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Rating Ingredient
Poor

acne soap

Soaps that often contain strong cleansing ingredients, they are often overly drying and...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane

A synthetic skin conditioning agent and surfactant belonging to the chemical class of siloxanes and...

Good

C20-40 pareth-40

Mixture of polyethylene glycols of various molecular weight that can function as stabilizing...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Average

alcohol

A group of organic compounds with a vast range of forms and uses in cosmetics...

Good

ammonium laureth sulfate

Can be derived from coconut; used primarily as a detergent cleansing agent and is considered gentle...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

ammonium lauryl sulfate

Can be derived from coconut; used primarily as a detergent cleansing agent and is considered gentle...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

arachidyl glucoside

A mild surfactant (cleansing) and emulsifying agent, made from...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

behenic acid

Fatty acid used as a thickening agent and surfactant.

Good

disodium lauraminopropionate

A mild surfactant.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Average

cocamide DEA and MEA

Both cocamide DEA (diethanolamine) and MEA (monoethanolamine) are widely used ingredients to thicken the water phase of cosmetics, keep ingredients blended, and boost foaming properties...

Good

cocamidopropyl betaine

One of the more gentle surfactants used in skincare products.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

cocamidopropyl dimethylamine

An antistatic agent derived from coconut oil, though it may be produced synthetically, too...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine

Mild surfactant.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

coco-glucoside

A mixture of fatty alcohol from coconut and glucose. Chiefly functions as a cleansing agent. May be...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

coconut

Has degreasing and cleansing properties, which is why detergent cleansing agents are frequently...

Good

decyl glucoside

Used as a gentle detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

detergent cleansing agent

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

dicetyl phosphate

A mix of portions from cetyl alcohol and phosphoric acid that functions as surfactant and emulsifier.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

dihydrocholeth-30

A synthetic ingredient that functions as an emulsifier...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

disodium cocoamphodiacetate

Mild detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

disodium cocoyl glutamate

A cleansing agent derived from coconut.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

glyceryl behanate

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

Good

glyceryl oleate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl stearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

isohexadecane

Used as a detergent cleansing agent, emulsifier, and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

isostearamide DEA

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

Good

lauramphocarboxyglycinate

Mild detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

laureth-23

Derived from lauryl alcohol and used either as a surfactant or emulsifier (or, in many cases, as...

Good

laureth-4

Derived from lauryl alcohol and used either as a surfactant or emulsifier (or, in many cases, as...

Good

laureth-7

A form of lauryl alcohol (a non-irritating fatty alcohol derived from coconut oil) that can...

Good

laureths

Substances that in various combinations create a wide range of mild detergent cleansing agents...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Best

lauric acid

One of several fatty acids found in coconut oil and other natural fats.

Good

lauryl alcohol

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

lauryl glucoside

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Poor

lye

Good

magnesium laureth sulfate

Mild detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

magnesium oleth sulfate

Mild detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

PEG-10 dimethicone

Good

PEG-10 dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer

A synthetic, silicone-enhanced polymer that helps products adhere…

Good

PEG-10 phytosterol

A synthetic or soy-derived (Paula’s Choice Skincare uses the latter) ingredient used in cosmetics as a cleansing agent and emulsifier.

Good

PEG-10 rapeseed sterol

A blend of polyethylene glycol (PEG) and the fatty acid component of the rapeseed plant. Used as a...

Good

PEG-100 stearate

Good

PEG-12 dimethicone

Good

PEG-120 methyl glucose dioleate

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

PEG-20 methyl glucose sesquistearate

A complex mixture of a glycol with a fatty acid and glucose that funtions multiple ways: emollient,...

Good

PEG-40 stearate

PEG-40 stearate typically functions as a cleansing agent, but also helps keep ingredients...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil

The chief function of this ingredient is cleansing agent.

Good

PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate

Good

PEG-8

Good

PEG-80 sorbitan laurate

Mild surfactant.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

PEG 90M

Good

PEG compound

PEG is the acronym for polyethylene glycol. Various forms of PEG compounds are mixed with fatty...

Good

PEG/PPG-17/6 copolymer

PEG stands for polyethylene glycol; PPG stands for polypropylene glycol.

Good

PEG/PPG-18/18 dimethicone

PEG stands for polyethylene glycol; PPG stands for polypropylene glycol.

Good

PEG/PPG-20/15 dimethicone

PEG stands for polyethylene glycol; PPG stands for polypropylene glycol.

Good

poloxamer 184

A synthetic polymer that functions as a cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

Poloxamer 407

Liquid polymer that functions as a surfactant. This ingredient can also keep unlike ingredients...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

poloxamers

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

myristic acid

Cleansing agent that also creates foam and can be drying.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

nonoxynols

Used as a mild cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

oleic acid

Fatty acid used as a cleansing agent and texture enhancer.

Good

oleth-10

A form of fatty alcohol that functions as a texture enhancer and cleansing agent.

Good

oleths

Mild cleansing agents.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

palm kernel acid

A mixture of fatty acids derived from palm oil. Used as a cleansing agent, emulsifier, or to add...

Good

palmitic acid

Blend of the fatty acid palmitic acid with several amino acids…

Good

polyglyceryl-10 laurate

A plant-derived or synthetic ester of lauric acid and the synthetic polymer polyglycerin-10.

Good

polyglyceryl-3 beeswax

The ester of fatty acids from beeswax and polyglycerin-3 that functions as a surfactant and...

Good

polyglyceryl-4 isostearate

The ester of isostearic acid and polyglycerin-4 that functions as an emollient and can also be a...

Good

polysorbate 20

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

polysorbate 60

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

polysorbate 80

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

polysorbates

Large group of ingredients most often derived from lauric acid, which is derived from coconuts....

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

potassium cetyl phosphate

Used as a detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Average

potassium hydroxide

Also known as lye, a highly alkaline ingredient used in small amounts in cosmetics to modulate the...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Average

potassium myristate

Detergent cleansing agent that is a constituent of soap; it can be drying and aggravate skin for some...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

PPG-12 buteth-16

Versatile ingredient composed of several non-volatile alcohols. Functions as a skin-conditioning...

Good

PPG-26-Buteth-26

PPG stands for polypropylene glycol, and this ingredient combines PPG with a fatty alcohol....

Good

sodium cocoyl amino acids

The salt form of amino acids...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium cocoyl glutamate

A cleansing agent derived from coconut oil. This ingredient is also used to help soften (remove...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium cocoyl isethionate

Derived from coconut, it is a mild detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium hexametaphosphate

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

Average

sodium hydroxide

Also known as lye, it is a highly alkaline ingredient used in small amounts in cosmetics to...

Good

sodium laureth-13 carboxylate

Used primarily as a detergent cleansing agent. 

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium laureth sulfate

Can be derived from coconut; it is used primarily as a detergent cleansing agent. It is considered...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium lauroamphoacetate

Mild surfactant also used as a lather agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium lauroyl lactylate

Used as an emulsifier and mild thickening agent in cosmetics. In higher concentrations, it...

Good

sodium lauroyl sarcosinate

Surfactant known (and used) for its foam-boosting properties.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate

A gentle cleansing agent that may be derived from coconut or made synthetically.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Poor

sodium lauryl sulfate

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

Good

sodium methyl cocoyl taurate

Mild surfactant.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium methyl taurate

Mild surfactant often combined with...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium myreth sulfate

Detergent cleansing agent similar to sodium laureth sulfate or ammonium laureth sulfate...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Poor

sodium palm kernelate

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Poor

sodium palmate

A soap ingredient created by the salts of acids derived from palm oil. May be naturally-derived or...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium PEG-7 olive oil carboxylate

A mild surfactant formed by reacting fatty acids from olive oil esters from polyethylene glycol...

Poor

sodium tallowate

Sodium salt of tallow.

Good

sodium trideceth sulfate

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sorbitan oleate

Synthetic or animal-derived ingredient used as an emulsifier and cleansing agent.

Good

steareth-20

Derived from the benign fatty ingredient stearyl alcohol, this functions primarily as a surfactant...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sulfates

Sulfates are a group of ingredients that have many consumers worried but in truth, misinformation, not sulfates, are the actual problem...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

surfactant

Shortened term for surface active agent. Surfactants degrease and emulsify oils and fats and...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

reducing agent

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

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Poor

Salvia officinalis

Good

Saponaria officinalis extract

Poor

soap

True “soaps” are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and are not required to list...

Good

soapwort

Plant from which is derived an extract with detergent cleansing properties.

Poor

sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate

Can be derived from coconut. Used primarily as a detergent cleansing agent, but is potentially...

Good

sodium cetearyl sulfate

A mixture of stearyl and cetyl sulfate that funtions as a surfactant.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

sodium cocoamphoacetate

A gentle cleansing agent derived from coconut fatty acids. It functions as a cleansing agent and...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Poor

sodium cocoate

Used as a cleansing agent primarily in soaps. It can be drying and sensitizing for skin.

Poor

TEA-lauryl sulfate

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

Good

tribehenin PEG-20 esters

A complex mixture of tribehenin and PEG-20, this ingredient has multiple functions in cosmetic...

Good

glyceryl rosinate

An ester of long chain acids derived from a plant-based ingredient known as rosin.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!