Rating Ingredient
Good

beheneth-5

A derivative of polyethylene glycol and non-drying behenyl alcohol that functions as an emulsifier and surfactant in skin care products. It can be synthetic or plant-derived.

Good

emollient

Supple, waxlike, lubricating, thickening agents that prevent water loss and have a softening and...

Good

emulsifier

When it comes to cosmetics, an emulsifier refers to any ingredient that helps keep unlike...

Good

Enteromorpha compressa extract

Extract from green algae.

Good

ethyl macadamiate

Mixture of fatty acids from macadamia nut oil.

Good

ethylhexyl stearate

Commonly used as an emollient to deliver skin-softening properties and a smooth afterfeel.

Good

Euphorbia cerifera wax

A type of wax derived from candelilla plants, often used in lip care products for barrier protection and emollience. Also contributes to the product's solid consistency.

Best

fatty acid

Substance typically found in plant and animal lipids (fat). Fatty acids include compounds such as...

Good

fatty alcohol

Made from fatty acids; fatty alcohols are used in cosmetics as thickening agents and emollients....

Good

cetyl alcohol

Fatty alcohol used as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener, and carrying agent for other...

Good

fuller's earth

Mineral substance that is similar to kaolin (a clay). Composed mainly of alumina, silica, iron...

Good

gelatin

Protein obtained from plants or animals and used in cosmetics as a thickening agent.

Good

glycereth-26

Functions as a skin-conditioning agent to provide a soft, smooth feel.

Good

glycereth-26 phosphate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glycereth-6 laurate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glycerol monostearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glycerol triacetate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glycerol trioleate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl behanate

A simple mixture of glycerin and the naturally-occuring fatty acid behenic acid. Glyceryl behenate...

Good

glyceryl cocoate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl dipalmitate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl distearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl ester

Large group of ingredients that are composed of fats and oils. At room temperature, the fats are...

Good

glyceryl isopalmitate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl isostearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl myristate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl oleate

Mixture of portions of glycerin and oleic acid that can serve as an emollient, surfactant, emulsifier, and absorption enhancer within skin care formulas.

Good

glyceryl palmitate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl polymethacrylate

A blend of glycerin and polymethacrylic acid whose smooth finish is used to enhance the texture and application of skin care products.

Good

glyceryl stearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

isohexadecane

A synthetic ingredient with a powder-like finish. Used as a cleansing agent and texture enhancer in cosmetics, particularly beneficial for those for oily skin.

Good

isoparaffin

Good

isopropyl lanolate

Derived from lanolin, it is used in cosmetics as a thickening agent and emollient.

Good

isopropyl titanium triisostearte/triethoxycaprylylsilane crosspolymer

A synthetic, silicone-enhanced polymer that occurs from combining isopropyl titanium triisostearate...

Good

isostearamide DEA

Used as a surfactant, water-binding agent, and thickening agent.

Good

isostearic acid

Fatty acid used as a binding agent and thickener.

Good

Japan wax

Vegetable wax obtained from sumac berries, and used as a thickening agent and emollient in...

Good

kelp extract

Good

Laminaria digitata

Good

Laminaria longicruris

Good

Laminaria sacharrina

Good

laureth-23

Used either as a cleansing agent or texture enhancer (sometimes as both). Derived from lauryl alcohol (a non-sensitising fatty alcohol).

Good

laureth-4

Used either as a cleansing agent or texture enhancer (sometimes both). Derived from lauryl alcohol (a non-sensitising fatty alcohol).

Good

laureth-7

Form of lauryl alcohol (a non-sensitising fatty alcohol derived from coconut oil) that can function as a cleansing agent and/or texture enhancer.

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.

Good

glyceryl stearate SE

Emulsifies water and oil; can also be used as a thickener. Derivative of glyceryl stearate that is a self-emulsifying (that’s what the “SE” stands for).

Good

glycol stearate

A mixture of glycerin and stearic acid used as an emollient, surfactant, and emulsifier. May also be used to impart a pearlescent appearance to a formula.

Best

glycolipid

Type of lipid composed of sugar (monosaccharide) and fat (lipid) that forms an important component...

Good

guar gum

Plant-derived thickening agent...

Good

guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride

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

Good

Haslea ostrearia extract

Extract derived from a water plant also known as blue algae. In pure concentrations this extract...

Good

Himanthalia elongate extract

Extract of a species of algae.

Good

hydrogenated coco-glyceride

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

hydrogenated didecene

Skin-conditioning agent derived from didecene, which is a hydrocarbon. Hydrocarbons are organic...

Good

hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyl dimethyl taurate copolymer

A polymer that functions as a stabilizer, thickening agent, and opacifying agent.

Good

hydroxyethylcellulose

A plant-derived thickening agent typically used as a binding agent or emulsifier.

Good

hydroxypropyl guar

Hydroxypropyl guar is a plant-derived ingredient that serves as a thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

hydroxypropyl starch phosphate

A plant-based or synthetic starch ingredient that functions as a thickener or bulking agent in cosmetics...

Good

Irish moss extract

Type of red algae.

Best

lipid

Wide range of ingredients found in plants, animals, and human skin. Lipids include fatty acids,...

Good

lithium magnesium sodium silicate

Synthetic silica-based clay composed of lithium, sodium, and magnesium. Used as a thickening agent...

Good

locust bean

Good

magnesium aluminum silicate

Dervied from clay, this absorbent, dry-feeling, white solid is used as a thickening agent and powder in cosmetics.

Good

magnesium stearate

Used as a thickening agent in cosmetics.

Average

MEA

Abbreviation for monoethanolamine.

Good

microcrystalline wax

Used as a thickener and to give products a semi-solid to solid smooth texture. Utilized most abundantly in lip care products.

Good

polyethylene

A synthetic polymer whose many uses in cosmetics depend on whether it is used in solid, wax, or liquid forms. In solid form it can be an abrasive; wax and liquid forms serve as binding or thickening agents and film-formers.

Good

sodium hexametaphosphate

Salt with multiple functions in cosmetics. It can act as a detergent, an emulsifier, a texturizer,...

Good

sodium lauroyl lactylate

A naturally derived ingredient that is used as an emulsifier and mild thickening agent in cosmetics. In higher concentrations, it functions as a surfactant.

Poor

sodium lauryl sulfate

Versatile ingredient composed of several non-volatile alcohols. Functions primarily as a surfactant...

Good

sodium polyacrylate

A versatile, synthetic polymer used as a film-forming agent, stabiliser, absorbent, thickening agent, and emollient.

Good

Solanum tuberosum extract

Extract that is more commonly known as potato starch. Used as a thickening agent and texture enhancer in cosmetics.

Good

sorbitan oleate

A synthetic or animal-derived ingredient used as an emulsifier and cleansing agent in cosmetics. Considered safe as used in cosmetics.

Good

sorbitan sesquioleate

Good

sorbitan stearate

An emulsifier used to thicken and stabilize cosmetics formulations.

Best

sorbitol

Sorbitol is a type of sugar that can be created synthetically or derived from natural sources.

Good

spirulina

Good

stearates

Good

stearic acid

Fatty acid used as an emollient and emulsifier...

Good

stearyl alcohol

A type of non-irritating fatty alcohol used to moisturize skin and to help keep other ingredients intact in a formulation.

Good

synthetic beeswax

An artificial form of beeswax composed of a mixture of alcohol esters...

Poor

Salvia officinalis

Good

sclerotium gum

A plant-derived, gel-like polysaccharide (sugar-based) ingredient that’s used in cosmetics to thicken and stabilize formulas. It is considered safe as used in cosmetics, and is similar to xanthan gum.

Good

Seamollient

Trade name for an algae extract.

Good

seaweed

Group of sea plants (scientific name: algae) of all sizes and shapes, and having a gelatin-like...

Good

sesquioleate

Used in cosmetics as a thickening agent and emollient.

Good

silica

Mineral found abundantly in sandstone, clay, and granite, as well as in parts of plants and...

Good

silicate

Inorganic salt that has potent absorbing and thickening properties.

Good

sodium acrylate/acryloydimethyl taurate copolymer

Versatile synthetic polymer used as a suspending and thickening agent.

Good

sodium carboxymethyl beta-glucan

A carbohydrate ingredient with a gel-like texture, it functions as a binding agent and texture...

Poor

TEA-lauryl sulfate

While there is abundant research showing sodium lauryl sulfate is a sensitizing cleansing agent,...

Good

thickening agent

Substances that can have a soft to hard waxlike texture or a creamy, emollient feel, and that can...

Best

titanium dioxide

Titanium dioxide is a mineral sunscreen active ingredient that protects against UVA and UVB rays and is considered gentle enough for use even on sensitive skin.

Good

tragacanth

Natural gum used as a thickener in cosmetics.

Good

tribehenin

A mixture of skin-replenishing glycerin and a fatty acid known as behenic acid that conditions skin and helps prevent moisture loss. May be plant-derived or synthetic.

Good

tridecyl stearate

Offers skin conditioning and emollient properties. Can also be included in formulas as a thickening agent.

Good

tridecyl trimellitate

Skin-softening agent and texture enhancer that can provide a cushiony, emollient feel.

Good

triglyceride

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Average

trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract

Latin name for the fenugreek plant. The seeds are used most often, and their fiber content helps...

Good

trihydroxystearin

A mixture of glycerin and castor oil-derived fatty acids that is used in amounts between 1–7% as an emollient and thickening agent.

Good

trilaurin

Group of ingredients that are triesters of glycerin and aliphatic acids, and known generically as...

Good

trioctanoin

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

wheat germ glycerides

Used as emollient and texture enhancer in cosmetics.

Good

xanthan gum

Used as a thickening agent.

Best

xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that may be plant-derived or synthetic (Paula’s Choice uses the former).

Best

zinc oxide

Zinc oxide is an inert earth mineral used as a thickening, whitening, lubricating, and sunscreen ingredient in cosmetics.

Good

zinc stearate

The zinc salt of stearic acid. It has multiple functions in cosmetics, including serving as the...

Best

candelilla/jojoba/rice bran polyglyceryl-3 esters

A natural mixture of polyglycerin-3, candelilla wax, jojoba seed wax, and rice bran wax...

Good

myristyl alcohol

A lighter-weight fatty alcohol that functions as a thickener, emulsion stabilizer, and emollient.

Good

polyglyceryl-10 caprylate/caprate

Polyglyceryl-10 caprylate/caprate is a single ester created from polymers and glycerin used in skin care as an emulsifier or solvent.

Good

sorbeth-230 tetraoleate

A complex mixture consisting primarily of fatty acid oleic acid and a sugar known as sorbitol. Works as a cleansing agent, thickener, and emulsifier.

Good

sodium polyacrylate starch

Sodium polyacrylate starch is a mixture of a natural starch combined with a synthetic acrylate polymer.

Good

silica silylate

Silica silylate works as a binder, thickening agent, and emollient in cosmetics.

Good

calcium aluminum borosilicate

Calcium aluminum borosilicate is a mineral-derived thickening agent often used in powders.

Good

polyacrylate crosspolymer-6

Polyacrylate crosspolymer-6 is a synthetic powder ingredient that stabilizes and thickens water-based emulsions.

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!