Lyrics and Poetry

Health: Ingredient Jargons

I have been asked by my boss to research something about products that have Resveratrol. And since there are lots of products that go under the Resveratrol category, I prepared my mind to blow on doing several things like composing research drafts and e-mails, calling different companies, reading nutrient facts and, of course, interpreting lots of scientific jargons about an ingredient.

Well, I’m not complaining. I’m always prepared for this kind of report. Besides, I love projects and researches – that’s where I got my money from.  Add to that the knowledge and idea I’m getting from these researches; it doesn’t just make our company grow, it nourished my brain too. It just so happened that there are things lingering in my thoughts about ingredient jargons, particularly in skin products.

You know, a commercial said “It pays to check the label.” But recently, these ingredients have been playing poker face with me. And it gets me go gaga on researching the meaning of each and every word I found at the back label of all kinds of products.

It’s common to see Ascorbic Acid (which means Vitamin C) or Tocopherol (Vitamin E), but how about the more complicated ones?  Like for example, in a face cream and lotion products, you’ll see hyaluronic acid, tetrapeptide, polygonum cospidatum and cetearyl alcohol – what are these things?

Click Click Click!

Well, if you don’t have internet at home, you will have to visit a scientific government agency or at least the FDA just to find out what are these things. Even myself is curious what can these chemical (or organics) do to my skin.

To help you out, I looked for the common ingredients that can be found in lotions, both chemical and organic-based.

Terms that Describe Activity of the Ingredient:

  • Antioxidants: We are finding more and more present in our skin care these days, and for good reason. Our environment can severely damage our skin by oxidizing and deteriorating our cells, like rust on a car, in the form of free radicals. Antioxidants fight free radicals, and prevent much of this damage.
  • Binding Agent: Substances that hold products together and prevent separation of the water and lipid components.

  • Emollients: Substances that smooth and soften the skin. There are literally several hundred emollients, each providing its own individual texture to the skin.

  • Emulsion: A blend of oil and water into a single smooth product.

  • Humectants: Substances that can attract water, usually out of the air. By definition, all humectants are also moisturizers.

  • Lubricants: Substances that make skin feel smoother to the touch and reduce friction.

  • Preservatives: Substances that kill detrimental bacteria, yeast and/or molds, thus prevent spoilage. Preservatives are not a bad thing at all.

  • Solvents: Substances, such as alcohol or water, which dissolve other ingredients.

  • Surfactants: Substances that enable a topical product to easily spread and glide across the skin.
  • Vehicle: The base that carries the active ingredients.

COMMON INGREDIENTS (All highlighted are organic/can be organic)

  • Acetate: an acetic acid salt; the word that follows or precedes acetate on an ingredient list determines the function.
  • Acetone: solvent commonly used in fingernail polish removers and toners; can be drying and irritating depending on concentration. Non-acne forming.
  • Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol: helps soften skin and has anti-allergenic tendencies; is highly prone to comedogenicity (causes blackheads and/or whiteheads)-this is an example of an alcohol that is not drying.
  • Acrylates Copolymer: active ingredient in an oil-absorbing gel, like Clinac O.C.
  • Acrylates/Octylpropenamide Copolymer: creates a water-repelling basis for cosmetics claiming water-proof properties.
  • Alcohol SD-40: sometimes listed as SD Alcohol 40 and synonymous with alcohol SDA-40, it is a high grade purified cosmetic alcohol. Evaporates instantly, so it is used as a vehicle to transport important ingredients to the skin’s surface and then leave them there; gentler to the skin than ethyl (rubbing) alcohol. It may help kill bacteria.
  • Algae/Seaweed Extract: an emollient, restoring moisture content to skin; claims to have antioxidant properties.
  • Allantoin: a botanical thought to have calming properties to the skin that help resolve irritation.
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acid: an active ingredient derived from fruit acids. Helps exfoliate the top layers of the epidermis: promotes moisture restoration and helps penetration of other ingredients; highly sought after for use in anti-aging and bleaching skin care products. May irritate the skin but do not advance skin aging. Buffering the pH helps make them less irritating to the skin. AHA’s includes: citric acid (citrus fruits), glycolic acid (sugar cane), lactic acid (milk), and the less common AHAs used in cosmetics malic acid (apples) and tartaric acid (wine). AHAs increase sun sensitivity due to their exfoliant behavior.
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid: an antioxidant; is both water and fat soluble so it can go to many areas of a cell.
  • Alum: usually in crystal or powder form; has strong astringent properties; used in styptic sticks, popular with men who often nick themselves shaving.
  • Ascorbic Acid: vitamin C; used as an antioxidant in its L-ascorbic acid form, can have skin lightening effect in certain preparations, is important to keeping as well as rebuilding healthy collagen fibers.
  • Ascorbyl Palmitate: preservative with antioxidant properties: its presence helps make possible the blending of vitamins A, C, and D into a suspension.
  • Beeswax: waxy component in many skin care products; provides moisture as well as a barrier mechanism. It allows for oil and water blending (emulsion).
  • Benzoyl Peroxide: antibacterial agent kills p. acnes, the germ responsible for acne flares. It can be drying and/or irritating. Some reports of benzoyl peroxide skin allergies. Available in both prescription and OTC forms ranging from 2 ½ -10%.
  • Beta Hydroxy Acid: new term for salicylic acid, a long term ingredient used for exfoliation of dry skin as well as for acne therapy.
  • Boric Acid: used as a preservative to prevent yeast overgrowth. While an antiseptic agent, it is out of favor for use in skin care products due to its irritancy potential.
  • Caffeine: used to alleviate puffiness under eyes.
  • Camphor: a cooling agent used to help alleviate itching and irritation in many skin care and medicated products.
  • Carbomers (934, 940, 941, 980, 981): stabilize and thicken products.
  • Carmine: red pigment; found in many mascaras, and it can be irritating.
  • Caviar (Roe Extract): Fish eggs high in mineral and vitamin content (B1,2,6, as well as A,E & D). It promoted as useful for improving the health and appearance of maturing skin.
  • Cellulose: plant matter used to as a thickener, also helps suspend oil and water formulations.
  • Ceramides: epidermal hydrating agent; expensive due to its scarcity.
  • Ceteareth: cetearyl and stearyl alcohols combined for use as a lubricant.
  • Cetyl Alcohol: lubricant and helps emulsify oil and water formulations. Is non- irritating nor drying and is not related to isopropyl alcohol. Not supposed to be acne-forming.
  • Collagen: the main supporting fiber located within the dermis, gives strength and provides structure. You cannot replace lost collagen by applying it to your skin as it is incapable of penetration, but topical collagen is able to moisturize and hydrate by holding many times its own weight in water .
  • Cyclic Acid: a new term for Hyaluronic Acid: a strong hydrating complex holds 1000 times the water in skin.
  • Cyclomethicone: form of silicone; gives products a smooth texture without blocking pores.
  • Dimethicone: also a form of silcone; gives slip and glide to products: has been used in some scar therapies.
  • EDTA: preservative: potential for causing contact dermatitis.
  • Elastin: a fiber within the dermis similar to collagen, gives support and “snap” to the skin. In topicals, it cannot penetrate the skin, but is great for protecting against moisture loss.
  • Ellagic Acid: this naturally occurring ingredient helps to inhibit the formation of sun and age spots.
  • Ethyl Alcohol: aka rubbing alcohol or ethanol; antibacterial function; usually too strong for regular use in cosmetics.
  • Glycerin: hydrates and provides a skin barrier; allows topical agents to go on very smoothly; a concern is clogging of pores when present in high concentrations.
  • Glycine: amino acid vital to collagen composition and production.
  • Glycogen: building block of sugar, acts as a conditioner.
  • Glycolic Acid: an alpha hydroxy acid helpful for acne-prone skin, resolves dry skin conditions; used in chemical peels as well as to help reduce the appearance of pores and wrinkles; exfoliates excess flaking or crusty skin.
  • Glycol Stearate: thickening agent helps give products a luminescent or opalescent appearance.
  • Grape Seed Extract: a botanical extract shown to be an effective antioxidant.
  • Green Tea Extract: shown to be a powerful antioxidant.
  • Hyaluronic Acid: lately referred to as a “cyclic acid”; can hold 1000 times its own weight in water; also helps to draw in “active” ingredients deeper into the skin.
  • Hydroquinone: skin pigment lightening agent; a maximum of 2% may be obtained over the counter; higher concentrations available by prescription.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol: vehicle with antibacterial properites; drying to the skin especially in higher concentrations.
  • Isopropyl Isostearate: emollient.
  • Isopropyl Palmitate: emollient helps moisturize skin. No allergic potential although is derived from palm and/or coconut oils. Comedogenic in nature.
  • Isostearic Acid: fatty acid that forms film on skin.
  • Kaolin (China Clay): used in oil-absorbing powders and masques; highly absorbent.
  • Kojic Acid: skin lightener; touted as a bleaching agent for ethnic skin.
  • Lactic Acid: alpha hydroxy acid used in dermatology to hydrate and smooth dry, flaking skin. It may occasionally be used in higher concentrations (well above 12% medical grade) as a chemical peel.
  • Lanolin: emollient and moisturizer; obtained from sheep; a sensitizer like other wool derivatives, in eczema-prone individuals.
  • Lecithin: a water-attracting agent used in products to help hydrate the skin and improve the texture and ease of spread onto the skin.
  • L-Ergothioneine: naturally occurring antioxidant.
  • Licorice Extract: skin lightener; deemed as more potent than kojic acid or vitamin C for this function.
  • Linoleic Acid used to create emulsions; its EFA origins help to hydrate dry, parched skin. Cosmetic vernacular refers to it as Vitamin F.
  • Lysine amino acid incorporated to condition skin.
  • Octyl Methoxycinnamate FDA approved chemical sunscreen with contact dermatitis potential in some individuals. Related to Balsum of Peru with cross reactions possible for those with contact dermatitis to either agent.
  • Octyl Palmitate: allows hydration and works as a solvent without giving skin a greasy texture.
  • Octyl Salicylate: Commonly incorporated into sunscreens for its antibacterial abilities and helps prevent product from turning rancid.
  • Oxybenzone: FDA approved UVA absorbing chemical sunscreen ingredient.
  • PABA(Para-Aminobenzoic Acid): UVB absorber used in sunscreens during the 1970’s; became a frequent cause of contact dermatitis, therefore it is now out of favor.
  • Panthenol: a B vitamin (B5), works as a humectant (holds water in the skin). It may promote healing.
  • Parabens: preservatives; deemed safe and unlikely to irritate the skin. Widely used for cosmetics; various forms will be listed with the ingredient usually ending in “-paraben”, as in the following word (i.e. methyl paraben).
  • Petrolatum: heavy bland base, most commonly known for its use in Vaseline; good for sensitive skin however it is occlusive and can cause plugging of the pores and acne in prone individuals.
  • Polybutene: helps make liquids texturally viscous.
  • Poly Hydroxy Acid: PHA, derived from the buds of fruit trees, claims to be gentler yet as effective as AHAs; still debatable.
  • Proline: amino acid vital to the composition and production collagen.
  • Propylene Glycol: vehicle for cosmetic solutions; excellent for hydrating dry skin but can act as a contact dermatitis sensitizer in prone individuals.
  • Resveratrol: antioxidant which supports and protects collagen.
  • Retinol: a derivative of vitamin A; fat soluble; depending upon concentration, estimated to be approximately 10 times less effective than tretinoin.
  • Retinyl Palmitate: (also known as Vitamin A Palmitate); considered a more stable alternative to retinal for normalizing the skin’s texture and helping smooth out fine lines. Is the ester of retinol combined with palmitic acid; thought to be less irritating than retinol.
  • Retinyl Palmitate Polypeptide: water soluble formulation of Vitamin A.
  • Rose Hips: botanical extract of rose petals found to have high concentrations of vitamin C.
  • Salicylic Acid: classified as a BHA (beta hydroxy acid); medically used as an exfolliant and debriding agent. Cosmetically used in some chemical peels and to reduce oiliness, acne and the appearance of fine lines.
  • Silica: highly oil absorbant.
  • Silcone: protects the skin and creates sheen. Thought to be helpful in reducing the appearnce of hypertrophic scars.
  • Silk Powder: incorporated into cosmetic powders to help absorb skin moisture and oils.
  • Silk Proteins: prevents dehydration; commonly found in eye rejuvenation creams.
  • Sodium Bicarbonate: neutralizes acid, making products less irritating; commonly known as baking soda.

    Sodium Borate: preservative; related to boric acid; potential irritant.

  • Sodium Hyaluronate: related to Hyaluronic acid (salt form), works to moisturize the skin; can hold more than 1000 times its own weight in water.
  • Sodium Laurel Sulfate: used in most cleansers and soaps; acts as a surfactant, offers good foaming qualities; a known skin irritant, but contrary to popular urban myths, does not cause cancer.
  • Sorbic Acid: preservative; primarily protects product from yeast overgrowth.
  • Sorbitol: sugar-based ingredient; pulls water by osmosis from the largest source. Typically this is the air, so it helps hydrate skin. In arid conditions, however, water will be pulled out of the skin, resulting in dehydration.
  • Stearic Acid: Essential fatty acid used in soap manufacturing; may cause irritation.
  • Sulfur: helps kill normal bacteria on the skin improving acne, seborrhea and psoriasis conditions. Typically found in soaps, shampoos and some topical acne medications.
  • Titanium Dioxide: physical UV blocker helps block both UVA and UVB wavelengths of light.

  • Triclosan: used as a preservative; felt to be hypoallergenic.
  • Tyrosine: amino acid that stimulates fibroblasts to make more collagen when paired with ascorbic acid; plays a role in melanin formation.
  • Vitamin A: useful for smoothing out dry skin, minimizing pore size as well as keeping pores clean, and helps reduce the appearance of fine wrinkle lines. It causes sun sensitivity and not to be used if pregnant or nursing.
  • Vitamin B: helps improve chemical effectiveness; found in products.
  • Vitamin C: stimulates fibroblast activity to produce collagen; vital antioxidant both systemically as well as when used topically in L-ascorbic acid form. It typically considered water soluble.
  • Vitamin D: regulates cell turn over; used in prescription derivatives to help control psoriasis (Dovonex).
  • Vitamin E: Tocopherol; antioxidant; helps prevent ultraviolet light damage to the skin, so is incorporated into a variety of cosmetic as well as sunscreen preparations. It helps to moisturizer skin as it is oil-soluble.
  • Water: Most frequently listed main ingredient in skin care products used in its purest form, void of minerals and other chemicals, hence the various names like distilled, deionized, purified, etc.
  • Witch Hazel: botanical with astringent properties that helps remove excess surface skin oils.
  • Xanthan Gum: thickening agent.

2 responses

  1. Josh

    Hahaha… I didn’t know ur taking your job seriously.

    15/09/2010 at 5:45 PM

    • Yeah, I’m serious about that. You know how meticulous I am when it comes to beauty products.

      Thanks for always reading, best friend.

      18/09/2010 at 4:49 AM

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