ABSOLUTES When aromatic
material from plants is extracted by solvents instead of
distillation, it is called absolutes. The solvent is
later removed and what remains is a liquid that is
thicker, more viscous and generally more concentrated
than essential oils. This method of extraction is used
for material that is easily destroyed by heat, commonly
flower petals. Traces of solvent may remain in
ACACIA Gum arabicum, Catechu. Exudate from a stem of
the acacia tree. It is widely used as stabilizer,
thickener, demulcent and mucilage. It can cause allergic
ACETALDEHYDE Used in the perfume and rubber
industries. Naturally occurring in apples, broccoli,
grapefruit and other fruits and vegetables. It is
irritating to mucous membranes and also when inhaled.
ACETIC ACID Organic acid found in vinegar, apples,
grapes, cheese, oranges, skimmed milk and other fruits
and plants. It is used as solvent, styptic (stops
bleeding), rubefacient (stimulates blood circulation),
astringent, and acidifier. It is highly corrosive when
concentrated and its vapours are irritating and can
cause lung damage. Widely used in different chemical
industries, it can be produced naturally or
ACETONE A solvent in nail polish removers and nail
finishes. It can cause the peeling and brittleness of
nails, skin rashes and irritation if inhaled.
ACRYLAMIDE/ACRYLATES Used as monomers and polymers in
fake nails, nail enamels, shampoos, hair sprays. Strong
ADENOSINE TRIPHOSPHATE (ATP) ATP transfers energy
necessary for metabolism of the cell. It is an energy
currency of the basic unit in any organism, including
human. It is produced during photosynthesis and cellular
respiration, and it lends energy to all processes that
take part inside a cell i.e. it powers the metabolic
ADIPIC ACID Naturally found in beets. Used in hair
products industry, often as a polymer and in combination
with other compounds for giving body to hair, and in
AGAR Used as an emulsifier and emollient in cosmetics
and in food industry as a gelling agent and substitute
for gelatin. It is extracted from various seaweed.
ALCOHOL As a common name it refers to Ethyl Alcohol or
Ethanol. It is manufactured by fermentation of sugars,
both in alcoholic beverages and for industrial use.
Widely used as a solvent in perfumes and cosmetics, but
also traditionally as an extracting agent and solvent
for medicinal herbs, in numerous preparations and
compounding over the centuries. Ethanol is drying to the
skin and hair if used in excess because it dissolves
fats. It can also be a preservative at the level above
20%. It has been largely replaced in preparations of
plant extracts in cosmetic industry by propylene glycol
and other glycols, due to its flammability and other
reasons. It is however a natural solvent while the
others are not.
ALGINIC ACID/ALGINATES Obtained from brown algae, used
as stabilizers and thickening agents due to their
ALKALOIDS Natural amines occurring in plants and
usually with highly potent biological reaction in human
bodies, from healing to intoxication. Betaine, caffeine,
cocaine, are all alkaloids.
ALKYL SULFATES Widely used detergents, especially in
shampoos. They first came about during Wold War II when
the material for producing soaps (fats) were scarce in
Germany, and the basic method involves turning a fatty
acid into a fatty alcohol, which is further treated with
sulfuric acid. Lauric acid reduced to lauric alcohol and
then treated with sulfuric acid will give sodium lauryl
sulfate (SLS). They are also known as surfactants (see
the separate entry). There is quite a divide and no
common consensus on their toxicity or how irritating
they are, but they are hard to avoid.
ALKYLOAMIDES Widely used as emulsifiers, thickening
and foaming agents, emollients, solubilizers, wetting
and cleansing agents, and so on.
1. DEA diethanolamides
2. MEA monoethanolamides
3. TEA - triethanolamides
4. MIPA monoisopropanolamides
5. PEG or ethoxylated alkyloamides
They are also manufactured by using fatty acids as
starting material. Not considered toxic, but can become
contaminated with nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are created
during different processes, including some in the human
body, also in curing meats, and are considered
ALLANTOIN It helps heal wounds and skin ulcers.
Although it occurs naturally, its wide use has resulted
with mostly synthetic production from uric acid.
ALPHA-HYDROXY ACIDS AHA. Organic acid with a hydroxyl
group on the first carbon atom (alpha). Glycolic,
Lactic, Citric, Malic, Tartaric.
They are relatively new in wide use (since the 1990s),
especially when used in high concentrations, and
long-term effects are unknown. Levels of use are
anywhere between 4-5% and up to 70%. Obviously, the
higher the concentration the greater the risk of the
damage to the skin, and possible side effects. General
guidelines on safety are: use products with less than
10% of AHAs, with pH higher than 3.5 (the lower the pH
the higher the acidity, thus greater degree of
irritation to the skin) and avoid sun exposure.
ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID ALA, thioctic acid. Synthesized in
the body and part of the Krebs cycle (the process by
which the body converts carbohydrates into energy). It
is a fatty acid containing two sulfur atoms. Powerful
antioxidant. Used as supplement in many diabetes-related
conditions, now popular as an ingredient in anti-aging
ALUMINUM SALTS Acetate, Chloride, Caprylate, Glycinate,
etc. also Aluminum Hydroxide. Used in anti-perspirants.
The odour of sweat is created when the sweat reaches the
skin and the bacteria act on it. The salts are believed
to impede the action of sweat and also by being
antibacterial. There are weak and strong salts.
Obviously the stronger ones will be more irritating and
they are usually buffered to counteract the effect.
Human bodies are exposed to aluminum in many ways in
everyday life, not only through antiperspirants. It is
also one of the most abundant minerals on Earth, and it
can be highly toxic in high exposures. Whether it is
linked to Alzheimers disease, and how, is however not
AMINO ACIDS Organic acids containing an amine group.
When linked together in different combinations, they
create peptides, polypeptides and proteins. Of 22 known
amino acids 8 cant be produced by the body and are
called essential amino acids. The body needs them in
order to create its own proteins, i.e. they are
essential to the functioning and ultimately the health
of the human organism. They must be consumed through
food. In cosmetics, amino acids are used with intent of
helping the metabolic processes in the skin and hair by
being available to either repair or improve the
AMMONIA Derivatives of ammonia are many and diverse.
Not every ammonia compound will be toxic (like ammonium
phosphate, or sulfate), which will also depend on the
level and the type of use. Ammonia is also used in
manufacturing many other chemicals and its traces may be
present. Cosmetically, many ammonia compounds are used
in hair preparations, especially for permanent waving.
AMPHOTERIC SURFACTANTS These are agents that possess
both positive and negative charge i.e. they can act as
both acid and alkaline. Although considered milder and
better than alkyl sulfates, most are synthetic
AMYL ALCOHOL A solvent used in nail polish. Occurs
naturally, smells like camphor and it is highly toxic.
Its derivative, amyl acetate has a strong fruity odour,
also highly toxic. Amyl butyrate, with its apricot-like
odour, also occurs naturally, and is not toxic. Used in
flavourings and perfumes.
ANIONIC SURFACTANTS Synthetic compounds used widely as
emulsifiers in cosmetics. Anionic refers to the
negative electrical charge that these surface-active
compounds have. Sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl
sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, TEA lauryl sulfate,
sodium cocoyl sarcosinate, disodium oleamide
sulfosuccinate, to name a few. Sodium laureth sulfate is
very irritating, while triethanolamine (TEA) coco
hydrolyzed animal protein is milder.
ARAHIDIC ACID A fatty acid also called eicosanoic acid
that is found in peanut oil and similar vegetable fats.
Also arahidic alcohol.
ARACHIDONIC ACID - Unsaturated liquid fatty acid found
in liver, brain, glands and fat of animals and humans.
It belongs to the group of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA).
It is usually isolated from animal liver. Used in
soothing skin preparations.
ARACHIDYL BEHENATE A waxy fatty ester made from
arachidic alcohol and behenic acid.
ARGIRELINE - Acetyl
hexapeptide-3. A chain of 6 aminoacids attached to
acetic acid. Promoted as a topical substitute for Botox,
since it has shown some relaxing effect on facial
muscles, and thus on wrinkles. A novel ingredient, its
efficacy with regular use and long-term safety are yet
to be established. Synthetically produced.
ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C) Necessary for normal teeth,
bones and blood vessels, anti-oxidant, important for
connective tissue. Soluble in water but also quickly
disintegrates in solutions. More stable in a form of an
ester: Ascorbyl Palmitate, or Ascorbyl Stearate.
ASTAXANTHIN - A red pigment occurring naturally in a
wide variety of living organisms: crustaceans, including
shrimp, crawfish, crabs and lobster, are tinted red by
accumulated astaxanthin; this is why the salmon is pink.
It is also an antioxidant.
AZULENE Generally known as an anti-inflammatory
blue-green concentrate extracted from camomile flower
and used for soothing the skin.
B COMPLEX VITAMINS B1
(Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Panthotenic
acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B12 (cyanocobolamin), Biotin,
Folic acid, PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), Carnitine,
Choline, Inositol. Often come as yeast extract and used
for oily skin and in hair products.
BAKING SODA Sodium bicarbonate. Relieves burns,
itching, urticarial lesions and insect bites. Used in
bath powders and as a common component in cosmetics for
oily skin in homemade recipes.
BARIUM HYDROXIDE/SULFATE/SULFIDE Used in depilatories.
The first two are poisonous when ingested, the sulfide
is also skin irritant, must not be applied on a broken
BARRIER AGENT A protective coating in hand creams and
lotions which acts as a barrier against irritating
chemicals, including water and detergents.
Water-repellant barriers are used against water-soluble
agents that are irritating to the skin and oil-repellant
ones against the oil-soluble chemicals. Silicones (see
separate entry) are often used as barrier agents. Also
paraffin, petrolatum, ozokerite waxes, beeswax,
celluloses, bentonite, alginates, gum tragacanth,
pectin, zinc oxide, zinc stearate.
BATH OIL Used in both foaming and nonfoaming oil. The
concentration of perfume is also quite high, which may
lead to sensitivities or allergic reactions. The oil in
preparation is either mineral or vegetal and it contains
surfactants to help spread the oil on the water surface.
A common ingredient in foaming types of oil is TEA-lauryl
sulfate, also foam stabilizers such as saponin (natural
chemical) or methylcellulose to give the bubbles
longevity. Colours are often added. Many of these
ingredients can cause skin irritations.
BATH SALTS Commonly used salts are rock salt (table
salt) and sodium thiosulfate. Both are minerals that
soothe the skin and the latter has low toxicity. The
effervescent bath salts contain sodium bicarbonate and
tartaric acid. Other chemicals often added are borax,
sodium hexametaphosphate, starch, sodium carbonate and
sodium sesquacarbonate. Phosphate and borax may cause
caustic irritation to the skin and mucous membranes;
boric acid is poisonous when ingested or if absorbed
through the skin.
BEHENALCONIUM CHLORIDE see Quaternary Ammonium Salts.
Used in many hair conditioners and rinses.
BEHENIC ACID/BEHENIC ALCOHOL Docosanoic acid.
Docosanol. Water-soluble constituent of seed fats,
animal fats and marine animal oils used to opacify
shampoos. Alcohol is derived from the behenic acid and
it is a mixture of different fatty alcohols, also used
as insecticide and antihistamine. Low toxicity.
BENTONITE White clay found in United States in Canada.
Used in makeup and face masks.
BENZALDEHYDE Occurs naturally in the kernels of bitter
almonds. Produced synthetically from lime and known as
artificial almond oil, it is highly toxic.
BENZALKONIUM CHLORIDE (BAK) A widely used ammonium
detergent in hair products, after-shaves, deodorants and
other cosmetics. It is also antibacterial. It is highly
BENZEN - A solvent obtained from coal and used in nail
polish removers. Has a wide use in variety of
industries, from airplane glue and detergents to
varnishes. Flammable, highly irritating and toxic.
BENZOIC ACID/SODIUM BENZOATE A preservative that
occurs naturally in cherry bark, raspberries, tea,
cassia bark. Used widely in food and cosmetics, as an
antifungal agent. Mildly irritating to the skin, it can
cause allergic reactions. Synthetically produced.
BENZOIN - Benzoic gum. Balsamic resin obtained from
variety of tropical trees. Benzoin has antioxidant and
preservative properties and it is not toxic.
BENZYL ALCOHOL /ACETATE Aromatic alcohol and ester
naturally occurring in many plants, including jasmine
and used in perfumes and soaps, also as preservatives.
BETA-CAROTENE Provitamin A. Orange pigment in many
BETA-HYDROXY ACIDS BHA. Organic acids with a hydroxyl
group on the second carbon atom (beta). Salicylic acid,
beta hydroxybutanoic acid, tropic acid, trethocanic
acid. (From a chemists perspective, salicylic acid is
not a beta-hydroxy acid but it has become popular known
as such). Currently, the most commonly used is salicylic
acid. Like with AHA, the effects both positive and
negative will depend on the concentration used.
Salicylic acid is a strong keratolytic (eats up the
skin) already at around 10%, i.e. it can cause a
chemical burn. Use cautiously, test on a small patch of
skin before applying to your face, be careful with sun
exposure, and keep away from children.
BETAINE Occurs naturally in beets and many other
vegetables and animals. Used in resins. No known
BHA/BHT Butilated hydroxyanisole and butilated
hudroxytoluene. Synthetic antioxidants used in food and
cosmetics. Can cause adverse reactions.
BIOFLAVONOIDS Vitamin P complex. Citrus-flavoured
compounds important for maintaining healthy blood
vessels walls. Widely distributed in plants, especially
citrus fruits and rose hips.
BISABOL Opopanax. Gum resin obtained from African
trees. No know toxicity.
BISABOLOL Natural aromatic alcohol, primary
constituent of the essential oil from German Camomile.
Soothing, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial
BISULFATES Curl relaxers or straighteners, used
instead of thioglycolates, which are more toxic. Can
still irritate scalp and cause sensitivities.
BITHIONOL Used as preservatives in cosmetics, closely
related to hexaclorophene. Serious photosensitizing
agent, banned for use in many products.
BORAX Sodium borate. Also boric acid and other
borates. Used for a traditional emulsification with
beeswax. Boric acid and its salts used also as
antiseptics and preservatives due to bactericidal and
antifungal properties. Highly poisonous if ingested or
absorbed through the skin.
BRONOPOLฎ Bronosol. Odourless crystals from
chloroform, widely used as preservatives in cosmetics
and toiletries. It is considered less sensitizing than
parabens or isothiazolinones. It can form nitrosamines
when acting together with amines or amides. It also
breaks down to form formaldehyde, which is a suspected
BUBBLE BATH Liquid bubble bath may contain TEA-dodecylbenzene
sulfonate, fatty acid alkanolamides, perfume, water,
colourings, methylparaben. Other ingredients may include
alkyl benzene sulfonate, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate,
propylene glycol, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium
sulfate and sodium tripolyphosphate. Ingestion of bubble
bath may cause gastrointestinal problems, and skin
irritations have been reported as well as many other
possibly related health problems. Children especially
should not take prolonged bubble baths, and particularly
not unsupervised. Adults may aggravate dryness of their
skin or inflammation by taking bubble baths.
BUTYLENE GLYCOL Humectant and solvent for many herbal
extracts used in cosmetics. It also retains scents and
prevents spoilage. If ingested it is highly toxic.
C12 C18 ALCOHOLS Long
chain fatty alcohols: cetyl, palmityl, myristyl, stearyl,
arachidyl and oleyl.
CALAMINE Zinc oxide with a small amount of ferric
oxide, which gives it colour. Used in lotions, ointments
and other preparations for soothing irritated skin.
CALCIFEROL Vitamin D.
CANDELILLA WAX Obtained from Candelilla plants and
used in lipsticks, solid fragrances and liquid powders.
CAPRIC ACID Fatty acid that occurs in variety of
plants. It has rancid smell and it is used in perfumes
and as artificial fruit flavouring in lipsticks.
CAPROIC ACID Hexanoic acid. Occurs naturally in
apples, cocoa, grapes, strawberries and other plants but
produced synthetically. No known toxicity.
CAPRYLIC ACID Occurs naturally as a fatty acid in
sweat, milk and palm and coconut oils. Also caprilyc
CARBOMER Carbopol. Carboxypolymethylene. Used as
thickening, suspending, dispersing and emulsifying
CARBOXYMETHYL CELLULOSE A synthetic gum used widely in
cosmetics as an emulsifier, stabilizer, foaming and
barrier agent. Also used in ice cream and beverages as a
stabilizer. No known toxicity on the skin but toxic if
CARNAUBA WAX The exudate from the leaves of the
Brazilian wax palm tree, used in makeup.
CARRAGEENAN Irish moss. A stabilizer and emulsifier,
used in cosmetics and foods. Completely soluble in water
CARVONE Oil of Caraway. Usually distilled from caraway
and dill seed oils, also found in other essential oils.
May be also synthetically produced. Carvol is a
synthetic liquor, mint spice flavouring used in food
industry, also perfumery and soaps.
CASTOR OIL Widely used in lipsticks, also in bath
oils, nail polish removers. Plasticizer in nail polish,
it forms a tough shiny film when dried.
CATECHOL Catechin. An aromatic alcohol found in
catechu black (acacia).
CATIONIC SURFACTANTS Synthetic compounds used as
emulsifiers and wetting agents. Their positively charged
ions repel water. This class of detergents consists
mostly of quaternary ammonium compounds. Toxicity
CELLULOSE The plant fibres are mostly made of
cellulose. Cellulose is chiefly produced from cotton
into variety of cellulose gums, which are used as
emulsifiers in creams.
CERAMIDES Lipids found in animal cell membranes.
CERESINE Made by purifying ozokerite and used as a
substitute for beeswax and paraffin, also used to wax
paper and cloth, in dentistry and as a thickener in
CETALKONIUM CHLORIDE Derived from ammonium, used as an
antibacterial agent. Belongs to the group of quaternary
ammonium compounds (see entry).
CETEARETH GROUP Ethers made from cetyl alcohol and
ethylene oxide. Synthetic emulsifiers, emollients, and
lubricants. Also part of the Emulsifying wax.
CETEARYL ALCOHOL Mixture of cetyl and stearyl fatty
alcohols. Part of the Emulsifying wax.
CHLORHEXIDINE Used as topical antiseptic and
skin-sterilizer in mouthwashes and liquid cosmetics. May
CHLORINATED HYDROCARBONS Chloroform, vinyl chloride,
bis chloromethyl ether, trichloroethylene, heptachlor,
methoxychlor and others cancerogenic, environmental
pollutants, tend to accumulate in the living tissues.
CHLOROACETIC ACID Irritating to the skin and mucous
CHLOROPHYLL The green matter form plants, used in
antiperspirants, mouthwashes, deodorants.
CHLOROPHYLLIN Derived from chlorophyll, used as copper
complex. Banned by FDA.
CHOLESTEROL A fat-soluble steroid alcohol found in
animal fats and oils, egg yolk, lanolin. Used as an
emulsifier and lubricant. Nontoxic to the skin.
CITRAL Used in perfumes and soaps for its lemon and
verbena scent. Also in detergents and furniture
polishes. Occurs naturally in grapefruit, orange, peach
and some essential oils. Isolated from citrus oils or
made synthetically. It has shown toxicity in animal
testing. Vitamin A counteracts its toxicity.
CITRIC ACID Found widely in plants, this alpha-hydroxy
acid is used extensively in cosmetics and the food
industry. Citrates are salts or esters of citric acid.
COCAMIDE DEA/MEA/MIPA Synthetic non-ionic surfactants.
These and other surfactants beginning with coco or
coca are referred to as natural and derived from
coconut oil. They are not natural and coconut oil is
used for synthesizing great many chemical compounds, as
are many other natural oils.
COCONUT OIL The pure oil is solid to semi-solid and
used as emollient in cosmetics and for making soaps in
the old-fashioned way of saponification with an alkali.
From coconut oil doesnt mean that the product is
COENZYME Q10 Ubiquinol. Fat-soluble, vitamin-like
substance that plays important role in cellular
metabolism. Found in meats, fish and peanuts. Powerful
D, VITAMIN Liposoluble
(soluble in fats, insoluble in water), essential for
healthy bones, teeth and absorption of calcium. The body
produces its own vitamin D in the sun. Only partially
obtained from food.
DEA Diethanolamine. See ethanolamines. Appears on
cosmetic labels in many different combinations:
DEA-Lauryl Sulfate, DEA-Linoleate,
DEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, and so on. All synthetic
DETERGENT A large group of synthetic, organic, liquid
or water-soluble agents that differ from soaps in that
that they are not prepared from oils and fats, and are
not deactivated by hard water. Most of them are made
from petroleum derivatives and vary greatly in
composition. They also have wetting and emulsifying
properties. Quaternary ammonium compounds through their
surface action exert cleansing and antibacterial
effects. Their toxicity will depend on their alkalinity.
The ones used in cosmetics have lower alkalinity, i.e.
their pH value is closer to that of the skin.
DIAZOLIDINYL UREA A synthetic preservative, it may be
a sensitizer, it may also release formaldehyde.
DICHLOROPHENE A fungicide and bactericide
(preservative), closely related to hexachlorophene and a
DIMETHICONE A silicone oil used in the cosmetic bases,
as a topical drug vehicle and as a skin protector.
DMAE Dimethylaminoethanol. Occurs naturally in fish,
also produced synthetically. Used internally to increase
cognitive abilities and memory, but very popular as an
antiaging ingredient in creams in recent years. Some
recent research indicates that it may have a rather
powerful effect on cell metabolism.
E, VITAMIN Tocopherol.
Oil-soluble vitamin best known as an antioxidant.
Involved in many vital metabolic processes.
EDTA Ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid and its salts.
A chelating agent used to reduce metal ions in
compounds, which helps the action of surfactants and
EMULSIFYING WAX NF A mixture of emulsifiers and
emollients. Usually a combination of Cetearyl alcohol
(natural), Ceteareth-20 (synthetic) and Polysorbate-60
(synthetic). NF stands for National Formulary and refers
to American standard formula. Other countries may have
slightly different combinations under the name of
ERYTHORBIC ACID An isomer of Ascorbic acid (vitamin
C), with only a fraction of its action. Used in food
ERYTHROSINE A coal tar derivative, used as pigment in
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS EFA. Linoleic, linolenic and
arachidonic. Vitamin F. Linolenic has the greatest
biological importance. They must be supplied through
diet and their deficiency may lead to arrested growth,
kidney and liver damage, anemia, eczema, inflammations
of the skin and hair, scaling and more.
ETHANOL Ethyl alcohol. See Alcohol.
ETHANOLAMINES Monoethanolamine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA)
and triethanolamine (TEA), they form soaps with fatty
acids and are widely used as detergents and emulsifiers.
ETHOXYETHANOL A solvent for nail polish and a
stabilizer in cosmetics. Toxic. Ethoxyethanol acetate is
not as toxic, also used in nail polishes.
ETHOXYLATED SURFACTANTS Detergents, wetting agents and
emulsifiers that have been treated with ethane gas and
oxygen to make them more or less soluble.
ETHYL ACETATE Naturally occurring in apples, bananas,
grape juice, pineapple, strawberries and raspberries. It
has a pleasant fruity odour. Used as a solvent in nail
polishes and polish removers. It can be irritating to
the skin and when inhaled.
EXTRACT The solution that results from passing alcohol
or alcohol-water mixture through a substance, usually
plant material, with purpose of removing the active
principles and making them easier to administer and
measure than the raw material.
FARNESOL Used in
perfumery to emphasize the floral perfumes, such as
lilac. Occurs naturally in ambrette seeds, cassia, star
anise, linden flowers and more.
FATTY ACIDS Solid or liquid, they are aliphatic
monocarboxylic acids found in vegetable and animal fats,
including waxes and butters. Capric, caprilyc, lauric,
myristic, oleic, palmitic, stearic. They can be
saturated or unsaturated. Fatty acids frequently occur
in ester form, including mono-, di-, and tri-glycerides
and are obtained by hydrolysis of fats. Used in
cosmetics as emollients, stabilizers, thickeners and
FATTY ACID ESTERS Some are natural, like glycerides,
waxes and butters, and most are synthetic, like
detergents and other surfactants.
FATTY ALCOHOLS Solid alcohols made from fatty acids.
Cetyl, lauryl, oleyl, stearyl.
FIXATIVE A chemical that reduces evaporation of a
fragrance and it makes it lasts longer. Some are
natural, some synthetic.
FORMALDEHYDE A colourless gas obtained by oxidation of
methyl alcohol. Its vapours are highly irritating to
mucous membranes. Formaldehyde has been abandoned as
preservative long time ago, but its derivatives have
been in use. It is an ingredient in nail hardeners, nail
polish and other cosmetics. Highly toxic.
Obtained from pectin, it is used in creams and lotions
together with allantoin.
GELATIN Animal protein used as a thickener and
film-forming agent in food and cosmetic industry.
GERANIOL Aromatic alcohol that is a component of many
essential oils. Also geranyl acetate, geranyl butyrate
esters, all are used in perfumery.
GLUCOSE Natural sugar occurring in blood, fruits and
some grains. Used in confectionery, and in cosmetics as
an anti-irritant and filler.
GLUCOSE GLUTAMATE Occurs naturally along with glucose.
It is an ester of glucose and amino acid glutamic acid.
Used as a humectant in cosmetics.
GLUCURONIC ACID A carbohydrate widely distributed in
GLUTAMIC ACID A nonessential amino acid, usually
manufactured from vegetable protein. It is widely
present in a variety of foods; used in foods to enhance
flavours and as salt substitute, also used to treat
epilepsy and stomach ailments. In cosmetics, used as an
antioxidant, and softener in permanent wave solutions to
prevent hair damage. Also glutamates, its salts.
Glutamic acid is responsible for one of the five basic
tastes in the human sense of taste (umami).
GLUTAMINE A nonessential amino acid.
GLYCERETH 12-26 Polyethylene glycol ethers of
glycerin. Used as emollients and emulsifiers in
GLYCERIDES A large class of compounds that are esters
of glycerin. Some are natural, some synthetic. Mono-, di-
GLYCERIN Glycerol. Widely present in natural fats and
oils, both animal and vegetable. Can be produced
naturally or synthetically. Occurs in a form of its many
esters. It is thick, syrupy, and sweet. Used in
cosmetics as humectant and emollient, in everything from
lipsticks to hand creams.
GLYCO- Prefix which means sweet.
GLYCOLIC ACID Organic alpha-hydroxy acid, occurs
naturally in sugar cane juice and fruit. Used widely in
creams or solutions in concentrations ranging from 5
70%. The higher the concentration the lower the pH and
the greater the damage to the tissue (i.e. chemical
GLYCOLIPIDS Natural compounds in which sugar is
attached to lipids. Their role is to provide energy and
serve as cellular markers.
GLYCOPROTEINS Compounds consisting of carbohydrate
(sugar) and protein. They occur in extracellular areas,
connective tissue, play important role in immuno
response and reproductive cycle.
GLYCOLS Propylene glycol. Ethylene glycol. Carbitol.
Diethylene glycol. A group of syrupy alcohols derived
from hydrocarbons (petroleum, coal) with two hydroxyl
groups. Used in cosmetics as solvents and humectants.
Since hydrocarbons occur in nature, although not as part
of living organisms and not in a sense what most people
would consider when they use a term natural, these
alcohols can fall into that category, based on their
source of origin. Propylene glycol is considered safe by
many, and unsafe by just as many. The rest are
recognized as more toxic.
GLYCOSIDES Compounds in which sugar is bound to a
non-sugar component, which can be easily released
through hydrolysis. They are widely present in the
living organisms and play very important roles in
metabolism. Many drugs are found among glycosides.
GLYCOSAMINOGLYCANS Mucopolysaccharides. A group of
polysaccharides that play important roles in the
metabolism of animals. Used in anti-aging creams.
GLYYRRHETINIC ACID From licorice root, used in
soothing preparations, also as flavouring in foods.
GUANINE Pearl essence. Obtained from the scales of
certain fish, and used in nail polish, but now mostly
replaced by synthetic pearl (bismuth oxychloride) or
aluminum and bronze particles.
GUMS Dried exudates from various plants obtained when
the bark is injured. Water-soluble polysaccharides, used
as thickeners. Acacia, tragacanth, locust bean, karaya,
GUM RESINS Resins. Also known as oleogums insoluble
in water. Myrrh, benzoin, and more.
HAIR BLEACH Bleaching has
been practiced for thousands of years. In Ancient Rome,
quicklime was mixed with lime to produce reddish gold
hues. The most common bleaching agent used today is
hydrogen peroxide. Adverse reactions can include burned
scalp, nausea, allergic reactions and swelling of the
HAIR COLOUR RINSE Temporary hair colour that covers
only the cuticle layer of the hair and does not affect
the natural pigment inside the shaft. The colours used
are azo dyes. Reactions that occur can be caused by any
of the accompanying ingredients used, including the
HAIR COLOURING Permanent hair colouring will change
the pigment of the hair and will remain as such until
the new hair grows, or is being cut. There are natural
or synthetic organic colours, and metallics. Natural are
henna and camomile, they are more difficult to work with
to produce the desired shade. Synthetic dyes, such as
amino- and para- derivatives, work by oxidation. When
applied, the development of the shade will depend on the
release of oxygen from another compound, such as
hydrogen peroxide. Allergic reactions and skin rashes
are common. Some of the dyes are suspected to be
HAIR CONDITIONERS The are supposed to undo the damage
from other hair preparations, like bleaches and dyes,
also the drying effect from the detergents in shampoos,
or the sun. Conditioners include humectants (glycerin,
propylene glycol, sorbitol, urea) , finishing agents
(isopropyl myristate, balsam) and emulsions (natural or
HAIR LACQUERS AND SPRAYS They usually contain
polyvinylpyrrrolidone (PVP), similar to plastics, which
stiffens the hair. There are also glycerin, polyethylene
glycol, sorbitol, cetyl alcohol, silicone, and many
other ingredients. The propellant in aerosols is usually
freon. Most sprays can cause eye damage and lung
irritations. Pump sprays are a safer choice over
HERBAL SHAMPOOS They mostly contain saponins, a group
of compounds found in many plants. Saponins can produce
foam, although not nearly as much as detergents, they
can also help with emulsifying. Saponins can be
irritating to the skin.
HESPERIDIN A natural bioflavonoid.
HEXACHLOROPHENE A synthetic preservative. It was
widely used in baby products and acne preparations in
the 60s. Original developers who held the patent would
only sell it to the companies that proved that they were
using this compound safely, and not for toothpaste and
mouthwashes, but after the patent expired no
restrictions were made. It has been shown as toxic, also
that it is absorbed through the skin, and it has been
largely replaced by a similar product Triclosan (see
HEXANOL Hexyl alcohol. Occurs naturally in seeds and
fruits of certain plants. Used as antiseptic and
HISTIDINE An essential amino acid, used as nutrient.
HUMECTANT A substance used to preserve the moisture
content of the material i.e. prevent drying. Glycerin,
propylene glycol and sorbitol and most widely used
HYALURONIC ACID Hyaluronan. A non-sulfated
glycosaminoglycan distributed widely throughout the
connective, epithelial and neural tissues. One of the
chief components of the extracellular matrix and
important in cell proliferation and migration. Widely
used in cosmetics.
HYDROCARBONS A large class of organic compounds
containing only carbon and hydrogen. Petroleum, coal,
natural gas, bitumen are all hydrocarbons. Term
petrochemicals refers to petrolatum, mineral oils,
paraffin wax, ozokerite. Widely used in cosmetics.
HYDROGENATION Process used to convert liquid oils into
semi-solid. Hydrogenated oils are usually more stable
and less susceptible to rancidity.
HYDROLYSIS Decomposition of a compound in the presence
of water. Examples can be anything from hydrolyzed
proteins to esters, salts, carbohydrates and more.
Essential in many metabolic processes.
HYDROQUINONE Occurs naturally but mostly manufactured
now. Used as a bleaching agent. It has many toxic
effects if ingested or injected, on the skin it can
cause allergic reactions.
IMIDAZOLE Used to control
pest, derived from benzene (a solvent obtained from
coal), an inhibitor of growth instead of a poison.
IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA The most commonly used cosmetic
preservative after parabens. It is also the second most
identified cosmetic preservative to cause contact
dermatitis. No known toxicity.
INOSITOL A dietary supplement of the vitamin B family,
found in plant and animal tissue. Isolated commercially
ISOPROPYL MYRISTATE A widely used fatty acid ester
derived from isopropyl alcohol and myristic acid. It was
discovered to be comedogenic, which is reducing its
application. The danger comes from nitrate compounds,
which appear as an impurity in many cosmetic
preparations, and isopropyl myristate increases their
JUGLONE A colouring for
hair dyes. It is the active colouring agent in walnuts.
When mixed with an alkali, it gives a purplish red
colour. No known skin toxicity.
JUNIPER TAR Oil of Cade. The volatile oil from the
wood of a pine tree. Dark brown, viscous, with a smoky
odour and acrid taste. It is used in skin care
preparations as an antiseptic and healing agent.
KAOLIN A white or
yellowish clay, found originally in China. Used widely
in make-up. Also in production of porcelain, pottery and
KATHON CG Octhilinone. A fungicide and bactericide
used in cosmetics and shampoos. Effective against
gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, yeasts and
fungi. Effective in low concentrations. Not toxic but it
can cause sensitivities.
KERATIN Animal protein obtained from the horns, hoofs,
feathers, quills and hairs of various animals. Used in
KERATOLYTICS Products that loosen skin flakes and
remove them easily from the skin surface. Useful in
removing warts. Now extremely popular in strong
KOHL A preparation of antimony or soot mixed with
other ingredients, used originally in the Middle East to
darken the edges of eyelids. It is even applied on the
lids of infants sometimes. It increases the lead levels
in blood. Incidents of adverse reactions are very high.
Kohl that contains lead is prohibited for use or sale.
LACTIC ACID Normally
present in blood and muscle tissue as a metabolic
by-product of glucose and glycogen. Present in sour
milk, beer, sauerkraut and other products made by
bacterial fermentation. Used in skin care peels and
fresheners. It can be caustic if in high concentration.
LANOLIN Wool wax, Wool Fat. A product of the oil
glands of sheep. A water-absorbing and a natural
emulsifying material, also emollient. Chemically it is a
wax instead of a fat. Different fractions of lanolin are
used, i.e. lanolin alcohols, lanolin oil. It is well
absorbed by the skin, partly because it is rather
similar to the sebum in human skin. It causes allergic
reactions in some instances. It is widely used in
cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Due to the pesticide
residue found in lanolin, there are now highly purified
LAURIC ACID A common constituent of vegetable fats,
especially coconut oil and palm kernel oil. It is widely
used to produce detergents and surfactants with high
foaming properties. Like all fatty acids, an emollient
and a thickener.
LAURIC ALCOHOL A fatty alcohol used much like its
LECITHIN A natural antioxidant, emollient, emulsifier
and spreading agent. It is found in all living organisms
and commercially obtained from egg yolk and soya beans.
LEUCINE An essential amino acid.
LINALOOL Occurs naturally in many essential oils, and
it has a strong floral scent. Also Linalyl acetate.
LINOLEIC ACID An essential fatty acid.
LIPIDS A class of lipophilic substances that together
with proteins and carbohydrates constitute the structure
of cells. Lipids include fats, oils, waxes,
phospholipids, steroids and others. In cosmetic
preparations, they are emollient and moisturizing.
LIPOSOMES Microscopic spheres manufactured from a
variety of fatty substances, including phospholipids.
When properly mixed with water, phospholipids form
liposome spheres, which can trap any substance that will
dissolve in water or oil. They are used as delivery
system through the skin.
LIPSTICK Primarily a mixture of oil and wax with dye
dispersed in the oil, with the effect of staining the
lips. The problems with lipsticks can come from the dyes
LYSINE An essential amino acid.
MAGNESIUM AND ITS SALTS
Used as thickeners, colouring and anticaking agents,
perfume carrier. Nontoxic. Magnesium sulfate is also
known as Epsom salts, used as a bath salt to relive
muscle tension and stress, also to prevent certain
MATRIXYL - Palmitoyl
pentapeptide-3. A chain of 5 aminoacids attached to
palmitic acid (a fatty acid), which enhances its
absorption. Demonstrated positive effect on the dermal
matrix and increased production of collagen, elastin and
glucosaminoglycans, but results in vivo are varied
between different individuals. As far as anti-wrinkle
ingredients go, it doesn't have the side-effects of
Retin-A, but it is a new ingredient and the long-term
effects are yet to be established.
MENTHOL It can be obtained naturally from peppermint
and other mint oils. It cools the skin and is used in
cosmetics, food and pharmaceutical industries. A local
anesthetic. Nontoxic in low doses but if higher than 3%
it can be irritating.
MERCURY COMPOUNDS Mercury salts were widely used in
bleaching creams but were banned in the 1970s when it
was established that prolonged use resulted with mercury
accumulation in the body. Mercury can be absorbed
through the skin and the toxicity is high.
METHANOL Methyl alcohol. Wood alcohol. Obtained by
distillation of wood. Flammable and poisonous. Better
solvent than ethyl alcohol.
METHIONINE An essential amino acid.
METHYL ACETATE Occurs naturally in coffee and
peppermint oil, with a pleasant apple odour. Used in
perfumery to emphasize floral notes, also as a solvent
for many resins and oils. It may be irritating to the
METHYL PARABEN One of the most widely used
preservatives in cosmetics. Can cause allergic reactions
and it is considered by the industry as a relatively
nonirritating, nonsensitizing and nontoxic. This and
other parabens are usually the target of those who seek
natural products but in fact very few products are
METHYL SALICYLATE Oil of Wintergreen. An
anti-inflammatory, local anesthetic, and disinfectant
used in toothpaste, and mouthwashes, also in food
industry. Obtained from the sweet birch, cassie and
wintergreen, but could be also synthetic. Can be a
strong irritant to the skin and mucous membranes.
METHYL SULFONYL METHANE MSM, dimethylsulfone. An
organic sulfur compound that occurs naturally in some
plants. Popular as a supplement and treatment for
osteoarthritis. Although there are studies supporting
the claims, they are a few and not considered
substantial enough at this stage.
MICA A group of minerals that separate into thin
sheets. They vary in colour and can be used as a
lubricant and a colouring in cosmetics. Nontoxic to the
MICROCRYSTALLINE WAX Any of various plastic materials
that are obtained from petroleum. Different from
paraffin waxes in that they have a higher melting point,
higher viscosity and much finer crystals. Used in nail
polishes and make-up.
MINERAL OIL - A mixture of refined liquid hydrocarbons
derived from petroleum. Used widely in cosmetics,
including baby products. Considered nontoxic.
MUCILAGE A solution in water of the sticky parts of
the vegetable substances. Used as soothing applications
to the mucous membranes.
MUCOUS MEMBRANES The thin layers of tissue that line
the respiratory, genital and intestinal tracts and are
kept moist by a sticky substance called mucus. These
membranes line the nose and the mouth as well and are
often exposed to air.
MYRISTIC ACID A fatty acid that occurs naturally in
butters, coconut oil and most animal and vegetable fats.
Used as most other fatty acids, also its alcohol,
NAIL POLISH Usually
contain cellulose nitrate, butyl acetate, alkyl esters,
toluene, glycol derivatives, gums, hydrocarbons
(aromatic and aliphatic), ketones, phosphoric acid and
more. Many different irritations can be reported.
NAIL POLISH REMOVER It contains mostly the same
ingredients like the nail polish, without the dyes, and
with addition of acetone. Some of the components are
very toxic and can cause different kinds of irritation
NIACIN, NIACINAMIDE Nicotinic acid. Nicotinamide. Part
of the vitamin B complex.
NITROCELLULOSE Esters obtained by adding nitrate to
cellulose. Solid and flammable. Used in skin protective
creams, nail polishes, and polish removers. No known
NITROSAMINES Found in many foods, they can be produced
under certain conditions in the stomach as well. They
are regulated in food industry, where nitrates are used
in curing meats, but they also appear as impurities in
cosmetics. All amines or amides are capable of forming
nitrosamines under favourable conditions. Ethanolamide
surfactants (DEA, MEA, TEA) are the obvious suspects.
Nitrosamines are proven carcinogenic in animals, but it
is not known how or at what levels they become
carcinogens in humans. They are present in varied
degrees in many aspects of everyday life. But it is
believed that tobacco is as toxic as it is through
nitrosamines. Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, has shown to
protect against nitrosamines. This is due to its
antioxidant activity. Of other natural antioxidants,
vitamin E is very good, and so may be other antioxidants
NITROUS OXIDE Laughing gas. Used as a propellant in
pressurized cosmetic containers. In higher dosage it is
a depressant and narcotic.
NONIONIC SURFACTANTS A group of emulsifiers that dont
have an electric charge. Can be natural or synthetic.
NONOXYNOL COMPOUNDS Used as nonionic surfactants and
emulsifiers in cosmetics. Synthetic.
OLEIC ACID Obtained from
various animal and vegetable fats and oils. Often used
in cosmetics. Unsaturated.
OLEORESIN A natural plant product consisting of
essential oil and resin extracted from a substance by a
solvent. Oleoresins are often extracted from spices, and
usually more potent. They are sometimes extracted for
colour (examples of colour-intensifying oleoresins are
those extracted from paprika and turmeric).
OLEYL ALCOHOL Widely used for manufacture of
surfactants and detergents, this is an unsaturated fatty
alcohol found in fish oils.
OPACIFIERS Used only for the appearance in cosmetics
they make a clear product cloudy. Fatty alcohols can be
used, or titanium dioxide.
ORYZANOL Ester of ferulic acid and terpene alcohol,
widely found in plants. Used in flavourings and
OXALIC ACID Occurs naturally in many plants and
vegetables. Caustic and corrosive to the skin and mucous
membranes, toxic internally, used industrially for
OXYBENZONE Used as a sunscreening agent. It can cause
reactions, including photosensitivity.
OZOKERITE Ceresin. A naturally occurring wax-like
mineral, a mixture of hydrocarbons. Naturally has a
terrible smell, when refined it yields microcrystalline
wax known as ceresine. Used in make-up. No know
PALMITIC ACID Occurs in
many natural fats, and palm oil.
PANTHENOL Belongs to vitamin B complex, also comes as
panthotenic acid and its salts.
PARA-AMINOBENZOIC ACID (PABA) Belongs to the vitamin B
group. Used to be common in sun-protection lotions. It
causes allergic reactions in some individuals.
PARABENS Methyl- and propyl-paraben are the most
commonly used preservatives in cosmetics. They are
esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid. Synthetic.
PARAFFIN Obtained by distillation from wood, coal,
petroleum or shale oil. A hydrocarbon, mineral wax. Pure
paraffin is considered nontoxic but it may have
impurities, which may cause irritations and eczema.
PECTIN Emulsifying agent used instead of gums in
toothpaste, hair-setting lotions and protective creams.
Pectins are found in roots, stems and fruits of plants.
In cosmetics they are used as gelling agents, and have
PEG Abbreviation for polyethylene glycol/polyethylene,
used in making nonionic surfactants in reactions with
natural oils. Synthetic. The low molecular weight
polyethylene glycols can cause hives and eczema; the
higher ones are less sensitizing.
PELARGONIC ACID Occurs naturally in cocoa and
lavender, used as a flavouring. A strong irritant.
PEPTIDES AND POLYPEPTIDES Shorter chains of amino
acids; further combined, they create proteins. For
cosmetic use, proteins are usually hydrolyzed to smaller
fractions, peptides, to reduce their large molecular
size. Currently in the cosmetic market, there are many
synthesized peptides imitating different sequences from
natural proteins, targeting wrinkles and aging of the
PETROLATUM Vaseline. Petroleum jelly. Paraffin jelly.
Purified mixture of hydrocarbons from petroleum. Widely
used in cosmetics. Generally considered nontoxic but it
can cause allergic reactions.
pH The scale used to measure acidity or alkalinity.
Its values are on the scale of 14, with pH 7 being the
neutral value of water. Below 7 the solution is acidic,
above 7 it is alkaline. The further away from 7 the
stronger either acidity or alkalinity i.e. low pH means
high acidity. Skin and hair are naturally acidic, which
makes them less favourable to bacteria and parasites,
blood is pH 7.3, which is slightly alkaline. Soap and
detergents are alkaline.
PHENOL Carbolic acid. Obtained from coal tar. Occurs
in small amounts in urine. Used as disinfectant and
anesthetic for the skin. Used in shaving creams and hand
lotions. Highly toxic.
PHENOXYETHANOL Used as a fixative in perfumes,
bactericide, insect repellent and topical antiseptic.
Derivative of phenol.
PHENYLACETIC ACID Occurs naturally in the oil of
neroli, Japanese mint and black pepper. It has a
honey-like odour. Used in perfumery and manufacture of
PHENYLALANINE An essential amino acid.
PHOSPHOLIPIDS Phosphatides. Complex fat substances
found in all living cells. Lecithin is one example. They
contain phosphoric acid and nitrogen and are used widely
in cosmetics as moisturizers and emollients.
PHOSPHORIC ACID Used in hair tonics, nail polishes and
skin fresheners. Not toxic in recommended
PHOTOSENSITIVITY A condition in which topical
application or ingestion of certain compounds can result
with skin rashes and other skin problems when the skin
is exposed to the sun. Photosensitivity is most common
with fragrance ingredients and sunscreening agents.
PHOTOXICITY Reaction to sunlight that results in
PHTHALATES Widely used in todays world. Suspected
carcinogens and mutagenic agents.
POLY Prefix meaning many and used for polymers.
POLYMERS A substance formed by combining many small
molecules (monomers). Examples of polymers are many;
they can also be natural or synthetic. Plastics, fibres,
rubber, human tissue, proteins and so on, are all
POLYSORBATE 1 to 85 Synthetic emulsifiers and
stabilizers widely used in cosmetics. Polysorbate 60 is
a condensate of sorbitol with stearic acid, and
polysorbate 8 a condensate of sorbitol with oleic acid.
Trade name: Tweens.
PROPYLENE GLYCOL One of the most widely used cosmetic
ingredients, usually as a solvent, wetting agent and a
humectant. It has been linked to sensitizing reactions.
A derivative of petroleum. It is also used in
manufacture of surfactants.
PROPYLPARABEN See parabens and methylparaben.
PROTEINS Parts of every living cell. Complex
combinations of amino acids, they take part in building
the cell itself, also in every metabolic function. In
cosmetics, the use of proteins and their hydrolysates
has been on the rise.
QUATERNARY AMMONIUM COMPOUNDS A wide variety of
preservatives, surfactants, antiseptics and deodorants
used in cosmetics. Benzalkonium chloride is one of the
most popular. These are synthetic derivatives of
ammonium chloride. They can all be toxic, depending on
the concentration. Natural quaternary ammonium compounds
also exist, but rarely; one among them is choline, a
vitamin from the B group of vitamins.
RESINS The brittle
substance, usually transparent or translucent, formed
from the hardened secretions of plants. They rarely
occur in nature; among natural resins are dammar, elemi
and sandarac. Synthetic resins are varied polymers,
sulfonamide resins, polyvinyl acetate. They are widely
used in cosmetics, and toxicity depends on the variety
RESORCINOL Used as an antiseptic, astringent, and
preservative, anti-itching agent, in hair and skin
preparations, also for acne. Obtained from various
resins, a phenol derivative. Irritating to the skin and
mucous membranes. May cause allergic reactions.
RETIN A Retinoic acid. Tretinoin. A vitamin A
derivative, used as a medication for acne, shown
efficacy in reducing wrinkles.
RETINOL Vitamin A. Also comes in a form of esters,
retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate.
RIBOFLAVIN belongs to vitamin B group, vitamin B2.
RICINOLEIC ACID A mixture of fatty acids found in the
seeds of the castor bean. Added to Turkey-red, used in
soaps and as an emollient, also believed responsible for
the laxative effect of the castor oil.
ROSIN Colophony. A residue left after distilling the
volatile oil from the oleoresin from various species of
pine trees. Used in soaps, hair lacquers, depilatories
and the manufacture of varnishes and fireworks. It can
cause contact dermatitis.
SACCHARATED LIME Produced
by action of lime on sugar. Used as a buffer in
cosmetics and preservative. No known toxicity.
SALICYLIC ACID Also its salts and esters. Occurs
naturally in sweet birch, wintergreen and other plants.
Synthetically produced from phenol. Used as an
antimicrobial agent, also for skin peelings and acne. It
is anti-pruritic (anti-itch). It can be absorbed through
the skin and depending on the concentrations, it can
exhibit varying degrees of toxicity.
SAPONIFICATION The process of making a fatty acid salt
by treatment with an alkali, which results with soap. To
saponify is to convert to soap.
SAPONIN Numerous natural glycosides that occur in
plants, such as quillaja, sarsaparilla. Used as
emulsifying and foaming agents, but not as strong bubble
producers as synthetic detergents.
SARCOSINES Natural acids found in sea urchins and
starfish; used in a form of esters and salts as anionic
surfactants: lauroyl sarcosinate, oleoyl sarcosine,
sodium myristoyl sarcosinate (SMS), and more. Milder
than sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate;
used in shampoos, shaving creams, foaming cleansers and
SCLEROTIUM GUM A gum produced by the bacteria
SD ALCOHOLS All ethyl alcohols denaturated in
accordance with government regulations (a substance is
added to the ethyl alcohol to spoil its taste and make
SELENIUM SULFIDE A mineral used in antidandruff
shampoos. It may irritate the eyes, also workers working
with selenium experience many adverse reactions.
SEQUESTERING AGENT - A preservative that prevents
physical or chemical changes affecting the colour,
flavour, texture or appearance of the product. Example
is EDTA, which binds metal ions and prevents their
effect on shampoos and other products.
SHAMPOOS People used to wash their hair with soap; the
liquid detergent shampoos were introduced in 1930s.
Today there are liquid shampoos, then cream shampoos and
the soapless shampoos. Variety of detergents are used in
shampoos, from coconut oil derivatives to
triethanolamine dodecylbenzene sulfonate, sodium lauryl
sulfate, and other additives as humectants, finishing
agents to give hair lustre such as mineral oil and
lanolin, conditioning agents and preservatives. Most
complaints to FDA come from the use of shampoos and the
irritation caused by them.
SILICA Occurs abundantly in nature. It makes 12% of
rocks. Sand is silica. Upon heat treatment is becomes
very porous and it is used as absorbent and adsorbent in
SILICA GEL Silicic acid. White gelatinous substance
obtained by action of acids on sodium silicate. Inert
material, insoluble in water and acids. Absorbs water
readily. It is used as a dehumidifying and dehydrating
SILICONES A large group of fluid oils, rubbers,
resins, and compounds derived form silica. They are
water-repellent, and stable over a wide range of
temperatures. Used in after-shave preparations, hair
products, protective creams. No known toxicity on the
SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE SLES. The sodium salt of
sulfated ethoxylated lauric alcohol. Widely used in
cosmetics. The common belief that SLES is a carcinogen
is dismissed by CTFA and American Cancer Society.
Although it can be irritating to the skin, the toxicity
may come from some impurities, including dioxanes. See
SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE SLS. Also SDS. A detergent,
wetting agent and emulsifier, commonly referred to as
derived from coconut oil. Widely used, drying to the
skin and considered a skin irritant. Similar to SLES,
the claims that it is a carcinogen have been dismissed
by offical bodies. See alkyl sulfates.
SODIUM MYRISTOYL SARCOSINATE SMS. See sarcosines.
SORBIC ACID Occurring naturally in the berries of the
mountain ash. Also made synthetically. Used in cosmetics
as preservative and humectant A mold and yeast
inhibitor. Also its salts.
SORBITAN Produced from sorbitol.
SORBITAN FATTY ACID ESTERS Spans. Widely used in
cosmetics as emulsifiers and stabilizers. Sorbitan
laureate, sorbitan oleate, sorbitan palmitate, and more.
SORBITOL A humectant, used as a replacement for
glycerin. It occurs in different berries and in variety
of fruits. Not toxic externally.
SPERMACETI Cetyl palmitate. A wax derived from the
head of a sperm whale. Illegal to use for quite some
time now; used to have a wide application in creams and
SQUALENE Obtained from shark liver oil. Also occurs in
olive oil, wheat germ oil and rice bran oil, but in
smaller amounts. Found in human sebum and all higher
organisms but commercially produced mostly from shark
liver oil. Used as a moisturizer in cosmetics and a
fixative in perfumery. It is chemically a hydrocarbon.
STEARALCONIUM CHLORIDE Quaternary ammonium compound
used in hair conditioners.
-100 Polyethylene glycol ethers of stearyl
alcohol. Used as emollients and emulsifiers. Synthetic
STEARIC ACID It occurs in tallow and other animal
fats, also in coconut oil and other hard vegetable fats.
One of the most commonly used fatty acids; it has a wide
cosmetic application, from soaps to creams, deodorants
and make-up. Stearates are esters of stearic acid, both
natural and synthetic.
STEARYL ALCOHOL Stenol. A fatty alcohol, used to be
produced from sperm whale oil, also found in other
animal fats, but now mostly obtained by hydrogenation of
stearic acid. Used on its own or in combination with
cetyl alcohol, as an emollient, has a wide application
STEROIDS This is a class of compounds with many
biological actives. Sex hormones and cortisone are
steroids. Natural and synthetic steroids all have the
same basic molecular structure to which different
chemical groups are attached. This is what makes them so
potent physiologically not only do they exhibit an
action of their own, but they can also be transformed in
the body to other forms.
STEROLS A group of solid complex alcohols from animal
and plant oils. Cholesterol is a sterol. No known
SUCCINIC ACID Occurs naturally in animals and plants.
It is used as a germicide in mouthwashes, also as a
buffer and a neutralizing agent. Esters of succinic acid
are used as surfactants (synthetic).
SUCROSE Sugar. Cane sugar. Saccharose. A food and a
sweetener, the starting material in fermentation
processes, antioxidant, preservative, demulcent, and a
substitute for glycerin. Workers who handle raw sugar
may develop rashes and other skin problems, but sugar is
not toxic in cosmetics.
SULFATED CASTOR OIL See Turkey-red oil.
SULFATED OILS Oils or fatty acids treated with
sulfuric acid, which makes hem water-soluble. Used as
wetting agents and emulsifiers.
SULFITES Sodium, Potassium and Ammonium.
Preservatives, antioxidants and antibrowning agents in
foods. Many packaged foods, including fresh, frozen and
prepared ones contain sulfites. They are especially high
in potatoes, dried fruits and shrimp and other seafood.
Some people are sensitive to sulfites and they can have
severe reactions to them.
SULFUR A chemical element that occurs in a free form
and in variety of chemical compounds. It is a part of
many compounds in the human body, including hair. It is
used in shampoos and skin preparations, especially the
ones for acne. It can be toxic in higher concentrations.
SUNSCREENS Preparations that use substances effective
in reducing the power of sun rays to burn the skin. The
cosmetic market has seen a huge expansion of the
sunscreens segment, especially after the connection has
been made between overexposure to the sun, or frequent
sunburns, and skin cancer. However, there is no
significant reduction in skin care occurrences to match
the steep rise in use of sunscreens. On the other hand,
vitamin D production in the skin is possible only by
exposure to the sun. Reduced production of vitamin D can
cause many health problems. Like with everything else,
caution and moderation are the best course of action.
Sunscreening agents approved by FDA:
p-Aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
Octyl methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate)
Phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid (Ensulizole)
Zinc oxide (the list copied from Wikipedia)
SURFACTANTS Surface active agents. They lower waters
surface tension and allow it to spread out and penetrate
more easily. There are four major categories: anionic,
nonionic, cationic and amphoteric. Anionic surfactants
carry a negative electrical charge and are stain and
dirt removers in household cleaning agents. Nonionic
surfactants have no electrical charge and being
resistant to hard water and dissolving in oil and
grease, they are used for tough cleaning areas. Cationic
surfactants carry a positive electrical charge. They are
primarily quaternary ammonium compounds, and are used in
hair conditioners and fabric softeners as friction
reducers and sanitizers. Amphoteric surfactants can be
either positively or negatively charged, depending on
the acidity or alkalinity of the water. They are milder
and widely used in cosmetics.
TALC Finally powdered
magnesium silicate, a mineral. Widely used in baby
powders and make-up. Prolonged inhalation can cause lung
problems because it is chemically similar to asbestos.
Talcum powder has been suspected in some forms of cancer
but no definitive conclusion has been reached yet.
TARTARIC ACID Widely distributed in nature but usually
obtained as a by-product in wine industry. Effervescent
acid used in bath salts, denture powders, hair products,
and depilatories. In can be mildly irritating in strong
TARTRAZINE FD and C Yellow No.5. Bright orange-yellow
powder used in foods, drugs and cosmetics, also as a dye
for silk and wool. Those allergic to aspirin are often
allergic to tartrazine. It is derived from coal tar.
TEA- - Triethanolamine (see separate entry). Also see
TERPENES A class of unsaturated hydrocarbons.
Components of many essential oils. The removal of
terpenes (terpeneless oils) gives more stability to the
oils and a more stable, stronger odour.
THIAMINE HCL Vitamin B1.
THIOGLYCOLATES Obtain by a reaction between
chloroacetic acid and hydrogen sulfide; strong
unpleasant odour. Ammonium salts are used in permanent
wave preparations, calcium salts in depilatories. They
can cause hair breakage, irritations, and allergic
THREONINE Essential amino acid.
THYMOL A component of many essential oils. Used in
mouthwashes, and in after-shaves, soaps and perfumery.
It destroys molds and is used as a topical anti-fungal
agent. It can cause allergic reactions.
TITANIUM DIOXIDE A mineral that occurs naturally in
three different crystal forms. Used widely as a white
pigment in make-up and an opacifier in other cosmetics.
Also used in sunscreens. No know toxicity when used
externally, but inhalation should be avoided.
TOCOPHEROL Vitamin E. Obtained by vacuum distillation
from vegetable oils, it is widely used as an antioxidant
in cosmetics and foods.
TOLUENE Obtained from petroleum or by distilling Tolu
Balsam. Used in nail polish as a solvent. It resembles
benzene but it is less toxic, also less flammable. Many
health concerns have been linked, or suspected to be
related to toluene.
TRICLOSAN A broad-spectrum preservative used in
cosmetics, also in deodorants.
TRIETHANOLAMINE A coating agent for fresh fruit and
vegetables and widely used in surfactants. It is toxic,
mostly due to its alkalinity it damages the
gastrointestinal tract. It is also an irritant, one of
the most common sensitizers in cosmetic emulsifiers.
TRIMYRISTIN Glyceril trimyristate. Solid triglyceride
of myristic acid, found in many vegetable fats and oils,
particularly in coconut oil. Used as an emollient. Other
triglycerides: triolein, tristearin, tripalmitin, and
TRISODIUM PHOSPHATE Obtained from phosphate rock.
Highly alkaline, used in shampoos, cuticle softeners,
bubble baths and bath salts for its softening and
cleaning properties. Phosphorus is used as a mineral
supplement for foods. It can be irritating due to its
TURKEY-RED OIL Sulfated castor oil. One of the first
TURPENTINE Any of the various resins obtained from
coniferous trees. It is a natural solvent comprised of
pine oils, camphenes and terpenes. Used as a solvent and
thinner for paints and varnishes, readily absorbed
through the skin, it is irritating to the skin and
mucous membranes. If inhaled in high dosage, it can be
fraction of oils and butters that doesnt get broken
down in the course of processing, or refining.
UREA Carbamide. A product of protein metabolism
excreted in urine. Used in food industry, also in
deodorants. The largest application for urea is in
production of fertilizers. Commercially produced from
ammonia and carbon dioxide.
USNIC ACID - Antibacterial compound found in lichen. No
VALINE An essential amino
VEGETABLE GUMS See gums.
WAXES Obtained from
animals, insects and plants. There are also mineral
waxes, and synthetic. Wide application in cosmetics.
Waxes are solid lipids, with certain plasticity, a
melting point usually above 45C, and low viscosity when
melted. They are insoluble in water and hydrophobic.
Chemically, they are mostly esters of various fatty
acids, and are less greasy than fats. Beeswax, carnauba,
candelilla, jojoba, shellac, lanolin, spermaceti, and
XANTHAN GUM A gum produced
by a pure culture fermentation of a carbohydrate with
Xanthamonas campestris. Also called corn sugar gum. Used
as a thickener, emulsifier and a stabilizer. No known
YEAST fungi that are a
dietary source of folic acid. It produces enzymes that
will convert sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. No
ZINC A chemical element,
Zn. It is mostly used as a protective coating to other
metals. It has been used in making alloys since the
ancient times. Zinc is an essential element in the
growth of many organisms, both plant and animal. A
deficiency in zinc in humans has been found to retard
growth and produce anemia. Some skin problem, including
acne, may benefit form zinc supplements. In nutrition,
zinc in combination with protein and vitamin C is
believed to promote healing.
ZINC OXIDE A mineral occurring in nature, insoluble in
water. Used as an antiseptic, astringent and in
protective creams. It is believed to promote healing in
skin disorders. In cosmetics, it is used in make-up,
baby products, shaving creams, antiperspirants, and
ZINC STEARATE a mixture of the zinc salts of stearic
and palmitic acids. A soap. Used in both cosmetics and
pharmaceuticals as an adhesive, and a colourant. Not
toxic on the skin but may be harmful if inhaled.
Winter, Ruth. A Consumers Dictionary of Cosmetic
Ingredients. New York, Crown Trade Books, 1994.
Hampton, Aubrey. Natural Organic Hair and Skin Care.
Tampa, Organica Press, 1987.
Wikipedia and numerous other sources on the Internet.
Reproducing this list is strictly forbidden.
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website, I2 by Ivana K