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Ingredient Definitions

Ingredient Definitions

What exactly are you putting on your skin?

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  • Common Tanning Product Ingredient Definitions N-Z

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A class of chemicals widely used as preservatives by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
Parabens are effective preservatives in many types of formulas. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturisers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, makeup, and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives.
Their efficacy as preservatives, in combination with their low cost, the long history of their use, and the inefficacy of natural alternatives like Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE), probably explains why parabens are so commonplace. They are becoming increasingly controversial, however, because they have been found in extremely low concentrations in breast cancer tumours. Parabens have also displayed the ability to slightly mimic Estrogen (a hormone known to play a role in the development of breast cancer). No effective direct links between parabens and cancer have been established, however.
Common parabens include; Methylparaben (E number E218), Ethylparaben (E214), Propylparaben (E216) and Butylparaben. Less common parabens include; Isobutylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Benzylparaben and their sodium salts. Also; Heptylparaben (E number E209).
Some parabens are found naturally in plant sources. For example, Methylparaben is found in blueberries, where it acts as an antimicrobial agent. All commercially used parabens are synthetically produced, although some are identical to those found in nature.
In individuals with normal skin, parabens are, for the most part, non-irritating and non-sensitising. Parabens can, however, cause skin irritation and contact Dermatitis and Rosacea in individuals with paraben allergies, a small percentage of the general population.

Clear, odourless oil widely used in cosmetics because it rarely causes allergic reactions and can’t become a solid and clog pores.
Medicinal Liquid Paraffin is a very highly refined mineral oil used in cosmetics and for medical purposes.

The most common moisture-carrying vehicle other than water that is used, and a very effective humectant.
Found in most shampoo and conditioners, cosmetics, aftershaves, deodorants, mouthwashes and toothpastes, even foodstuffs such as cakes and muffins. Derived from petroleum products. Also used in anti-freeze, de-icer, latex, paint, and laundry detergent, and to remove barnacles from boats. Degreases and can dry the skin. Permeates skin better than Glycerine, but can cause more sensitivity reactions. It can be used as a preservative due to its anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. The FDA includes Pharmaceutical grade PG on its Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) list. The World Health Organisation also considers it as safe for use.






A detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products including soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and other cosmetics.
Not to be confused with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (below).
SLES is an inexpensive and very effective foaming agent. SLES, SLS and ALS are surfactants that are used in many cosmetic products for their cleansing and emulsifying properties. They behave similarly to soap.
Although SLES is considered safe at the concentrations used in cosmetic products, it is an irritant similar to other detergents, with the irritation increasing with concentration. It has been shown to produce eye or skin irritation in experimental animals and in some human test subjects. The related surfactant SLS (below) is a known irritant, and research suggests that SLES can also cause irritation after extended exposure in some people. SLES is not a carcinogen.

An organic compound derived from inexpensive Coconut and Palm Oils, used in many cleaning and hygiene products.
SDS, SLS is mainly used in detergents for laundry with many cleaning applications. It is a highly effective surfactant and is used in any task requiring the removal of oily stains and residues. For example, it is found in higher concentrations with industrial products including engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soaps. It is found in toothpastes, shampoos, shaving foams, and bubble bath formulations in part for its thickening effect and its ability to create a lather like a detergent.
SDS, SLS is not carcinogenic when either applied directly to skin or consumed, but it has been shown to irritate the skin of the face with prolonged and constant exposure (more than an hour) in young adults. It may worsen skin problems in individuals with chronic skin hypersensitivity, with some people being affected more than others.
(Also known as: Sodium Monododecyl Sulfate, Sodium Monolauryl Sulfate, Sodium Dodecanesulfate, Dodecyl Alcohol, Hydrogen Sulfate, Sodium Salt, N-Dodecyl Sulfate Sodium, Sulfuric Acid Monododecyl Ester Sodium Salt).
Sodium Coco Sulfate is essentially the same compound, but made from less purified Coconut Oil.

Used as an emollient, emulsifier, and thickener in ointments of various sorts, and is widely used as a hair coating in shampoos and hair conditioners.
Helps keep other ingredients intact in a formulation. Classified as a fatty alcohol, it takes the form of white granules or flakes, which are insoluble in water. It has a wide range of uses as an ingredient in lubricants, resins, perfumes and cosmetics.


Threonine is an essential amino acid that promotes normal growth by helping to maintain the proper protein balance in the body. Threonine also supports cardiovascular, liver, central nervous, and immune system function.
Threonine is needed to create Glycine and Serine, two amino acids that are necessary for the production of Collagen, Elastin, and muscle tissue. Threonine helps keep connective tissues and muscles throughout the body strong and elastic, including the heart, where it is found in significant amounts. It also helps build strong bones and tooth enamel, and may speed wound healing or recovery from injury.
Threonine combines with the amino acids Aspartic Acid and Methione to help the liver with lipotropic function, or the digestion of fats and fatty acids. Without enough Threonine in the body, fats could build up in the liver and ultimately cause liver failure.
Threonine supports the immune system by aiding in the production of antibodies, and because it is found largely in the central nervous system, may be helpful in treating some types of depression. Threonine supplementation may also be useful for treatment of Lou Gherigs Disease, also know as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), because it increases Glycine levels in the central nervous system (administering Glycine is ineffective, since it cannot cross into the central nervous system). Research indicates that symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), another disease that affects the nerve and muscle function, may be lessened with Threonine supplementation.

An antioxidant that nurtures and nourishes skin, and protects skin from the harm of free radicals.
Tocopherols (or TCP) are a class of organic chemical compounds, many of which have Vitamin E activity. The ten forms of Vitamin E are divided into two groups; five are Tocopherols and five are Tocotrienols. They are identified by prefixes alpha- (α-), beta- (β-), gamma- (γ-), delta- (δ-), and epsilon (ε-). Tocopherols and Tocotrienols are fat-soluble antioxidants but also seem to have many other functions in the body.
Vitamin E helps prevent ultraviolet light damage to the skin, so is incorporated into a variety of cosmetic as well as sunscreen preparations, and helps to moisturise skin as it is oil-soluble. It can also work as a preservative to keep some cosmetic products from going rancid. Vitamin E is one of the most compelling natural fat-soluble antioxidants in use, particularly when combined with Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
As a food additive, Tocopherol is labeled with these E numbers; E306 (tocopherol), E307 (α-tocopherol), E308 (γ-tocopherol), and E309 (δ-tocopherol). These are all approved in the USA, EU, Australia, and New Zealand for use as antioxidants.



Fat-soluble vitamin. Helps remedy rough, dry skin and has been used in the treatment of Psoriasis, as a topical acne treatment, and to treat aging skin.
Some people are allergic to Vitamin A. It can be obtained from fish liver oil, liver, carrots, green and yellow vegetables, eggs, milk, and dairy products, margarine, and yellow fruits. It prevents Vitamin C from being oxidised too quickly in the body.





Thickening agent which works to stabilise and bind ingredients so that separation does not occur.
Xanthan Gum is a polysaccharide (sugar) composed of Glucose, Mannose and Glucuronic Acid. It is produced by the fermentation of Glucose, Sucrose, or Lactose. After a fermentation period, the polysaccharide is precipitated, (separated from a solution as a solid), from a growth medium with Isopropyl Alcohol, dried, and ground into a fine powder. Later, it is added to a liquid medium to form the gum.
One of the most remarkable properties of Xanthan Gum is its ability to produce a large increase in the viscosity of a liquid by adding a very small quantity of gum. In cosmetics, Xanthan Gum is used to prepare water gels, usually in conjunction with Bentonite Clays. It is also used in oil-in-water emulsions to help stabilise the oil droplets against coalescence. It has some skin hydrating properties.
Xanthan Gum is a common ingredient in fake blood recipes, and in gunge/slime and is commonly used as a food thickening agent (in salad dressings, for example).



LAST UPDATE: November 2014

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