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Ingredients Glossary

From acids and alcohol to certified vegan and oils, here you can find our glossary of ingredients inside your beauty products. Break down the jargon and find the key to your beauty needs.

A


ACETONE
A strong solvent, used for removing nail polish.

ACETYL GLUCOSAMINE
A sugar from amino acid, used to bind water to the skin.

ACETYL HEXAPEPTIDE 3
A synthetic amino acid, used for its muscle relaxing effects.

ACTIVE INGREDIENT
Any ingredient in a product that can alter your skin.

AGAR-AGAR
A seaweed extract that is used as a thickening agent, similar to gelatin.

AHA or ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS
Acids used to exfoliate the skin can be natural or synthetic.

ALCOHOL DENAT
An alcohol which is used as a preservative, made by drying to hair and skin.

ALKYLOAMIDES
Synthetic fatty acids used to emulsify ingredients, often used in soap and shampoo foaming of shampoo and soap. (
May be listed as DEA, TEA, or MEA)

ALPHA LIPOIC ACID
A water and oil-soluble antioxidant.

ASCORBIC ACID
Water-soluble Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant.


B


Balsam Peru
An essential oil, see also Benzyl Alcohol.

Batyl Alcohol
A fatty alcohol derived from glycerin which is used to emulsify skincare products and reduce moisture loss.

Beeswax
A natural wax which is moisturising and has antibacterial properties.

Behenyl Alcohol
An alcohol used to emulsify skincare ingredients and prevent moisture loss.

Bentonite
Natural clay that is used in masks to gently dry oily skin.

Benzalkonium Chloride
A preservative used in skin products, is also antimicrobial.

Benzyl Alcohol
An alcohol which is used as a preservative, derived from Balsam Peru, it may cause skin irritation.

Benzocaine
An anaesthetic, used to numb skin when applied topically.

Betaine Salicylate
A beta-hydroxy acid used to exfoliate.

BHA or butylated hydroxyanisole
A synthetic antioxidant and preservative.

BHA or beta hydroxy acid
Oil-soluble acids used to exfoliate the skin, can be natural or synthetic.

Bronopol
See Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives.

 

C


Calamine
A compound used to soothe itchy skin

Calcium Ascorbate
A form of vitamin C

Carnitine
A natural amino acid

Carvone
An essential oil, used for its fragrance

Cetearyl Alcohol
An alcohol used to emulsify skincare ingredients and prevent moisture loss

Cetyl Alcohol
An alcohol used to emulsify skincare ingredients and prevent moisture loss

 

D


Decyl Glucoside
A plant-derived, gentle cleanser

Dextrin
A polysaccharide which binds water to the skin

Diazolidinyl Urea
See Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives

Dibutyl Phthalate
A solvent and fragrance, used in nail polish and perfume

Diethanolamine
See Alkyloamides

DMDM hydantoin
See Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives

 

E


Ectoine
A protective stabiliser used in cosmetics

Elastin
Plays a role in skin flexibility, plant and animal derived versions are often used in cosmetics

Emollient
A waxy substance which moisturises the skin by softening and protecting the outermost layer

Ensulizole
A sunscreen ingredient that protects against UVB rays

Ester C
A formulation of vitamin C that contains predominantly
ascorbic acid

Ethanol
An alcohol which is used as a preservative, may by drying to hair and skin

 

F


Ferulic Acid
A plant-derived antioxidant that enhances the effects of other antioxidants

Formaldehyde Releasing Preservative
An older type of preservative which is out of favour due to potential for harm

Includes: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, bromopol and glyoxal

 

G


Gelatin
A thickening agent, usually derived from animal sources 

GLA or Gamma Linolenic Acid
A fatty acid which is both an antioxidant and an emollient

Glycerin
An ingredient which is present naturally in fats, but can also be produced synthetically.
See also humectant.

Glyceryl Ester
A large group of fats and oils which are used as emollients and lubricants

Glycolic Acid
An alpha hydroxy acid used to exfoliate the skin

Glyoxal
See Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives

 

H


Hemp Seed Oil
Natural oil derived from the seed of the hemp plant, often used as an emollient

Hexyl Laurate
A combination of hexyl alcohol and lauric acid which is used to condition skin

Humectants
Light moisturisers which draw and bind water to the skin

Hyaluronic Acid
A substance which holds water and prevents moisture loss

Hypoallergenic
A term used to explain that a product contains no common allergens 

 

I


Idebenone
A synthetic antioxidant

Imidazolidinyl Urea
See Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives

Isopropyl Alcohol
An alcohol which is used as a preservative, may by drying to hair and skin

 

J


Jojoba Oil
An oil derived from the seed of the jojoba plant, it is moisturising and antibacterial

 

L


Lactic Acid
An alpha hydroxy acid used to exfoliate the skin

Lanolin
A thick emollient sourced from sheep’s wool

Limonene
A compound naturally found in citrus fruit that contributes to their smell

Liposomes
An ingredient that helps ingredients cross the skin/tissue layer

 

M


Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate
A form of vitamin C that is often used as an antioxidant in skincare

Mallow
A thickening agent that is often used for its soothing effect

Menthyl Lactate
A derivative of menthol, often used for its fragrance or for its natural cooling effect 

Methanol
An alcohol which is used as a preservative, may by drying to hair and skin

Mineral Oil
An odorless oil which is derived from petroleum

 

N


Neroli Oil
An oil derived from Neroli which is fragrant but can often be a skin-irritant

Niacinamide
Another name for niacin or vitamin B3

 

O


Occlusives
Moisturisers which
seal moisture into the skin, usually balms or thick creams

Octocrylene
An organic compound used in sunscreen, protects against UVB rays

Oleic Acid
A fatty acid which has
surfactant properties

 

P


Pantothenic Acid
Also known as B5, used to treat acne

Parabens
A group preservatives which may be harmful

Paraffin
A substance derived from petroleum, used as a thickener

Phenoxyethanol
A common preservative which is favoured over others due to being less of an irritant 

Phosphoric Acid
Used to adjust the pH level in skincare products

Polyoxymethylene Urea
See Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives

Polyquaterniums
A group of ingredients used in hair product, have an antistatic effect 

Preservatives
A group of substances used in products to prevent bacterial contamination

Prickly Pear
An oil derived from prickly pear cactus, rich in Vitamin E and antioxidants

Primrose Oil
A soothing, moisturising oil from the evening primrose plant

Propylene Glycol
A hydrating humectant which helps ingredients penetrate the skin

 

Q


Quaternium-15
See Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives

Quercetin
A flavonoid found in many plants, has antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties

 

R


Reducing Agent
A substance that can break down the disulfide bonds in hair, used to aid hair straightening 

Resveratrol
An antioxidant which is found in red grapes

Retinol
The name given to the Vitamin A molecule

 

S


Salicylic Acid
A beta hydroxy acid that has deep exfoliating properties, used to target acne

Silicone
Used as a slip agent and to create a layer on the skin, filling in fine lines and giving a smoother appearance

Slip Agent
A term used to describe compounds which, when added to a cosmetic formulation, enable other ingredients to spread more easily on the skin and penetrate deeper

Sodium Benzoate
A derivative of benzoic acid that is used as a preservative

Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
See Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
A cleansing agent commonly used in detergent and shampoo, known to be drying to hair and skin

Stearyl Alcohol
An alcohol used to emulsify skincare ingredients and prevent moisture loss

Sulfates
A cleansing agent used in many shampoos and bath products

Surfactant
A compound that lowers the surface tension between two states, detergents, emulsifiers, foaming agents

 

T


Tallow
An animal by-product used in the soap and candle making process

Tannic Acid
An antioxidant which is believed to carry anti-carcinogenic properties

Thickening Agent
Any substance that, when added to a cosmetic formulation, acts as a lubricant 

 

W


Water Binding Agent
A range of ingredients which, when added to skincare, improve the skin’s moisture retention

 

X


Xantham Gum
Used as a thickening agent

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