Product review: Micellar cleansing waters (budget, part 2/3)

The cleansers reviewed in this three part series are marketed for sensitive skin and, with a couple of minor exceptions, are free of drying alcohol and fragrance. The budget options are regularly on two-for-one or half price at a major supermarket or pharmacy so don’t pay the full RRP!

  1. Part one covers budget (RRP <£5) store brand micellar waters made and sold only in the UK
  2. Part two covers budget brand-name cleansers also available in mainland Europe, north America and/ or Australia
  3. Part three covers mid priced (RRP <£15) micellar waters that are new to the market and thus rarely reviewed.

Nivea Sensitive 3-in-1 Micellar Cleansing Water, £4 for 200ml

Ingredients:Water, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, grapeseed oil, panthenol, glyceryl glucoside, glycerin, sorbitol, decyl glucoside, poloxamer 124, polyquaternium-10, disodium cocoyl glutamate, citric acid, sodium chloride, sodium acetate, propylene glycol, 1,2-hexanediol, trisodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol.” Sites say pH neutral, tested at pH 6

This micellar water is my first Nivea purchase in many years and features in my rosacea core routine challenge. The main cleansing agent is PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil which is a mild non-ionic emulsifier (mixes oil and water) with additional humectant (water attracting) properties. This cleanser was in the September 2014 Glossybox but has not received as much blog attention as Simple or Garnier.

Nivea is owned by the same parent company, Beirsdorf, as the excellent Eucerin but the micellar waters are not dupes, surprisingly it is the cheaper product that has the more interesting ingredients list. Several moisturising or soothing actives that I don’t mind leaving on my skin, of particular interest is the humectant glyceryl glucoside.

This active has ‘filtered down’ to Nivea from sister brand Eucerin. Glyceryl glucoside stimulates a molecule in the epidermis (upper layers of skin) called called AQP3 which helps control the transport of water and other humectants such as glycerin into cells. Published research by Biersdorf shows 5% hydrates skin and improves barrier function, but a marketing brochure suggests 1% to 2% may be effective.

The bottle is simply styled and functional, it is easy to control the amount of micellar water going onto the cotton pad. The micellar water itself smells of nothing at all and feels gentle on the skin, not ‘soapy’ and no stinging yet is an effective cleanser. This product sometimes leaves a slightly tacky finish which may be due to the humectant properties of PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil.

No grand claims are made on the packaging or website that are not backed up by the ingredients or performance.  I would agree that this micellar water “moisturises and helps to reduce the three signs of sensitive skin [when used together with a Nivea Sensitive care product]: redness, tightness, dryness. Your skin feels soft and supple“.

Image credit: Nivea

Simple Kind to Skin Micellar Cleansing Water, £4.50 for 200ml

Ingredients:Water, hexylene glycol, glycerin, niacinamide, panthenol, Roman chamomile flower extract, PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides, butylene glycol, pantolactone, cetrimonium chloride, tetrasodium EDTA, citric acid, potassium chloride, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium chloride, DMDM hydantoin, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate.Simple say pH 5.5-6.5, tested at pH 5

I rate the Simple Kind to Skin Soothing Toner, sulphate-free Refreshing Facial Wash Gel (used as body and hand wash) and Kind to Skin+ Protecting Moisture Cream SPF 30, so purchasing their micellar water was a no-brainer.

Simple was originally a UK brand but is now sold across North America and Australia. This micellar water only came to market early in 2015,  but has been subject to heavy promotion and giveaways by parent company Unilever, so has been widely reviewed. The WordPress ‘micellar water’ tag shows it to be the most posted about product this year.

Simple say the hexylene glycol “helps dissolve make up and kindly conditions the skin.” Similar to the iconic Bioderma Sensibio H2O this also has PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides, a mild non-ionic emulsifier. DMDM hydantoin is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative and known allergen so may be problematic for some with a history of atopic eczema.

Of the eight budget cleansers this is my favourite packaging: the clear and green looks refreshing. Although Simple don’t claim their micellar water is a three-in-one product it has several hydrating or soothing actives (glycerin, niacinamide, panthenol, Roman chamomile) high up the ingredients list that I don’t mind leaving on my skin.

The cleanser smells of nothing at all and feels gentle on the skin, not ‘soapy’ and no stinging, leaves no residue just smooth skin. It performed well removing light make up including mascara (not waterproof) without irritation, but the lower pH means it may be better suited to general cleansing than eye make up removal.

My eyebrows raised at Simple’s claim that this micellar water “removes … impurities whilst helping to unclog pores supporting skin to breathe.” However I do agree that the cleanser “won’t leave the skin feeling tight or sticky but clean, refreshed and hydrated.

Image credit: Simple

L’Oreal Paris Skin Perfection Micellar Water, £5 for 200ml

Ingredients:Water, hexylene glycol, glycerin, poloxamer 184, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, disodium EDTA, polyaminopropyl biguanide (F.I.L. B54894/1).tested at pH 6

This micellar water is my first L’Oreal Paris skincare purchase in many years. On the plus side a super short ingredients list including a novel preservative, polyaminopropyl biguanide. On the negative side a chemical soup that I would not want to leave on my skin. The oblong bottle is better for travel and storage than standard cylindrical bottles.

Same non-ionic emulsifier (poloxamer 184) and mild amphoteric detergent (disodium cocoamphodiacetate) as La Roche-Posay Physiological and Vichy Purete Thermale, both Garnier Skin Naturals micellar waters, as well as Lancome Eau Micellaire Douceur. In fact L’Oreal has practically recycled the ingredients list for the five brands: key differences being the price point and inclusion of fragrance or drying alcohol.

The oblong bottle is difficult to handle, causing the product to spill out regularly. In use this product smells of nothing at all but has a ‘soapy’ feel. I felt uncomfortable leaving that on my skin so always followed with a gentle toner. It is certainly an effective cleanser but at the expense of leaving skin feeling dry and almost stripped: I abandoned testing this micellar water within a week.

The packaging claims this micellar water “purifies and unclog pores, tones and soothes skin” but there are no active ingredients save the glycerin! Of all the budget products this really is all mouth and no trousers. It is a make up remover, period.

NSPA Micellar One-Step Cleanser, £5 for 200ml

Ingredients:Water, propylene glycol, PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides, grape fruit water, polysorbate 20, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, phenoxyethanol, white willow bark extract, panthenol, panax ginseng root extract, avocado fruit oil, apricot kernel oil, ethylhexylglycerin, retinyl palmitate, vitamin E, glycerin, alcohol denat, PEG-35 castor oil, horse chestnut seed extract, inositol, calcium pantothenate, linoleic acid, biotin, disodium EDTA, benzophenone-4, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, sodium hydroxide, citric acid, CI 14700, CI 19140.” tested at pH 4

NSPA is a UK brand exclusive to Asda in the UK and Walmart in North America. This is my seventh skincare purchase from this brand (not including gifts!) and they have been consistently high quality, so I had high hopes for their micellar water. NSPA skincare is regularly on offer at two for £8 or £4 for 200ml, so this is the most expensive of all the budget offerings.

PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides and PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil are both mild non-ionic emulsifiers, with additional emollient and humectant properties respectively, polysorbate 20 is another mild non ionic emulsifier. 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative and known allergen, benzophenone-4 is usually used as a sunscreen filter and another known allergen. Either may be problematic for some with atopic eczema.

The drying alcohol is a component of the multivitamin complex which is recommended at 1%+ of the finished product. The amount of alcohol should therefore be tiny: indeed this cleansing water does not smell of it whatsoever. Smells very faintly ‘feminine’, presumably due to the high amount of phenoxyethanol which is a widely used preservative but can also act as a fragrance ingredient.

All round a similar formulation to the Asda Skin System and Wilko Kiss products reviewed in part one: notable differences are the addition of white willow bark (anti inflammatory/ inhibits formation of blood capillaries), grape fruit water (a nod to Caudalie’s micellar cleansing water) and the absence of parabens.

As with the L’Oreal Paris product the oblong bottle is difficult to handle, causing the product to spill out regularly. In daily use NSPA’s micellar water feels very gentle – not ‘soapy’ and no stinging – and leaves no residue just smooth skin. However it seems to lift less grime than the Nivea Sensitive and Simple Kind to Skin products.

NSPA says their micellar water remove waterproof mascara and that “84% of people agree this product is kind to eyes” which is a bold claim for a product of this pH. I tested this against the Asda Skin System micellar water since the two are so similar. It did not initially cause irritation, began to remove some waterproof mascara after around a minute, but by that time my eyes had begun to sting!

Whilst not a poor product, this is not the same high quality or value for money of other NSPA skincare I have tried. In use more of a cleansing toner than a make up remover.

Interim Verdict

It is well worth noting at this point that I paid around £20 for all eight budget micellar waters reviewed in parts one and two, the cheapest cleanser at £1.75 and the most expensive at £4. Within that there is something for everyone.

The Nivea Sensitive and Simple Kind to Skin formulations include soothing ingredients, are widely available and frequently on offer which, for me, make their micellar waters particularly attractive and great value. Either are a great option for those new to cleansing waters, but Nivea’s higher pH would more appropriate for mascara wearers or those with ocular rosacea.

The L’Oreal Paris cleanser is a purse-friendly alternative for those who rate the La Roche-Posay or Vichy micellar waters, or who suspect issues with one of the common preservative systems (eg. parabens, phenoxyethanol). It would also be fine for those with oilier skin who want to remove full make up.

Speaking for myself I am underwhelmed by the formulation and performance of the L’Oreal Paris product … alright I loathe it. The NSPA cleanser has great ingredients but is disappointing in performance given it is at the top of the budget. The Simple Kind to Skin micellar water is my favourite, primarily due to the acid mantle friendly pH.

Are there any super gentle budget (RRP <£5) micellar cleansing waters I have missed or passed over? Have you tried more than one of the branded micellar waters from the L’Oreal stable?

To be continued at: micellar waters, 3/3 mid priced

 

Product review: Micellar cleansing waters (budget, part 1/3)

Micellar waters are based on dilute solutions of very mild detergents. These act as emulsifiers (mix oil and water) but some also have emollient (softening) or humectant (water attracting) properties. British cosmetic scientist Colin Sanders and the blogger at Lab Muffin offer clear explanations of the role of micelles in cleansing.

This type of product is convenient for light morning cleanses, travelling, double cleansing or for those whose skin reacts negatively to tap water or harsh anionic detergents. Being very dilute micellar cleansing waters may be unsuitable for removing heavy or waterproof make up. For that an emulsifying oil or balm cleanser is king.

pH is relevant: anything neutral to alkaline may negatively affect the skin’s protective acid mantle and beneficial microbes (bacteria/ yeasts) on the skin, but anything overly acidic increases the chance of a cleanser irritating the alkaline eye mucosa when removing make up. Few skincare companies divulge the pH of their products, so I picked up some new universal indicator paper.

The cleansers reviewed in this three part series are marketed for sensitive skin and, with a couple of minor exceptions, are free of drying alcohol and fragrance. The budget options are regularly on two-for-one or half price at a major supermarket or pharmacy so don’t pay the full RRP!

  1. Part one covers budget (RRP <£5) store brand micellar waters made and sold only in the UK
  2. Part two covers budget brand-name cleansers also available in mainland Europe, north America and/ or Australia
  3. Part three covers mid priced (RRP <£15) micellar waters that are new to the market and thus rarely reviewed online.

Image credit: Amalgam Modelmaking UK

Superdrug Simply Pure Micellar Water, £2.70 for 150ml

Ingredients:Water, PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides, propylene glycol, polysorbate 20, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, panthenol, frankincense gum, dipropylene glycol, allantoin, sodium PCA, benzophenone-4, disodium EDTA, sodium hydroxide, citric acid, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexyl glycerin, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol.” tested at pH 5.5

The Simply Pure Hydrating Serum has achieved cult status on the Reddit Skincare Addiction UK sub and with British beauty bloggers, and I have been keen to try other products from the range. There are only a couple of mini reviews for the Simply Pure micellar water online, so this was a bit of a punt.

This is a smaller pack size than some of the other cleansers, the equivalent of £3.60 for 200ml. I purchased this on offer at two for £3.50 or a bargainous £1.75 each. There is a dropper insert in the neck of the bottle but the packaging looks and feels cheap overall.

PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides and PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil are both mild non-ionic emulsifiers, with additional emollient and humectant properties respectively, polysorbate 20 is another mild non ionic emulsifier which features in the REN cleansing water. 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative and known allergen, benzophenone-4 is usually used as a sunscreen filter and another known allergen. Either may be problematic for some with atopic eczema.

The micellar water itself smells faintly of ‘chemicals’ but tastes of nothing much. Feels gentle on the skin, not ‘soapy’ and no stinging. Not as effective as a cleanser as other micellar waters, it won’t lift more visible grime after the first cotton pad and it has struggled to shift a greasy residue. In performance more of a toner than a cleansing water. Disappointing.

Image credit: Superdrug

Boots Botanics Ultra Calm Micellar 3-in-1 Cleansing Solution, £5 for 250ml

Ingredients:Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, polyglyceryl-4 caprate, phenoxyethanol, propylene glycol, sodium benzoate, tetrasodium EDTA, citric acid, sorbitol, linden flower extract, sodium citrate, marshmallow root extract.” tested at pH 5

I have long been disappointed that the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew put their reputation behind the Botanics line because many products are low on plant extracts and/ or they use fragrance and drying alcohol. I have also previously used and disliked two Boots Botanics products so their micellar water had its work cut out to impress.

This is a larger pack size than some of the other cleansers, the equivalent of £4 for 200ml. I purchased this on offer at half price or £2 for 200ml making it joint cheapest of the store brand offerings. The packaging design looks fresh, clean and calming. However it is the only bottle without a dropper insert in the neck so easy to spill or overuse.

Fairly short albeit uninteresting ingredients list, not loaded with preservatives, no major red flags so in theory the Botanics micellar water should suit almost everyone. Despite the claims, the plant extracts are likely too low down the ingredients list to have much effect in a wipe off product.

Similar base formula to the Boots Botanics All Bright micellar water (although that has several additional preservatives), but different to their Time Delay and No. 7 Beautiful Skin cleansing waters which both include drying alcohol and fragrance. Polyglyceryl-4 caprate is a non ionic emulsifier with additional emollient properties.

This micellar water is very faintly floral scented. Feels gentle, not ‘soapy’ and no stinging, skin is smooth without discernible residue after use. On one occasion I did not apply anything for hours afterwards and my skin still felt supple not tight. This is a cleanser I found myself reaching for: eventually I had to put it out of the way in order to continue testing!

Update: this has been replaced by the Botanics Hydration Burst Micellar Cleanser  which has clary sage extract in place of the linden flower and marshmallow root extracts.

Image credit: Boots

Wilko Kiss Thrice as Nice 3-in-1 Cleansing Water, £2 for 150ml

Ingredients:Water, propylene glycol, PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides, polysorbate 20, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, baobab seed oil, apricot kernel oil, panthenol, alcohol denat, PEG-35 castor oil, horse chestnut seed extract, retinyl palmitate, vitamin E, inositol, calcium pantothenate, linoleic acid, biotin, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, sodium hydroxide, citric acid.” tested at pH 4

This is a smaller pack size than some of the other cleansers, the equivalent of £2.70 for 200ml. This is my first ever Wilko brand skincare product and I paid full price. There are only a couple of mini reviews online so I selected this cleansing water because I was impressed by the ingredients list.

The drying alcohol is a component of the multivitamin complex which is recommended at 1%+ of the finished product. The amount of alcohol should therefore be tiny: indeed this cleansing water does not smell of it whatsoever. The combination of PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides, polysorbate 20 and PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil is the same as several other products.

This is one of two micellar water with parabens, likely produced by the same contract formulators as Asda Skin System. These preservatives are not recommended in products that go into the eye due to irritancy, the pH is low and there is a warning on the label to avoid contact with the eyes, so this is not the cleanser for those who want to remove make up from this area.

The bubblegum pink colourway is not my cup of tea, but there is dropper insert under the flip top cap. The small size is practical for travelling. Smells faintly (and tastes) of ‘chemicals’ which is offputting. This feels the least gentle of the three store brand cleansers – leaving skin feeling dry and slightly tacky after use – but it is effective.

Image credit: Wilko

Asda The Skin System Micellar Cleansing Water, £2 for 200ml

Ingredients:Water, propylene glycol, polysorbate 20, PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, disodium EDTA, panthenol, diprolylene glycol, aloe vera leaf juice powder, PEG-35 castor oil, glycerin, horse chestnut seed extract, alcohol denat, frankincense gum, Roman chamomile flower extract, rose flower extract, vitamin E, retinyl palmitate, linoleic acid, inositol, calcium pantothenate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, biotin, citric acid, sodium hydroxide, sorbic acid.” tested at pH 4

This is my third Skin System purchase and is brand new for Autumn 2015, so there are no reviews online as yet. This is the cheapest of the store brand micellar waters. Rather odd how similar it is to the NSPA micellar water, since that is exclusive to Asda. However the multivitamin complex is in one of my previous Skin System products.

The combination of polysorbate 20, PEG-6 caprylic/ capric glycerides and PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil is the same as several other products. The drying alcohol is a component of the multivitamin complex but, as with the previous micellar water, this cleansing water does not smell of it whatsoever.

Overall VERY similar ingredients to the Wilko Kiss cleansing water but a larger pack size, likely produced by the same contract formulators. Key additions are the frankincense gum, Roman chamomile flower extract and rose flower extract which makes the product smell very faintly ‘feminine’.

Parabens are a controversial family of preservatives, but there is no evidence to support claims that they are either carcinogenic or oestrogenic at reasonable cosmetic use rates. Even the authors of the oft cited studies state there is no causative link with cancers or hormone disruption. It should be noted that parabens are found in various foods and that healthy skin is a much more effective barrier than the digestive tract.

What is more concerning to those with a history of less than optimal skin barrier function – eg. rosacea, eczema or dermatitis, moderate or severe acne – is one of the ‘Paraben Paradoxes’. Parabens are considered to be relatively infrequent allergens, however a person can react on an areas of skin that is presently or has previously been inflamed or damaged, yet not react on an area of skin that is ‘normal’ or healthy.

Again the bubblegum pink colourway is not my cup of tea, but this is a very controllable dropper bottle due to the small aperture. Not ‘soapy’ or stripping, but stung the skin around my eyes on two occasions – once when already irritated and once when failing to touch waterproof mascara. More of a cleansing toner than a make up remover: more effective than the Superdrug Simply Pure but less so than the Wilko Kiss product.

Interim Verdict

Interestingly British cosmetic scientist Colin Sanders notes thatIf you are looking for a way to save money, buying own brand products is one way to do it. There is just one caveat: fragrances are the biggest part of the cost of these kinds of products, often amounting to half the total. Cost consciousness is the key to own brands and cheap fragrances are the order of the day.” So are we getting better value for money when we choose fragrance-free lines?

Ultimately most of the micellar waters I have tested to date lift enough ‘gunk’ off my face, neck and decollete to necessitate using two cotton wool pads, despite wearing make up only infrequently. Given that micellar cleansers are primarily water – no shit Sherlock! – budget products arguably do represent better value for money than most mid and higher end products.

The four store brand micellar waters should all be fine for those with somewhat sensitive skin, but I hesitate to recommend the Wilko Kiss or Asda Skin System cleansers to those with very reactive or hypersensitive skin due to the preservatives. Superdrug’s Simply Pure cleanser is next to useless so not recommended period. I liked the Botanics Ultra Calm micellar water much more than expected and will continue to use the bottle at home.

Continued at: micellar cleansing waters, 2/3 budget brand-name

Thursday 25 June: D-day has landed!

Dermatologist that is! Unfortunately during the appointment I had little flushing but did have some slight bumps on my cheeks (unusual for me). I felt overheated and sweaty on and off all day.

I decided to address the facial flushing and cranial sweating first, which the dermatologist explained is often caused by an overactive sympathetic nervous system and that, in turn, regular flushing can cause rosacea.

Have not yet mentioned the link with mild angioedema and urticaria on my hands, especially the four smallest fingers. For this I am currently taking an antihistamine – cetirizine – which also seems to help the flushing somewhat. This could suggest mild histamine intolerance.

To rule out underlying health issues bloodwork was ordered

Also a twenty four hour urine test for

The bloodwork has all been done a couple of times before and was normal. If everything comes back normal this time I will be prescribed low dose beta blocker (propranolol) which I have taken previously for anxiety. I can’t really get my head around how this might fit with neurogenic rosacea since I have mental health diagnoses but no issues with pain.

Next appointment should be in about a month!

Jen Justjen

Rosacea core routine challenge: UK edition

None of these products contain alkaline soap, foaming surfactants, drying alcohol, fragrance (irritant and allergen) or essential oils; penetration enhancers such as propylene glycol are minimised. They are not the most basic products on the UK high street, instead they have been selected for including calming, anti-inflammatory or antioxidant actives. Where possible products are under £10 or a large pack size; several are frequently on offer for under £5.

There is very limited research for ANY cosmetic active in rosacea: most studies are very small, of short duration or funded by the manufacturer of a specific product. The abstracts or articles linked to are to show why that active may be worth experimenting with, they are not intended as ‘proof’ that a cosmetic will improve the symptoms of rosacea.

This routine is a work-in-progress, so as I find new research or new products it will be updated. We are our own lab rats here. It is strongly recommended to patch test and introduce new products one at a time, beginning with ‘safer bets’ and working up to those with more active ingredients as skin becomes less reactive.

Superdrug B. Clean Melting Gel Cleanser, £7 for 125ml

Ingredients: “Light mineral oil, glycerin, caprylic/ capric triglyceride, isohexadecane, water, cyclopentasiloxane, sucrose laurate, cyclohexasiloxane, sucrose palmitate, phenoxyethanol, caprylhydroxamic acid, methylpropanediol.

Regularly on offer at half price.

After melting down to oil with body heat this easily lifts make up and sunscreen, emulsifies well with warm water to rinse completely clean with hands or a cloth. For those with concurrent conditions, mineral oil cannot support the microbes implicated in acne vulgaris or seborrhoeic dermatitis. The sugar-based emulsifier system (Sucragel) has hydrating properties.

Alternative for those who want a ‘lipid-free cleanser’ or who find tap water irritating: Nivea Sensitive 3-in-1 Micellar Cleansing Water. Regularly on offer at half price. Includes panthenol, glyceryl glucoside and glycerin; the glycols are way down the ingredients list. Sites say this is pH neutral but tested at pH 6.

(Optional) Natural cotton muslin cloths, £8 for 10

“These cloths have NO optical dyeing agents in the fabric. ODA’s can sometimes have caustic qualities which can cause skin irritation.” UK eBay seller stockline17

For rosaceans whose skin can tolerate light physical exfoliation or who do not want the additional ingredients of chemical exfoliation. These are softer textured than bright white muslin cloths.

Alternative for those using a micellar cleanser or a toner: Cosrx lint-free cotton pads or MUJI unbleached cotton pads.

(Optional) Simple Kind to Skin Soothing Toner, £3 for 200ml

Ingredients: Water, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate [sorbitol], panthenol, niacinamide, chamomile flower extract, witch hazel, allantoin, sodium PCA, propylene glycol, pantolactone, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, citric acid, methylparaben, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben.

Regularly on offer at half price. Toners are by no means essential but this has some solid ingredients – panthenol, niacinamide, chamomile, allantoin, sodium PCA – for those who prefer to use one2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative so may be problematic for a minority of those with concurrent contact dermatitis.

Alternatives for those who want fewer ingredients or whose skin reacts to parabens: German chamomile hydrosol, calendula hydrosol or tea tree hydrosol. All should have weak antimicrobial and anti inflammatory properties. If your skin does not tolerate cotton pads you might apply with a spray bottle. You will need to add a broad spectrum preservative.

Superdrug Simply Pure Hydrating Serum, £2.70 for 50ml

Ingredients: “Water, caprylic/ capric triglyceride, glycereth-26, polysorbate 60, glycerin, propylene glycol, Indian frankincense, dipropylene glycol, allantoin, sodium PCA, pentylene glycol, sodium lactate, lactic acid, serine, urea, sorbitol, sodium chloride, hyaluronic acid, sodium lauroyl lactylate, ceramide 3, ceramide 6 II, ceramide 1, phytosphingosine, cholesterol, carbomer, xanthan gum, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexyl glycerin, sodium hydroxide, acrylates/ C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, disodium EDTA.”

Regularly on offer.

Wall-to-wall actives between the 24 hour moisturising complex with natural moisturising factors (NMFs) and the ceramide complex. The biggest ‘crime’ of this product is the glycols which are penetration enhancers, but this can be forgiven with so many ingredients present that support skin barrier function.

This serum layers well under a moisturising sunscreen. Alternative for those who want a serum and moisturiser in one: CeraVe Facial Moisturising Lotion PM (4% niacinamide, ceramide complex), available at Amazon.

Prescription only: Azelaic acid gel, 15% (Finacea)

Active substance: “Azelaic acid, 15%
Other ingredients:  “Lecithin, medium chain triglycerides, polysorbate 80, propylene glycol, carbomer 980, sodium hydroxide, disodium EDTA, water, benzoic acid (E210).

Azelaic acid is a potent anti-inflammatory (papulopustular rosacea) and antioxidant (erythematotelangiectatic rosacea). It may be possible to reduce irritation – itching or stinging – by layering a lightweight ceramide product underneath as per the published research.

Cosmetic alternative at 10%: Paula’s Choice CLEAR Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with azelaic acid, salicylic acid, licorice, allantoin and bisabolol. This product is not available in North America.

Prescription alternative: metronidazole gel or cream, 0.75% (various brands).

Sunscreen

Despite being the cornerstone of self care in rosacea, sunscreen is by far the hardest category. There are no SPF 30+ all mineral sunscreens without alcohol and fragrance on the UK high street, not even at Holland & Barrett! So instead three less-than-satisfactory options

  1. Simple Kind to Skin+ Protecting Moisture Cream SPF 30 (chemical filters, silicones, niacinamide, NMFs, airless pump, cheap)
  2. UVISTAT Cream SPF 30/ SPF 50 (chemical filters, large 125ml pack size, available on NHS prescription)
  3. Derma-e Antioxidant Natural Sunscreen Body SPF 30 (all mineral, silicone free, 1% green tea, large 110g pack size, available at Amazon)

Freederm Daily Complex, £7 for 50ml

Ingredients: “Water, glycerin, niacinamide, shea butter, sodium polyacrylate, cyclopentasiloxane, cetearyl isononanoate, allantoin, phenoxyethanol, isohexadecane, dimethicone crosspolymer, panthenol, ethylhexyl glycerin.”

Regularly on offer at half price. For use as a night cream: short ingredients list yet boasts four active ingredients (glycerin, niacinamide, allantoin, panthenol). Cyclopentasiloxane is a volatile silicone, it evaporates off. Airless pump bottle protects the ingredients without loads of preservatives.

Alternative for those who want something lighter textured: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Lotion (0.5% colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, feverfew, white tea, licorice, ceramide 3). Pricey but a large 230ml pack size; available at Amazon.

The challenge for bloggers, vloggers and other readers is to propose a routine for any dermatological condition that similarly avoids ingredients that are known to damage the skin barrier or that are common triggers for that condition. Products from the country of your choice. Leave a reply linking to wherever you post your challenge routine!

To be continued ….

Product review: Innisfree Hydro Gel Masks, 2/2

Continued from: Innisfree Hydro Gel Masks, 1/2

The island of Jeju is Innisfree’s unique selling point (USP) and the source of some of their natural ingredients. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the seven wonders of nature so every bit as magical as Yeats’ lake isle of Innisfree. The signature ‘Jeju green complex’ that appears in many of Innisfree’s products is comprised of green tea, tangerine peel, prickly pear, camellia leaf and orchid extract.

Jeju Island, South Korea
Photo credit: puretravel.com

Where there are plant extracts you can expect to find phytoantioxidants with anti inflammatory and other skin friendly properties, and I get overexcited. And so it is here: green tea and berries being particularly well known for their polyphenol antioxidant content.

The four products reviewed here are marketed to a younger crowd, weigh in at 25g and contain 30mg of the featured extract or 1200 ppm (parts per million) or 0.12%. Also available are Aloe Vera (soothing), Canola Honey (nutrition) and Green Tea (moisture).

Jeju Cactus (£2/ $3)

Ingredients:Water, glycerin, carrageenan, prickly pear fruit extract (30mg), tangerine peel extract (unshiu), green tea leaf extract, orchid extract, butylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, allantoin, agar, algin, Lactobacillus ferment, skullcap root extract, Artemisia leaf extract, Houttuynia extract, yuzu fruit extract, castor oil, 1,2-hexanediol, caprylyl glycol, sorbitol, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate, betaine, ethylhexyl glycerin, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, arginine, disodium EDTA, potassium hydroxide, acrylates/ C10-30 alkylacrylate crosspolymer.”

Image credit: Innisfree

On opening the package there is a light citrus scent which drew my attention from the prickly pear extract towards another component of Innisfree’s signature ‘Jeju green complex’. Infusions of dried and aged tangerine peel have a long pedigree in traditional oriental medicine.

In fact a group from Jeju National University has been studying alcoholic extract of tangerine peel with a view to making use of a waste product of the food industry. They identified the main polyphenol antioxidant as quercetagetin which is closely related to the better known quercetin. A team in China have used hot water to extract other polyphenols – nobiletin, tangeretin, hesperidin – plus some minerals.

These masks may be concentrated enough for the antioxidants to be effective: one recent study compared water and alcohol extracts of tangerine peel at 0.08% (800 ppm). In one of the three tests the extracts were able to destroy 55% and 44% of the free radicals respectively. How the product is stored after manufacture is relevant here: the light and air protective packaging is an advantage, as is purchasing directly from Innisfree.

Out of 50,000 farmers on Jeju, about 60 percent grow citrus …
Most of these crops (95 percent) are Citrus unshiu.
 The Jeju Weekly

ECZEMA

With flagrant disregard for the warnings by the Paula’s Choice Research Team about irritation from citrus extracts and alcohol, the Jeju scientists opted to test the tangerine peel extract – 3% in alcohol applied daily, so 25 times that in the mask – in a model of atopic eczema (AD). Perhaps surprisingly

To the naked eye, symptoms like hyperkeratosis, redness, and increases in skin thickness were reduced … by treatment with premature [tangerine peel extract]. Furthermore, histological observation indicated that [tangerine peel extract] decreased the hyperkeratosis and the infiltration of inflammatory cells into the dermis of lesional skin.”

In plain English the signs, symptoms and chemical markers of the inflammatory condition were much reduced. The team from Jeju subsequently determined that quercetagetin and, to a lesser degree, nobiletin are able to inhibit key inflammatory compounds in cells. Quercetagetin appears to be more effective than quercetin but human studies are needed.

ROSACEA

More tenuous links with rosacea lurk in the research.

  • Mast cells are key mediators of skin inflammation in rosacea via pro-inflammatory cytokines (2014 US study). Tangerine peel extract and hesperidin reduce this type of inflammation (2007 Korean study)
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is implicated in inflammation and blood vessel changes including in rosacea (2007 US study). Tangerine peel extract and hesperidin reduce production of VEGF (2007 Korean study)
  • Antihistamines can be used to minimise some types of rosacea flushing (National Rosacea Society). Nobiletin and tangeretin are potent antihistamines, reducing leakiness of the blood vessels and thus histamine-mediated inflammation (2013 Korean study).

Frustratingly, we don’t know whether Innisfree are using an alcoholic extract or water infusion, nor how ripe the tangerine fruit are!

Tea Tree (£2/ $3)

Ingredients:Water, glycerin, carrageenan, tea tree extract (30mg), tangerine peel extract, green tea leaf extract, prickly pear fruit extract, Camellia leaf extract, orchid extract, butylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, allantoin, agar, algin, Lactobacillus ferment, skullcap root extract, Artemisia extract, Houttuynia extract, yuzu fruit extract, castor seed oil, 1,2-hexanediol, caprylyl glycol, sorbitol, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate, betaine, ethylhexyl glycerin, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, arginine, disodium EDTA, potassium hydroxide, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer.”

Most of the published research relates to tea tree essential oil which is traditionally steam distilled. I found no information at all on the composition of tea tree extract (there are references to alcohol extract from leaves of other species) and only a little on that of the hydrosol – the water residue from steam distilling.

One plantation owner advises that “Tea Tree hydrosols usually contain 500 to 2000 ppm of oil in solution with an average 1000 ppm. Of this oil, terpinen-4-ol is usually about 60-75%, cineole 1- 5% and alpha-terpineol 5-20%.” So at 1200 ppm (0.12%) the Innisfree mask is a little stronger than the average hydrosol tho it may have a different array of actives, depending how the extract is prepared.

If similar in composition to diluted tea tree oil – which in itself varies depending on the species – research suggests this percentage is not sufficient to kill most bacteria and fungi. Interestingly in vitro 0.12% is sufficient to kill or inhibit growth of the bacteria implicated in acne vulgaris,  P. acnes, and inhibit growth of a relative of the Malassezia yeast implicated in seborrhoeic dermatitis (SD).

Other research suggests that diluted tea tree oil and a diluted water extract may have quite different activity. Interestinglythe water soluble components of tea tree oil at concentrations equivalent to 0.125% significantly suppressed … pro-inflammatory mediator production by activated human [white blood cells].” So using a water-based extract such as a hydrosol may be key to harnessing the anti-inflammatory properties.

Even tho this will not translate to efficacy on the skin barrier at the same percentages, tea tree was the ‘flavour’ I was most interested in trying. This mask smells faintly medicated – presumably the tea tree extract – and I could not detect the citrus.

Image credit: Innisfree

Mixed Berry (£2/ $3)

Ingredients:Water, glycerin, carrageenan, blueberry fruit extract, acai fruit extract, raspberry fruit extract, blackberry fruit extract, strawberry fruit extract (berry complex 30mg), tangerine peel extract, green tea leaf extract, prickly pear fruit extract, orchid extract, butylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, allantoin, agar, algin, Lactobacillus ferment, skullcap root extract, Artemisia leaf extract, Houttuynia extract, yuzu fruit extract, castor oil, 1,2-hexanediol, caprylyl glycol, sorbitol, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate, betaine, ethylhexyl glycerin, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, arginine, disodium EDTA, potassium hydroxide, acrylates/ C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer.”

Unlike Innisfree’s higher end line these masks have an internal unbleached cotton mesh, which makes them slightly stiffer and more resilient but slightly less well fitting. They are generous in the length of the nose and width of the mouth but small eyes so hits crows feet. Nature Republic’s aqua gel masks are made in the same facility so if you are looking for a different fit these masks are not for you.

I failed to note the scent of this mask, but I do not recall it being like either berries or citrus fruit. There is more spare essence than with some hydrogels and I use this on my neck and decollete. Because the hydrogel base is similar to an agar plate and the essence similar to nutrient broth – both used to grow bacteria or fungi in a microbiology lab – and because I have stuck my fingers into the packet I do not store anything for use the following day.

 Image credit: Innisfree

Olive Leaf (£2/ $3)

Ingredients: “Water, glycerin, carrageenan, olive leaf extract (30mg), tangerine peel extract, green tea leaf extract, prickly pear fruit extract, orchid extract, butylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, allantoin, agar, algin, Lactobacillus ferment, skullcap root extract, Artemisia leaf extract, Houttuynia extract, yuzu fruit extract, castor seed oil, 1,2-hexanediol, caprylyl glycol, sorbitol, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate, betaine, ethylhexyl glycerin, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, arginine, disodium EDTA, potassium hydroxide, acrylates/ C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer.

Although Innisfree claims “extra virgin premium olive oil“, intriguingly the featured active is actually olive leaf extract. Like tangerine peel extract this is making use of a waste product of the food industry, so potentially another good fit with Innisfree’s eco-friendly USP. Solvent extraction from olive leaves is currently the norm,  although Australia and South Korea have recently cooperated on research to make water extraction viable.

Olive leaf extract (OLE) is a rich source of polyphenol antioxidants, particularly oleuropein which is also a key component of virgin olive oil. In marketing material for supplements much is made of studies from 2005 and 2007 suggesting olive leaf extract has a higher antioxidant capacity (ORAC) than many better known antioxidant-rich plant extracts such as green tea and vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid).

Some research suggests the components of OLE act synergistically as antibacterial/ antifungal agents and as antioxidants, which is in line with research on other plant extracts. Combined alcohol and water extract is a potent inhibitor of melanin synthesis, and 1% water extract may have wound healing properties. Oleuropin can extend the life of the cells that make collagen and extracellular matrix – fibroblasts – which may partially explain the findings on wound healing.

In one admittedly small human study, 0.1% oleuropin was applied half an hour before or twenty four hours after UVB exposure (standardised extract is ~20% oleuropin, so ~0.5% OLE). The extract reduced sunburn when applied before but not when applied after exposure. Further research applying the extract much sooner after exposure would be interesting because sun damage continues for the next three hours.

Taken together – and if substantiated by further research – these properties could make olive leaf extract a useful tool in anti-ageing.

Image credit: Innisfree

Verdict

Innisfree claim

  • Firming:contains Jeju cactus ingredients to replenish skin moisture and elasticity while creating resilient and healthy skin.”
  • Anti-trouble:contains tea tree ingredients to soothe troubled skin whilst protecting your skin from external aggressors.”
  • Moisture:contains olive oil ingredients to form natural moisture barrier to help retain long lasting moisture within your skin.”
  • Brightening: “contains pure berry ingredients to transform puffy and dull skin into a clear and translucent complexion.

My second use of the tea tree mask was a couple of days after microneedling, and the results were striking: there was far less erythema and roughness on my forehead compared with my upper chest and this effect persisted. I did apply the residual essence down to decollete, so the effect may be down to the cooling and hydrating effect of the hydrogel base rather than any specific active.

Aside from that after each mask my skin is calm and even toned, feels hydrated and super soft, the same any hydrogel. There might have been a little temporary brightening from the mixed berry mask, but it could equally have been placebo effect!

In each mask the featured active is the fourth ingredient and the amount is supplied, and I appreciate that there is no added fragrance. For these reasons I would repurchase these masks from Innisfree’s international website during another two-for-one sale: probably the olive leaf and tea tree because these extracts interest me the most.

Have you tried any of the other Innisfree hydrogel masks? Any heavily natural hydrogels you think I should test and review, any that I should not waste my money on? Please leave a reply!

15 April 2015: On pins & needles

I haven’t microneedled for over three months – oh so lazy – so yesterday my rather lengthy skincare routine comprised

Eyes and nose watered loads and I sneezed as usual!

Today I was supposed to start a root canal with the Salaried Dental Service … my fifth appointment about the same tooth at four different locations. Yet again I got booked for a half hour consultation, now booked for a longer appointment on Monday 27 April.

And …. last but definitely not least my NHS hospital dermatologist referral came through: Thursday 25 June!!

Jen Justjen

 

Product review: Innisfree Hydro Gel Masks, 1/2

"I will arise and go now, for always night and day
 I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
 While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
 I hear it in the deep heart’s core."
'The lake isle of Innisfree' by WB Yeats

Innisfree in Ireland
Photo credit: travelpast50.com

Are your Monday blues dissipating? Now let’s get down to some serious relaxing.

For the uninitiated hydrogels are the paper or cotton sheet mask’s sophisticated older sister. They are made from carrageenan (seaweed ‘jelly’), are usually transparent and only a few millimetres thick. Bonus: no more zombie serial killer!

Hydrogel dressings or patches are sometimes used in medicine for burns and wounds or for drug delivery, although these will likely be left in place for long periods. Innisfree and others claim the cosmetic versions are temperature-sensitive so quickly release the actives when in contact with the skin: however the patent does not contain anything remotely evidential.

Innisfree is a South Korean brand, a nation that is becoming known in the west for their progressive approach to skincare ingredients and for their multi-step routines. Their parent company is  Amore Pacific – the biggest player in Korean beauty – so they are a sister brand to IOPE and Laneige. Innisfree claim to have been the first eco-friendly brand in their country: some product labels are apparently made from citrus peel!

There are ten different Innisfree hydrogel masks in two series: I purchased a couple of each of six ‘flavours’ from their international website in one of the periodic two-for-one sales. The two products reviewed here are marketed to those with more mature skin/ wrinkles, also in this series is the Eco Science White C mask which is based on citrus extracts.

Eco Science with Jeju marine plants (£3.50/ $5)

Ingredients:Water, glycerin, carob bean gum, 1,2-hexanediol, carrageenan, sea mustard extract, sea staghorn extract, gulfweed extract, algin, Lactobacillus ferment, gold extract, green tea extract, Artemisia extract, Houttuynia cordata extract, yuzu fruit extract, castor oil, caprylyl glycol, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil triisostearate, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, tangerine peel extract, prickly pear extract, Camellia leaf extract, orchid extract, butylene glycol, purslane extract, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexyl glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, adenosine, disodium EDTA, fragrance, potassium hydroxide, mannan.

Why these Innisfree hydrogel masks?

  • On sale!
  • heavy on antioxidant natural extracts
  • seaweed and mushrooms are new actives to me
  • one contains anti-inflammatory stalwart niacinamide
  • the red flag for some will be fragrance.

These masks are the thinnest and most delicate hydrogels I have tried to date, they do not have an internal rayon mesh support as found the Nature Republic aqua gels and the Mememasks. Hydrogels are slippery little suckers and these two Innisfree masks are easily damaged: not ideal for beginners! The masks are fully biodegradable which fits with the Innisfree ethos, however the plastic inserts are not.

As with all hydrogel masks the Innisfree ones come in two overlapping pieces  – upper and lower face – meaning they are an excellent fit for different size or shape faces. The nose is generous in length so it covers most of my rosacea-prone areas and the eye openings are fairly small so it is easy to treat crows feet.

The mouth opening is larger than some which is a shame for a product advertised as anti ageing; ex-smokers may be disappointed that fine lines around the mouth are not treated. Nevertheless with careful positioning and smoothing these hydrogels are a much snugger fit than any paper or cotton sheet mask.

 Image credit: Innisfree

Perfect 9 Repair with Jeju island plants (£3.50/ $5)

 Ingredients: “Water, glycerin, butylene glycol, niacinamide, 1,2-hexanediol, carob bean gum, carrageenan, algin, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, Lactobacillus ferment, skullcap root extract, green tea leaf extract, Artemesia leaf extract, Houttuynia cordata extract, yuzu fruit extract, castor oil, caprylyl glycol, phenyl trimethicone, Andrographis paniculata leaf extract, Indian gooseberry extract, Indian ginseng root extract, Commiphora mukul resin extract, dandelion root extract, honeysuckle flower extract, Japanese pepper extract, Artemesia extract, raspberry fruit extract, mushroom extract, orchid extract, poloxamer 188, methoxy PEG-114/ polyepsilon caprolactone, tangerine peel extract, prickly pear fruit extract, Camellia leaf extract, orchid extract, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, adenosine, disodium EDTA, potassium hydroxide, fragrance, mannan.”

For my reactive/ hypersensitive skin type a possible concern with these formulations is the butylene glycol (AKA 1,2-butanediol) and hexylene glycol (AKA 1,2-hexanediol), especially in combination with fragrance, or in products that keep skin wet for a long time like masks (water can be a penetration enhancer, as can glycerin).

The cosmetic glycols are humectants and solvents derived from petroleum: they are small molecules which readily penetrate the skin. The smallest – propylene glycol – is used as a penetration enhancer and is a known irritant/ allergen, butylene glycol is only slightly larger and  also a penetration enhancer, pentylene glycol and hexylene glycol can act synergistically as preservatives.

Butylene glycol is ubiquitous in Korean skincare. Whilst I don’t avoid it I have reservations about too much of the stuff integrating into my skin barrier, so limit the number of products in my routine that feature it. Those of you with healthy, resilient skin may have no such worries.

Image credit: Innisfree

Verdict

I leave hydrogel masks on for thirty to forty minutes, because I love how they feel – like a second skin, with a tightening and lifting effect as time goes on – and because they don’t dry out in the recommended twenty minutes. Both of these masks are a decent fit and give good results: my skin is calm and even toned, feels hydrated and super soft.

Innisfree claims the Eco Science mask has “wrinkle-smoothing properties. The powerful regenerating energy from ocean plants, rich in minerals and nutrients [which] enhances its self-defense system for a natural anti-aging effect.

Innisfree further claims that that the Perfect 9 Repair’s “anti aging elixir complex has 9 active extracts from Jeju Anti-Aging Elixir Complex to fight the 9 signs of skin aging.”

At this price point I do not plan to repurchase. Although I enjoyed using them I don’t feel they do anything more than any other hydrogel mask, and I doubt there is much anti-ageing or wrinkle-smoothing power in a single use product. Given the inclusion of glycols and fragrance I would not suggest using these masks on broken or irritated skin such as after microneedling or active eczema.

Continued at: Innisfree Hydro Gel Masks, 2/2