Glossary: Skin Care Ingredients

The following is a list of ingredients commonly found in skincare creams and lotions. If you don’t see an ingredient listed and you want to know more about it check CosmeticsInfo.org

ALLANTOIN

Allantoin is a white odorless powder. Allanotin functions as a skin-conditioning agent.

ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS

A class of chemical compounds that occur naturally in fruits, milk, and sugar cane. They are glycolic acid (sugar cane), lactic acid (milk), citric acid (oranges and lemons), malic acid (apples and pears) and tartaric acids (grapes). Although they are called acids they are not to be confused with strong industrial acids such as hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid. See Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid.

AMMONIUM ALUM

A mineral with astringent properties.

BIOTIN

B Vitamin found in yeast, liver & egg yolk. Skin conditioning agent.

BISABOLOL

The active component of chamomile which imparts anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.

BOTANICALS

A Botanical Ingredient is a component of a cosmetic or personal care product that originates from plants (herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, leaves or seeds). Specific ingredients derived from biological sources are classified based on their chemical structure and how they are isolated from plants.

CARBOMER

Carbomer is a term used for a series of polymers primarily made from acrylic acid. Carbomers can be found in a wide variety of product types including skin, hair, nail, and makeup products, as well as dentifrices. Carbomers help to distribute or suspend an insoluble solid in a liquid. They are also used to keep emulsions from separating into their oil and liquid components. Carbomers are often used to control the consistency and flow of cosmetics and personal care products.

CETYL ALCOHOL

Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Myristyl Alcohol and Behenyl Alcohol are white, waxy solids. Isostearyl Alcohol is a clear liquid. Cetyl Alcohol and Stearyl Alcohol are the two major components of Cetearyl Alcohol. Cetearyl Alcohol and the other fatty alcohols keep an emulsion from separating into its oil and liquid components. These ingredients are also used to alter the thickness of liquid products and to increase foaming capacity or to stabilize foams.

COLORANTS

Colorants are ingredients that, alone or in combination with other ingredients, impart or alter the color of the product.

DIMETHICONE

Dimethicone and Methicone are silicone based polymers. Emollients, protectants. Help provide surface barrier properties to the skin.

ESSENTIAL OILS

Oils extracted from plants, having the “essence” or characteristic taste and/or fragrance of the plant; e.g., oil of peppermint.

ETHYLHEXYL P-METH0XYCINNAMATE

Sunscreen agent that absorbs UVB radiation.

FRAGRANCE

Fragrances are ingredients used in a wide variety of cosmetics and personal care products to make the products more pleasant and to make them recognizable to the users.

FRAGRANCE-FREE

No synthetic fragrance is added to enhance the product’s natural scent – often misunderstood to mean that the product has no scent whatsoever.

GLYCERIN

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol that can be obtained from natural sources or can be synthesized. Glycerin is a well known humectant (ingredient that increase the water content of the top layers of the skin by drawing moisture from the surrounding air) in cosmetics and personal care products. Other functions that have been reported for Glycerin include, hair conditioning agent, oral care agent, skin conditioning agent – humectant, skin protectant and viscosity decreasing agents.

GLYCOLIC ACID AND LACTIC ACID

Naturally occurring organic acids also known as Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs. In cosmetics and personal care products, these ingredients are used in the formulation of moisturizers, cleansing products, and other skin care products, as well as in makeup, shampoos, hair dyes and colors and other hair care products.These ingredients exfoliate by removing dead skin cells from the skin surface.

GLYCERYL STEARATE

Glyceryl Stearate acts as a lubricant on the skin’s surface, which gives the skin a soft and smooth appearance. It also slows the loss of water from the skin by forming a barrier on the skin’s surface. Glyceryl Stearate, and Glyceryl Stearate SE help to form emulsions by reducing the surface tension of the substances to be emulsified.

HYALURIC ACID

Hyaluric Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate and Potassium Hyaluronate are white fiber-like or creamy powders. In cosmetics and personal care products, these ingredients are used mainly in the formulation of skin care products, lipsticks and eye and facial makeup. They enhance the appearance of dry or damaged skin by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness.

LANOLIN

Lanolin is an ointment-like material isolated from wool that is sheared from sheep. Lanolin and its related ingredients moisturize the skin, hair and nails. These ingredients act as a lubricants on the skin surface, which gives the skin a soft, smooth appearance

MINERAL OIL

Mineral Oil functions as a hair conditioning agent, skin conditioning agent – emollient, skin conditioning agent – occlusive, skin protectant and as a solvent.

OXYBENZONE

Sunscreen agent that absorbs both UVA and UVB radiation.

PANTHENOL

Helps to retexturize the skin which results in improved tone of the skin. Also used extensively in wound healing therapy.

PARABENS

Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. They protect cosmetics and personal care products by preventing or retarding the growth of yeast and mold as will as some types of bacteria. The ingredients most often used in the formulation of cosmetic and personal care products includes Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben and Isobutylparaben. These paraben ingredients are widely used in cosmetics and personal care products, and can be found in almost all product categories.

PETROLATUM

Petrolatum occurs as a colorless or pale yellow semisolid. Petrolatum temporarily protects injured or exposed skin from harmful or annoying stimuli and may provide relief to such skin. It also slows the loss of water from the skin by forming a barrier on the skin’s surface.

PHENOXYETHANOL

Phenoxyethanol prevents or retards microbial growth, and thus protects cosmetics and personal care products from spoilage. It may also be used in fragrances.

POLYETHYLENE

Low molecular microfine spherical beads that are inert and non-irritating. Their rolling action on the skin provides gentle exfoliation.

PROPYLENE GLYCOL

Propylene Glycol is an organic alcohol. It is one of the most widely used ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. Propylene Glycol and Polypropylene Glycols attract water and function as moisturizers to enhance the appearance of skin by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness. Propylene Glycol is also used to help stabilize formulations

SALICYLIC ACID

Salicylic Acid is sometimes called a beta hydroxy acid (abbreviated BHA) that can be obtained from the bark of willow trees. Topical salicylic acid is used to help clear and prevent pimples and skin blemishes in people who have acne. Topical salicylic acid is also used to treat skin conditions that involve scaling or overgrowth of skin cells such as psoriasis (a skin disease in which red, scaly patches form on some areas of the body), ichthyoses (inborn conditions that cause skin dryness and scaling), dandruff, corns, calluses, and warts on the hands or feet.

STEARIC ACID

Stearic acid is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in various plants and animal derivatives. It’s found in such products as animal tallow, cocoa butter and vegetable fats. When it’s used in cosmetic products, stearic acid primarily fulfills the role of a thickener or hardener. As a surfactant, stearic acid is a powerful cleanser. A surfactant is a compound that helps reduce water’s surface tension, allowing it to mix with oils and dirt on the surface of your skin.

STEARYL ALCOHOL

Stearyl Alcohol is a long chain fatty alcohol. Stearyl Alcohol is a white, waxy solid with a faint odor and is found in a wide variety of products such as hair conditioners, foundations, eye makeup, skin moisturizers, skin cleansers and other skin care products. Stearyl alcohol can prevent an emulsion from separating into its oil and liquid components and also reduce the tendency of finished products to generate foam when shaken. When used in the formulation of skin care products, stearyl alcohol acts as a lubricant on the skin surface, which gives the skin a soft, smooth appearance.

TITANIUM DIOXIDE

Color Additive (Imparts color &/or increases coverage). Also a Sunscreen (Absorbs ultraviolet light from sun’s rays to help prevent sunburn).

TOCOPHERYL ACETATE

Tocopherol, or vitamin E, is a naturally occurring antioxidant which can be isolated from vegetable oil. Esters of Tocopherol are often used in cosmetic and personal care products. Antioxidants are ingredients that prevent or slow deterioration due to chemical reaction with oxygen.

TRIETHANOLAMINE

Triethanolamine, Diethanolamine and Ethanolamine are clear, colorless, viscous liquids with ammonia-like odors. They help to form emulsions by reducing the surface tension of the substances to be emulsified so that water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients can be blended together. They are also used to control the pH of cosmetics and personal Petrolatum temporarily protects injured or exposed skin from harmful or annoying stimuli and may provide relief to such skin. It also slows the loss of water from the skin by forming a barrier on the skin’s surface.