| Amy Robson
Hello and welcome back to Decipher the INCI, our more technical blog series breaking down each product's INCI to learn a little more about what you're applying to your skin! This week we've chosen a very unique product, one of our founder Freddy's favourite formulations, the Apple AHA Exfoliating Gel! As always, our Assistant Development Chemist Faye has been assisting me in putting this information together.
If you're new to this series (an extra big welcome to you!), you can always brush up on your INCI deciphering knowledge here.
But first, the INCI...
Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Propanediol, Panthenol, Malic Acid, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Succinoglycan, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder, Sodium Gluconate, Allantoin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Betaine, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid.
Aqua (Water). Aqua, water, H20, whatever name you prefer to use, this essential ingredient is an amazing base for cleansers, serums and exfoliators alike! It's gentle, easy to incorporate with lots of other ingredients, and makes for an easy to apply texture.
Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract. Ah, the common apple! The reason apples are so great for your skin, and your body, is their high content of antioxidants, which can help to protect your skin against environmental stressors, pollutants, and dryness and damage! Their usage in skincare isn't new, as historically people used a blend of rosewater, apple pulp and grease to smooth out rough skin... Thank goodness we now have more advanced extraction techniques.
They're also a great natural source of AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids, which are just a class of chemical compounds), as you'll see from the next active!
Malic Acid. First isolated from apple juice in 1785, Malic Acid is a well-known ingredient in skincare circles. It's found most abundantly in green apples as it causes that sour taste (malic comes from the latin for apple, mãlum), although you can also attribute the tartness of wine, and the taste of rhubarb, to Malic Acid, and it has been used to generate the vinegar taste on salt and vinegar chips! Not only is it an exfoliator, but a humectant, and just like our favourite Hyaluronic Acid, draws moisture from the atmosphere into the skin. For the triple whammy, Malic Acid has a buffering effect, meaning that it works to keep your skin at a healthy pH level. In a product like this with lots of acids, it's important to minimise pH disruptions, which can lead to both dryness, and acne.
Glycolic Acid. Whilst not from apples, this AHA is isolated from sugar cane and sugar beets. Glycolic Acid has the smallest molecular size of all the AHAs, which means it can absorb deeper into the skin (the same way a smaller molecular size of Hyaluronic Acid hydrates deeper within your ski!). So whilst it exfoliates the surface layer of your skin, it's also working at a deeper level stimulating collagen production by stimulating fibroblast cells (the cells responsible for collagen synthesis, among many other essential operations), and helping to regulate sebum production.
Lactic Acid. In some of our products, you'll find Lactic Acid included at less than 0.1% as a pH stabiliser, but not here! Acting as an active, this GMO-free maize derived ingredient is an exfoliator as well as a humectant, drawing moisture into your skin. It's responsible for reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, signs of ageing, and giving you super soft skin.
Citric Acid. Whilst this ingredient can be used as a natural preservative, in this formulation it's part of the exfoliating action! Found in its highest quantities in lemon and limes, Citric Acid helps to improve the texture of your skin.
Propanediol. This ingredient is miscible (mixes well) with water, and helps to keep all the ingredients working together. Our Propanediol is also naturally derived from corn, a humectant, and it can boost preservative action, moisturise the skin, and provide such a lovely on-application sensation!
Glycerin. Do we love Glycerin at Q+A? Absolutely! 6/6 blogs in this series features this amazing ingredient, and for good reason. It is (another!) humectant, helping to draw essential moisture into your skin, and applies nice and smooth. Don’t forget our Glycerin is vegetable derived!
Panthenol. Otherwise known as Vitamin B5, Panthenol has a great line up of benefits. It is, you guessed it, a humectant, as well as an anti-irritant, to smooth and soften your complexion. Panthenol is so great, a well-known hair care brand with a similar name (can you guess?) based their entire product range around it!
Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder. Protector and moisturiser extraordinaire! This powdered form of Aloe Vera mixes into the formulation to help calm irritation, soothe discomfort, and provide support to your natural skin barrier, all things you want in tandem with an exfoliating treatment.
Allantoin. You might have seen this soothing ingredient in our Peppermint Daily Cleanser INCI Decoder, and that is because it works to balance any moisture stripping action of surfactants, or in this case, exfoliators. Allantoin is anti-irritation, so aids Aloe Vera in negating any discomfort or redness caused by our AHAs getting to work.
Betaine. This ingredient can be found in the molasses and vinasse of sugar beet, which are by-products of the sugar and ethanol industry, making it a great sustainable choice for your skincare. Not to mention, all of the UK's sugar beet crops are processed in Norfolk, where Q+A is based! Another humectant and anti-irritant, Betaine helps to balance your moisture levels and keep your skin nice and calm. It is also an osmolyte, which is an organic compound which maintains the durability of cells, helping your skin to adapt to environmental pressures and stay protected.
Succinoglycan. Okay, the title isn't entirely apt. Succinoglycan is a rheology modifier, which does mean it has a thickening effect to improve the consistency and feel of a product, but that's not the entire picture. The rheology modifier can affect pouring ability, how easily it glides onto and spreads over the skin, and how well it rinses away, naturally!
Sodium Gluconate. Chelators help to boost the preservative system in a product, making sure it remains stable over time. If you experience skin irritation from EDTA (namely disodium EDTA and tetrasodium EDTA), then Sodium Gluconate is a great, skin conditioning, alternative.
Phenoxyethanol. This preservative is highly stable and versatile, earning itself the title of a conventional cosmetic preservative. Well tolerated by our skin, it has a low risk of irritation and kills bacteria, yeast and moulds with ease.
Caprylyl Glycol. Good friends with Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol is part of the preservative system. Believe it or not, this ingredient can act as a humectant, hydrating your skin as it works!
The pH Adjusters
Sodium Hydroxide. When it comes to a product with AHAs, maintaining the right pH is incredibly important. Glycolic Acid in particular needs the formulation's pH to stay above 3.8, whilst remaining close to the pKa (the strength of the acid) of 3.6. On top of that, the pH can't be so low that it upsets your skin's own pH level (which is around 5.5), as that can cause skin irritation and breakouts. Sodium Hydroxide is alkaline, the opposite of acidic, which helps to raise the pH to ensure our Apple AHA Exfoliating Gel is safe and suitable to use.
With that, the Apple AHA Exfoliating Gel INCI is done and dusted! I hope you're as impressed with the blend of ingredients as we all are here at Q+A HQ.
If there's an INCI you've been looking forward to learning more about, please let us know!
eCommerce coordinator at Q+A and decipherer of INCIs