Chemicals,  Did You Know?,  Functions and Uses,  Keys Articles,  Product Overview,  Uncategorized

Keys® Product Formulations – A Formulators Perspective

Bob Root, Chemical-Free Skin Health® author and Keys chief scientist

I receive a lot of very interesting questions every month that are escalated to me by our customer service. A question often enrobed in suggestions is in regard to Vitamins and the benefits of ingredients in our products. I am pleased and amazed at the complexity of the questions from our customers and the suggestions I receive.

First, please remember that my team are engineers and not chemists. Every product starts with a clean slate based on the functionality we are trying to achieve. So, each ingredient may look like a single add, but each being the “whole” version brings a complexity that we engineers call features, benefits, and advantages (FBAs).

An ingredient like avocado oil may seem like one ingredient, but the nature of the whole oil brings many features. Each with a benefit and advantage. Many chemists will add a chemical version of a Vitamin when the whole ingredient brings a better performance plus more features, benefits, and advantages to the completed product.

Indeed, this is a complex subject to grasp, even for formulators. Often, one whole ingredient will have ten features, and even a more complex theorem will interact with the features of another element at a certain proportion. To illustrate this, I have delineated the ingredient deck for our Nextra NeoRetinol below.

Nextra Neo Retinol FBAs – Overview

Keys Nextra is a skin care product that contains Neoretinol, a proprietary blend of natural ingredients that are designed to improve the appearance and texture of the skin. Here are some of the features, benefits, and advantages of Keys Nextra:


  • Contains Neoretinol, a proprietary blend of natural ingredients
  • Designed to improve the appearance and texture of the skin
  • Free of harmful chemicals, parabens, and preservatives
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Comes in a convenient pump bottle.


  • Helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Improves skin texture and tone
  • Boosts collagen production, which can help to firm and plump the skin
  • Protects the skin from environmental damage and free radicals
  • It can improve the overall health and radiance of the skin.


  • Natural ingredients are gentle on the skin and unlikely to cause irritation.
  • Free of harmful chemicals that can cause long-term damage to the skin and the body.
  • Suitable for all skin types, making it a versatile option for anyone looking to improve the appearance of their skin.
  • Comes in a convenient pump bottle, making it easy to use and apply to the skin.
  • Provides long-lasting benefits with continued use, helping to improve the overall health and appearance of the skin over time.

Nextra NeoRetinol Ingredient Deck with FBAs

Okay, with that said, Here is the ingredient deck as it appears on the bottle, with the features listed for each.

Element 6:  Element 6 is a Keys® patent-pending tocopherol triterpene compound comprised of six different Amazonian sustainable tree fruits and seeds processed using cyrogenisis extraction that has the skin anti-aging properties of Retinol, but without the traditional side effects. There are no reported reactions or allergens. Nextra’s Element 6 has been in development for over five years and is a blend of six ingredients from five tree species found in the Amazon. All are abundant, sustainable, and very effective by themselves. Combined, they create a single compound that mirrors the benefits of Retin-A with none of the side effects.

Squalane:  Olive oil based squalane. Squalene is a triterpene that is an intermediate in the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway. it is widely distributed in nature, with reasonable amounts found in olive oil, palm oil, wheat-germ oil, amaranth oil, and rice bran oil. Squalene, the main component of skin surface polyunsaturated lipids, shows some advantages for the skin as an emollient and antioxidant, and for hydration and its antitumor activities. It is also used as a material in topically applied vehicles such as lipid emulsions and nanostructured lipid carriers (NLCs). Substances related to squalene, including β-carotene, coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone), and vitamins A, E, and K, are also included in this review article to introduce their benefits to skin physiology.

Shea Butter:  Sustainable raw Shea Butter from Ghana. Shea butter is traditionally used in Africa for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. In this study we explored the anti-inflammatory activities of the methanolic extract of shea butter (SBE) using lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced murine macrophage cell line J774. It was observed that SBE significantly reduced the levels of LPS-induced nitric oxide, Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukins, 1β (IL-1β), and -12 (IL-12) in the culture supernatants in a dose dependent manner. Expression of pro-inflammatory enzymes, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) were also inhibited by SBE. These anti-inflammatory effects were due to an inhibitory action of SBE on LPS-induced iNOS, COX-2, TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-12 mRNA expressions. Moreover, SBE efficiently suppressed IκB phosphorylation and NF-κB nuclear translocation induced by LPS. These findings explain the molecular bases of shea butter’s bioactivity against various inflammatory conditions and substantiate it as a latent source of novel therapeutic agents.

Meadow Foam Oil:  The seed oil of meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba) and other Limnanthes spp. is enriched in the unusual fatty acid Δ5-eicosenoic acid (20:1Δ5). This fatty acid has physical and chemical properties that make the seed oil of these plants useful for a number of industrial applications. An expressed sequence tag approach was used to identify cDNAs for enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of 20:1Δ5). By random sequencing of a library prepared from developing Limnanthes douglasii seeds, a class of cDNAs was identified that encode a homolog of acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) desaturases found in animals, fungi, and cyanobacteria. Expression of a cDNA for the L. douglasii acyl-CoA desaturase homolog in somatic soybean (Glycine max) embryos behind a strong seed-specific promoter resulted in the accumulation of Δ5-hexadecenoic acid to amounts of 2% to 3% (w/w) of the total fatty acids of single embryos. Δ5-Octadecenoic acid and 20:1Δ5 also composed <1% (w/w) each of the total fatty acids of these embryos. In addition, cDNAs were identified from the L. douglasii expressed sequence tags that encode a homolog of fatty acid elongase 1 (FAE1), a β-ketoacyl-CoA synthase that catalyzes the initial step of very long-chain fatty acid synthesis. Expression of the L. douglassi FAE1 homolog in somatic soybean embryos was accompanied by the accumulation of C20 and C22 fatty acids, principally as eicosanoic acid, to amounts of 18% (w/w) of the total fatty acids of single embryos. To partially reconstruct the biosynthetic pathway of 20:1Δ5 in transgenic plant tissues, cDNAs for the L. douglasii acyl-CoA desaturase and FAE1 were co-expressed in somatic soybean embryos. In the resulting transgenic embryos, 20:1Δ5 and Δ5-docosenoic acid composed up to 12% of the total fatty acids.

Avocado Oil:  The beta carotene, protein, lecithin, fatty acids, and vitamins A, D, and E found in avocado oil help moisturize and protect your skin from damaging UV rays and also increase collagen metabolism .

Green Coffee Oil (GCO):  Green Coffee arabica L. seed oil is being widely used in cosmetic formulations. Results demonstrated that incubation with GCO produces a dose-dependent stimulation in the synthesis of collagen, elastin, and GAG, in addition to increasing the release of the growth factors TGF-beta1 and GM-CSF. GCO also induced the expression of AQP-3 mRNA, which reached levels up to 6.5-fold higher than those of the control cultures.

Cucumber Seed Oil:  Cucumber Seed Oil is rich in tocopherols and tocotrienols—organic, fat-soluble compounds that are often collectively referred to as “Vitamin E.” Reducing inflammation and soothing the skin, these compounds help keep our complexions supple and healthy. Cucumber Seed Oil contains moisturizing alpha-tocopherol and gamma (γ) tocopherol, both of which helps protect against UV rays and environmental pollution while fighting free radicals that lead to wrinkles and signs of aging. This makes for a great after-sun remedy too, relieving redness and itchiness. The oil also contains gamma (γ) tocotrienol, which has excellent antioxidant properties. Rapidly penetrating the skin, gamma-tocotrienols fight free radicals at a much faster rate than tocopherols.

Phytosterols — Naturally occurring cholesterol-like compounds found in plants (common food sources include vegetable oil, beans, and nuts), topical application of phytosterols provides great anti-aging benefits. Studies have shown that these powerful compounds actually stop the slowdown of collagen production that results from UV exposure, thereby preventing photodamage. But it gets even better—phytosterols also help promote the production of new collagen, helping to keep our skin elastic and firm.

Fatty Acids — By stimulating cell regeneration, fatty acids help keep our skin looking youthful and healthy. Fatty acids act as gatekeepers for our cells, keeping in nutrients and keeping out harmful bacteria. Cucumber Seed Oil contains the following types of fatty acids:

Linoleic Acid (Omega-6) — An essential fatty acid (EFA)—which means it’s vital for human health but isn’t produced naturally in the body—linoleic acid fortifies the skin’s barrier, thereby protecting us from UV damage and pollution that can cause free radical activity. Sometimes referred to as Vitamin F, linoleic acid has moisturizing and healing properties, and its anti-inflammatory qualities help diminish acne.

Oleic Acid — Oleic fatty acid seals in moisture and allows our skin to retain the water it needs to stay hydrated and healthy.

Palmitic Acid — This type of fatty acid can alleviate irritation, as well as various skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema. High in antioxidant activity, palmitic acid is an effective anti-ager, diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Aside from these fatty acids, Cucumber Seed Oil also contains smaller amounts of Linolenic Acid (Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid) and Stearic Acid.

Black Seed Oil (aka Black Cumin Oil):  The maximal nutritional value of black cumin can be linked to the presence of substantial amount of vegetable protein, fiber and minerals, and vitamins. The nutritional composition reported from different sources revealed 20-85% of protein, 38.20% of fat, 7-94% of fiber, and 31.94% of total carbohydrates. Among various amino acids identified, glutamate, arginine, and aspartate while cysteine and methionine were the major and minor amino acids, respectively. Black cumin seeds also contain significant levels of iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, thiamin, niacin, pyridoxine, and folic acid. In addition, phytochemical analyses of N. sativa displayed the presence of over hundreds of phytoconstituents which include mainly alkaloids, saponins, sterols, and essential oil but the composition of many of these have not been chemically recognized nor have been biologically verified. The N. sativa seed contain 26-34% fixed oil of which the major fatty acids are linoleic acid (64.6%) and palmitic acid (20.4%). The seed oil is comprised of 0.4%–2.5% essential oil. Amongst different active constituents reported so far, thymoquinone found as major component of the essential oil is the most bioactive compound and exhibits wide-ranging therapeutic benefits.

Carrot Seed Oil:  When you mix carrot seed essential oil with a carrier oil, you can apply it to your skin. Several laboratory studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that carrot seed essential oil has a number of properties that may be beneficial when used this way. D. carota subsp. carota essential oil. The results showed that this oil had a significant activity towards the inhibition of Gram-positive bacteria, Cryptococcus neoformans, and dermatophytes. Importantly, the oil was also efficient in inhibiting the germ tube formation and the preformed biofilms of Candida albicans. Despite the oil exhibiting no considerable antiradical activity, it reduced about 20% NO release in LPS-stimulated macrophages, at concentrations devoid of toxicity to these cells. It is reasonable to conclude that concentrations lower than 0.64 μL/mL present a safety profile for different human cell types unveiling the potential application of the essential oil for therapeutical purposes, with a special focus on fungal infections associated with a proinflammatory status. Further experiments disclosing the mechanism of action and in vivo tests are of utmost importance to further support the benefit and safety of D. carota subsp. carota essential oil.

Bergamot Oil:  Several compounds in bergamot oil have immunomodulatory, wound-healing activities, and anti-inflammatory properties. This may make bergamot oil an effective spot treatment for acne or other small wounds on the skin if you do not have sensitive skin. Bergamot may also help improve psoriasis symptoms.

Clary Sage Oil:  Clary Sage Essential Oil contains an ester called linalyl acetate. Essentially, this powerful compound works to reduce skin inflammation, heal the epidermis and soothe skin. 

Ylang Ylang Oil:  Used cosmetically or topically in general, Ylang Ylang Oil is best known for balancing and regulating oil production in the skin and hair to prevent excessive dryness and oiliness. It soothes inflammation and irritation on the body and the scalp while strengthening skin and hair.


I realize this is a bit like drinking from a firehose, but it is important to understand that whole ingredients serve multi purposes as well as interact with the other elements to create functionality.   

Each Keys® product has a similar composition and the ingredient deck is based on the functionality we intend. You can view a similar set of functional purposes of our other products by Googling each ingredient. I recommend Googling “Ingredient Name with NIH benefits for the skin.” (NIH meaning National Institutes of Health). (Example: “Avocado oil NIH benefits for skin.”)