Decipher the INCI: 5-HTP Face & Neck Cream

Welcome back to Decipher the INCI, as we delve into the luxurious depths of each Q+A product until we know the ins and outs of each and every ingredient! Joining me once again to provide her chemistry expertise is our Assistant Development Chemist, Faye. You may have noticed, that as we have reached the fifth instalment of this series, having already deciphered the Peppermint Daily Cleanser, Niacinamide Daily Toner, Caffeine Eye Serum and Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum, and now 5-HTP Face & Neck Cream, we have a completed basic routine! If you just happen to use this unique line-up of products, my congratulations! Once you reach the bottom of this blog, you'll be an absolute expert on every element of your usual regime. 

But as always, if you're new to us and haven't checked out our top tips for a quick deciphering, you can do so here! 


But first, the INCI...

Aqua (Water), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Griffonia Simplicifolia Seed Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycearyl Stearate, Glycerin, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Caffeine, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder, Benzyl Alcohol, Sucrose Stearate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Coco-Glucoside, Coconut Alcohol, Tocopherol, Dehydroacetic Acid, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Sodium Levulinate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Anisate, Citric Acid.


The Base

Aqua (Water). Water again! It makes a perfect base for a moisturiser to keep things light and easily absorbed.    

The Actives

Griffonia Simplicifolia Seed Extract. Our titular ingredient 5-HTP (or 5-hydroxytryptophan, which is quite the mouthful), is a naturally occurring amino acid derived from the seeds of the Griffonia plant, hence the ingredient name. It's know as a 'feel good' chemical, as in the body it acts as a precursor to serotonin. Applied topically to the skin however, 5-HTP protects our melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin) from UV-induced apoptosis, the process of UV exposure that damages our cells (accelerating signs of ageing as well as hyperpigmentation), can damage our DNA, and can also lead to tumour growth. Because the Griffonia plant is native to areas in Africa where UV exposure is a given, it had to evolve this ability in order to survive. Pretty neat! 

Caffeine. Borrowing this ingredient from our Caffeine Eye Serum, Caffeine supports the UV-protection of 5-HTP with its antioxidant properties, especially when it comes to helping with fine lines and wrinkles. It also boots circulation as a vasoconstrictor, constricting blood vessels to keep things moving and avoid swelling and puffiness around the face.

Biosaccharide Gum-1. We love a good drop of Biosaccharide Gum! If you're a regular on this blog, or our usual Questions and Answers blog, you'll no doubt have heard this one being raved about. Thanks to its S.M.A.R.T performance (Soothing, Moisturising, Anti-ageing, Restructuring, Touch), the ingredient helps this cream not only moisturise your skin, but help with DNA repair, signs of ageing, softness and evening texture, and calming any sensitivity or redness you experience throughout the day. 

The Moisturisers

Glycerin.  This marks Glycerin's five for five record (only to be matched by water...) on this blog! Just like Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin is a humectant, meaning it draws moisture from the atmosphere into your skin cells for deep, long lasting hydration. 

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride. This technical sounding ingredient is a fractionated coconut oil. This means that instead of straight coconut oil (or unfractionated coconut oil), the fatty acids have been separated out, allowing us to get all the moisturising and skin softening benefits without a greasy or oily residue left on your face. It also means that this versatile and stable oil has no colour, or an aroma for those of us who prefer our skincare fragrance free! 

Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil.  As far as oils in cosmetics go, Sunflower is one of the best! Coming up at number two on our INCI, this oil is super versatile and works really well alongside a host of other oils, as you can see below! Rich in vitamins A, D & E, as well as more fatty acids, you can expect Sunflower oil to help keep your complexion looking moisturised, healthy and bright. Our Sunflower Oil hails from across the channel in France! 

Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil.  Grape Seed Oil is a great carrier oil, meaning that it blends well with other ingredients and helps to deliver them safely into your skin. It's also popular for massaging into the skin for a silky complexion. We particularly love our Grape oil because it is sourced from the wine and juice industry, where the seeds are a by-product and would otherwise go to waste. 

Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil.  Jojoba oil has a very similar molecular makeup to the oils we produce for our skin, allowing it to absorb into the skin super easily and get right to work moisturising without causing any pore clogging. With vitamins and fatty acids to repair and boost skin health, it's no wonder we named Jojoba as one of our favourite skin superfoods

Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder.  Aloe Vera has for a very long time helped to soothe and repair our skin, and it continues to do so in any form. We looked at Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice for the Niacinamide Daily Toner INCI, so why does this product use the powder instead? When a powder is added to a translucent product, like a toner, it can cause them to look hazy or opaque. In a cream, however, where we love that crisp white colour, the powder's effect doesn't particularly matter. So, in function, there's no difference! 

The Emulsifiers

Cetearyl Alcohol.  The emulsifier system is super important for a product which mixes water an oil, keeping everything nice and blended, rather than slowly separating in the jar. Cetearyl Alcohol is a fatty alcohol, which is a far cry from the drinks you might enjoy on a night out. Derived from natural fats and oils, fatty alcohols are waxy solids which aren't drying on the skin. 

Coconut Alcohol.  Just like Cetearyl Alcohol, you don't need to worry about any drying alcohol effects on your skin. Coconut Alcohol emulsifies the product, as well as helping with the creamy texture of this moisturiser.

Glycearyl Stearate.  This derivitive of Glycerin and Stearic Acid (which can be found in Shea and Cocoa Butter) as another emulsifier can help to keep your skin looking and feeling soft, as well as contributing to 5-HTP's 97.5% natural stat. 

Sucrose Stearate.  Another combo, Stearic Acid and Sucrose (the thing responsible for white sugar) come together to form Sucrose Stearate. And we combine it with this moisturiser for a perfect homogenisation. 

Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate.  This ingredient is an amino acid, often considered to be hypoallergenic, so great for those sensitive skin types!

Coco-Glucoside.  You may recognise Coco-Glucoside from our Peppermint Daily Cleanser INCI, where it fell into the surfactant (or cleansing) category. Whilst there is no cleansing action in this product, it's not uncommon for the line to blur between surfactants and emulsifiers. Surfactants mix oil and water to help clean the skin, and emulsifiers mix oil and water, so all the ingredients work happily side by side. 

The Stabilisers

Citric Acid.  pH levels are important to get right with moisturisers too! Our skin sits at about a 5, and just a tiny amount of Citric Acid helps to keep the product within the 4.5-7 range. 

The Viscosity Regulators

Xanthan Gum. Without a viscosity regulator, you might have a very strange consistency indeed! Imagine going to scoop some 5-HTP Face & Neck Cream out of the jar, and it's suddenly runny like melted ice cream. Not a particularly nice thought! Xanthan Gum affects how the different molecules flow within the cream, and how much friction they generate. Essentially, the faster they move and the less friction they generate, the less viscous the product is. 

The Preservatives

Benzyl Alcohol. Whilst this isn't a fatty alcohol, it is referred to as an aromatic alcohol. It's produced naturally in a lot of plants, and you'll find it as a component of a range of essential oils like Jasmine and Ylang Ylang. As a preservative, though, in such little quantities, it doesn't have any particular effect on the smell of the product. 

Sodium Benzoate. We've seen this one before! Sodium Benzoate neutralises the threat of bacteria and fungi by going right into the heart of these nasties and lowering their internal pH so they lose their effectiveness. 

Dehydroacetic Acid. A run of the mill preservative, Dehyroacetic Acid comes in a crystalline powder form before being solubilised into the formula. 

Sodium Levulinate. Where Biosaccharide Gum goes, Sodium Levulinate follows. It's optimised for keeping that ingredient in particular nice and safe from bacteria, yeasts and fungi, as well as offering a hand to the other preservatives for a tight seal that holds fast once you've opened the jar. 

The Multifunctionals

Tocopherol. A preservative booster and emollient, Tocopherol is another skin superfood that we love. Super rich in vitamin E, it moisturises the skin whilst helping to repair and prevent UV damage. Fits right into the 5-HTP theme! 

Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate. This natural preservative ingredient is made through fermenting radish roots with leuconostock kimchii, a bacteria found in Lactic Acid which (as you might assume from the name) has been traditionally used to make kimchi. 

Glyceryl Caprylate. You'll likely find this multifunctional with Sodium Levulinate and Biosaccharide Gum in our products! It boosts the preservative action and helps to soften and smooth the skin. 

Sodium Anisate. Another friend of Sodium Levulinate's, Sodium Anisate is a gentle antimicrobial ingredient derived from anise and fennel. 


Wow, that was a long one! I hope you found this mix of ingredients we haven't deciphered before, and those we're becoming familiar with as this series goes on, has kept you interested! And excited to use your 5-HTP Face & Neck Cream, reaping all of those protecting, moisturising and anti-ageing ingredients. 

Now that we have our basic routine down, what shall we decipher next? A facial oil? Mask? Exfoliator? Lip oil? Let me know if there's something you've been dying to know more about!


Amy Robson
eCommerce coordinator at Q+A and decipherer of INCIs

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