Dermatology Dictionary


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Algae Extract
Rich in the same vital nutrients, trace elements and amino acids present in human blood plasma, allowing it to penetrate the skin more thoroughly than most other ingredients. It speeds up the elimination of toxins from cells and is a natural cellular renewal ingredient. It also helps to nourish and remineralize the skin.

A gelatinous substance derived from seaweed. It acts as an emulsifier and thickening agent.

A compound that occurs naturally in wheat sprouts, tobacco seed, comfrey, and sugar beets, or it may be derived synthetically from uric acid. It is an effective healing agent that helps to promote cellular renewal and it has a soothing and softening effect.

Almond Oil
A nut oil high in fatty acids. Nearly colorless and odorless, Almond Oil is used in soaps, moisturizers and creams.

Aloe Vera Gel
A concentrated form derived from the Aloe Vera (true Aloe) plant, one of the oldest medicinal plants known. Widely revered and used by the ancient Egyptians and Native Americans, it has remarkable healing abilities because it is a natural oxygenator (drawing and holding oxygen to the skin). For this same reason, it is one of the most effective cellular renewal ingredients available for use in cosmetics. It has a composition similar to that of human blood plasma and sea water, and because its pH is the same as human skin, it is extremely soothing and protective. It is also a natural astringent.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid
Includes Ascorbic, Glycolic, Lactic, Malic, Tartatic and other structurally similar fruit acids. Derived from plants (fruit acids) and marine sources. Works on upper (epidermis) skin layers. Increases skin Collagen levels and skin thickness. Main uses: skin exfoliation, skin cell renewal, acne, and anti-ageing.

A naturally occurring red-yellow dye derived from the seeds of tropical trees.

Apple Cider Vinegar
Found in toners; may be used with water as an "acid rinse" to adjust the skins own pH.

Arnica Extract
Used as an anti-irritant and to treat muscle soreness and bruising. (A proven carcinogen sometimes found in talc)

Ascorbic Acid
Vitamin C. An antioxidant that is also used as a pH adjuster and as a preservative in cosmetics.

Ascorbyl Palmitate
An ester of Ascorbic Acid. An antioxidant for oils and fats; keeps products fresh and prevents color change. See Ascorbic Acid.

Avocado Oil
Natural oil from Avocados that is rich in vitamins and minerals. An excellent skin conditioner and moisturizer that readily penetrates the skin; nonocclusive.

An essential oil derived from German camomile (Matricaria chamomilla). It is an excellent anti-inflammatory, analgesic and detoxifier. Extremely calming and soothing to the skin.

Basil oil
Ocimum basilicum belongs to the labiate botanical family, which contains the largest number of medicinal plants. This essential oil contains linalol, thymol, tannins, pinene, and camphor, making it excellent for healing and soothing the skin. It has a stimulating effect on the skins circulation and the oil glands.

Natural wax produced by bees. Used in a wide variety of cosmetics as an emulsifier. Can clog pores if used as a primary ingredient in a formulation.

A naturally occurring clay from volcanic ash. Used as an ingredient in masks and foundation makeup.

Artificial essential oil of Almond.

Beta Hydroxy Acid
Includes Salicylic and Citric acids. Natural Salicylic acid is derived from willow bark, wintergreen and other plants. Works on lower (dermal) skin layers. New found cosmetic ingredient for reversing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, exfoliates skin, reduces adult acne and aids in skin cell renewal.

Benzoic Acid
Naturally occurring cosmetic preservative from Gum Benzoin. May be irritating to eyes. See Gum Benzoin.

UVA blocker. Protects against ultraviolet light (from sunlight and fluorescent sources).

See Carotene.

BHT (butylated hydroxythaluene)
A synthetic antioxidant used to prevent oxidation of oils in cosmetics. Some reports of allergic reaction.

Bismuth Oxychloride
A salt derived from the mineral Bismuth that imparts a slight sheen, enabling powders to reflect light. A natural antiseptic.

Bladderwrack Extract (seaweed)
Derived from the dried Thallus (bulbous root) of Fucus vesiculosus, a type of seaweed. It is rich in the same trace minerals, amino acids and other vital nutrients present in human blood plasma and therefore helps to balance and remineralize the skin.

An enzyme derived from pineapples. Digests dead protein, as in surface skin cells.

2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol
Can form carcinogens in cosmetics or on the skin. Often used in shampoos and moisturizers; avoid products with this ingredient. Sometimes called BNPD.

Butylene Glycol
A humectant and solvent with some mold-inhibiting ability. Can be irritating if used as more than five percent of a formulation.

Preservative used to prevent mold, fungus and bacteria; extends shelf life of cosmetics. Non-toxic and non-irritating at .05 of 1 percent. It may be irritating to the skin if more than 5 percent is used in a formulation.

C12-15 Alcohols Benzoate
An emollient derived from Benzoic acid, a naturally occurring preservative. Very mild.

Cajeput Oil
Distilled from the flowers and leaves of the Melaleuca leucadendra tree, which grows in Malaysia. Antiseptic and antiviral, its function is to cleanse and drain toxins and excess oil from the skin.

Calcium Carbonate (chalk)
Fine white powder occurring naturally in limestone, oyster shells, and marble. Used in powders and toothpastes. Also used as an antacid, opacifier, whitener, neutralizer, filler.

Calcium Silicate
Anticaking and opacifying agent; absorbent. Used in face powders, blushers and bath salts.


Topical anti-inflammatory, antioxidant. Commonly used to treat acne and problem skin.

Camomile Oil
Distilled from the small yellow flowers of several varieties of Camomile, including German (Matricaria chamomilla) and Roman (Anthemis nobilis). German Camomile contains a high percentage of Azulene, a powerful healer that is extremely soothing to the skin. In aromatherapy, Camomile is used to balance female energy and reproductive organs.

Distilled from the wood of the Camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora). It is a natural antiseptic and analgesic that helps to calm the skin and reduce redness.

Candelilla Wax
A hard wax obtained from the Candelilla plant, used as an occlusive and binder in lipsticks and creams.

Caprylk Acid
Fatty acid used as an emulsifier. Found in milk and sweat and synthesized from coconut oil.

Caprylic/capric triglyceride
Barrier agent, emollient and solvent used in foundations, eye shadow, creams and lotions. Oily liquid from plants, vegetable oils, dairy fats and sweat. Synthesized from coconut oil or palm kernel oil.

Gelling agent. Synthetic polymer used to thicken, stabilize and promote shelf life of cosmetics. Can be irritating.

A natural pigment derived from the dried female insect, Coccus cacti; used as dye.

Carnuba Wax
From the Brazilian wax palm. Used as a barrier agent and texturizer in lipsticks, deodorant sticks and depilatories.

Carotene (beta-carotene)
Present in quantity in a variety of orange/ yellow fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, cantaloupe and papaya. Carotene has an orange color that oxidizes (fades) when exposed to sunlight. It is converted into vitamin A by the body and is used for its cellular renewal and healing abilities.


Sometimes called "red algae," it is derived from the type of seaweed known as "Irish moss." It is a natural emulsifier and thickening agent and has a soothing effect on the skin.

Carrot Oil

Natural extract of carrot used as a colorant. High in betacarotene; healing and soothing to the skin.

Castor Oil
From the Castor bean. Acts as a barrier agent, emollient and lubricant. Used in lipsticks and moisturizers.

Cedarwood Oil

From red Cedar. It is a strong antiseptic and has a calming effect on the skin.

Cellulose Gum
Gum from Cellulose, the cell wall and structural component of plants. Used as a thickener and emulsifier in creams and lotions and as a film former in lipsticks.

Ceresin Wax
From Ozokerite, a naturally occurring mineral wax. Used as an emulsifier, hair conditioner and thickener.

A compound made from Stearyl Alcohol (solid alcohols mixed with stearol, a derivative of stearic acid) and Coconut or Palm oil. Used as an emollient and emulsifier.

Cetearyl Alcohol
Not an "alcohol" such as ethyl or rubbing alcohol. It is an emulsifying wax made by combining fatty alcohols derived from vegetable sources. Used as an emulsifier and emollient, it is not drying to the skin.

Cetyl Alcohol
Not an "alcohol" such as ethyl or rubbing alcohol. Yellowish white flakes with no odor or toxicity, it is used as an emollient and emulsifier. When Sebum (the moisturizer produced by the body) is synthetically formulated in a laboratory, Cetyl Alcohol is added as one of the constituents because it closely resembles a component of Sebum.

Cetyl Lactate
An emollient.

Cetyl Palmitate
Synthetic spermaceti.

The green component of plants used as a natural colorant in deodorants, creams and toothpaste.

Found in all body tissues. Acts as an emulsifying and lubricating agent in cosmetics.

Chondroitin Sulfate
A factor of the Hyaluronic Acid complex that is bioengineered (grown in a yeastlike culture in a laboratory).

Chromium Hydroxide Green
A coloring agent.

Citric Acid

Found widely in plants and in animal tissues. Adjusts pH and acts as an antioxidant.

A herb most commonly used as an insect repellent. In skin care, the essential oil is used to calm sebaceous glands.

Citrus Oil Extract
A combination of grapefruit, orange and lemon oils.

Cocamide DEA
Acts as a foam stabilizer and thickener in shampoos.

Cocamide MEA
Appears most often in shampoos; can be mildly irritating.

Cocoa Butter
A saturated fat with emollient properties, making it too heavy for use on facial skin. Frequently appears in suntan preparations. May produce contact sensitivities.

Coconut Oil
A saturated fat. The fat molecules are large, making the oil too "heavy" for use on facial skin.

The protein that makes up the fibrous support system from which skin is made. For cosmetic use, Collagen is usually derived from cows. New technology has produced Collagen from soy and wheat.

Colloidal Sulfur
Sulfur is a naturally occurring material. Colloidal sulfur is a mixture of sulfur and acacia, a hydrophilic (water-loving) colloid derived from the African acacia tree. This ingredient is used for its ability to calm the skin and oil glands. Commonly found in various types of acne preparations, it helps to reduce redness, soreness and swelling.

Comilower Extract
Extracted from the common flower, Bachelor's Button (Centaurea cyanus). It contains allantoin, potassium, calcium, and vitamins C and K. Because of its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, it is traditionally used for compresses around the eyes.

Corn Starch
A "starchy" white powder derived from corn that is very soothing to the skin. If you have an allergy to corn, you may be allergic to this ingredient.

Cucumber Extract
Cucumber is a natural anti-inflammatory and has an extremely soothing effect on the skin.

Cypress Oil
Possibly the most sacred, ancient essential oil, it was widely used in religious ceremonies for its spiritually "opening" effect. Distilled from the bark of the Cypress tree, it is a natural astringent and restorative. As a vasoconstrictor, it also helps to shrink capillaries and calm cupreous skin.

Deionized Water
"Deionization" means that all the ions of soluble salts have been removed. Calcium, magnesium, sulfur, etc., can interfere with formulations and "deactivate" active ingredients.

Dichlorobenzyl Alcohol
A type of alcohol used as a preservative. Nondrying to the skin.

The "tanning agent" in many self-tanning formulas. It is actually a Keto sugar that reacts with protein on the surface of the skin to create the look of a tan. The molecules in this ingredient are too large to penetrate the skin any deeper than the top-most layer. Since it is unable to react in any way with the Melanin in the skin, this ingredient does not afford the protection from sun that a real tan would.

An oil derived from Silicone (which is derived from Silica, a substance that occurs naturally in rocks and sand). Dimethicone is used to facilitate smooth application of a product and helps to soften the skin.

Dimethicone Copolyol
A more waterproof form of Dimethicone that adheres better to skin and hair.

Diodyl Adipate
One component of an ester blend of oils designed to effectively penetrate the skin. It is synthetically derived and non-irritating to the skin or eyes.

Disodium EDTA
Sequestering agent. See EDTA.

EDTA (ethylene diamine tetreacetic acid)
A synthetic chemical that removes metals or mineral ions from a solution. Used as a preservative. Can be irritating to the skin if more than 5 percent is used in a formulation.

Animal protein found in the dermal layers of skin that functions to maintain skin elasticity. When applied topically, there is no proof that this highly insoluble protein has the ability to improve the elasticity of the skin.

A preservative. See Parabens.

Evening Primrose Oil
A source of vitamin E and Gamma Linoleic acid. Helps to regenerate skin cells.

A sesquiterpene alcohol, occurring naturally in many essential oils such as camomile, rose, citronella, sandalwood and lemon grass. Deodorant and bacteriostat.

A component of aerosols that destroys the ozone layer of the atmosphere.

A pungent colorless gas. Used as a preservative, disinfectant, germicide, antifungal and embalming fluid. Extremely toxic and irritating to mucous membrane; carcinogenic. Commonly used in nail polish.

Sugar found in honey and fruits. Used as flavoring and as a humectant.

Geranium oil
Distilled from the leaves of Pelargonium graveolens. It is a natural antiseptic and astringent that also promotes healing. Geranium has the unusual ability to balance Sebum production (because it is an adrenal cortex stimulant), making it valuable for those with combination, dry, dehydrated, or oily skin. Aromatherapists use it as an antidepressant.

A humectant (water-attracting/binding ingredient) that occurs naturally in both vegetable oils and animal oils. The most common source is beef lard, but this type of glycerin is usually mixed with vegetable oils when used in cosmetics.

Glyceryl Cocoate
Glycerin by-product of coconut oil. Emulsifier and surfactant.

Glyceryl Oleate
Used as an emulsifier in lotions and creams. Contact with eyes may cause irritation.

Glyceryl Stearate
An ester used as an emulsifier (to help combine oils with water). It is a clear, oily liquid readily able to penetrate the skin, made by combining Glycerin and Stearic Acid.

Glyceryl Stearate SE
Used in shampoos as a pearlizing agent and as an emulsifier and opacifier in creams and lotions.

Glycerin combined with alcohol--for example, Propylene Glycol.

Grapefruit Seed Extract
Extracted from Grapefruit seeds and used in combination with Propylene Glycol and Glycerin as a preservative, bactericide and stabilizer.

Grape Seed Oil
Ultrafine oil expressed from Grape Seeds commonly used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy products and as a base for moisturizers.

Green Papaya Concentrate
Made from raw, Green Papayas at the time when the Papain (proteolytic enzyme) content is at its highest. Once the fruit begins to ripen, its enzyme content decreases substantially. A low-heat extraction and concentration process must be used to protect the active enzyme. It is an excellent free-radical scavenger and cellular renewal ingredient. Papain has the ability to digest protein, and selectively digests only dead skin cells without harming the living ones.

Commonly known as azulene. This is a component of the essential oil distilled from the blossoms of the German camomile (Matricaria chamomilla) flowers. It is used for its soothing and calming effect on the skin, and it also has remarkable antibacterial and antiinflammatory abilities. It has a natural bluish color that changes to green as it begins to oxidize or age.

Provides luminescence to liquid cosmetics. From fish scales, sugar beets, yeast, and clover seed.

Guar gum
Naturally occurring resin from seeds of an Asian tree. Used as a thickener and emulsifier.

Gum benzoin
Resin from benzoin. Mild natural preservative.

Naturally occurring clay used in facial masks to draw out oil. May also draw moisture from skin. Gelling agent and thickener.

Used as an emollient, humectant, and bacteriostat.

Horse chestnut extract
An herb used for its calming effect on the skin.

Horsetail extract
Equisetum arvense, commonly known as horsetail, mare's tail, shave grass, or bottle brush, is a plant that grows throughout central Europe. It is a natural astringent that is extremely high in silica, which has a softening and smoothing effect on the skin. It also helps to strengthen vein and capillary walls, and it is high in a variety of minerals including potassium, manganese, sulfur, and magnesium.

Hyaluronic acid
A protein occurring in the skin. Known as a water binder, it is able to bind 1000 times its weight in water.

Hybrid safflower oil
The polyunsaturated oil of the herb safflower, which is high in linoleic and linolenic acids. It has a small molecular structure that allows it to be quickly absorbed. Nourishing and soothing to the skin.

Hydrocotyl extract
Hydrocotyl asiatica, commonly known as gotu kola or Indian pennywort, is imported from India. For hundreds of years, this plant has been called "the longevity plant" because of its incredible ability to speed cellular renewal and increase longevity. Its properties are very similar to those of ginseng. Applied to the skin, it acts as an anti- inflammatory agent; it speeds cell production and therefore is healing. It has a balancing and calming effect and is extremely soothing for aggravated or problem skin.

Hydrolyzed animal protein
A by-product of the beef industry. Helps skin to hold moisture; imparts a glossy sheen to hair.

Used as a skin bleaching agent and as an antioxidant to prevent rancidity. Causes sensitivity to sunlight. Toxic if taken internally.

Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose
A natural gelatin derived from vegetable fibers; used as a thickening agent.

Imidazolidinyl urea
A preservative that may be derived from either methanol (wood alcohol1 or allantoin. Kills harmful microorganisms. It is nonirritating, nontoxic, and not a formaldehyde donor. If heated to high temperatures, such as over the boiling point, it does produce formaldehyde. Not to be confused with urea from bovine sources.

Iron oxide
A naturally occurring compound of iron and oxygen found in a wide range of colors from black to yellow. Used as a natural colorant.

Isopropyl alcohol
Dissolves oils; has antiseptic properties. Can be drying to the skin if used as a primary ingredient in a formulation.

Isopropyl lanolate
An emollient that acts as a wetting agent for cosmetic pigments. Appears as a binder for pressed powders and as a lubricant in lipsticks.

Isopropyl myristate
Used as an emollient and lubricant in preshaves, aftershaves, shampoos, bath oils, antiperspirants, deodorants, and various creams and lotions. More than 5 percent in a formulation can cause skin irritation and clog pores. Isopropyl palmitate
Used in many moisturizing creams. It forms a thin layer on the skin and easily penetrates.

Jojoba oil
Simondsia chinensis is a thick, waxy oil extracted from the large, vanilla- shaped beans of a bush that grows in the arid climates of Arizona, southern California, and New Mexico. Jojoba oil is strikingly similar to human sebum and is able to effectively penetrate the skin. It is a natural cellular renewal ingredient as well as an excellent moisturizer.

A white Chinese clay used to give color and "slip" to powders. It also helps to gently absorb oil on the surface of the skin. Although commonly used in clay facial masks, it may be drying to the skin in this type of product.

Karite nutbutter
Oil from a native African tree. Anti-irritant. Traditionally used as a sunscreen. See Shea butter.

Kukui oil
Oil from the Hawaiian kukui nut. Very emollient and moisturizing.

Lactic acid
One of the alphahydroxy acids; found in fermented milk. Helps to loosen "intercellular glue" holding dead skin cells onto surface of the skin. Reduces wrinkles and improves skin texture.

Laneth-10 acetate
Derived from lanolin. Acts as an emulsifier and a superfatting agent, and it has some humectant properties.

An oil extracted from the wool of sheep without causing any harm to the animal. It is one of the oils closest to human sebum, making it an excellent moisturizing ingredient. Lanolin is a natural emulsifier and humectant that absorbs water and holds it to the skin to help prevent dryness. Formerly believed to be a common allergen, it is now known to cause allergic reactions in only a very small percentage of people.

Lanolin alcohol
Used as a thickener for shampoos and bath gels. Gives many cosmetics a creamy texture and a high gloss.

Lanolin oil
"Dewaxed lanolin"; acts as a skin moisturizer and reduces stickiness of creams and lotions. Also found in hair conditioners, fingernail conditioners, and skin cosmetics.

Lauramide DEA
Nonionic surfactant; builds and stabilizes foam in shampoos and bubble baths. Can be drying to the skin.

A nonionic surfactant found in shampoos.

Lavender oil
The most versatile of all essential oils. Because of the high percentage of linalool that it contains, lavender oil is excellent for promoting healing and for balancing the skin. It is an antiseptic, analgesic, antibiotic, antidepressant, bactericide, decongestant, and sedative. It helps to reduce scarring and also stimulates the growth of new cells.

A thick, oily substance present in all living cells, whether animal or plant. A natural antioxidant, emulsifier, and emollient. Also a phospholipid with great water-binding ability. (It is able to bind 300 times its weight in water.) Occurs naturally in eggs, milk, sunflower seeds, soybeans, and some vegetables.

Lemon grass oil
An essential oil distilled from the grassy herb of the same name. It is purifying, refreshing, and hydrating.

Lemon oil
An essential oil that is pressed from the outer rind of lemons. It is a mild bleach, which enables it to brighten dull skin color and calm redness. It is also a natural astringent, antiseptic, and bactericide with the ability to stimulate the white corpuscles that defend the body. The essential oil is used to regulate and control fluid accumulation and to bring balance to fluids in skin cells. Lemon also balances the pH of the skin by counteracting acidity on its surface. It has an uplifting and refreshing effect when inhaled.

Occurs naturally in great quantity in the sea salts from the Dead Sea, some of the most beneficial salts known. Magnesium helps to remineralize and soothe the skin.

Magnesium aluminum silicate
A naturally occurring mineral that is commonly used to emulsify, thicken, and color cosmetics. Because of its enormous molecular size, it is not absorbed through the skin.

Magnesium carbonate
Found in powders and covering preparations. Magnesium silicate
See Talc.

Magnesium stearate
A compound of magnesia (a naturally occurring white alkaline powder) and stearic acid used as a natural coloring agent.

Occurs naturally in great quantity in the sea salts from the Dead Sea, some of the most beneficial salts known. Manganese is soothing and calming to the skin.

Manganese violet
A light violet powder; can be used around the eyes. Matricaria oil
Known as azulene. An essential oil distilled from flowers of Matricaria chamomilla, or German camomile. One of its major components, chamazulene, is an effective anti-inflammatory that encourages healing. Another component, bisabolol, is a powerful antiseptic and antimicrobial. This oil also contains flavonoids, plant acids, fatty acids, amino acids, polysaccharides, salicylate derivatives, choline, and tannin. Azulene is extremely soothing to the skin and has a distinctive smell, much like fresh hay. Only tiny amounts of this powerful essential oil need to be used for product effectiveness. Aromatherapists use it as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antidepressant, antifungal and disinfectant. Excellent for the treatment of dry, reddened, burned, or sensitive skin.

An antiseptic and anesthetic found in skin lotions and shave creams. Has been shown to cause adverse reactions when applied in high concentrations to the skin.

A derivative of PABA {para-aminobenzoic acid). Used as a preservative with antimicrobial abilities, it prevents the formation of bacteria. Nontoxic and nonirritating at .15 of 1 percent. Note

This ingredient, along with butylparaben and propylparaben, may be irritating to the skin if more than 5 percent is present in a formulation; there are many commercially made cosmetics that have such a high percentage, which explains the commonly held belief that the parabens are sensitizers.

Methyl salicylate
Oil of birch, or oil of wintergreen. Anti-irritant and disinfectant. Main constituent of wintergreen oil or made synthetically. Very cooling and relaxing, but irritating to mucous membrane. Mica

A naturally occurring silicate found in a variety of rocks. Easily distinguishable by its shape, it comes in thin, papery sheets. Mica has a natural iridescence and varies in color from brownish green and blue to colorless. It is used as a natural colorant and to impart softness to the skin.

Microcrystalline wax
Used as a stiffening and opacifying agent.

Mineral oil
A by-product of the petroleum industry. A thinner form of petrolatum IVaseline). Contrary to its name, this is an inert substance that does not contain any minerals, nutrients, or organic ingredients. Forms an occlusive layer on the skin that "seals" it; extremely comedogenic when used as a primary ingredient in moisturizers, liquid foundation, and other cosmetics.

Montan wax
Often used in place of carnauba wax.

A basic component of the skin. This gelatinous material helps maintain a moist environment for collagen, elastin, and dermal cells and provides support for connective tissue and mucous membrane. Used as a humectant and skin softener in cosmetics.

Neopentyl gbycol dicaprylate/dicaprate
Used as a lubricant; soothing and softening to the skin. It is a compound of neopentyl glycol, which is derived synthetically, and dicaprylate/dicaprates, which are derived from coconut. Caprylates are in the glyceride family and are found in human sebum.

Essential oil distilled from the flowers of the bitter orange tree. Used in aromatherapy to ease nervous tension and induce calm.

A synthetic ingredient used as a dispersing agent to solubilize essential oils. Not to be confused with the spermicide nonoxynol-9.

Octoxynol -l
Used as an emulsifier and dispersing agent.

Octyl methoxycinnamate
Sunscreen, UVB blocker. Derived from cinnamon or cassia oil. Less irritating than PABA.

Octyl palmitate
2-ethylhexyl alcohol reacted with palmitic acid. See Palmitic acid.

Octyl stearate
The ester of 2-ethylhexyl alcohol, a fatty alcohol. Octyl stearate may be derived from tallow or vegetable oils.

Oleic acid
A common constituent of many animal and vegetable fats and, therefore, of most normal diets. Used in cosmetics as an emollient in creams and lotions. Can be mildly irritating.

Oleyl alcohol
Found in fish oils; has softening and lubricating qualities.

Olive oil
Natural oil used as an emollient in soaps, cleansers, and shampoos.

See Benzophenone. Ozakerite

See Ceresin wax.

See Para-aminobenzoic acid.


Brand name for PABA. Palmarosa oil

The essential oil of palmarosa grass (Cymbopogan martini). Exceptional in bringing hydration to the skin, it is also an effective cellular renewal ingredient. Palmitate
Salt of palmitic acid. Used as an oil in many cosmetics. See Palmitic acid.

Palmitic acid
A natural fatty acid found in palm, cottonseed, peanut, ricebran, sorghum, and other natural vegetable oils. Used as an emulsifier, surfactant and texturizer.

Palm kemel oil
Oil from an African palm nut. High-sudsing cleaning agent used in soaps.

Part of the water-soluble vitamin B complex.

Pantothenic acid
The result of a reaction in skin enzymes to panthenol. Acts as an healing agent.

An active proteolytic enzyme found in papaya; the most potent form comes from unripened green papaya. Used in exfoliants to dissolve dead skin cells.

Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
A sunscreening agent. Possibly phototoxic and photoallergenic; a common sensitizer.

Broad-spectrum preservatives derived from plant or petroleum sources. Effective against bacteria, fungus, yeast, and mold. Parabens are some of the safest preservatives, effective over a wide pH scale.

Derived from petroleum. Used as a thickener for cosmetic creams.

An abbreviation for polyethylene glycol, a synthetic polymer used as a humectant, emulsifier, emollient, binder, solvent, and stabilizer; protects against oxidation and moisture loss. It is derived from natural gas. Higher numbers indicate more PEG chains are present in the molecule.

PEG-5 ceteth-10 phosphate
A compound of polyethylene glycol, ceteth (from coconut fruit), and ethylene oxide, with phosphoric acid (which is produced synthetically). Used as an emulsifier.

PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate
A combination of polyethylene glycol and glyceryl cocoate (derived from coconut oil) to form a type of sucrose (sugar) extract. It is a mild cleansing agent and emollient that breaks up fat on the skin's surface without stripping the skin's natural oils or causing dryness. Rinses completely from the skin with water. It may be used in place of sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate, which are both drying and stripping for the skin.

A polymer of ethylene oxide. Acts as an emollient, plasticizer, and softener for cosmetics creams and shampoos.

PEG-40 castor oil
A compound made from polyethylene glycol (PEG) and castor oil, an extract of the castor bean. This ingredient is used as a solvent to help disperse other ingredients in a solution.

PEG-100 stearate
Polyethylene glycol combined with stearic acid to form a water-soluble ester used as an emulsifier and emollient; has a softening effect on the skin.

Peppermint oil
An essential oil containing menthol that has a cooling effect on the skin. May be irritating to mucous membrane.

Also known as petroleum jelly, paraffin jelly, Vaseline. Forms an occlusive barrier on the skin, which limits the skin's ability to function. Common comedogenic ingredient.

Phenyl mercuric acetate
Used as a preservative in shampoos and eye cosmetics. It is highly toxic if inhaled or swallowed and can cause skin irritation.

Phosphoric acid
Functions as a metal ion sequestrant and an acidifier.

Polyaminopropyl biguanide
A synthetically derived preservative. It was originally developed by Bausch and Lomb for use in eye products worn by contact lens wearers. It is one of the most gentle, yet effective, antimicrobial preservatives available.

Polysorbate 20
Derived from sorbitol. It is a water-soluble yellowish liquid used as a dispersing agent and stabilizer, and it has a soothing effect on the skin. Some allergic reactions reported.

Potassium hydroxide (caustic potash, Iye)
Used in the manufacture of liquid soaps and bleaches.

Potassium sodium copper chlorophyllin
A natural colorant derived from chlorophyll.

Propylene glycol
Appears in many cosmetics as a solvent, conditioning agent, and humectant. Can be irritating if more than 5 percent is used in a formulation. Propylene glycol stearate
Functions as an emollient, thickener, and emulsion stabilizer in creams and lotions.

Propyl gallate
Acts as an antioxidant (preservative).

A preservative derived from PABA that is widely used in cosmetics. Its fungicidal and antibacterial abilities help prevent yeast and mold. Nontoxic and nonirritating at .05 of 1 percent. (It may be irritating to the skin if more than 5 percent is present in a formulation.)

PVM/MA copolymer
Has thickening, dispersing, and stabilizing properties; highly irritating to eyes, skin, and mucous membrane.

Forms a hard, transparent, lustrous film. Used primarily in hair sprays.

Quatemium -15
A synthetic preservative and bactericide derived from ammonium chloride. May be irritating to the skin if more than 5 percent is used in a formulation.

Used as a conditioning agent in hair conditioners. It is an eye irritant and can cause contact dermatitis.

A substantive (clinging) hair conditioner.

Irritating to the skin and mucous membrane. Sometimes used as an antidandruff agent because of its antiseptic properties.

Retinoic acid (Retin-A)
Vitamin A acid. A chemical skin exfoliant. May irritate skin and cause sun sensitivity.

Retinyl palmitate
Vitamin A. A primary antioxidant vitamin, free- radical scavenger and cellular renewal ingredient (healer).

Rice bran oil
An ingredient rich in vitamin E derived from the bran of rice. It is very similar to wheat germ oil but not as "heavy," because it has a smaller molecule that is able to more easily penetrate the skin.

Rosemary oil
An essential oil invigorating to the circulation as well as to the psyche.

Rosewood oil
Distilled from the bark of the Aniba rosenodora tree that grows in the Amazon rain forest. It is high in linalool, making it balancing and healing. It also has antibacterial and analgesic abilities.

Sage oil
This essential oil, like lavender, has the distinction of being either invigorating or calming, depending on what is needed at the time. Very balancing.

Salicylic acid
From benzoic acid. Used in cosmetics as a fungicide, sunscreen and anesthetic; has a mild peeling effect. Can be irritating to the skin.

Sandalwood oil
Distilled from the heartwood of the Santalum album tree that grows in India. It is a very strong antiseptic as well as being extremely soothing to the skin. It also helps the skin hold water. Ayurvedic practitioners believe it to be a powerful aphrodisiac; aromatherapists use it to relieve stress and anxiety.

SD alcohol
Specially denatured ethyl alcohol, treated to become unfit for oral consumption. Used as a solvent and astringent in toners, deodorants, mouthwashes and hairsprays. Very drying to the skin.

Shea butter
Karite nut butter. A fatty substance obtained from the nut of the karite nut tree. A natural cellular renewal ingredient, it has excellent moisturizing and nourishing abilities as well as being a natural sunblock.

A naturally occurring colorless crystal or white powder commonly found in a variety of rocks. High in various minerals, silica helps to remineralize the skin, and it also has a softening effect.

A group of inorganic compounds of silicon and oxygen. A clear liquid used to produce slip and richness. Used as a substitute for oil in many types of products. Examples include dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol, simethicone, and cyclomethicone.

Silk powder
A by-product of the silk industry used in face powders to gently absorb excess oil that may be present on the surface of the skin.

A silicone oil. This clear liquid is used as an antifoaming agent, ointment base, and as a hair and skin protectant.

Sodium bicarbonate
Baking soda. Can be used to help adjust the skin's pH; extremely softening.

Sodium borate
A detergent builder, emulsifier, and preservative in cosmetics. Caution

ingestion of 5e to 10 grams by young children can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea and death.

Sodium chloride
Sea salt. Remineralizes and softens the skin.

Sodium debydroacetate
Preservative, fungicide, and bactericide.

Sodium hyaluronate
Hyaluronic acid. A cellular renewal ingredient and healing agent that is found in all human cells. Although this ingredient was originally extracted for commercial use from roosters' combs, it is now also produced synthetically.

Sodium hydroxide
Lye, caustic soda. The base alkali of soap manufacturing; also used in oven cleaners and liquid drain cleaners. Varying degrees of skin irritation.

Sodium laureth sulfate
An ionic (negatively charged) surfactant. Appropriate for use in shampoos but too stripping for use on the skin.

Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate
A mild cleansing agent derived from coconut oil. Appropriate for use in shampoos; may be too drying for use on the skin.

Sodium lauryl sulfate
Used in many cosmetics as an emulsifier and a detergent. Strongly degreases and dries the skin; okay for use in shampoo.

Sodium PCA (NaPCA)
The sodium salt of pyroglutamic acid. Commonly referred to as the "natural moisturizing factor," it is found in all living cells. Its function is to help maintain the water balance in cells, which maintains the natural water balance or moisturization of the skin. The body's production of NaPCA decreases as we age.

Sorbic acid
Made from berries of the mountain ash tree. A mold inhibitor and fungicidal agent. Also acts as a humectant in cosmetic creams and lotions. Can cause redness and a slight burning sensation for some people.

Sorbitan laurate
Used as an emulsifier in many cosmetics. Found to be nonirritating to eyes and skin.

Sorbitan sesquioleate
An emulsifier; nonirritating to skin and eyes. Sorbitan stearate

An emulsifier; non-irritating to skin and eyes.

A solid, white crystalline substance very much like sugar but more than twice as sweet. It is derived from fruits such as apples, berries, cherries, pears and plums; it may also be derived from com syrup. It is a humectant (water-attracting/binding) ingredient as well as an emollient.

Soybean oil
A light, readily absorbed oil derived from soybeans. It is rich in fatty acids and vitamin E and has a small molecule, which allows it to easily penetrate the skin.

Spearmint oil
Devired from Mentha spicata, this essential oil is high in menthol, limonene, and bisabolol, as well as flavonoids, tocopherols, betaine, choline, azulene, tannin, and rosemaric acid. Milder than its cousin peppermint, it is antiseptic, antiparasitic and antiinflammatory. Because of the menthol it contains, it is cooling and soothing to the skin and helps to increase circulation.

A nutrient-rich oil present in human sebum (the skin's own moisturizer) and involved in the process of cell growth. Squalane can be created synthetically or obtained from either the liver of the rare Japanese azame shark or olive oil or wheat germ oil. Squalane is also a natural bactericide and healer. It spreads evenly along the surface of the skin to coat all of its contours, nonocclusively, to protect it. Squalane is also able to penetrate deeper and more readily than most other oils. Note

Squalane is meant to be used topically and should not be confused with squalene, another form of the same ingredient that has been purified for the purpose of ingestion.

The pasteurized form of squalane. A bactericide and an emollient.

Skaralkonium chloride
Extremely effective hair conditioner and softener.

Stearic acid
One of the most common natural fatty acids, occurring in most animal and vegetable fats. It is white, waxy, thick, and unable to penetrate the skin unless combined with a substance such as glycerin. The most common sources are coconut and palm oil. When combined with PEG-100 stearate, it forms a water-soluble ingredient that is used as both an emulsifier and an emollient.

Stearyl alcohol
Pearlizing agent, lubricant, and antifoam agent.

Sucrose cocoate
A very gentle cleansing agent in the form of a sugar, derived from coconut oil. Nonstripping and nondrying to the skin, it solubilizes and washes off completely with water.

Talc (Magnesium Silicate)
A natural mineral. Adheres to skin; used in makeup, powders and foundation; produces slip and coloring. A lung irritant when used in powder form.

TEA-lauryl sulfate
High foaming agent. Prolonged skin contact may cause skin irritation.

Tea tree oil
From the Australian tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia. Germicide, fungicide and antiseptic. This oil is commonly used for treating acne, cuts, burns, and insect bites.

Tetrasodium EDTA
Sequestering agent. Prolonged skin contact may cause irritation, possibly even a mild burn.

Thyme lemon oil
An essential oil belonging to the medicinal labiate family of plants; distilled from the wild-crafted herb collected in Spain. It is balancing and it strengthens the immune system and aids cellular renewal.

Titanium dioxide
A natural white pigment that occurs in several varieties of crystal forms. It has a natural sun-blocking ability and is used to deflect ultraviolet rays and to cover flaws on the skin.

Toluene sulfonamide
Formaldehyde resin. Used as a plasticizer in nail polishes; a strong sensitizer.

A bactericide with very high percutaneous absorption. Can cause liver damage; an eye irritant.

Triethanolamine (TEA)
An alkalizing agent in cosmetics. Can cause irritation and sensitivity if more than 5 percent is used in a formulation.

Ultramarine blue
Used as pigment.

Vetiver oil (vetivert)
Andropogon muricatus is a scented grass similar to lemon grass and citronella that grows in India and other tropical climates. The essential oil is distilled from the root, making it the most grounding of all essential oils. It is also a very powerful humectant.

Vtamin A
"The skin vitamin"; one of three vitamins able to be absorbed by the skin (vitamins E and D are the others). It is a potent antioxidant, making it an extremely effective free-radical scavenger. It is used widely for healing and as an anti-aging ingredient because of its ability to stimulate new cell production.

Vitamin D
One of three vitamins able to be absorbed by the skin and the only one that the body is able to manufacture (when exposed to ultraviolet light). This vitamin is necessary for the building of new skin cells, as well as bones, teeth, and hair.

Vitamin E
A natural cellular renewal (healing) ingredient and antioxidant. In its pure form, the oil is too heavy for daily use on the face; however, it makes an excellent ingredient in moisturizers, eye treatment preparations and facial masks. In its pure form, it may be used for healing cuts, abrasions, and burns.

Wheat germ glycerides
Derived by pressing wheat germ. A dietary source of vitamin E; excellent addition to moisturizers and lotions.

Wheat germ oil
Obtained from the wheat kernel. This heavy oil is used in a wide variety of cosmetic preparations. Natural source of vitamins A, E, and D and squalane.

Witch hazel
Natural extract of the Hamamelis plant. Used as an astnngent in cosmetics. Soothing to irritated skin; non-drying.

Xanthan gum
A thickener and emulsion stabilizer. A natural wax produced by a microorganism.

Ylang ylang oil
Extracted from the flower of the exotic ylang ylang tree, which grows in the Far East and in the tropics. This oil is a natural antiseptic and is used in aromatherapy as a sedative, antidepressant and aphrodisiac. It is used in cosmetics primarily as a fragrance.

Occurs naturally in great quantity in the sea salts from the Dead Sea, some of the most beneficial salts known. Zinc helps to remineralize and calm the skin.

Zinc oxide
Widely used in powders and creams to help cosmetics adhere to the skin. A natural, physical sun-blocking ingredient.

Zinc stearate
Widely used in powders and creams to help cosmetics adhere to the skin. May be harmful if inhaled; has an effect on the lungs similar to asbestos.

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