin that is irritated as a result of pollution and climate, as well as the obvious anti-ageing and moisturising benefits! (Check out the Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum INCI Decipher for a full debrief). It's easy to see why we're Biosaccharide Gum super fans!

Lactobacillus Ferment. A fermented product, in this case from the Lactobacillus bacteria, is one that has a greater bioavailability. The greater the bioavailability, the better the body can absorb it. (For example, the element Zinc can't be rubbed over your skin for any benefits, but Zinc PCA is bioavailable, which is why it can have a positive skin effect!) It can also increase the bioavailability of other ingredients!

Lactobacillus Ferment Lysate. A little different from the ingredient above, through the process of lysis the cell membranes are broken down, and the contents of those cells become the lysate. In this case, it becomes a postbiotic (so dead bacteria, instead of the live bacteria you get with probiotics). These innards can act as antioxidants and humectants for the skin, as well as balance your skin's natural ecosystem of good bacteria. 

The Solvents

Propylene Glycol.  Solvents are responsible for how well your products absorb into the skin, and our organic Propylene Glycol is one of the best! This ensures all the goodies we just talked about, and all the goodies yet to come, will all get to shine boosting the health of your skin. 

The Moisturisers

Glycerin.  So far we've seen Glycerin in 3 for 3 blogs! A great humectant, Glycerin draws moisture from the atmosphere into your skin, just like Hyaluronic Acid. Because the skin around your eyes is so fragile, up to ten times thinner than the rest of your face, it's important to give it the best gentle moisturisers to keep it from looking dull and dry!

Betaine.  We've got an entire blog on the benefits of Betaine, but I'll sum it up for you. It essentially helps protect your skin cells from stress and damage, by controlling the balance of water, as well as strengthening your skin barrier for greater everyday protection from pollution, physical damage, and UV! 

Collagen.  The molecule size of Collagen is too big to absorb into you skin and boost collagen levels, so instead it provides great moisturisation for your skin!   

The Stabilisers

Sodium Hydroxide.  You might recognise these two stabilisers from our last Deciphering of Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum. That is because we love them! Sodium Hydroxide in particular dissolves easily in water to manage pH, making it perfect for our mostly water-based range.

Lactic Acid. Like I mentioned last time, our GMO-free maize derived Lactic Acid works great as a pH stabiliser. But in higher doses it can be an exfoliant so if you have particularly sensitive skin it's always good to check where it sits on the INCI list. 

The Viscosity Regulators

Xanthan Gum. Viscosity regulators are responsible for keeping a product at the perfect (no surprises here) viscosity. Xanthan Gum affects how the different ingredients' molecules flow past each other, as too much friction might make it thick or gloopy, and not enough you could end up with a runny mess! 

The Preservatives

Sodium Levulinate. Another 3 for 3! Plant based Sodium Levulinate pairs perfectly with Biosaccharide Gum, protecting it, and the rest of this lovely formula, from bacteria, yeast and mold. Preservatives are not just for shelf life, but for shielding against any introduced nasties once you've opened the product and begin to use it, and you can help this process by avoiding touching the roller ball or area around it with your hands!  

The Chelators

Sodium Phytate. Sodium Levulinate's best friend is Sodium Phytate, as chelating agents are designed to boost a preservative's ability to fight off bad microbes! Sodium Phytate is there to storm the bacteria with protective coatings and, essentially, poke holes in their armour, so Sodium Levulinate doesn't get stuck at the gate. Chelators can also nullify microbes themselves using their own protective shield! 

The Multifunctionals

Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle) Extract. Two lovely sounding ingredients, these multifunctionals are both skin conditioning agents, and exhibit preservative effects which can add a little support to Sodium Levulinate. You won't likely find these two working on their own, as they operate best when side by side! 

Pentylene Glycol. If you've been following along with this series and are starting to get the hang of recognising carbon lengths, I'm sure you can guess what 'pent' stands for! Yes, this 5 molecule long ingredient is also a skin conditioner cross preservative booster. It acts similarly to an emollient, helping to smooth and soften your skin. 

Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate. Three's a charm, and Radish Root makes up the final ingredient to pair skin conditioning with preservative boosting. 

Sodium Anisate. A gentle antimicrobial ingredient, derived from anise and fennel, Sodium Anisate also loves working with Sodium Luvulinate (boy, someone's popular today!). 

Caprylyl Glycol. Sneaking in to slightly lower our natural percentage, this synthetic ingredient naturally boosts the preservative action, whilst being moisturising for your skin. 

The Extras

Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Water. Refreshing and light, Cucumis Sativus is an essence, which (unlike the bottle of essence you might buy) is the water based version of an essential oil. It's regarded as helping to condition the skin, and is one of the reasons our Caffeine Eye Serum is so light. 

Cocoyl Proline. This lovely little ingredient is a solulbiliser, which means it helps different ingredients mix, which might otherwise not go so well together. They're most commonly used for introducing oils into water-based products!

Alcohol. Just like how you'll see linalool and limonene listed in INCIs with citrus ingredients, or like on our Peppermint Daily Cleanser INCI, we are required to let you know that alcohol is present (in very small amounts) naturally within the Cucumber Fruit Water. Which does beg the question, are cucumbers alcoholic? 


Caffeine Eye Serum INCI, tick! The INCI lists seem to be getting longer, so kudos for getting through all those multifunctionals! 

We've done a cleanser, serum, and eye product, so I'm thinking a moisturiser might be up next? Suggestions for your favourite are more than welcome! 


Amy Robson
Online community coordinator at Q+A and decipherer of INCIs

Tags: Caffeine

Leave a comment