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Rating Ingredient
Good

macadamia nut oil

Used in cosmetics as an emollient for dry skin.

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Best

madecassoside

One of four principal bioactive compounds in the plant extract Centella asiatica.

Good

magnesium

Earth mineral that has strong absorbent properties and some disinfecting properties…

Categories: Absorbent
Good

magnesium aluminum silicate

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

Good

magnesium ascorbyl palmitate

Fatty acid-based derivative of vitamin C that can be an effective antioxidant. There is some...

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Best

magnesium ascorbyl phosphate

Form of vitamin C that is considered stable and an effective antioxidant for skin (Sources:...

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Good

magnesium carbonate

Inorganic mineral salt used as an absorbent, opacifying agent, coloring agent, or to adjust the pH...

Categories: Absorbent
Good

magnesium hydroxide

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

Categories: Absorbent, Miscellaneous
Good

magnesium laureth sulfate

Mild detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

magnesium oleth sulfate

Mild detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

magnesium stearate

Used as a thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

magnesium sulfate

Commonly known as Epsom salt, a magnesium salt used as a texture enhancer.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

Mahonia aquifolium root extract

A plant extract known as Orgeon grape...

Best

malic acid

An AHA ingredient derived from unripe fruit that also occurs naturally in the human body…

Categories: Exfoliant
Best

mallow

Can be used as a texture enhancer in cosmetics and may have soothing...

Good

maltooligosyl glucoside

A carbohydrate polysaccharide that’s naturally-derived and then combined...

Average

malvaceae extract

Extract from plants of the Malvaceae family, which includes over 1,000 species, found in tropical...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

Malva sylvestris extract

Extract from the blue mallow flower, it may have some soothing properties for...

Poor

mandarin orange oil or extract

Primarily used as a fragrance; it can be a skin sensitizer. There is no research showing it has any...

Average

mandelic acid

Alpha hydroxy acid, also known as amygdalic acid. There is scant research showing this to be an...

Categories: Exfoliant
Average

manganese gluconate

Mineral found in trace amounts in tissues of the body. While manganese plays a vital role in the...

Categories: Antioxidants
Good

manganese violet

Coloring agent/additive permanently listed (as of 1976) by the FDA for use in cosmetic products,...

Best

Mangifera indica (mango) seed butter

More commonly known as mango butter, this ingredient is a very good plant-based...

Good

Mangifera indica root

Extract derived from the mango tree; it can have antioxidant properties (Source: Journal of...

Good

manuka oil

Extract derived from the New Zealand tea tree; the oil is similar to that of the Australian tea...

Good

marigold

Good

marionberry

Fruit that has potent antioxidant properties.

Poor

marjoram

Herb with a fragrant component used in cosmetics; can be a skin sensitizer…

Best

marshmallow

A flowering plant native to Africa that has soothing effects...

Good

Mastocarpus stellatus

Best

mate extract

Best

matricaria oil

Average

MEA

Abbreviation for monoethanolamine.

Good

meadowfoam seed oil

Non-fragrant, edible plant oil originally developed as an agricultural crop in the 1950s. It...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Best

meadowsweet extract

Extract that can have skin-soothing properties...

Best

Medicago sativa

Good

Melaleuca alternifolia

Poor

Melaleuca cajeputi oil

There is no research showing that this oil, which is derived from a plant in the same family as the...

Poor

Melia azadirachta

Categories: Sensitizing
Good

melibiose

Saccharide that can have good water-binding properties.

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Poor

Melissa officinalis

Poor

Mentha arvensis

Poor

Mentha piperita

Poor

Mentha spicata

Poor

Mentha viridis

Poor

menthol

Derived from peppermint; menthol can have the same sensitizing effect as peppermint on skin…

Poor

menthone

Major constituent of peppermint.

Poor

menthoxypropanediol

Synthetic derivative of menthol. It is known to produce effects that are twice as strong as...

Best

menthyl anthranilate

Also known as meradimate, this is a synthetic sunscreen active is a partially effective UVA...

Categories: Sunscreen Actives
Poor

menthyl lactate

Used as a cooling agent and fragrance in cosmetics. It is a derivative of menthol and is supposed...

Best

meradmiate

Categories: Sunscreen Actives
Poor

methanol

Categories: Sensitizing
Good

methicone

One of the simpler silicones due to its less complex molecular structure.

Good

methionine

Poor

methylchloroisothiazolinone

In combination with methylisothiazolinone, it goes by the trade name Kathon CG (among others)....

Categories: Preservatives, Sensitizing
Poor

methyldibromo glutaronitrile

Formaldehyde-releasing preservative...

Categories: Preservatives
Poor

methyldihydrojasmonate

Synthetic fragrant component.

Good

methyl gluceth-20

Liquid that functions as a water-binding and skin-conditioning agent.

Categories: Skin-Softening
Good

methyl gluceth-20 benzoate

A synthetic ester and emollient used to improve product spreadability. Methyl...

Good

methyl glucose sesquistearate

A mixure of the diesters of methyl glucoside and stearic acid. Functions as a skin-conditioning...

Categories: Emollients, Skin-Softening
Good

methylglucoside phosphate

A type of monosaccharide (simple sugar) derived from glucose, it serves as a skin-conditioning agent...

Categories: Skin-Softening
Poor

methylisothiazolinone

Preservative that’s generally recommended for use only in rinse-off products such as cleansers or...

Categories: Preservatives, Sensitizing
Good

methylparaben

Parabens are a group of controversial preservatives that include butylparaben...

Categories: Preservatives
Good

methylpropanediol

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

Categories: Miscellaneous, Hydration
Good

methylsilanol mannuronate

Good

methylsilanol PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate

A glyceryl ester used as an emollient and texture enhancer in cosmetics.

Good

methylsufonylsulfate

Categories: Antioxidants
Good

methyl trimethicone

Best

Mexoryl SX

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

mica

Earth mineral included in products to give them sparkle and shine.

Good

microcrystalline wax

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

Good

Microcystis aeruginosa

Latin name for spirulina.

Good

milk protein

Good

milk vetch root

Root with potential antioxidant properties, although there isn't conclusive research that it functions that way when applied topically.

Average

millet seed extract

Extract from a cereal grain that has no established benefit for skin, but is added to cosmetic...

Poor

mimosa oil or extract

Extract used as a fragrance in cosmetics.

Good

mineral oil

Clear, odorless oil derived from petroleum that is widely used in cosmetics because it rarely...

Categories: Emollients
Poor

mint

Can be a skin sensitizer…

Good

mixed fruit extracts

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

montan wax

A type of natural wax derived from lignite, which is a type of coal that’s made from wood. Most...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

montmorillonite

A type of clay that is a mix of bentonite and fuller's earth, with the latter being a white to brown substance found in sediment...

Categories: Absorbent
Good

Morinda citrifolia

Good

Morus alba root extract

Latin name for mulberry.

Good

Morus bombycis root extract

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

Morus nigra root extract

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

mucopolysaccharide

Also known as glycosaminoglycans. This is a large class of ingredients that includes hyaluronic...

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
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
Average

mugwort extract

There is no research showing this extract has any benefit for skin (Sources:...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

mulberry extract

Non-fragrant plant extract (Latin name is Morus alba) whose various parts such as the leaf and root, have shown potential to brighten and improve the look...

Good

murumuru seed butter

Categories: Emollients, Plant Extracts
Good

myristic acid

Cleansing agent that also creates foam and can be drying.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

myristyl myristate

Used in cosmetics as a texture enhancer and emollient.

Best

myristyl nicotinate

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

Categories: Miscellaneous
Poor

myrrh

Fragrant gum resin that can be a skin sensitizer. There is little research showing it has any benefit...

Poor

myrtle extract

Contains volatile oil and tannins...

Poor

Myrtus communis extract

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!