Rating Ingredient
Good

dipotassium phosphate

A synthetic salt that helps to adjust and maintain the pH of water-based and...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

acid

Anything with a pH lower than 7 is considered acidic—above 7 is considered alkaline. Water has a pH...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

bifida ferment lysate

A specific type of yeast obtained by the fermentation of Bifida...

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Poor

advanced glycation endproduct (AGE)

Advanced glycation endproducts, also known as AGEs, are caused by the body's major fuel source, namely glucose.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

AGE

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

aminomethyl propanol

Aminomethyl propanol is a synthetic ingredient used in cosmetics as a pH adjuster.

Good

EDTA

Acronym for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, a stabilizer used in cosmetics to prevent ingredients...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

environmental damage

Occurrence that takes place at an atomic level and is a complex physiological process. Molecules...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

erythrulose

Substance chemically similar to the self-tanning agent dihydroxyacetone. Depending on your skin...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

ethoxydiglycol

A synthetic solvent that helps improve the function, penetration, and texture of skin care products.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

ethylhexylglycerin

A synthetic skin-conditioning agent used as a preservative or as a carrier or suspending agent for...

Average

fish cartilage extract

May have water-binding properties, but there is no research showing that this has any benefit for...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

flavour

Any ingredient or combination of ingredients, natural or synthetic, added to a cosmetic to improve its taste, usually by masking the undesirable taste of another ingredient. In the EU, flavour is indicated as “aroma

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

fruit acid

Good

glucose oxidase

A synthetic enzyme that’s chemically classified as a protein, this sugar-based ingredient works to condition both skin and hair.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

gluten ingredients

Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in many types of grains, including wheat, rye, and barley.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

isocetyl salicylate

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

isododecane

Hydrocarbon ingredient used as a solvent. Isododecane enhances the spreadability of products and...

Best

lactoperoxidase

Enzyme derived from milk; it has purifying benefits for skin and may be helpful for...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

lady's mantle extract

Good

laurdimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

laurdimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

lauroyl lysine

Amino acid derivative that functions as a skin- and hair-conditioning agent. It also contributes to...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

lauryl PEG-9 polydimethylsiloxyethyl dimethicone

A silicone polymer that has multiple functions in cosmetic products, including skin and hair softening and as a texture enhancer.

Poor

gold

An ingredient that seems luxe and helpful but is actually a frequent contact sensitizer…

Categories: Sensitizing, Miscellaneous
Good

guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride

Functions as a synthetic conditioning agent for skin and hair and can play a role in depositing active ingredients.

Good

hydrolysed vegetable protein

The protein portion of vegetables obtained by hydrolysis, which is the breakdown of a substance when it’s reacted with water. This natural ingredient conditions skin and hair.

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Average

hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid

Also known by the acronym HEPES, hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid is a buffering ingredient typically used to...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

inactive ingredient

The list of inactive ingredients is the part of an ingredient label that is not regulated by the...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

isobutyl acetate

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

liposomes

Delivery system (not an ingredient) capable of holding other ingredients and releasing them after...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

magnesium hydroxide

Active ingredient in milk of magnesia. It is an absorbent and has disinfectant properties for skin.

Categories: Absorbent, Miscellaneous
Good

methylpropanediol

Glycol that functions as a solvent. Methylpropanediol can enhance ingredients such as salicylic acid.

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Average

Mucor miehei extract

Extract of a type of mold whose enzymes are used as a food additive and flavor enhancer in cheeses....

Categories: Miscellaneous
Best

myristyl nicotinate

A derivative of nicotinic acid, a component of vitamin B3 (niacin) that isn’t the same ingredient...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

sodium lactate

The sodium salt of lactic acid. Used primarily as a hydrating and buffering agent (to adjust a product’s pH value).

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

sodium salicylate

Salt form of salicylic acid (BHA). Because it is not the acid form of salicylate (i.e., salicylic...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

sodium tallowate

Sodium salt of tallow.

Good

solvent

Describes a large group of ingredients, including water, that are used to dissolve or break down...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Best

SPF

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

steapyrium chloride

Antistatic agent used in hair-care products.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

stearalkonium chloride

Antistatic ingredient used in hair-care products to control flyaways and aid in helping a brush or...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

stearalkonium hectorite

A powder derived from hectorite clay which is used in amounts up to 50% as a safe suspending agent in cosmetics.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Best

sun protection factor

Most commonly seen as SPF, it is a number that is assigned to a product that identifies its ability...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

synthetic wax

A wax derived from a mixture of various oils. It functions as a binding and stabilizing agent.

Average

talc

Naturally occurring silicate mineral (any group of substances containing negative ions composed of...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

tallow

Substance extracted from the fatty deposits of animals, especially from suet (the fat of cattle and...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

Saccharomyces calcium ferment

Extract of yeast fermented in the presence of calcium ions. It has no known benefit for skin.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

sebacic acid

Used as a pH adjuster.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

TEA

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

tetrahydroxypropyl ethylenediamine

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

tetrasodium EDTA

Chelating agent used to prevent minerals present in formulations from bonding to other ingredients.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

tetrasodium etidronate

Used as a chelating agent in cosmetics to prevent varying mineral components from binding together...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

thymus hydrolysate

Form of animal thymus derived by acid, enzyme, or other methods of hydrolysis. It can have...

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Best

tranexamic acid

Tranexamic acid is a synthetic amino acid derived from lysine.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

trehalose

A water-binding plant sugar that has hydrating properties for skin.

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Good

tridecyl salicylate

Salt form of salicylic acid (BHA). When it is no longer an acid (as in this case), salicylic acid...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

triethanolamine

Used in cosmetics as a pH balancer. Like all amines, it has the potential for creating...

Categories: Miscellaneous, Emulsifiers
Good

trioclanolin

Derived from lanolin and used as a texture enhancer, most commonly in powder-based products such as...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

trisodium EDTA

Used as a water-softening and chelating agent (a compound that binds and separates metals, keeping them from bonding to other ingredients).

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

UVA

Ultraviolet A radiation. The sun produces a range of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, of which UVA and...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

UVB

Ultra-violet B radiation.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

water

The most widely used cosmetic ingredient; water is almost always listed first on an ingredient...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

wheat amino acids

A blend of amino acids from wheat protein after it has been broken down via hydrolysis. Most often...

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Good

whey protein

A form of protein derived from milk that functions as a skin-softening and/or hair-conditioning agent. Whey protein also shows promise for enhancing skin’s extracellular matrix.

Good

xylose

Form of sugar. Similar to other sugars, xylose has hydrating properties for skin.

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Good

xymenynic acid

Synthetic fatty acid that functions as a skin-softening agent.

Average

yogurt

There is no research showing that yogurt is effective when applied topically on skin. Yogurt...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

zinc carbonate

Categories: Miscellaneous, Sensitizing
Best

zinc PCA

A synthetic skin-softening ingredient derived from zinc, research has shown it to have anti-aging benefits due to...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

hydroxypropyl cyclodextrin

A plant- derived or synthetic carbohydrate that functions as a chelating agent and...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

sodium bicarbonate

A synthetic inorganic salt more commonly known as baking soda. It has many functions in cosmetics, including pH adjuster, buffering agent, and abrasive, such as in face or body scrubs.

Good

tetrasodium glutamate diacetate

A safe synthetic chelating agent with natural origins. Used in amounts up to 1% to boost the effectiveness of preservatives, allowing for the use of lower amounts than is typical without compromising effectiveness.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

citrate buffer

Citrate buffer is a buffered mixture of sodium citrate and citric acid and is used in cosmetics as a pH adjuster.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

potassium citrate

Potassium citrate is a buffering agent that is the potassium salt of citric acid.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

sodium gluconate

The salt form of gluconic acid, a mild acid produced from the sugar glucose. It helps certain skin care ingredients bond with others in a formula.

Good

C13-15 alkane

C13-15 alkane is a synthetic blend of alkanes that functions as a solvent.

Good

sodium phytate

The synthetic salt form of the antioxidant phytic acid. In this form, it works as a chelating agent, keeping metals from binding to water in cosmetics.

Categories: Miscellaneous

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!