12 Safe Cosmetic Ingredients That Only SOUND Toxic

Have you ever looked at the ingredients list of your favorite product and your eyes crossed trying to read the names of things? I know I sure have. And we often attribute most of those long drawn out names to be some kind of chemical thingamajig that scientists put together to keep our skin smooth or our hair flourishing. 

The truth of it is that some of those names are really natural ingredients. Their scientific names are used for following protocol sake. The following are ingredients that are pretty common in skin care products so I want you to breathe a sigh of relief when you see them and know they are completely safe. I will give you the text book definition then break it down further so it’s it doesn’t look like Greek. 


1. Hyaluronic Acid

A viscous fluid carbohydrate present in connective tissue, synovial fluid, and the humors of the eye.

What this means is, it’s a type of carbohydrate made up of simple sugars that binds to water and helps to lubricate eyes, joints, muscles, and yes, most importantly, your skin. Because of its lubrication capabilities, it’s often in anti-aging or and/or moisturizing products. 

2.  Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride 

A mixed triester derived from coconut oil and glycerin. It comes in the form of an oily liquid, and is sometimes mistakenly referred to as fractionated coconut oil.

This ingredient is a combination of plant sugars and fatty acids derived from palm and coconut oils. It is liquid oil derived from Coconut Oil. It oil is comprised of short chain fatty acids, and is extremely stable with an almost indefinite shelf life. This can be used in place of fractionated coconut oil in products such as lotions, balms and massage oils. It is a light, penetrating oil, that doesn’t leave that greasy feeling.   

3.  Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

Methylsulfonylmethane is an organosulfur compound with the formula (CH₃)₂SO₂. It is also known by several other names including DMSO₂, methyl sulfone, and dimethyl sulfone.

MSM is a chemical in animals, many plants, soils, fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, meats, and milk. It’s also found naturally in humans. People use it most often to try to treat arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory effect. It can be applied topically which penetrates deeply to help encourage hydration and makes it great for irritated or sensitive skin.

4.  Cetearyl Alcohol

Cetostearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol or cetylstearyl alcohol is a mixture of fatty alcohols, consisting predominantly of cetyl and stearyl alcohols and is classified as a fatty alcohol.

Normally when you see alcohol, you think bad or drying, like benzyl alcohol but not this ingredient.  Cetearyl alcohol is a combination of fatty alcohols derived from vegetable sources, such as coconut or palm oils. It is used in cosmetics as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener and carrying agent for other ingredients contained in a cosmetic solution. It keeps the oil and water parts of an emulsion from separating, and gives products good spreadability.

5. Xanthan Gum

A substance produced by bacterial fermentation or synthetically and used in foods as a gelling agent and thickener. It is a polysaccharide composed of glucose, mannose, and glucuronic acid.

I am positive you have seen this ingredient on food labels but never really knew what it did. It is simply a carbohydrate derived from plant bacteria. Manufacturers also use sugar from soy, wheat, dairy, or corn, and add a particular type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campetris. The result of this is sounds kind of gross but resulting slimy substance helps to thicken and emulsify skin care formulas.

6.  Coco Glucoside

Coco Glucoside is an non-ionic surfactant that can be used as a foaming, cleansing, conditioning, and thickening agent to liquid cleansers and shampoos. 

It is derived from renewable raw materials like dried coconut pulp and fruit sugar. It is a mild surfactant is commonly used in cosmetics and is gentle enough for all skin types, and is biodegradable and nontoxic.

7. Palmitoyl Oligopeptide

Palmitoyl oligopeptide is a peptide; peptides act as building blocks between amino acids. By forming a strong bond palmitoyl has been shown to increase collagen, glucosaminoglycan and elastin production.

They are like mini protein molecules also known to assist in the process of skin repair and renewal. Palmitoyl works because of its ability to bind to human skin. Some carry hormones to specific organs, some transmit sensory information throughout the body, and others help form collagen and elastin in the skin. Those compounds are the concrete structure that keeps your skin from sliding off your face.

8.  Caprylyl Capryl Glucoside

Caprylyl Capryl Glucoside  is a mild, solubilizing non-ionic surfactant that is obtained from renewable raw materials: fatty alcohols and glucose from vegetable origin.

This ingredient is made in a lab using raw ingredients like vegetables or coconut. It’s a way safer surfactant cleaner that is used to make the product foam up. It won’t harm your skin at all.

9.  Sodium Hyaluronate

Sodium Hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid. 

This chemical is hyaluronic acid’s cousin. Same benefits as HA, but is made of a smaller molecule which makes it easier to sink into the skin. It retains water very well and gives the skin that plumped up look that’s an identifier of hydration.

10. P-Anisic Acid aka “Draconic Acid”

P-Anisic acid, also known as 4-methoxybenzoic acid or draconic acid, is one of the isomers of anisic acid. The term “anisic acid” often refers to this form specifically.

 P-Anisic acid is found naturally in anise which is a flowering plant native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. This plant has antiseptic or germ-killing properties. It will is often used as a substitute in natural or organic skin care products instead of parabens which has been in the recent years given a bad name. (We will discuss that in another post.)

11.  Glyceryl Stearate Citrate

Glyceryl Stearate Citrate is a fatty acid monoglyceride used in cosmetics as an emulsifier and stabilizing ingredient.

GSC is a combination of vegetable oils and citric acid. It is used in cosmetics as an emollient and fragrance ingredient and also helps skin and hair retain moisture.  

12. Maltooligosyl Glucoside/Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate

Maltooligosyl Glucoside/Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate aka MG-60 from Hayashibara  is a starch derived carbohydrate syrup, comprising various kinds of saccharides, which provides additional benefits to hair care, skin care and cleansing products.

MG-60 is a natural carbohydrate syrup that imparts a smooth texture and long-lasting foam to personal care products.  It’s a glycerin alternative that helps protect the skin from irritation which makes it very beneficial for skin care products made for sensitive skin. It also provides a rich and luxurious lather hair care products. 


If you can think of other chemical-y sounding ingredients that are derived from natural ingredients, feel free to add them in the notes!

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