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Rating Ingredient
Good

beheneth-5

A synthetic or plant-derived derivative of polyethylene glycol and behenyl alcohol that functions as an emulsifier and can also be a surfactant.

Good

emollient

Supple, waxlike, lubricating, thickening agents that prevent water loss and have a softening and...

Good

emulsifier

When it comes to cosmetics, an emulsifier refers to any ingredient that helps keep unlike...

Good

Enteromorpha compressa extract

Extract from green algae.

Good

ethylhexyl stearate

Good

Euphorbia cerifera wax

Best

fatty acid

Substance typically found in plant and animal lipids (fat). Fatty acids include compounds such as...

Good

fatty alcohol

Made from fatty acids; fatty alcohols are used in cosmetics as thickening agents and emollients....

Good

cetyl alcohol

Fatty alcohol used as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener, and carrying agent for other...

Good

fuller's earth

Mineral substance that is similar to kaolin (a clay). Composed mainly of alumina, silica, iron...

Good

gelatin

Protein obtained from plants or animals and used in cosmetics as a thickening agent.

Good

glycereth-26

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glycereth-26 phosphate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glycereth-6 laurate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glycerol monostearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glycerol triacetate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glycerol trioleate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl behanate

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

Good

glyceryl cocoate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl dipalmitate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl distearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl ester

Large group of ingredients that are composed of fats and oils. At room temperature, the fats are...

Good

glyceryl isopalmitate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl isostearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl myristate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl oleate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl palmitate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

glyceryl polymethacrylate

A blend of glycerin and polymethacrylic acid that functions as a film-forming agent. It has a...

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

isoparaffin

Good

isopropyl lanolate

Derived from lanolin, it is used in cosmetics as a thickening agent and emollient.

Good

isopropyl titanium triisostearte/triethoxycaprylylsilane crosspolymer

A synthetic, silicone-enhanced polymer that occurs from combining isopropyl titanium triisostearate...

Good

isostearamide DEA

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

Good

isostearic acid

Fatty acid used as a binding agent and thickener.

Good

Japan wax

Vegetable wax obtained from sumac berries, and used as a thickening agent and emollient in...

Good

kelp extract

Good

Laminaria digitata

Good

Laminaria longicruris

Good

Laminaria sacharrina

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

lauryl PEG-9 polydimethylsiloxyethyl dimethicone

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

Good

glyceryl stearate SE

Widely used ingredient that is a self-emulsifying (that’s what the “SE” stands for) form of...

Good

glycol stearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent.

Best

glycolipid

Type of lipid composed of sugar (monosaccharide) and fat (lipid) that forms an important component...

Good

guar gum

Plant-derived thickening agent...

Good

guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride

Good

Haslea ostrearia extract

Extract derived from a water plant also known as blue algae. In pure concentrations this extract...

Good

Himanthalia elongate extract

Extract of a species of algae.

Good

hydrogenated coco-glyceride

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

hydrogenated didecene

Skin-conditioning agent derived from didecene, which is a hydrocarbon. Hydrocarbons are organic...

Good

hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyl dimethyl taurate copolymer

A polymer that functions as a stabilizer, thickening agent, and opacifying agent.

Good

hydroxyethylcellulose

Plant-derived thickening agent typically used as a binding agent or emulsifier. Also used (most...

Good

hydroxypropyl guar

Good

hydroxypropyl starch phosphate

A plant-based or synthetic starch ingredient that functions as a thickener or bulking agent in cosmetics...

Good

Irish moss extract

Type of red algae.

Best

lipid

Wide range of ingredients found in plants, animals, and human skin. Lipids include fatty acids,...

Good

lithium magnesium sodium silicate

Synthetic silica-based clay composed of lithium, sodium, and magnesium. Used as a thickening agent...

Good

locust bean

Good

magnesium aluminum silicate

Powdery, dry-feeling, white solid that is used as a thickening agent and powder in cosmetics.

Good

magnesium stearate

Used as a thickening agent in cosmetics.

Average

MEA

Abbreviation for monoethanolamine.

Good

microcrystalline wax

Plastic-type, highly refined wax derived from petroleum. Used as a thickener and to give products a...

Good

polyethylene

A form of plastic (synthetic polymer) that has numerous functions in cosmetic products. Rounded...

Good

sodium hexametaphosphate

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

Good

sodium lauroyl lactylate

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

Poor

sodium lauryl sulfate

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

Good

sodium polyacrylate

A synthetic polymer with multiple functions, including film-forming agent, stabilizer, absorbent,...

Good

Solanum tuberosum extract

Extract that is more commonly known as potato starch. Used as a thickening agent and texture enhancer in cosmetics.

Good

sorbitan oleate

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

Good

sorbitan sesquioleate

Good

sorbitan stearate

Used to thicken and stabilize cosmetic formulations.

Good

sorbitol

Can be created synthetically or derived from natural sources. Similar to glycerin, it is a...

Good

spirulina

Good

stearates

Good

stearic acid

Fatty acid used as an emollient and emulsifier...

Good

stearyl alcohol

Fatty alcohol used as an emollient and to help keep other ingredients intact in a formulation.

Good

synthetic beeswax

An artificial form of beeswax composed of a mixture of alcohol esters...

Poor

Salvia officinalis

Good

sclerotium gum

Used as a thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

Seamollient

Trade name for an algae extract.

Good

seaweed

Group of sea plants (scientific name: algae) of all sizes and shapes, and having a gelatin-like...

Good

sesquioleate

Used in cosmetics as a thickening agent and emollient.

Good

silica

Mineral found abundantly in sandstone, clay, and granite, as well as in parts of plants and...

Good

silicate

Inorganic salt that has potent absorbing and thickening properties.

Good

sodium acrylate/acryloydimethyl taurate copolymer

Synthetic polymer used as a stabilizing and suspending agent and as a thickening agent.

Good

sodium carboxymethyl beta-glucan

A carbohydrate ingredient with a gel-like texture, it functions as a binding agent and texture...

Poor

TEA-lauryl sulfate

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

Good

thickening agent

Substances that can have a soft to hard waxlike texture or a creamy, emollient feel, and that can...

Best

titanium dioxide

Inert earth mineral used as a thickening, whitening, lubricating, and sunscreen ingredient in...

Good

tragacanth

Natural gum used as a thickener in cosmetics.

Good

tribehenin

Also known as glyceryl tribehenate, a skin-conditioning agent that is a mixture of glycerin and...

Good

tridecyl stearate

Used in cosmetics as a thickening agent and emollient.

Good

tridecyl trimellitate

Used as a skin-conditioning agent and thickening agent. 

Good

triglyceride

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Average

trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract

Latin name for the fenugreek plant. The seeds are used most often, and their fiber content helps...

Good

trihydroxystearin

Mixture of glycerin and fatty acids that is used as an emollient and thickening agent.

Good

trilaurin

Group of ingredients that are triesters of glycerin and aliphatic acids, and known generically as...

Good

trioctanoin

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

Undaria pinnatifida

Form of brown algae.

Good

wheat germ glycerides

Used as emollient and texture enhancer in cosmetics.

Good

xanthan gum

Used as a thickening agent.

Good

xylitol

Best

zinc oxide

Zinc oxide is an inert earth mineral used as a thickening, whitening, lubricating, and sunscreen ingredient in cosmetics.

Good

zinc stearate

The zinc salt of stearic acid. It has multiple functions in cosmetics, including serving as the...

Best

candelilla/jojoba/rice bran polyglyceryl-3 esters

A natural mixture of polyglycerin-3, candelilla wax, jojoba seed wax, and rice bran wax...

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!