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Rating Ingredient
Good

dipotassium phosphate

A synthetic salt that helps to adjust and maintain the pH of water-based and...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

acid

Anything with a pH lower than 7 is considered acidic—above 7 is considered alkaline. Water has a pH...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

bifida ferment lysate

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

advanced glycation endproduct

Advanced glycation endproducts, also known as AGEs, are caused by the body's major fuel source,...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

AGE

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

ectoin

Skin-softening ingredient that also functions in cosmetics as a stabilizer. There's limited research...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

EDTA

Acronym for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, a stabilizer used in cosmetics to prevent ingredients...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

environmental damage

Occurrence that takes place at an atomic level and is a complex physiological process. Molecules...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

erythrulose

Substance chemically similar to the self-tanning agent dihydroxyacetone. Depending on your skin...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

ethoxydiglycol

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

ethylhexylglycerin

A synthetic skin-conditioning agent used as a preservative or as a carrier or suspending agent for...

Average

fish cartilage extract

May have water-binding properties, but there is no research showing that this has any benefit for...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

flavor

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the term "flavor" on a product label signifies...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

fruit acid

Good

glucose oxidase

Glucose oxidase is an enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of the sugar glucose.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

glutamic acid

Amino acid derived from wheat gluten. It can have water-binding properties for skin. There is no...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

gluten ingredients

Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in many types of grains, including wheat, rye, and barley.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

isocetyl salicylate

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

isododecane

Hydrocarbon ingredient used as a solvent. Isododecane enhances the spreadability of products and...

Best

lactoperoxidase

Enzyme derived from milk; it has purifying benefits for skin and may be helpful for...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

lady's mantle extract

Good

laurdimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

laurdimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

lauroyl lysine

Amino acid derivative that functions as a skin- and hair-conditioning agent. It also contributes to...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

lauryl PEG-9 polydimethylsiloxyethyl dimethicone

A silicone polymer that has multiple functions in cosmetic products, including skin/hair...

Poor

gold

An ingredient that seems luxe and helpful but is actually a frequent contact sensitizer…

Categories: Sensitizing, Miscellaneous
Good

guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride

Good

hydrolyzed vegetable protein

Composed of various protein substances derived from vegetables and broken down by water to form a...

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Poor

hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid

Also known by the acronym HEPES, hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid is a buffering ingredient typically used to...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

inactive ingredient

The list of inactive ingredients is the part of an ingredient label that is not regulated by the...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

isobutyl acetate

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

liposomes

Delivery system (not an ingredient) capable of holding other ingredients and releasing them after...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

magnesium hydroxide

Active ingredient in milk of magnesia. It is an absorbent and has disinfectant properties for skin.

Categories: Absorbent, Miscellaneous
Good

methylpropanediol

Glycol that functions as a solvent. Methylpropanediol can enhance ingredients such as salicylic acid.

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Average

Mucor miehei extract

Extract of a type of mold whose enzymes are used as a food additive and flavor enhancer in cheeses....

Categories: Miscellaneous
Best

myristyl nicotinate

A derivative of nicotinic acid, a component of vitamin B3 (niacin) that isn’t the same ingredient...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

sodium lactate

Sodium salt of lactic acid. Used primarily as a hydrating and buffering agent (to adjust a...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

sodium phytate

The salt form of the corn-derived plant component phytic acid, used as a chelating agent in...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

sodium salicylate

Salt form of salicylic acid (BHA). Because it is not the acid form of salicylate (i.e., salicylic...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

sodium tallowate

Sodium salt of tallow.

Good

solvent

Describes a large group of ingredients, including water, that are used to dissolve or break down...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Best

SPF

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

steapyrium chloride

Antistatic agent used in hair-care products.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

stearalkonium chloride

Antistatic ingredient used in hair-care products to control flyaways and aid in helping a brush or...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

stearalkonium hectorite

Used as a suspending agent.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Best

sun protection factor

Most commonly seen as SPF, it is a number that is assigned to a product that identifies its ability...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

synthetic wax

A wax derived from a mixture of various oils. It functions as a binding and stabilizing agent.

Good

talc

Naturally occurring silicate mineral (any group of substances containing negative ions composed of...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

tallow

Substance extracted from the fatty deposits of animals, especially from suet (the fat of cattle and...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

Saccharomyces calcium ferment

Extract of yeast fermented in the presence of calcium ions. It has no known benefit for skin.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

sebacic acid

Used as a pH adjuster.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

TEA

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

tetrahydroxypropyl ethylenediamine

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

tetrasodium EDTA

Chelating agent used to prevent minerals present in formulations from bonding to other ingredients.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

tetrasodium etidronate

Used as a chelating agent in cosmetics to prevent varying mineral components from binding together...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

thymus hydrolysate

Form of animal thymus derived by acid, enzyme, or other methods of hydrolysis. It can have...

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Best

tranexamic acid

A synthetic amino acid that functions as a skin-conditioning agent and astringent.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

trehalose

Plant sugar that has hydrating properties for skin.

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Good

tridecyl salicylate

Salt form of salicylic acid (BHA). When it is no longer an acid (as in this case), salicylic acid...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

triethanolamine

Used in cosmetics as a pH balancer. Like all amines, it has the potential for creating...

Categories: Miscellaneous, Emulsifiers
Good

trioclanolin

Derived from lanolin and used as a texture enhancer, most commonly in powder-based products such as...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

trisodium EDTA

Similar to tetrasodium EDTA. Used as a water-softening and chelating agent (a compound that binds...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

UVA

Ultraviolet A radiation. The sun produces a range of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, of which UVA and...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

UVB

Ultra-violet B radiation.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

water

The most widely used cosmetic ingredient; water is almost always listed first on an ingredient...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

wheat amino acids

A blend of amino acids from wheat protein after it has been broken down via hydrolysis. Most often...

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Good

whey protein

A form of protein derived from milk. An animal-derived ingredient, whey protein functions as a hair...

Good

xylose

Form of sugar. Similar to other sugars, xylose has hydrating properties for skin.

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Good

xymenynic acid

Synthetic fatty acid that functions as a skin-softening agent.

Average

yogurt

There is no research showing that yogurt is effective when applied topically on skin. Yogurt...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

zinc carbonate

Categories: Miscellaneous, Sensitizing
Best

zinc PCA

A synthetic skin-softening ingredient derived from zinc, research has shown it to have anti-aging benefits due to...

Categories: Miscellaneous
Good

hydroxypropyl cyclodextrin

A plant- derived or synthetic carbohydrate that functions as a chelating agent and...

Categories: Miscellaneous

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!