Skip Navigation

A Short Primer on Ingredients

[Photo]  Woman putting on makeup

A short primer on ingredients in body care products

Personal hygiene ranks highly, socially as well as hygienically. Every consumer has the right to know what the cosmetic products involved in his or her daily personal hygiene routine contain, and even more so if a consumer takes a personal interest in the individual ingredients or if an allergic disorder makes this information a necessary requirement for him or her.

The most important step towards comprehensive and exact composition information is a complete declaration of the ingredients on the products themselves or on their packaging. The Burnus GmbH and other manufacturers have voluntarily fulfilled this requirement since 1989 by listing the ingredients in line with the system commonly used in the USA. In Europe, the information given on product ingredients would often be in one of the various European languages, at times even featuring different terms for one and the same ingredient.

To achieve greater transparency and comprehensibility for consumers handling products, the INCI system (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredients) is now obligatory in all European countries for body care products.

What other security standards can cosmetic products offer the consumers in addition to the INCI declarations?

The latest EU directives also establish general safety requirements for cosmetic products. They prescribe that a product is not only required to be safe within the context of its ordinary usage, but also for any reasonably foreseeable application. This means, for example, that the accidental swallowing of tooth paste while brushing your teeth or of any applied lipstick is guaranteed to be harmless to health. No liability exists for any completely nonsensical application of cosmetics, however, for instance if someone were to use nail polish remover to remove eye makeup. As the general health and safety standards applied to cosmetic products are very stringent, they are essentially extremely safe to use and nontoxic. To guarantee the highest quality standards for cosmetic products, strict guidelines already apply to their production.

There follows a list of ingredients most commonly found in personal hygiene products along with explanations of what they actually are.
Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive, but merely intended to name some of the most frequently used ingredients:

AESCULUS HIPPOCASTANUM horse chestnut
ALGAE algae
AQUA water
BETULA ALBA birch
BISABOLOL* additive
BUTANE propellant
CETYL ALCOHOL** emollient, emulsifier, opacifier, viscosity control agent
CHAMOMILLA RECUTITA chamomile
CAPRYLIC/CAPRIC TRIGLYCERIDE emollients, solvents
CITRIC ACID agent/buffer
CITRUS LIMONUM lemon
COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINE surfactant/detergent
COCO GLUCOSIDE surfactant/detergent
DIMETHICONE foam inhibitor, emollient
DMDM HYDANTOIN preservative
EDTA chelating agent
EQUISETUM ARVENSE herbal ingredient, horsetail, scouring rush
EUPHRASIA OFFICINALIS eyebright
FARNESOL additive
GLYCERIN moisturiser
GLYCERYL OLEATE emollient, emulsifier
IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA preservative
ISOPROPROPYL MYRISTATE binding agent, emollient
ISOPROPYL PALMITATE solvent, antistatic agent, binding agent
MAGNOLIA BIONDII Chinese magnolia
MELISSA OFFICINALIS balm
MENTHOL denaturant
METHYLPARABEN preservative
PALMITIC ACID emollient, emulsifier
PANTHENOL antistatic agent/detangler
PARFUM scent
PEG-3 DISTEARATE emulsifier
PEG-40 HYDROGENATED CASTOR OIL emulsifier
PETROLATUM vaseline
POLYQUATERNIUM 10 antistatic agent, film former
POTASSIUM SORBATE preservative
PROPYLENE GLYCOL moisturiser, solvent
PROPYLPARABEN preservative
ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS rosemary
SALVA OFFICINALIS broad-leaved sage, sage
SODIUM BENZOATE preservative
SODIUM CARBOMER viscosity control agent
SODIUM CHLORIDE viscosity control agent
SODIUM HYDROXIDE pH control agent/buffer
SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE surfactant/detergent
SORBITOL moisturiser
STEARIC ACID emollient, emulsifier
STEARIC ALCOHOL emollient, emulsifier, opacifier,
viscosity control agent
TETRASODIUM EDTA chelating agent
TUSSILAGO FARFARA small coughwort

Abradants
are added to cosmetic agents in order to remove materials in different areas of the body, support the mechanical cleansing of the teeth or make them shinier.
Absorbents
are added to absorb water- and/or oil-soluble substances which are dissolved or finely dispersed in the product.
Additives
are often added in relatively small amounts and are intended to lend the product a desired feature, enhance a desired feature or suppress an undesirable product feature as much as possible.
Anti-caking agents/separating agents
are added to preparations containing powder or talc in order to stop the substance from clumping or agglomerating.
Anti-dandruff agents
in hair care products inhibit dandruff formation.
Antimicrobial substances
are added to cosmetic products in order to reduce the activity of micro organisms on the skin and in the mouth.
Antioxidants
are intended to prevent reactions caused by exposure to oxygen such as oxidation or rancidity, and to maintain the quality of the product.
Antiperspirants
reduce the excretion of sweat.
Antistatic agents/detanglers
in skin and hair care products reduce the electrostatic charge on the surface of the skin or hair, making the hair a lot easier to comb.
Binding agents
provide cohesion for powder and powder-based cosmetic products.
Bleaches
lighten the colour of the hair or skin.
Botanicals
are generally derived physically from plants. They are added to cosmetic products to supply them with certain properties depending on the effect of the ingredient.
Chelating agents
are added to cosmetic products so they react and form complexes with metal ions which can enhance the stability and/or appearance of the product.
Corrosion inhibitors
are intended to prevent the corrosion of the packaging of cosmetic products.
Cosmetic dyestuffs
are either added to colour the product or, in the case of decorative cosmetics, the skin. The cosmetics directive prescribes the dyestuffs permitted in each type of cosmetic product.
Denaturing agents
are usually added to cosmetics containing ethyl alcohol to make them unpalatable.
Deodorants/antiperspirants
inhibit or reduce the production of unpleasant body odours, while masking them and reducing sweat production.
Depilatories
remove unwanted body hair.
Emollients
have the task of making the skin supple and smooth.
Emulsifiers
are surfactants that stably disperse fluids in one another which cannot otherwise be mixed, such as oil and water.
Emulsion stabilisers
support the emulsification process and improve the stability and shelf-life of a product.
Film formers
in cosmetic products create a protective and stabilising film on the skin, hair, or nails following application.
Foam inhibitors
are added to cosmetic agents either to eliminate foaming during production or to reduce a tendency to foam in finished products.
Foam stabilisers/foam intensifiersFoam stabilisers/foam intensifiers
increase foaming and foam stability or delay the collapse of the foam.
Gelling agents/thickening agents
are additives which increase or stabilise the desired consistency (viscosity) of a cosmetic product.
Hair colorants
are added to cosmetic products in order to effect a permanent or temporary colouration of the hair, depending on the product.
Light filtering substances/UV absorbers
are used to filter certain UV rays and hence protect the skin against premature aging caused by sunlight as well as sunburns. The cosmetics directive lists the light filtering agents permitted for use in cosmetic products.
Moisturisers
help restore or preserve moisture in the skin. They counteract skin dehydration.
Mouth care substances
are added to personal hygiene products intended to care for the mouth.
Opacifiers
are added to clear or transparent cosmetic products in order to render them less light-permeable for visible light or light-related radiation.
Oxidants
are employed to change the chemical composition of substances by supplying them with oxygen.
pH control agents/buffers
are added to cosmetic products in order to provide them with the desired pH value or to stabilise it.
Preservatives
are added to cosmetics in order to protect them from spoilage by micro organisms (bacteria, fungi, yeasts) and hence preserve their quality. The cosmetics directive bindingly stipulates the preservatives permitted in cosmetic products.
Propellants
are gaseous substances which are added to cosmetic products in pressurised containers and expel the contents when the pressure is released.
Reducing agents
change the chemical composition of other substances by adding hydroxide or subtracting oxygen.
Skin care agents
protect and care for the skin, keeping it supple and smooth, whilst minimising moisture loss, and as such provide a pleasant skin feeling.
Solvents
are used as a base medium for cosmetic preparations and to dissolve certain substances.
Re-moisturising agents
are used in cosmetic preparatory products. They are absorbed by the skin during cleansing and help prevent or reduce the loss of moisture from and dehydration of the skin.
Surfactants/detergents
are surface-active compounds containing both lipophile and hydrophile groups and hence facilitate the through cleansing of skin and hair.
Viscosity control agents
serve to increase or decrease the viscosity of the finished product.