Today we'll discuss some of the scary-sounding ingredient names on the labels of your favorite personal care products. I have heard comments about people scanning cosmetic labels for "bad" ingredients like acids, alcohols and hydrogenated oils when really most of these are pretty benign. Let's investigate a few of the more common ingredients in this category.
Stearic Acid: A wax-like fatty acid that is made from animal or vegetable fats/oils via hydrolization. We use the vegetable source in our products to help thicken and stabilize lotions and creams. Stearic Acid is also commonly used in the cosmetic industry to help harden soap bars.
Hyaluronic Acid: In cosmetics it is used as a hydrator that can hold 1000 times its own weight in water. It's useful in moisturizing treatments to aid dry and/or mature skin as it helps to hold moisture in the skin. It is also purported to help draw ingredients deeper into the skin, but that is still being studied. Hyaluronan is a major component of your skin, where it is involved in tissue repair. You might recognize the trade name Restylane. This is hyaluronic acid in injection form used by dermatologists to help fill in facial wrinkles by temporarily plumping the skin.
Cetyl Alcohol: A member of the fatty alcohol group this ingredient is typically made from vegetable matter like palm or coconut. It is used in cosmetic products as an emulsifier, emollient or thickening agent and is nothing like the alcohol you're used to seeing on the drugstore shelves.
Citric Acid: A weak organic acid that is found naturally in many fruits, and is abundant in citrus fruit such as limes and lemons. While there are myriad uses for citric acid it is typically used in cosmetic formulations to adjust the acidity (pH) or in combination with sodium bicarbonate to create an effervescent product such as bath bombs. It is also used in detergents and water softeners as a chelating agent.
So there you have it. These are only a very few of the typical ingredients found in products on your drugstore shelves or beauty counters. While the words "acid" and "alcohol" jump out at you from the ingredient label they are not always as scary as they sound. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding ingredients you would like to investigate, please leave your comments on this post.