The Most Common Ingredients Found In Makeup, Cosmetics, Skincare, Shampoos, Hair Conditioners And Other Beauty Products: Dictionary

We often get questions from members of the community about the ingredients found in makeup, skincare and hair care products. So we decided to put together a glossary or dictionary of the most common ingredients found in beauty products.

The Most Common And Popular Ingredients Found In Makeup, Cosmetics, Skincare, Shampoos, Hair Conditioners And Other Beauty Products: Dictionary

Commonly used cosmetic ingredients

Here is a list of cosmetic ingredients that we come across in daily.


Vitamin A: It is known as Retinol. It normalizes skin’s texture and smoothes out fine lines. The more stable form is Retinyl Palmitate.

Vitamin C: The chemical name is Ascorbic Acid. It is an antioxidant, skin lightening agent, pH adjuster, preservative and also rebuilds healthy collagen fibers. It is also used in the form of Ascorbyl Palmitate ( a derivative of Vitamin C).

Vitamin E: It is chemically known as Tocopherol. It is an antioxidant, prevents UV damage to skin and also moisturizes skin.

Panthenol: It is nothing but Vitamin B5. It is a humectant.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Commonly used ones are citric acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid.

They aid in skin renewal by exfoliating the top layer of epidermis, improves skin’s texture, aids in better penetration of active ingredients, restores moisture and reduces wrinkles. They find use in anti aging products.

Salicylic Acid: It is a beta hydroxy acid. It is a debriding agent, helps in exfoliation of dry skin and reduces oiliness, acne and appearance of fine lines. It is mostly used in treating adult acne and chemical peels.


Glycerine: It is a very commonly used humectant (ability to absorb moisture from air and entrap it into the skin). Hence, it hydrates and provides a skin barrier.

Hyaluronic Acid: It is a strong hydrating complex. It can hold upto 1000 times water in skin. It is commonly used in anti aging preparations for deep hydration.

Lecithin: It is a water attracting agent and hence hydrates and improves the texture of skin. It also allows the ease of spread onto the skin.


Dimethicone/Cyclomethicone: It is a group of silicone molecules. It gives cosmetic products a smooth texture without blocking pores, gives slip and glide to products. It is widely used in skin care, make up, hair care and hair styling preparations.

Sunscreen Agents

Avobenzone, Mexoryl, Oxybenzone, Benzophenone: UV filters. They absorb or block UVA rays.

Titanium Dioxide: It is a physical UV blocker for both UVA and UVB.

Bleaching Agents

Hydroquinone, Kojic Acid: It is a skin whitening agent, skin bleaching agent.

Antioxidants: Resveratol, Butylated Hydroxy Toluene (BHT)

Preservative: Parabens, Benzoyl Peroxide

Soothing Agents

Allantoin: It has got skin calming property, soothing and healing agent.

Aloe: It is a natural and a very versatile ingredient. As its pH is same as skin, it is extremely soothing and protective in nature. It is a natural oxygenator (draws and holds oxygen to skin) so is a very effective healing agent. It is also a natural astringent.

Camphor: It is a cooling agent and hence alleviates itching, irritation and redness.

The Most Common And Popular Ingredients Found In Makeup, Cosmetics, Skincare, Shampoos, Hair Conditioners And Other Beauty Products: Dictionary

Olive oil


Cetyl alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth 20, Cetearyl Alcohol: They are Emollient (lubricant), emulsifier (mix oil and water phases in a formulation)

Isopropyl Isostearate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Isopropyl Myristate: They are emollients and hence form a film on skin and penetrates easily into the skin. They are used in preshaves, aftershaves, shampoos, bath oils, antiperspirants, deodorants, creams and lotions.

Castor Oil: It is a barrier agent, emollient and a lubricant. It finds its use in lipsticks and moisturizer.

Jojoba Oil: It is very similar to human sebum and hence is able to effectively penetrate the skin. It is a moisturiser and a natural cellular renewal ingredient.

Avocado Oil: It is a skin conditioner and moisturizer that readily penetrates the skin.

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: It is a barrier agent, emollient and solvent used mostly in foundations.


Glyceryl Oleate, Glyceryl Stearate, Glyceryl Cocoate, Glyceryl Stearate SE: They all act as emulsifiers.

Glyceryl Cocoate is also a Surfactant (foaming and cleansing agent).

Glyceryl Stearate SE also gives pearlizing effect in shampoos and opacifier in creams and lotions.


Beeswax: It allows to blend oil and water components. It gives barrier mechanism to skin care and makeup products.

Candellila Wax: It is occlusive in nature and is used as a binder in lipsticks and creams.

Carnauba Wax: It is also a barrier agent and used as a texturiser in lipsticks, deodorant sticks and depilatories.

Kaolin: It is an oil absorbing powder and gives color and slip. It is mostly used in face masques for oily/combination skin.

Water: It is the most important ingredient in skin care and hair care products. Distilled, deionized or purified water is used in cosmetic preparations. It is the vehicle in most formulations.

Caffeine: Alleviates puffiness under eyes.

Lanolin Derivatives: Lanolin alcohol is used as a thickener for shampoos and bath gels. It gives cosmetics a creamy texture and high gloss. Lanolin oil is basically dewaxed lanolin and acts as a skin moisturiser and reduces stickiness of creams and lotions. It is found in hair conditioners, fingernail conditioners and skin cosmetics.

So did this dictionary of terms help you? If you want help trying to understand what an ingredient is or what it does, post a comment below and we will try to help.

– cosmetic chemist, Upasana Sahu

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