Friends & Family Event: $15 off $75 | Free Shipping on All Orders Details

Rating Ingredient
Good

P. elisabethae

The “P.” is short for the genus Pseudopterogorgia.

Poor

PABA

Categories: Sunscreen Actives
Average

padimate O

Sunscreen agent that protects skin primarily from the sun’s UVB rays (Source: Skin Therapy Letter,...

Categories: Sunscreen Actives
Good

Padina pavonica extract

Average

Paeonia albiflora extract

Categories: Plant Extracts
Average

Paeonia suffruticosa extract

Good

Palmaria palmata extract

Extract from a type of algae whose common name is dulse.

Poor

palmarosa oil

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

palmitic acid

Blend of the fatty acid palmitic acid with several amino acids…

Best

palmitoyl hexapeptide-12

Blend of the fatty acid palmitic acid with several amino acids…

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Best

palmitoyl oligopeptide

A blend of palmitic acid (a fatty acid) with several amino acids, including alanine, arginine,...

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Best

palmitoyl pentapeptide-4

Trade name Matrixyl, a fatty acid mixed with amino acids. The only research showing this has any...

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Best

palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7

A synthetic peptide whose trade name is Matrixyl 3000…

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Best

palmitoyl tripeptide-1

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Best

Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38

An ingredient manufactured by the brand Sederma under the trade name MATRIXYL synthe’6...

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Best

palmitoyl tripeptide-5

A synthetic peptide that is believed to play a role in the appearance of skin firmness...

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Good

palmitoyl tripeptide-8

A plant-derived or synthetic peptide made from combining the fatty acid palmitic acid with...

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Good

palm kernel acid

A mixture of fatty acids derived from palm oil. Used as a cleansing agent, emulsifier, or to add...

Best

palm oil

Has emollient and antioxidant properties for skin.

Average

Panicum miliaceum

Categories: Plant Extracts
Average

pansy extract

Extract for which there is a small amount of research showing it has skin soothing and...

Good

pantethine

Also known as pantothenic acid.

Categories: Vitamins
Best

panthenol

Alcohol form of the B vitamin pantothenic acid.

Categories: Vitamins
Best

pantothenic acid

Also called vitamin B5, and often touted for a variety of benefits to skin. However, there is only one...

Categories: Vitamins
Poor

papain

Enzyme extracted from papaya. Applied topically, papain can aggravate skin...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Average

papaya extract

Extract that is the source of papain, which theoretically can have exfoliating properties on skin,...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Poor

para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)

Sunscreen ingredient rarely used since the 1990s because of strong potential for sensitizing reactions.

Categories: Sunscreen Actives
Good

parabens

Group of preservatives, including butylparaben, propylparaben, methylparaben, and ethylparaben,...

Categories: Preservatives
Good

paraffin

Waxy, petroleum-based substance used as a thickener in cosmetics.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

Paraffinum liquidum

The Latin name for emollient ingredient mineral oil, also known as liquid paraffin.

Categories: Emollients
Best

Parsol 1789

Categories: Sunscreen Actives
Good

Passiflora edulis extract

The layperson term for this Brazilian-based plant oil is passion fruit…

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

Passiflora edulis seed oil

Non-fragrant plant oil from the passion fruit plant, and a rich source of fatty acids and antioxidants...

Good

passion fruit extract

There is no research showing this has any benefit for skin.

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

patchouli

Fragrant oil derived from mint. It contains eugenol and can aggravate skin.

Average

pawpaw extract

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Good

peanut oil

Emollient plant oil similar to all nonfragrant plant oils.

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

pecan oil

Emollient plant oil similar to all nonfragrant plant oils.

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

pectin

Natural substance found in plants, especially apples, and used in cosmetics as an emulsifier and...

Good

PEG/PPG-17/6 copolymer

PEG stands for polyethylene glycol; PPG stands for polypropylene glycol.

Good

PEG/PPG-18/18 dimethicone

PEG stands for polyethylene glycol; PPG stands for polypropylene glycol.

Good

PEG/PPG-18/4 copolymer

A synthetic polymer compound that functions as a solvent.

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

PEG/PPG-20/15 dimethicone

PEG stands for polyethylene glycol; PPG stands for polypropylene glycol.

Good

PEG-100 stearate

Good

PEG-10 dimethicone

Good

PEG-10 dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer

A synthetic, silicone-enhanced polymer that helps products adhere…

Good

PEG-10 phytosterol

A synthetic or soy-derived (Paula’s Choice Skincare uses the latter) ingredient used in cosmetics as a cleansing agent and emulsifier.

Good

PEG-10 rapeseed sterol

A blend of polyethylene glycol (PEG) and the fatty acid component of the rapeseed plant. Used as a...

Good

PEG-120 methyl glucose dioleate

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

PEG-12 dimethicone

Good

PEG-14

A synthetic ingredient that functions as a humectant and solvent. With any PEG...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

PEG-150 distearate

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

PEG-20 methyl glucose sesquistearate

A complex mixture of a glycol with a fatty acid and glucose that funtions multiple ways: emollient,...

Good

PEG-32

Peg-32 also functions as an emulsifier, which is a type of ingredient that keeps unlike substances...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

PEG-33

The synthetic polymer of ethylene oxide used as a binding agent and humectant. With any PEG...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil

Emollient ingredient that is a mixture of polyethylene glycol (PEG) with castor oil.

Good

PEG-40 stearate

PEG-40 stearate typically functions as a cleansing agent, but also helps keep ingredients...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

PEG-60 almond glycerides

The polyethylene glycol derivative of fatty acids from almond oil...

Categories: Emollients
Good

PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil

The chief function of this ingredient is cleansing agent.

Good

PEG-75 shea butter glycerides

An emulsifying and skin replenishing agent derived from glycerides (fatty acids)...

Categories: Skin-Replenishing
Good

PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate

Good

PEG-8

Good

PEG-80 sorbitan laurate

Mild surfactant.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

PEG-8 dimethicone

A synthetic skin and hair replenishing agent...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

PEG 90M

Good

PEG compound

PEG is the acronym for polyethylene glycol. Various forms of PEG compounds are mixed with fatty...

Poor

Pelargonium graveolens oil

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

pellitory

Plant whose root extract can cause skin sensitivity.

Categories: Plant Extracts
Poor

pentadecalactone

Synthetic fragrance used in cosmetics.

Good

pentaerythrityl tetraisostearate

A non-aqueous ester that functions as a thickener and binding agent...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

pentaerythrityl tetraoctanoate

Synthetic compound as an emollient and thickening agent.

Best

pentapeptides

Pentapeptides are a type of peptide where the peptide has five ("penta") amino acids. There are dozens of pentapeptides used in cosmetic products.

Categories: Skin-Restoring
Good

pentasodium pentetate

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

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

pentylene glycol

A synthetic skin-replenishing agent and solvent.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Poor

peppermint

Both the oil and the extract can have disinfectant properties...

Best

peptides

Peptides are portions of short or long-chain amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Skin...

Average

Perilla ocymoides

Also known as beefsteak plant. Like many plants, the leaves contain flavones which help the plant...

Best

Persea gratissima oil

Categories: Antioxidants, Emollients
Best

Persicaria hydropiper

Also known as water pepper. All parts of this plant extract have been shown in vitro to be not only...

Poor

petitgrain mandarin

Good

petrolatum

Vaseline is pure petrolatum, and petrolatum is a rich emollient and FDA-approved skin protectant.

Categories: Skin-Soothing, Emollients
Best

PHA

Categories: Exfoliant
Good

phenoxyethanol

Common cosmetic preservative that is considered one of the less sensitizing ones to use in...

Categories: Preservatives
Good

phenoxyisopropanol

Alcohol used as a solvent and preservative. 

Categories: Preservatives
Good

phenylalanine

Average

phenylethyl resorcinol

Synthetic antioxidant often seen in skin-brightening products.

Categories: Antioxidants
Good

phenyl trimethicone

Silicone with a drier finish than dimethicone.

Categories: Silicones, Emollients
Best

phloretin

A flavonoid substance derived from apples and the bark of apple trees. As for topical application...

Best

phosphatidylcholine

Active ingredient in lecithin…

Best

phosphatidylethanolamine

Best

phospholipid

Type of lipid (fat) composed of glycerol, fatty acids, and phosphate. Phospholipids are essential...

Good

phosphoric acid

Used as a pH adjuster in cosmetics and skincare products.

Categories: Uncategorized
Poor

photosensitizer

Ingredient that can cause the skin to have a sensitizing reaction when exposed to...

Categories: Uncategorized
Average

phthalates

Phthalates refers to a wide range of substances that are very different from one another...

Categories: Uncategorized
Best

Phyllanthus emblica fruit extract

Extract that has antioxidant and soothing properties…

Best

physalis angulata extract

This plant extract has a potent calming effect on skin.

Good

phytantriol

Hair- and skin-conditioning agent that also has water-binding properties.

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

phytic acid

Component of plants that has antioxidant properties.

Good

phytonadione

One form of vitamin K.

Categories: Vitamins
Best

phytosphingosine

Long-chain, complex fatty alcohol that functions as a water-binding agent and also has preservative...

Best

phytosterol

Cholesterol-like molecules found in all plant foods; the highest concentrations are found in...

Best

Picea abies extract

Latin name for Norway spruce. Research has shown its bark...

Good

pineapple extract

Contains the enzyme bromelain, which can break down the connecting layers between dead skin to...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Good

pinecone extract

Components of this extract, specifically linolenic and linoleic acids, can have antioxidant...

Categories: Antioxidants
Poor

pine oil

It can aggravate skin and should never be used on abraded or chafed skin…

Poor

Pinus lambertiana wood extract

Pine extract that may aggravate skin...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

Pinus sylvestris extract

Categories: Antioxidants
Poor

Piper nigrum

Categories: Plant Extracts
Good

pistachio seed oil

Emollient plant oil with uses similar to peanut oil in cosmetics.

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

Pistacia vera seed oil

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

Pisum sativum

Latin name for the garden pea. It does have antioxidant activity, but there is no research showing...

Good

plankton extract

A marine species known as Thalasso plankton and derived from various algae, seaweed, or marine skeletons...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Average

plasticizing agents

Ingredients that place a thin layer of plastic over the skin. Typically these are used in facial...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

plum extract

Extract of Prunus americana that may have antioxidant activity when applied topically (Source:...

Best

plum seed oil

Plum (Prunus domestica) seed oil, also known as plum kernel oil, is non-fragrant oil…

Poor

Pogostemon cablin

Good

poloxamer 184

A synthetic polymer that functions as a cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

Poloxamer 407

Liquid polymer that functions as a surfactant. This ingredient can also keep unlike ingredients...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

poloxamers

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

polyacrylamide

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

polyacrylate-17

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

polyacrylate crosspolymer

A synthetic polymer that functions to protect skin's surface, thicken products, and help keep cosmetic...

Good

polyaminopropyl biguanide

Synthetic polymer that functions as a preservative.

Categories: Preservatives
Good

polybutene

Polymer derived from mineral oil and used as a thickener and lubricant.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

polyethylene

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

Good

polyethylene glycol

Also listed as PEG on ingredient labels, polyethylene glycol is an ingredient that self-proclaimed...

Good

polyglucuronic acid

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

polyglycerol monostearate

Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics.

Good

polyglyceryl-10 laurate

A plant-derived or synthetic ester of lauric acid and the synthetic polymer polyglycerin-10.

Good

polyglyceryl 2 triisostearate

A mixture of the fatty acid Isostearic acid and a form of glycerin that functions as a...

Good

polyglyceryl-3 beeswax

The ester of fatty acids from beeswax and polyglycerin-3 that functions as a surfactant and...

Good

polyglyceryl-3 methylglucose distearate

Good

polyglyceryl-4 isostearate

The ester of isostearic acid and polyglycerin-4 that functions as an emollient and can also be a...

Good

polyglyceryl-6 isostearate

The ester of isostearic acid and a form of glycerin. Functions as an emollient and an emulsifier in...

Categories: Emollients
Good

polyglyceryl methacrylate

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Best

polyhydroxy acid

Ingredients such as gluconolactone and lactobionic acid are types of polyhydroxy acid (PHA). They...

Categories: Exfoliant
Good

polyhydroxystearic acid

Synthetic polymer related to stearic acid. It functions as a suspending agent.

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

polyisobutene

A polymer of the hydrocarbon isobutylene obtained from petroleum oil. It functions as a thickening...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

polymer

A word that literally means “many parts.” Any of numerous compounds having a high molecular weight...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

polymethylsilsesquioxane

A polymer formed from the condensation and hydrolysis of the silicone methyltrimethoxysilane.

Good

polypropylene glycol

Also known by the acronym PPG, polypropylene glycol is...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

polyquaternium-10

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

polyquaterniums

Group of ingredients used primarily in hair-care products for their antistatic and film-forming...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Best

polysaccharide

Natural component of skin that can be a good water-binding agent and potentially have antioxidant...

Good

polysilicone-11

Specialized, synthetic crosslinked siloxane that functions as a film-forming agent and polymer.

Good

polysorbate 20

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

polysorbate 60

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

polysorbate 80

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

polysorbates

Large group of ingredients most often derived from lauric acid, which is derived from coconuts....

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Average

polyvinyl alcohol

A synthetic polymer of vinyl alcohol that functions in cosmetics as a gel-based thickener, film-forming, and binding agent.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

polyvinylpyrrolidone

Usually listed on ingredient labels as PVP or PVP copolymer, it is one of the primary ingredients...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Best

pomegranate extract

Pomegranate and its extracts have antioxidant properties that, while not conclusively demonstrated on human skin

Best

Poria cocos extract

Also known as Hoelen and Fu ling. Extract derived from a mushroom, which has antioxidant and...

Average

Porphyridium cruentum extract

Extract derived from a type of red algae. There is research showing components of red algae contain...

Categories: Plant Extracts
Best

Portulaca oleracea extract

Extract that may have soothing properties...

Good

potassium

Important element in diet that is present in such fruits as bananas and citrus. It is also an earth...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Absorbent
Best

potassium ascorbyl tocopheryl phosphate

Blend of vitamins C and E with phosphorus that functions as an antioxidant.

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Good

potassium cetyl phosphate

Used as a detergent cleansing agent.

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Average

potassium hydroxide

Also known as lye, a highly alkaline ingredient used in small amounts in cosmetics to modulate the...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Average

potassium myristate

Detergent cleansing agent that is a constituent of soap; it can be drying and aggravate skin for some...

Categories: Cleansing Agents
Good

potassium phosphate

An inorganic (not composed of plant or animal matter) salt used as a buffering agent and pH...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

potassium sorbate

Used as a preservative, almost always used in conjunction with other preservatives.

Categories: Preservatives
Good

PPG-12/SMDI copolymer

A copolymer that serves as a film-forming agent...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

PPG-12 buteth-16

Versatile ingredient composed of several non-volatile alcohols. Functions as a skin-conditioning...

Good

PPG-14 butyl ether

Used as a hair- and skin-conditioning agent.

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

PPG-20 methyl glucose ether

A synthetic ingredient that funtions as hair- and skin-replenishing agent. The "PPG" designation...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

PPG-26-Buteth-26

PPG stands for polypropylene glycol, and this ingredient combines PPG with a fatty alcohol....

Good

PPG-2-deceth-30

An emulsifying agent partially derived from a fatty alcohol.

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

PPG-2 myristyl ether propionate

Mixture of glycols and fatty alcohols used as a skin-conditioning agent and, in some cases, as a...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

PPG-3 benzyl ether myristate

An emollient that has a silicone-like feel and multiple functions in cosmetic products...

Categories: Emollients
Good

preservatives

Substances used in cosmetics to help defend against contamination of products...

Categories: Preservatives
Good

proline

Good

propanediol

A glycol that can enhance the absorption of ingredients…

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

propolis

Brownish, resinous material that is collected by bees and used to construct the hive. It has...

Good

propylene carbonate

Liquid used as a solvent and film-forming agent.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

propylene glycol

Along with other glycols and glycerol, propylene glycol is a humectant (hydrating) and delivery ingredient...

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

propylene glycol dicaprylate/dicaprate

A gel-textured ingredient used in many lightweight moisturizers. It is a mix of propylene glycol...

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

propylene glycol isostearate

A mixture of propylene glycol and isostearic acid. See both. This ingredient is used as an...

Good

propylene glycol laurate

The ester of propylene glycol and lauric acid, which is a constituent of many vegetable fats.

Categories: Emollients
Good

propylene glycol stearate

Mixture of propylene glycol and stearic acid used as a skin-conditioning agent and emulsifier.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

propylparaben

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

Categories: Preservatives
Average

Prunella vulgaris

Good

Prunus americana

Good

Prunus amygdalus dulcis

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

Prunus armeniaca

Categories: Plant Extracts, Emollients
Good

Prunus domestica seed extract

Best

Prunus domestica seed oil

Non-fragrant plant oil, more commonly known as plum (and, when dried, prune) that is a rich source of several potent antioxidants.

Good

Prunus dulcis

Categories: Emollients
Best

Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae

Best

Pueraria lobata

Good

pullulan

Glucan gum produced by black yeast that contains polysaccharides, which makes it a good...

Best

pumpkin

Plant whose seeds are a rich source of fatty acids and several antioxidant components, including...

Best

pumpkin seed extract

Type of squash that is a very good source of antioxidant cartenoids. Pumpkin seed oil and extract...

Best

Punica granatum extract

Good

purified water

Categories: Uncategorized
Good

PVM/MA decadiene crosspolymer

Synthetic polymer used as a film-forming and thickening agent.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

PVP

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

PVP/dimethylaminoethylmethacrylate

Polymer formed from PVP (polyvinylpyrrolidone) and the film-forming agent dimethylaminomethacrylate.

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

PVP copolymer

Categories: Texture Enhancer
Good

pycnogenol

Antioxidant derived from the bark of the French Maritime pine tree. The term pycnogenol was...

Good

pyridoxine hydrochloride (HCL)

Scientific name for vitamin B6; may have antioxidant benefits for skin when...

Categories: Antioxidants, Vitamins
Poor

Pyrus cydonia

Good

Pyrus malus (apple) fruit extract

Species of apple; the pectin derived from it is used as a thickener in cosmetics.

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:

View Media Highlights

 

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!