argan oil

  • Rating: BEST

  • Categories: Antioxidants, Emollients, Plant Extracts

Non-fragrant plant oil expressed from the kernels of argan trees. Argan oil contains several beneficial lipids and fatty acids for skin, including oleic acid, palmitic acid, and, especially, linoleic acid. It is also a good source of antioxidant vitamin E (tocopherol) and, like several other plant oils, a source of other antioxidant compounds.


  • Rating: BEST

  • Categories: Skin-Soothing

By-product of uric acid extracted from urea and considered an effective skin-soothing and skin-conditioning agent. Allantoin occurs naturally in the body. It can be extracted from plants (comfrey, chamomile) or made synthetically—the most common method for inclusion in cosmetics where it’s used in concentrations upwards of 2%.


  • Rating: AVERAGE

  • Categories: Emollients, Cleansing Agents

"Alcohol" refers to a group of organic compounds with a vast range of forms and uses in cosmetics and in other types of products and solutions. 

For skin, there are good alcohols and bad alcohols, corresponding to high-molecular-weight alcohols and low-molecular-weight alcohols, respectively, which can have emollient properties (cetyl alcohol) or act as detergent cleansing agents like isopropanol. 

There also are benign forms, including glycols, which are used as humectants to help hydrate and deliver ingredients into skin’s uppermost layers.

Alcohols like SD and "denatured" immediately harm the skin, starting a chain reaction of damage that continues long after it has evaporated. A 2003 study published found that with regular exposure to alcohol-based products, cleansing becomes a damaging ordeal—skin is no longer able to keep water and cleansing agents from penetrating into it, thus further eroding its surface layers.

It also destroyed the substances in skin that help to naturally soothe and defend it against visible effects of environmental damage.


  • Rating: BEST

  • Categories: Exfoliant

Acronym for alpha hydroxy acid. AHAs are derived naturally from various plant sources and from milk, but 99% of the AHAs used in cosmetics are synthetically derived. In low concentrations (less than 3%), AHAs work as water-binding agents. At concentrations greater than 4% and in a base with an acid pH of 3 to 4, these ingredients can exfoliate by breaking down the substance that holds dead skin together.

The most effective and well-researched AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid. 

AHAs have been widely used for improving signs of aging, dry skin and an uneven skin tone, all of which lead to younger-looking skin.

There is a vast amount of research that substantially describes how the aging process affects skin and that demonstrates that many of the unwanted changes can be improved by topical application of AHAs, including glycolic and lactic acids. AHA use can result in increased sensitivity to the sun, though wearing a sunscreen daily eliminates this risk.

aloe vera

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Skin-Soothing, Plant Extracts

Aloe vera  is a commonly used plant extract that has soothing properties, antioxidant qualities, and serves as a hydrating agent for skin due to its polysaccharide and sterol content. Aloe is a good ingredient,in pure form straight from the leaves, aloe vera’s benefits for skin include its lack of occlusion and the refreshing sensation it provides (hence, why it’s in common “after sun” products).

benzyl alcohol

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Preservatives

Organic alcohol that occurs naturally in some fruits (apricots, cranberries) and teas. Its chief function in cosmetics is as a preservative, and it’s among the least sensitizing preservatives in use.

High amounts of benzyl alcohol can impart a noticeable floral-like scent to products, as it is part of the fragrance makeup of some essential oils such as jasmine.

As a volatile alcohol, it can pose a risk of sensitivity when used in high amounts, but is considered safe as used in cosmetics.

butyrospermum parkii; shea butter

  • Rating: BEST

  • Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients, Antioxidants

Also listed by its Latin name of Butyrospermum parkii, this plant lipid, extracted from the karite tree is used as an emollient in cosmetics and has smoothing properties for dry skin.

Shea butter doesn’t just have a rich texture; it’s also a rich source of antioxidants, including quercetin, epicatechin gallate, gallocatechin, epigallocatechin, as well as skin-replenishing fatty acids (stearic and linoleic). It is a wonderful ingredient to see in products designed to improve dry skin.

caprylic/ capric triglyceride

  • Rating: BEST

  • Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients, Texture Enhancer

Derived from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s considered an excellent emollient and skin-replenishing ingredient. It’s included in cosmetics due to its mix of fatty acids that skin can use to replenish its surface and resist moisture loss. Caprylic/capric triglyceride can also function as a thickener, but its chief job is to moisturize and replenish skin. This ingredient’s value for skin is made greater by the fact that it’s considered gentle.


  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Texture Enhancer

Fatty alcohol that is used to thicken cosmetics and keep ingredients mixed together and stable.

cetearyl alcohol

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Texture Enhancer, Emollients

Fatty alcohol that is a mixture of gentle cetyl and stearyl alcohols. It’s used as an emollient, texture enhancer, foam stabilizer, and carrying agent for other ingredients. Can be derived naturally, as in coconut fatty alcohol, or made synthetically. It is almost always combined with similar-feeling ingredients to create a product’s texture and influence its slip when applied to skin.

Cosmetic products labeled "alcohol free" are allowed to contain cetearyl alcohol, whose effects are quite different from skin-aggravating forms of alcohol. We repeat: fatty alcohols like cetearyl alcohol do not pose a risk of sensitizing skin.

cyclomethicone; silicone

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Silicones, Slip Agents, Emollients

Substance derived from silica (sand is a silica). The unique fluid properties of silicone give it a great deal of slip, and in its various forms it can feel like silk on skin, impart emollience, and be a water-binding agent that holds up well, even when skin becomes wet. The research about silicones have proven them to be superior scar-healing ingredients, soothing agents, non-irritating, and uniquely effective delivery and suspending agents for a wide range of cosmetic ingredients.

There are numerous forms of silicones used in cosmetic products, particularly leave-on skincare products and all manner of hair-care products. Common forms of silicone are cyclopentasiloxane and cyclohexasiloxane; other forms include various types of dimethicone and phenyl trimethicone.

Claims that silicones in any form cause or worsen skin concerns have not been substantiated in any published research, nor have reports that silicones are sensitizing to or somehow “suffocate” skin. In fact, just the opposite is true which makes the misinformation difficult to understand. Almost all of the claims about silicones being problematic for skin are apparently myths or based on anecdotal evidence.

Because of silicone’s unique molecular properties, they are at the same time porous and resistant though not impermeable to air. Think of silicones in a skincare formula like the covering of a tea bag. When you steep the tea bag in water the tea and all of its antioxidant properties are released into the water. Silicones remain on the surface of your skin and the other ingredients it’s mixed with “steep” through. All ingredients must be suspended in some base formula; some of the ingredients remain on the surface, some are absorbed. The intent is for the “actives” to get through. The special molecular structure of silicones (large molecules with wide spaces between each molecule) allows them to form a permeable barrier and also explains why silicones rarely feel heavy or occlusive, although they still offer protection against moisture loss.

dehydroacetic acid

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Preservatives

A synthetic preservative used in amounts of 0.6% or less where it’s proven to be safe and effective. Dehydroacetic acid is characterized as a white to cream crystalline powder. Sometimes its salt form (known as sodium dehydroacetate) is used, as it is more soluble in certain types of cosmetic formulas. Dehydroacetic acid is most effective on fungi.

dicaprylyl carbonate

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Emollients

According to the Personal Care Product Council’s Ingredient Infobase, dicaprylyl carbonate functions as a skin-conditioning agent, emollient and solvent. It may be derived from synthetic or animal sources.

Dicaprylyl carbonate is desirable for products such as facial moisturizers because it spreads easily and leaves a velvety feel on skin without seeming greasy or slick. It also helps enhance the absorption of other ingredients in a cosmetic formula.

disodium EDTA

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Uncategorized

Short for disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. Used as a chelating agent in cosmetic products, meaning it prevents ingredients in a formula from binding with trace elements (mainly minerals) that can be present in water. Studies have found that EDTAs, including disodium EDTA, as used in cosmetic formulations are safe.


  • Rating: BEST

  • Categories: Skin-Replenishing, Skin-Restoring

Also called glycerol or glycerine, glycerin is a humectant that’s present in all natural lipids (fats), whether animal or vegetable. It can be derived from natural substances by hydrolysis of fats and by fermentation of sugars; it also can be synthetically manufactured, which is usually the case with modern-day skincare products.

Glycerin is a skin-replenishing and skin-restoring ingredient, meaning it is a substance found naturally in skin, helping to establish normal balance and hydration. It’s one of the many substances in skin that helps maintain a healthy look and feel, defending against dryness and working to maintain skin’s moisture level. Essentially, glycerin is a master at hydration, and works best when combined with other replenishing and emollient ingredients.

Some people wonder whether using products with glycerin takes too much water from skin when there isn’t enough humidity in the air. This can occur with pure glycerin (100% concentration—an amount that’s never used in skincare products). Any humectant (including glycerin) used in pure form can increase water loss by attracting water from the lower layers of skin into the surface layers when the climate is too arid (low humidity). For this reason, glycerin and humectants are typically used in concentrations of 5% or less and always combined with other ingredients to soften skin. In fact, glycerin combined with other emollients and/or oils is a fundamental cornerstone of most moisturizers.


  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Cleansing Agents

Large group of ingredients (including the common polysorbate 20) most often derived from lauric acid, which is derived from coconuts. Polysorbates function as emulsifiers and also have mild surfactant properties; some polysorbates are derived from the food ingredient sorbitol, which occurs naturally in many fruits, while others have a fatty acid component. Polysorbates are considered non-toxic and safe as used in the concentrations found in cosmetics and food products (in food products, polysorbates function as stabilizers).

potassium sorbate

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Preservatives

Used as a preservative, almost always used in conjunction with other preservatives.


  • Rating: BEST

  • Categories: Vitamins

Alcohol form of the B vitamin pantothenic acid. Panthenol is used in skincare products as a humectant because of its ability to attract and hold moisture. 

Sometimes called pro-vitamin B5, panthenol mixes readily with many different types of ingredients, making it a versatile ingredient to be used in formulas because it improves the look and feel of skin.

sodium acrylates copolymer

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Film-Forming Agents, Texture Enhancer

A synthetic, acrylic-based, salt-derived polymer that functions in cosmetics as a texture enhancer, binder, and film-forming agent.

sodium benzoate

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Preservatives

Salt of benzoic acid used as a preservative in both cosmetics and food products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated it a “generally recognized as safe” ingredient.

stearic acid

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Thickeners/Emulsifiers, Emollients, Skin-Replenishing

Fatty acid used as an emollient and emulsifier. It has been shown to protect skin's surface against water loss and help shore up skin's protective barrier. Stearic acid may be synthetic or animal-derived. 

sorbitan laurate

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Cleansing Agents, Emulsifiers

An ester of lauric acid and portions of the sugar ingredient sorbitol. This ingredient works as a cleansing agent and emulsifier, and may be naturally-derived or synthetic.

Amounts above 5% are likely to cause skin irritation; however, sorbitan laurate is typically used in lower amounts, along with other cleansing agents. As such, it’s considered a safe ingredient for use on skin.

sodium lactate

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Miscellaneous

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

mineral oil

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Emollients

Clear, odorless oil derived from petroleum that is widely used in cosmetics. Despite mineral oil’s association with petroleum and the hype that it’s bad for or ages skin, keep in mind that petroleum is a natural ingredient derived from the earth. Once it’s purified to become mineral oil USP (cosmetics- and pharmaceutical-grade mineral oil), it has no resemblance to the original petroleum and isn’t a source of contaminants.

Cosmetics-grade mineral oil and petrolatum are considered the safest, most non-sensitizing moisturizing ingredients ever found. Mineral oil and petrolatum are known to be efficacious in skin replenishing and are also among the most effective, established moisturizing ingredients available. 


  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories: Miscellaneous

Most widely used cosmetic ingredient; water is almost always listed first on an ingredient label because it is usually the ingredient with the highest concentration in the formula. Despite claims of skin’s need for hydration and claims regarding special types of water, it turns out that water may not be an important ingredient for skin. Only a 10% concentration of water in the outer layer of skin is necessary for softness and pliability in this part of the epidermis. Studies that have compared the water content of dry skin with that of normal or oily skin do not find a statistically significant difference in moisture levels between them.

rosa damascana water

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories:Toning/Refreshing agents

Damascena Rose Water  acts as a decongestant, astringent, moisturizing, refreshing and toning agent. Damascena Rose Water is suitable for sensitive skin.Rose Damascena has mild astringent properties, therefore can be used as a toner for oily skin, prone to acne. Rose water refreshes the skin, without stripping it of its natural oils (a common problem with alcohol-containing toners).

moroccan lava clay; rhassoul

  • Rating: GOOD

  • Categories:Absorbent

The Moroccan clay is made mostly of stevensite, which is an anti-irritant. The clay also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it suitable for most skin types . The clay is rich in silica (about 58%), which promotes healthy skin and is also essential in collagen production. The clay’s composition also contains large amount magnesium (about 25.2%). On a surface level, magnesium salts help to repair damaged skin, even working to strengthen the skin barrier. Rhassoul is effective for its  hydrating,oil-absorbing,antiseptic and exfoliating properties.


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