Welcome to our very first edition of 'Decipher the INCI', where we go through each product's ingredients list until you know them just as well as we do! If you haven't read our top tips on reading the INCI as a whole, check it out here before we get started. Just so you're confident we know what we're talking about, I spoke with James, our Head Chemist, the very man who formulated this product in the first place!
Q+A is all about making informed decisions, so let's let our Peppermint Daily Cleanser speak for itself...
But first, the INCI...
Aqua (Water), Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Decyl Glucoside, Glycerin, Mentha Arvensis (Peppermint) Leaf Oil, Allantoin, Glyceryl Oleate, Coco-Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium Phytate, Levulinic Acid, Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Limonene, Linalool.
Aqua (Water). I'm going to go out on a limb here an assume you know what water is, but have you ever wondered why so many products have it as their top ingredient? Please don't feel cheated, water offers non oil-based formulas a medium in which many other ingredients can be easily soluble in, so your end product is smooth and cohesive. We use distilled water, as you don't want any types of minerals or metals found commonly in tap water on your skin! This means the water itself can't drive any claims for the effectiveness of the product, which is why some brands will use thermal water to add a little something extra to their product.
Sodium Coco-Sulfate. When we talk about surfactants in relation to a cleanser, we're looking at ingredients which act as detergents and foaming agents on the skin. There are four types of surfactants, each with their own charge; anionic (which have a negative charge), cationic (a positive charge), nonionic (no charge) and amphoteric (both a positive and negative charge). Your skin has a negative charge, so using an anionic surfactant, like Sodium Coco-Sulfate here, means you get great oil lifting action with lots of foam, which is exactly what we like with a cleanser.
Whilst this ingredient is 100% natural and derived from coconut fat, the 'coco' doesn't stand for coconut, it relates to the carbon content. Coco has between eight to twelve carbon molecules in its chain, whereas another surfactant like Decyl Glucoside has ten. Here's where the confusion around SLS (or Sodium Lauryl-Sulfate) comes in... Lauryl has a chain of twelve carbons, and as a surfactant most of us might find it irritating to the skin. However, what you may not know is that Sodium Coco-Sulfate has around 50% SLS content, but the change in carbon length means you aren't likely to get the same discomfort. So when you see another ingredient like Lauryl Glucoside, try not to associate it with SLS, because 'Lauryl' is just a descriptor.
Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Decyl Glucoside, Coco-Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside. A glucoside is an ingredient derived from sugar. They are generally quite gentle surfactants, and nonionic. Whilst nonionic surfactants are great at cleaning your skin, absorbing oils, and thickening the product, they don't have the same amazing ability to foam up like Sodium Coco-Sulfate. Why are there so many? Well, with a range of carbon lengths, you're covering more bases.
Mentha Arvensis (Peppermint) Leaf Oil. Peppermint Oil is the anti-bacterial agent which makes this Cleanser so great for spot-prone skin. An essential oil, you don't need much to reap the benefits! Peppermint oil contains menthol, the organic compound which is responsible for a cooling sensation, and our particular one is packed with it, between 50% to 60%. Our Mentha Arvensis is grown and distilled in India!
Did you know that there's a legal limit for using essential oils in cosmetics? Because you could experience severe discomfort applying pure oils to your skin, or even 50, 10, 5 or even 1% diluted, there is a governing board which decides at what point your product becomes illegal! You can find Peppermint Oil at an inclusion of 0.3% in our Peppermint Daily Cleanser. This is the perfect amount of Peppermint, as at this inclusion level even those with sensitive skin can reap its benefits!
Allantoin. Whilst we love to talk about naturals, we are impartial to a good synthetic ingredient as well, so long as it has great benefits for the skin. Allantoin (pronounced Allan-toe-in if you were wondering) is an anti-irritant and soothing agent, which balances the stripping action of the surfactants.
Glyceryl Oleate. Otherwise known as a refatting agent, Glyceryl Oleate contains the good fats and oils we like in and on our skin and coats them back onto your skin after cleansing. It makes sense why this particular ingredient is quite popular in conditioners, and is why you'll feel smooth and soft after using this cleanser. And whilst this one doesn't particularly like water, Coco Glucoside specially helps it absorb into the product.
Glycerin. This is one of the pretty well known ingredients in cosmetics, which is a humectant. Humectants are ingredients which draw moisture in from the atmosphere into your skin, just like our Hyaluronic Acid, as opposed to emollients which sit on the top of your skin to prevent moisture evaporating. It works well in a cleanser because you are using water to both dampen your face and wash the product off. For something to consider, whilst we love humectants here in rainy UK, you wouldn't be so well off using one in a dry climate! Instead of drawing moisture from the atmosphere into your skin, it will draw moisture up from the lower layers of you skin and just make your skin feel more dehydrated!
Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Not to be confused with the Betaine we use in some of our other products, this is another synthetic. Have you ever used a cleanser, or maybe a shampoo, which lost its foam immediately after touching your oily skin or hair? That's at fault of not having a foam stabiliser like Cocomidopropyl Betaine. We love a good bubbly cleanser, don't we!
Citric Acid. This ingredient is used to balance the pH of a product. Our skin has a natural pH of about 5, so in order to have a gentle product we like to keep it around the same point, although a safe range is between about 4.5-7. If you've ever used a soap on your face which made your skin feel horrible, dried out or encouraging new spots and wrinkles, you're likely looking at a pH of 9 for that product.
Levulinic Acid, Sodium Levulinate. Same sort of sounding word? Same carbon length. In this case, it's five. Both of these materials are plant based, often from corn, and are particularly apt at killing off microbes. You may think that a preservative is only to keep your product from "going off", but this is not really the case. Once the formula is stable, the real threat is bacteria, yeast, and mold. Because most people don't wash their hands before touching a product, once the cap opens you're inviting the possibility of these nasties to come in. Don't worry, though! Preservatives are designed to stop them from wrecking havoc and causing you harm. Every product must go through a 'challenge test', where five types of bacteria, yeast and mold are injected into it, and tested intermittently to determine whether or not the formula, with all its preservatives, are fit to keep you safe.
Sodium Benzoate. A preservative with a taste for bacteria and fungi. It nullifies the ability of them to spoil products by infiltrating the cell through absorption and lowering its internal pH.
Sodium Phytate. Chelating agents are the best friend of preservatives, as they boost their ability to attack bad microbes. The smarter, more equipped bacteria can form a coating which your standard preservatives can't break through. Sodium Phytate enters, and essentially pokes holes in the coating so that they can be infiltrated by Sodium Benzoate. It also has the ability to nullify the microbe itself, by trapping it in its own protective shield.
Limonene, Linalool. You may have assumed these two allergens were the byproduct of the Citric Acid, as they are found most commonly in the peels of citrus fruit, but it is actually Peppermint Oil. These are both required by law to be stated on the INCI, even when they exist in minuscule amounts, so if you know you're sensitive to one of them, it's easy to avoid skin discomfort. You'll commonly find them deliberately added to artificially flavoured food, cleaning products and scented cosmetics for their citrus aroma.
And that's our Peppermint Daily Cleanser! Believe it or not, this is one of our shorter INCIs.... But some of these names are going to pop up again, so I promise it's not going to be a slog.
So next time you pick up your Peppermint Daily Cleanser, I hope you'll be even more impressed with all the factors at play to cleanse your skin, and if you're anything like me, show off a little new knowledge with whoever happens to pass by the bathroom as it's in your hand.
We've got twelve more INCI's to get through, so if you're dying to know more about your favourite Q+A product, let me know!
Online community coordinator at Q+A and decipherer of INCIs