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Rating Ingredient
Best

C10-30 cholesterol/lanosterol esters

Blend of cholesterol and fatty acid ester from lanolin. Functions as a skin conditioning agent.

Categories: Emollients
Good

C12-15 alkyl benzoate

Synthetic ingredient used as an emollient and texture enhancing agent in cosmetics.

Good

C12-18 acid triglyceride

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

C13-14 isoparaffin

A petroleum-derived ingredient whose wax-like texture functions as a thickening or gelling agent.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

C18-36 acid triglyceride

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

C20-40 pareth-40

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

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Best

caffeic acid

Antioxidant that has multiple benefits for skin…

Categories: Antioxidants
Average

caffeine

Caffeine is the chief stimulant in beverages such as coffee and tea. It’s often included in skincare products with claims...

Poor

cajeputi oil

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

calamine

Preparation of zinc carbonate, colored with ferric oxide (a form of rust). Zinc carbonate is a...

Categories: Sensitizing
Best

calcium ascorbate

Form of vitamin C; other forms include ascorbic acid, L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, and...

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Good

calcium carbonate

Chalk; used as an absorbent in cosmetics.

Categories: Absorbent
Good

calcium d-pantetheine-s-sulfonate

Categories: Vitamins
Good

calcium gluconate

Calcium is an essential mineral for the body. A small amount of research shows calcium gluconate...

Categories: Skin-Soothing
Good

calcium pantothenate

Also known as pantothenic acid.

Categories: Vitamins
Good

calendula extract

Extract derived from the plant commonly known as pot marigold, there is little research showing...

Good

Calendula officinalis flower extract

Best

Calluna vulgaris flower extract

Also known as heather extract, this plant has skin-soothing properties...

Good

Calophyllum inophyllum seed oil

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

Camellia japonica

The leaf has been shown to be an antioxidant...

Best

Camellia oleifera

Best

Camellia sinensis

Poor

camphor

Aromatic substance obtained from the wood of a tree common to Southeast Asia, Cinnamomum camphora,...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

cananga extract

Fragrance used in cosmetics; it can be sensitizing to skin, much like ylang ylang.

Poor

Cananga odorata

Best

candelilla/jojoba/rice bran polyglyceryl-3 esters

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

Good

candelilla wax

Extract derived from candelilla plants; used as a thickening agent and emollient to give products...

Good

Cannabis sativa L. oil

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Best

canola oil

Plant lipid that has skin restoring and soothing properties…

Best

caprooyl phytosphingosine

A mixture of fatty acids caproic acid and phytosphingosine.

Best

caprooyl sphingosine

A mixture of fatty acids caproic acid and sphingosine.

Best

caprooyl tetrapeptide-3

A synthetic or plant-derived signal peptide that’s said to help to boost the...

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Best

caprylic/capric triglyceride

Derived from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s considered an excellent emollient and skin-replenishing ingredient.

Good

capryloyl glycerin/sebacic acid copolymer

A naturally-derived (coconut and castor oil) or synthetic ingredient...

Good

capryloyl glycine

A synthetic amino acid derivative that function as a conditioning agent or...

Categories: Hydration
Good

caprylyl glycol

Skin and hair conditioning agent that may be plant-derived or synthetic. Often used as part of a...

Good

caprylyl methicone

Categories: Silicones, Emollients
Poor

capsaicin

Component of capsicum. When used topically, capsaicin can prevent the transmission of pain. It is...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

capsicum

Large group of plants consisting primarily of the pepper family, including chili peppers and...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

capsicum oleoresin

Fatty resin derived from capsicum plants. It can be sensitizing to skin...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

caramel

Natural coloring agent.

Good

carbomer

Group of thickening agents used primarily to create gel-like formulations.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

carbopol

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Best

carboxylic acid

Categories: Antioxidants
Poor

cardamom

Plant of the ginger family, used as fragrance in cosmetics. Terpene, one of its major constituents,...

Good

carmine

Natural red color that comes from the dried female cochineal beetle. It is sometimes used to color...

Good

carnauba wax

Natural, hard wax obtained from the leaves of palm trees. Used primarily as a thickening agent, but...

Best

carnitine

Naturally occurring amino acid. Deficiencies of this small but essential component can result in...

Categories: Antioxidants
Best

carnosic acid

Component of rosemary that is an antioxidant...

Best

carnosine

Composed of amino acids, it has soothing and antioxidant properties...

Best

carnosol acid

Good

carrageenan

Seaweed gum used in cosmetics as a thickening agent with water-binding properties.

Best

carrot oil

Emollient plant oil similar to other nonfragrant plant oils.

Best

Carthamus tinctorius oil

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Poor

carvone

Essential oil used as a flavoring agent and fragrance component in cosmetics. It can be a...

Good

Carya illinoensis oil

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

casein

Substance derived from milk protein that may have some antioxidant properties when applied...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

Castanea sativa seed extract

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

castor isostearate succinate

A mix of esters formed by the reaction of castor seed oil, isostearic acid, and succinic acid. This ingredient functions...

Categories: Emollients
Good

castor oil

Vegetable oil derived from the castor bean. It is used in cosmetics as an emollient, though its...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Best

catalase

Enzyme that decomposes hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen and that has significant antioxidant...

Categories: Antioxidants
Good

Caulerpa taxifolia extract

Poor

cedarwood

Fragrant plant extract. There is evidence that cedarwood oil is sensitizing...

Poor

Cedrus atlantica bark extract

Fragrant oil that can aggravate skin...

Good

cellulose

Primary fiber component of plants. Used in cosmetics as a thickening agent and to bind other...

Good

Cellulose gum

Any of various fibrous substances derived from plants. Cellulose gum is a natural ingredient..

Best

Centaurea cyanus

Best

Centella asiatica

Extract of herb that may be listed on labels as asiatic acid, hydrocotyl, or gotu kola. It has...

Best

cephalin

Phospholipid.

Good

Cera alba

See beeswax...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

cera microcristallina

Categories: Emollients
Best

ceramide AP

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Best

ceramide EOP

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Best

ceramide EOS

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Best

ceramide NG

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Best

ceramide NP

One of several types of ceramides.

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Best

ceramide NS

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Best

ceramides

Naturally occurring, long chains of lipids (fats) that are major components of skin’s outer...

Good

ceresin

Derived from clay, ceresin is a waxy ingredient used as a thickening agent in cosmetics. It can be...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

ceteareth-20

Fatty alcohol that is used to thicken cosmetics and keep ingredients mixed together and stable.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

ceteareth-25

A fatty alcohol that functions as an emulsifier and surfactant in cosmetics.

Good

cetearyl alcohol

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

Good

cetearyl ethylhexanoate

Oil-like liquid that functions as an emollient to prevent skin from losing moisture. Also...

Good

cetearyl glucoside

A blend of cetearyl alcohol and glucose that functions as an emulsifier.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

cetearyl octanoate

Good

cetyl acetate

A mixture of cetyl alcohol and acetic acid used as a skin-replenishing agent and emollient.

Categories: Emollients
Good

cetyl alcohol

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

Good

cetyl dimethicone

Silicone polymer that functions as skin-conditioning agent.

Categories: Silicones
Good

cetyl dimethicone copolyol

Categories: Silicones, Emollients
Good

cetyl esters

Synthetic wax used in cosmetics as a thickening agent and emollient.

Good

cetyl hydroxyethylcellulose

A mixture of cetyl alcohol and Hydroxyethylcellulose. It functions as thickener and stabilizing...

Good

cetyl palmitate

The ester of cetyl palmitate and palmitic acid, this thickener and emollient helps smooth and condition dry skin while preventing moisture loss.

Categories: Emollients
Good

cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1-dimethicone

Silicone that functions as a skin-conditioning agent and emulsifier.

Best

chamomile

Ingredient derived from plant species Chamomilla recutita, Matricaria recutita, and Matricaria chamomilla...

Best

Chamomilla recutita flower extract

Good

charcoal

Primarily carbon substance formed by charring organic material in absence of oxygen. One...

Categories: Absorbent
Good

chelating agent

Any of numerous ingredients that bind with metal ions or metallic compounds, preventing them from...

Categories: Uncategorized
Average

cherry extract

Also known as wild cherry and sweet cherry, this fruit is a natural source of vitamin C and...

Good

China clay

Categories: Absorbent
Best

chitosan

Derived from chitin, a polysaccharide found in the exoskeletons of shrimp, lobster, and crabs. It...

Good

chlorella

Good

chlorophene

Used as a preservative in cosmetics.

Categories: Preservatives
Good

chloroxylenol

Chemical compound used as a preservative and cleansing agent due to its action...

Categories: Preservatives
Good

chlorphenesin

Type of alcohol used as a preservative in cosmetics...

Categories: Preservatives
Good

cholecalciferol

Technical name for vitamin D.

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Best

cholesterol

The surface of skin depends on the stratum corneum lipid matrix, which...

Best

choline

Part of the vitamin B complex and a constituent of many other biologically important molecules,...

Categories: Vitamins
Best

chondroitin sulfate

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Good

Chondrus crispus

Form of red seaweed.

Good

chromium hydroxide green

Earth mineral used as a coloring agent/additive and permanently listed (as of 1977) by the FDA for...

Good

chromium oxide green

Average

chrysanthemum extract

Can have soothing benefit for skin.

Average

Chrysanthemum parthenium extract

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

Cichorium intybus

Source of a plant extract with antioxidant properties (Source: Archives of Pharmaceutical Research,...

Average

Cimicifuga racemosa root extract

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

Cinnamomum

Poor

Cinnamomum camphora

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

cinnamon

Can have antioxidant properties when applied to skin...

Poor

cinnamyl alcohol

A volatile fragrance ingredient that contains extracts from cinnamon and balsam of Peru...

Good

citric acid

Extract derived from citrus and used primarily to adjust the pH of products to prevent them from...

Categories: Uncategorized
Poor

citronellol

A volatile fragrance chemical extracted from geranium, rose, and other plants, citronellol has a characteristic grassy, citrus-like scent.

Poor

Citrullus colocynthis

Bitter apple; considered sensitizing to skin.

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

Citrus amara

Poor

Citrus aurantifolia

Poor

Citrus aurantium

Poor

Citrus aurantium extract

Bitter orange extract. It can have antioxidant properties when eaten (Source: Journal of...

Poor

Citrus medica limonium

Average

Citrus unshiu

Plant extract more commonly known as the satsuma. This medium-sized citrus fruit is native to...

Average

Citrus unshiu peel extract

Poor

clary oil

Used as fragrance; can be a skin sensitizer.

Good

clay

Categories: Absorbent
Poor

clove leaf

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

clove oil

Potent skin sensitizer when applied repeatedly...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

clover blossom

Contains eugenol, which can be a skin sensitizer and cause photosensitivity.

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

clover leaf oil

Categories: Plant Extracts
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
Best

cocoa butter

Oil extracted from cocoa beans, used as an emollient and with properties similar to those of other...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Best

cocoa extract

Can have antioxidant properties...

Good

coco-glucoside

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

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

cocoglycerides

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

coconut

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

Best

coconut oil

Non-volatile plant kernel oil that has emollient properties for skin.

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Best

Cocus nucifera

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

Codium tomentosum extract

Best

coenzyme Q10

Also known as ubiquinone, it is a vitamin-like, fat-soluble substance present in skin....

Best

Coffea arabica (coffee) seed oil

The concentrated oil from the coffee bean plant, whichis green, not dark brown as this color doesn't occur until coffee beans are roasted. Research on this oil's effect on skin...

Best

Coffea arabica seed extract

Coffea arabica is the coffee plant, and there is research showing that coffee extract has...

Average

Cola acuminata seed extract

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

Coleus barbatus

Member of the mint family and also known as forskolin; can be a skin sensitizer...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

collagen amino acids

Collagen amino acids are made from the hydrolylsis (breaking down with water) of protein...

Best

colloidal oatmeal

Categories: Skin-Soothing
Poor

colloidal silver

Refers to ground-up silver suspended in solution.

Categories: Uncategorized
Poor

comfrey extract

Several studies have shown that comfrey extract can have harmful properties when...

Poor

Commiphora myrrha extract

Good

coneflower

Another name for echinacea; has soothing properties.

Poor

Copaifera officinalis

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

Copernicia cerifera wax

Good

copper gluconate

Also known simply as copper, this mineral is an important trace element for human nutrition. The...

Categories: Antioxidants
Good

copper lysinate/prolinate

An amino acid/mineral complex that limited yet potentially exciting research has shown...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

copper PCA

A synthetic skin-conditioning agent composed of the copper salt of PCA (Pyrrolidone Carboxylic...

Categories: Uncategorized
Average

copper peptides

Copper peptides combine the element copper with three amino acids. Copper peptides occur naturally in the body, and are used in trace amounts to...

Categories: Antioxidants
Average

copper sulfate

Effective for soothing skin, but there is no research showing it has any impact when used...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

Corallina officinalis extract

Good

coriander

Herb and spice plant, the source of a fragrant component; it can be a potential skin sensitizer…

Best

cornflower

Can have soothing properties for skin…

Poor

cornmint

Also known as wild mint; it can be sensitizing to skin…

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

corn oil

Emollient oil with properties similar to those of other nonfragrant plant oils (Source: British...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

cornstarch

Starch obtained from corn and sometimes used as an absorbent in cosmetics instead of talc.

Categories: Plant Extracts, Absorbent
Good

Cornus extract

Good

Corylus americana

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

Corylus avellana

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

coumarin

Organic compound found in plants and derived from the amino acid phenylalanine. It creates the...

Best

cranberry seed extract

Extract of the cranberry fruit. Natural components known as proanthocyanidins are responsible for...

Best

cranberry seed oil

Extract derived from the seed of this red berry; the oil (which is not red) has antioxidant...

Average

Crataegus monogina extract

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

creatine

An amino acid found in the human body and most type of meat and fish. This ingredient serves as the...

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Good

cucumber extract

Non-irritating plant extract from the gourd family (think pumpkin) that’s often reputed to be...

Best

Cucumis melo (melon) fruit extract

More commonly known as cantaloupe or honeydew melon, Cucumis melo is a fruit that is a rich source...

Good

Cucumis sativus extract

Best

Cucurbita pepo seed extract

Best

Cucurbitea peponis

Best

Curcuma longa root

Best

curcumin

Antioxidant spice that can be effective in soothing skin…

Good

Cyamopsis tetragonoloba

Good

cyanocobalamin

Categories: Vitamins
Poor

cyclamen aldehyde

Synthetic fragrant component in products; it can aggravate skin.

Good

cyclohexasiloxane

One of the numerous forms of synthetic silicone

Categories: Emollients
Good

cyclomethicone

Silicone with a drier finish than dimethicone.

Categories: Emollients
Good

cyclopentasiloxane

Categories: Emollients
Good

cyclotetrasiloxane

Categories: Emollients
Poor

Cymbopogon citrates

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

Cymbopogon martini

Good

cysteine

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Good

cystine

Categories: Skin-Replenishing

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!