What are the Most Common Ingredients Used In Cosmetics?

Oxford Learners Dictionary defines Cosmetics as, “a substance that you put on your face or body to make it more attractive”. The word itself originated from the Greek word kosmos (meaning order of adornment), eventually passing through France in the 17th century becoming cosmetique, and eventually being translated into the English word we know it as today, cosmetics.

When the ancient Egyptians first created make-up, they used the carmine beetles for lipstick shades, whilst the less fortunate used clay and water mixed together. The most common make-up used (by both men and women, even till today in Eastern countries) was a mixture (of burnt almonds, metal, lead sulphide/ PbS, ash and copper) that they called kohl (or black eye pencil). Its purpose was to ward off evil spirits and negative eyes and did a good job at deflecting the harsh sunlight, but they didn’t wear it as prettily as we do today.

In the modern era most white-skinned men and women want to look tanned, so they soak up the sunlight using various oils and tanning solutions, but in Greece once upon a time women wanted to look paler and they achieved this by using lead carbonate/ PbCO3.

You’re thinking all these ingredients must not have been healthy for their bodies, thus the many sayings like, “beauty comes at a price” and “there is no beauty without a little pain”. Thankfully Make-up has evolved into a more accessible product for both men and women and the process used by cosmetics manufacturers and skincare manufacturers to make them have also changed.
Granted there are still some beauty products that still use dangerous ingredients, but they are used in regulated doses so that it remains within regulations and does not cause harm during your personal care routines.
With that being said it is just as important to understand what we are putting on the outside of our bodies as it is the inside of that very same hair, makeup and skincare products.

Here are some common ingredients used: (Natural & artificial):

1. Water

If it's in a bottle then chances are that product contains H2O. This is
the basis of most products like shampoo, lotions, deodorants and creams.

2. Emulsifiers

It’s a bridge used to hold together ingredients that don’t work well, like oil and water. Some examples are polysorbates, potassium cetyl sulphate. There are different types of emulsifiers and different quantities that must be understood when choosing the correct type for beauty products, cosmetics manufacturers and skincare manufacturers. So when a bottle instructs you to “Store product in the refrigerator once opened”, DO IT! There’s a valid scientific reason behind it.

3. Preservatives

These are very important in expanding the “shelf life” of a product, whether it's skincare, haircare or cosmetics in general, they are needed not just in food as we presume. Their mission is to prevent bacteria and fungi from developing within those vital ingredients that are intended to enhance your outer body and spoil the product throughout its use. Some commonly used preservatives to look at are formaldehyde (for-mal-duh-hide), tetrasodium, salicylic acid (saly-sil-lick acid), and benzyl alcohol. If you have preservative-free cosmetics, then you must take the product's storage and shelf life into consideration by looking at the colour, smell and texture of the beauty product.

4. Thickeners

They are simply there to give the product a much better appearance in terms of their consistency. Here too there are many types such as lipid (depending on its temperature for its texture it can be in a solid form/ liquified), natural (Cosmetics that use these thickeners can be diluted with water/alcohol making it much easier. Some examples are gelatin, xanthan gum and guar gum), mineral (these types absorb water and oils well. Some examples are silica, bentonite and magnesium aluminium silicate) and synthetic (found in creamy and lotion products mostly, these are ones with the long hard to pronounce scientific names like cetyl palmitate and ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate).

5. Colours and fragrances

Ever wondered how makeup and beauty products get their colours? From that bold smokey eye to a subtle daytime look, these lipsticks, eyeshadows and even mascara use a range of mineral ingredients such as mica flakes, coal tar and manganese.

Let’s finish off this list with a few more ingredients commonly used in makeup products:

Pearl essence, Carmine, castor oil, salt (sodium chloride), egg whites (albumen), Urea and plastic (not just for packaging but for hairsprays, hair gels and other hair care products). Ever heard of Guanine? That's basically fish scales which are commonly used in the manufacturing of nail polishes, lipsticks and even mascara.

The list can go on forever for synthetic and natural ingredients that cosmetics manufacturers, beauty experts and skincare manufacturers use in the products which we apply to our bodies. From make-up to lotions, shampoo and even body scrubs, it is essential we know and understand what’s in our products to get what works best for our needs. It’s science and knowledge working together beautifully for you and me.