5 Ingredients in Beauty Products You Should Know


I love trying different beauty products, and I have to admit that often the packaging and marketing speaks louder to me that the ingredients. I mean, aside from being told that the product’s magical properties are derived from the argan nut or glacial mud, a cursory glance at the ingredients list tells me absolutely nothing. Until now.

Unwilling to remain ignorant to the truth behind the divine concoctions I liberally spread on my skin, I decided to do some research. Below are 5 of the most common ingredients found in cosmetics and a little background info, because when it comes to your skin, ignorance is not bliss!

1. Alcohol

When I think of alcohol I immediately think, bad! And if we were talking about the rubbing variety, it’s certainly not what you want in your products. However, alcohol used in cosmetics is largely misunderstood.

AKA: Cetyl alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth 20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Lanolin Alcohol

What it does: Lubricant, emollient, thickener. Basically, these so-called fatty alcohols are the softening, moisturizing elements in products.

Common Uses: Just about every beauty product, from creams and cleansers to hair products and makeup

Nature or Science: Nature. Depending on the type, derived from palm oil, coconut oil, sheep wool

Verdict: Thumbs Up

2. Benzones

Take a look at the ingredients on products with SPF and a benzone is likely to be present.

AKA: Avobenzone, Mexoryl, Oxybenzone, Benzophenone

What it does: UV Filter and preservative. Benzones are used to preserve scents and colors in product from damaging UV light, but more importantly are the main ingredients in the sunscreen we use to protect against harmful UV rays.

Common Uses: Sunscreen, foundation, makeup, perfume, soap

Nature or Science: Science. Synthetic chemicals that are known to cause allergic skin reactions, benzones are also being investigated for possible carcinogenic effects, though those claims have not been confirmed.

Verdict: Opt for a mineral sunscreen with Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.

3. Dimethicone

AKA: Polydimethylsiloxane (say that 3 times!) or PDMS

What it does: Technically a silicone, dimethicone creates a barrier on the skin (or hair follicle) to seal in moisture. Dimethicone also acts as a smoother and filler, giving your skin that perfect, airbrushed effect.

Common Uses: Very common and present in most beauty products; moisturizers, lotions, serums, primers, foundations, powders and hair products.

Nature or Science: Science. Synthetic silicone oil with useful applications in cosmetics due to its lubricating and emollient properties.

Verdict: Use in moderation. While it won’t penetrate skin, dimethicone’s layering effect can result in clogged pores and dry skin as it inhibits your skin’s natural ability to hydrate itself.

4. Parabens

The jury is out on the safety of parabens. There has been a lot of hype about this chemical due to a study that showed it had the ability to imitate estrogen, and therefore interfered with hormonal balance and posed a cancer risk. To date, the research has been inconclusive.

AKA: Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben and Isobutylparaben

What it does: Preservative. Parabens keep your beauty products from growing harmful bacteria or fungus.

Common Uses: Present in personal care items like deodorants, foundations, creams, makeup, hair products. Although, more and more companies are (re)introducing products without parabens.

Nature or Science: Science. Parabens are naturally occurring in some plants to help ward off fungus and bacteria, but those used in cosmetics are synthetic to ensure consistency.

Verdict: Use in moderation. As a best practice, always wash your hands before dipping into your beauty products to reduce the spread of harmful bacteria.

5. Tocopherol

AKA: Vitamin E

What it does: Anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, moisturizer. Tocopherol protects the cells that make collagen and elastin,  helps reduce UV damage, and protects the skin against environmental pollutants.

Common Uses: Many moisturizers contain vitamin E as do hair products, foundations, creams and powders.

Nature or Science: Nature. Derived from oils, nuts, fruits (mango, papaya, tomatoes, kiwi, avocado) and vegetables (leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, sweet potato)

Verdict: Thumbs up. Tocopherols are my superheros…welcome all!

Now it’s your turn to do some sleuthing. Read the labels, and now that you know more about the ingredients in your beauty products, make the choices that are right for you.

For more information and a complete list of products containing these ingredients, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has an extensive database.

5 Ingredients in Beauty Products You Should Know

Laura Lady5 Ingredients in Beauty Products You Should Know