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Rating Ingredient
Poor

Acacia farnesiana extract

A fragrant extract from a type of acacia tree. There is no research showing it to have any benefit...

Good

acacia senegal gum

Herb that can have skin soothing properties, but is used primarily as a thickening agent.

Best

acai

Pronounced "ah-sigh-ee", this small berry with a deep purple color is a source of...

Good

acerola fruit extract

Acerola contains vitamin C. However, the dry acerola fruit and powder are unlikely to be a good...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

acetic acid

Acid found in vinegar, some fruits, and human sweat. It can be sensitizing to skin...

Categories: Sensitizing
Poor

acetone

Strong solvent that is used in Nail Polish removers.

Categories: Sensitizing
Good

acetylated castor oil

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

acetylated hydrogenated cottonseed glyceride

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

acetylated lanolin

Emollient derived from lanolin.

Categories: Emollients
Good

acetylated lanolin alcohol

An ester of lanolin alcohol uses as an emollient and occlusive agent. An ester is a compound formed...

Categories: Emollients
Good

acetylated palm kernel glycerides

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Best

acetyl carnitine HCL

Categories: Antioxidants
Best

acetyl glucosamine

Amino acid sugar and primary constituent of mucopolysaccharides and hyaluronic acid.

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Good

acetyl glyceryl ricinoleate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

acetyl hexapeptide-8

Synthetically derived peptide that is used in a wide range of skincare and makeup...

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Good

acetyl octapeptide-3

A synthetic peptide that is based around octapeptide-3, a peptide complex composed of the amino acids aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glutamine, and methionine...

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Average

acetyl tributyl citrate

Related to citric acid and used as a plasticizer, most commonly in nail polish and nail-hardening...

Good

acetyl tyrosine

An amino acid complex that functions as a skin-conditioning agent. There is no research proving it...

Categories: Hydration
Poor

Achillea millefolium

Average

acid

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

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

acne soap

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

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

acrylate

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer

A synthetic ingredient used to enhance the texture of skincare and haircare products.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

acrylates/dimethicone copolymer

A silicone-enhanced film-forming agent. Also functions as a binding agent so products adhere better...

Good

acrylates/steareth-20 methacrylate copolymer

A synthetic polymer that blends stearth-20 with one or more forms of methacrylic acid. Functions as...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

acrylates copolymer

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Average

Actaea racemosa

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

adenosine

Yeast-derived ingredient that functions as a good soothing and skin-restoring agent.

Best

adenosine triphosphate

An organic compound from adenosine, which is formed by the hydrolysis of yeast nucleic acids. All...

Good

adipic acid/neopentyl glycol/trimellitic anhydride copolymer

A synthetic polymer.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Poor

advanced glycation endproduct

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

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

Aerocarpus santalinus

Good

Aesculus hippocastanum

Good

agar

Poor

AGE

Categories: Miscellaneous
Average

Agrimonia eupatoria leaf extract

Research shows this plant extract has antioxidant properties....

Best

AHA

AHA is the acronym for alpha hydroxy acid, which is derived from various plant sources or from milk.

Categories: Exfoliant
Good

Ahnfeltia concinna extract

Good

ahnfeltia extract

Good

alanine

Categories: Antioxidants
Good

Alaria esculenta

Poor

albumin

Found in egg white, and can leave a film over skin. It can constrict skin temporarily, which can...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Poor

alcloxa

More technically known as aluminum chlorhydroxy allantoinate, alcloxa has constricting properties...

Categories: Uncategorized
Average

alcohol

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

Best

Aleurites moluccana seed oil

Best

alfalfa extract

Can be an antioxidant in skincare products…

Good

algae

Algae are very simple, chlorophyll-containing organisms in a family that includes more than 20,000...

Good

algae extract

Good

algin

Brown algae.

Good

aliphatic hydrocarbon

Hydrocarbon contained in natural gas and mineral oils. It is a synthetic fluid with varying...

Categories: Uncategorized
Poor

alkaline

Anything with a pH higher than 7 is alkaline; a pH below 7 is acidic. Water has a pH of 7; skin has...

Categories: Uncategorized
Average

alkyloamides

Identified on skin-care product labels as DEA, triethanolamine (TEA), and monoethanolamine (MEA),...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Best

allantoin

By-product of uric acid extracted from urea and considered an effective skin-soothing and skin-conditioning agent.

Categories: Skin-Soothing
Good

allyl methacrylates crosspolymer

A synthetic, non-aqueous polymer whose chief function is film-forming agent.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Best

almond oil

Non-volatile oil extracted from the seeds of almonds and used as an emollient.

Good

Aloe barbadensis

Good

aloe barbadensis leaf juice extract

Good

aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder

This form of aloe is the powder form of the aloe barbadensis leaf plant...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

aloe extract

Good

aloe juice

Good

aloe vera

There is no real evidence that aloe vera (Aloe barbadenis) helps the skin in any significant way....

Best

alpha bisabolol

Best

alpha glucan oligosaccharide

Emollient used in cosmetics that also has water-binding properties.

Categories: Emollients
Best

alpha hydroxy acid

Categories: Exfoliant
Poor

alpha isomethyl ionone

Alpha isomethyl ionone is a fragrance ingredient that must be listed on products that contain it due to its risk of causing a sensitized reaction.

Best

alpha lipoic acid

Enzyme that, when applied topically on skin, appears to be a very good antioxidant. Taken...

Categories: Antioxidants
Best

alpha-tocopherol

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Good

Alteromonas ferment extract

Alteromonas is found in deep areas of seawater.

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

Althaea rosea

Best

Althea officinalis

Latin name for the marshmallow plant.

Good

alumina

Aluminum oxide, which is used as an abrasive, a thickening agent, and an absorbent in cosmetics.

Good

aluminum

Aluminum is the most common element on Earth. It's also a common source of confusion in terms of its presence in cosmetics, specifically whether that presence poses a health risk.

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

Aluminum hydroxide

A synthetic ingredient that functions as an opacifying agent. Secondary uses...

Good

aluminum magnesium silicate

Salt that has absorbent properties.

Categories: Absorbent
Good

aluminum powder

Metallic element used as a coloring agent. It is composed of finely ground particles of aluminum....

Good

aluminum silicate

Salt that has absorbent and abrasive properties.

Categories: Absorbent, Scrub Agents
Good

aluminum starch octenylsuccinate

Powdery thickening agent, absorbent, and anticaking agent used in cosmetics.

Good

aluminum stearate

The aluminum salt of stearic acid that functions as a thickening agent and helps stabilize products.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Poor

aluminum sulfate

It can sensitizing to skin.

Categories: Absorbent, Antioxidants
Best

amino acid

Fundamental constituents of all proteins found in the body, such as: alanine, arginine, asparagine,...

Average

aminobutyric acid

Amino acid that has water-binding properties and may provide soothing benefits for skin. It...

Categories: Skin-Soothing
Good

aminomethyl propanediol

Used to adjust pH in cosmetics.

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

aminomethyl propanol

Synthetic ingredient used in cosmetics as a pH adjuster.

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer

A synthetic polymer and film-forming agent that also serves to thicken cosmetic formulas...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Poor

ammonium chloride

Alkaline salt used as a pH balancer in skincare products; it is not used in concentrations that...

Categories: Absorbent
Best

ammonium glycolate

Synthetic form of glycolic acid used as a pH adjuster and exfoliant. It is sometimes paired with...

Categories: Exfoliant
Average

ammonium hydroxide

Clear, colorless liquid used in cosmetics to adjust a product's pH level. Ammonium hydroxide is...

Categories: Uncategorized
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

amodimethicone

Good

amygdalic acid

Categories: Exfoliant, Antioxidants
Poor

amyl cinnamate

Fragrant component.

Poor

amyl salicylate

Fragrant component.

Poor

amyris oil

Fragrant oil. It has no other known benefit for skin.

Poor

Anacyclus pyrethrum

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

Anacystis nidulans extract

Good

Ananas sativus fruit extract

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Good

andiroba oil

Extracted from the Brazilian mahogany tree; it has soothing properties (Source:...

Average

Anethum graveolens

Poor

Angelica archangelica root oil

Volatile oil obtained from the angelica plant. The oil contains chemical constituents that can be...

Poor

Angelica polymorpha sinensis root extract

Poor

anisaldehyde

Synthetic fragrance used in cosmetics.

Poor

anise

Also known as aniseed, it can have antioxidant properties...

Good

annato extract

Natural plant colorant derived from the flesh surrounding the seed of Bixa orellana, a shrub native...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

Anthemis nobilis flower extract

Best

anthocyanin

Group of naturally occurring substances found in plants that give fruits, vegetables, and plants...

Best

antioxidant

General term for a large group of natural and synthetic ingredients that work to reduce...

Categories: Antioxidants
Best

apple fruit extract

General name for various types of apples, all of which have potent antioxidant ability that, at least in theory, can benefit skin when applied topically.

Average

apricot kernel

Often used as an abrasive agent in so-called "natural" scrubs. Apricot kernals have irregular and...

Categories: Scrub Agents
Best

apricot kernel oil

Emollient plant oil pressed from the seeds of apricots, and similar to other nonfragrant plant oils.

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

arachidic acid

Derived from peanut oil and used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

arachidyl alcohol

Waxy substance used as a thickening agent and emollient in cosmetics.

Good

arachidyl glucoside

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

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

arachidyl propionate

Waxy substance used as a thickening agent and emollient in cosmetics.

Best

Arachis hypogaea extract

Extract of the plant commonly known as the peanut. It can have emollient and skin soothing...

Best

arbutin

Isolated from the leaves of the bearberry shrub, cranberry, blueberry, some...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

Arctium lappa

Best

Arctium majus

Best

Arctostaphylos uva ursi leaf

Best

Argania spinosa

Best

argan oil

Non-fragrant plant oil expressed from the kernels of argan trees. Argan oil contains several beneficial lipids and fatty acids for skin...

Good

arginine

Amino acid that has antioxidant properties and can be helpful for soothing skin (Sources: Journal...

Categories: Antioxidants
Average

Argireline

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Poor

arnica extract

Extract from the plant Arnica montana. There is research showing that when arnica is taken orally...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Average

aroma/flavor

Seeing "aroma/flavor" on an ingredient list can be either good or bad. For example, if the aroma or flavor comes from mint....

Average

arrowroot

Thickening agent; it has no known benefit for skin.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

artemia extract

Average

Artemisia absinthium extract

Categories: Plant Extracts
Average

Artemisia vulgaris

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

Ascophyllum nodosum

Species of seaweed.

Best

ascorbic acid

Form of vitamin C that has antioxidant properties (Sources: Advances in Experimental Medicine and...

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Best

ascorbyl glucosamine

Form of vitamin C that has little research showing it has the antioxidant or brightening...

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Best

ascorbyl glucoside

Stable form of vitamin C combined with glucose.When properly formulated and absorbed into...

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Best

ascorbyl methylsilanol pectinate

Form of vitamin C that is considered stable and that functions as an antioxidant and thickening...

Best

ascorbyl palmitate

Stable and nonacidic form of vitamin C that is effective as an antioxidant (Source: Biochemical and...

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Good

asparagine

Categories: Antioxidants
Good

Asparagopsis armata extract

Extract derived from seaweed.

Good

aspartic acid

Best

astaxanthin

Categories: Antioxidants
Best

astaxanthin extract

Carotenoid (carotene pigment) found in plants, algae, and fish, particularly salmon, that functions...

Categories: Antioxidants
Best

Astragalus membranaceus

Latin name for the Chinese herb Huang-Qi, also known as milk vetch.

Good

Astragalus sinicus

Good

Astrocaryum murumuru seed butter

A non-fragrant vegetable fat that's nearly solid at room temperature (much like dairy butter). It functions as an emollient ingreident that works to keep...

Categories: Emollients, Plant Extracts
Best

ATP

Best

atractylodes macrocephala root powder

A natural plant extract commonly used in Chinese and Korean herbal medicines.

Average

Atractyloydes lancea root extract

Also known as Chinese Thistle Daisy, this root extract is used in Chinese and Japanese alternative...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

Avena sativa

See oatmeal, oat bran extract, gluten ingredients…

Best

avobenzone

Synthetic sunscreen ingredient (also known as Parsol 1789 and butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane) that...

Categories: Sunscreen Actives
Best

avocado oil

Emollient oil similar to other nonfragrant plant oils. It has antioxidant properties.

Categories: Antioxidants, Emollients
Poor

awapuhi

English name for wild ginger.

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

Azadirachta indica

Best

azelaic acid

A component of grains such as wheat, rye, and...

Best

Azelex

Categories: Uncategorized
Average

azuki beans

Legumes that are often ground up for use in skincare scrub products.

Categories: Scrub Agents
Average

azulene

Chamomile extract used primarily as a coloring agent in cosmetics. It can have antioxidant and...

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!