Glossary of Cosmetic and Food Ingredients – A is for …

It is usually impossible to find out exactly where some of our cosmetic compounds and fatty acids are derived from. Some come from plants, some from animals and many of them are synthesized as a petroleum by-product.

So what are all those words that we glaze over every day found in our cosmetics and foods? Where do they come from, are they natural or synthetic, are they plant or animal? The next few posts will focus on those unpronounceable words and hopefully give some insight into the things we put on our skin and in our bodies.

A is for …

Acacia Senegal Gum

  1. Gum from the Acacia Senegal tree (Senegalia senegal, formerly Acacia senegal) is a small deciduous Acacia native to semi-desert regions of Africa, Oman, Pakistan and India. The gum (or resin or sap) is harvested by slicing the bark of the tree with a machete to expose the resin. Mostly used as a food additive and in cosmetics as a binder. Some suggest it for the treatment of inflamed skin. Has some astringent properties.

Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated, 2013)

  1. So acrylates are individual chemical molecules that bind together to form plastic materials. They are used as a film forming agent in cosmetics; as a thickener and stabilizer and have water binding properties. They leave a film over the skin long after their use. Acrylates are the salts and esters of acrylic acid. Acrylates were named Contact Allergen of the Year 2012 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society as they are strong irritants and allergens and can exasperate pre-existing skin conditions. So what are they??

  2. Methyl methacrylate

  3. Ethyl acrylate

  4. 2-hydroxyethylmethacrylate (HEMA)

  5. Triethyleneglycol dimethacrylate

  6. Ethyleneglycol dimethacrylate

  7. Bisphenol A glycerolate dimethacrylate (BIS-GMA)

  8. Ethylene dimethacrylate

  9. Triethylene glycol diacrylate

  10. Ethyl cyanoacrylate

And where can you find them??


Applications/usesMethyl methacrylateAcrylic bone cements used in orthopaedic surgery; acrylic fibres, films, and inks; solvent-based adhesives and binders; medical spray adhesives; dental technology2-hydroxyethylmethacrylate (HEMA)UV inks; adhesives; lacquers; dental materials; artificial nails; coating for scratch-resistant glass; paint resins; binders for textiles and paperEthyl acrylateAcrylic resin used in paint formulations, industrial coatings and latexes; acrylic rubber and plastics; denture materials; floor polishes, sealants; shoe polishes; adhesives; textiles and paper coatingsEthyleneglycol dimethacrylatePlastic bottles for soft drinks; dental materials; artificial nails; printing inks; automobile antifreeze and engine-cooling liquids


  1. Albumen or egg white is the name for the clear liquid contained within an egg.  It consists mainly of proteins dissolved in water. It is primarily used in skin care for its binding properties.


  1. Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) made from organically grown grain. Alcohol serves as a natural preservative, carrier and extraction medium for natural plant compounds.

Alcohol Denat.

  1. Otherwise known as denatured alcohol. Denatured alcohol is ethanol with a toxic additive such as acetone or methanol. This means it is not meant for consumption. It makes the alcohol taste bad. It is generally regarded as safe for use in cosmetics. Denatured alcohol is used as a solvent and as fuel for spirit burners and camping stoves. Why would we use this product? Works as an antifoaming, antimicrobial, astringent, masking, solvent and controls the viscosity of a product.  However Environment Canada classifies it as “expected to be toxic or harmful” and as a “medium health priority” (EC, 2008).


  1. Obtained from marine algae, Algin is a structuring and gel forming ingredient that is commonly used to thicken and stabilize emulsions and gel systems.

Aqua (water)

  1. Purified or distilled, water helps to provide consistency to creams, lotions and gels. It is also used as a carrier for plant extracts and a skin hydrating agent.

Arachidyl Alcohol

  1. A straight chain fatty alcohol that is suspected as an environmental toxin by Environment Canada (EC, 2008) but is generally considered to be no or low hazard for cosmetics. That is a puzzling statement. This fatty alcohol can be extracted from plants such as coconut and palm oils and when used in cosmetics it acts as a stabilizer to thicken an emulsion and keep it from separating. It has been used as a foaming agent and contains emollient properties which leave skin soft and smooth.

Arachidyl Glucoside

  1. It is made from glucose extracted from wheat with a fatty phase extracted from Rape Seed Oil.  This blend is used to create products with light texture and improved long -lasting moisturizing action due to its glucolipid structure. Emulsifier and surfactant and acts as a stabilizer to help skin retain moisture.


  1. Arginine is a natural amino acid that is derived from numerous vegetable sources such as wheat germ, buckwheat, oatmeal, nuts and seeds and a wide variety of animal sources.  It is a conditionally nonessential amino acid, meaning most of the time it can be manufactured by the human body, and does not need to be obtained directly through the diet. Arginine has antioxidant properties and can be helpful for wound healing and used as a fragrance and hair/skin conditioning agent.

Ascorbic Acid

  1. Also known as Vitamin C and is found naturally in fruits such as citrus and green vegetables. It is processed into a water-soluble powder with powerful antioxidant and preservative properties.  Ascorbic acid and its sodium, potassium, and calcium salts are commonly used as antioxidant food additives. It is prepared from glucose (plant or animal origin) by hydrogenated, oxidized by a microorganism and then treated with acetone  and several enzymes. Is unstable and oxidizes easily in this form.

Ascorbic Acid Polypetide

  1. Ascorbic Acid Polypeptide is a more stable form of ascorbic acid as it is combined with a protein.

Ascorbyl Palmitate

  1. Ascorbyl Palmitate is an oil soluble form of Vitamin C, which is produced when ascorbic acid is combined with a palm oil derivative. It is an antioxidant and free-radical scavenger that plays an essential role in skin’s natural restorative processes. It is used for combating excessive pigmentation of the skin as well as for protection of emulsions and oils from oxidation.


  1. Astaxanthin is found in microalgae, yeast, salmon, trout, krill, shrimp and crustaceans.  It provides the red colour of salmon meat and the red colour of cooked shellfish. The microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis is the primary natural source for astaxanthin. It seems to accumulate the highest levels of astaxanthin in nature and can have up to 550 times the antioxidant activity of Vitamin E and 10 times the antioxidant activity of beta-carotene.  It surpasses many of the antioxidant benefits of Vitamin C and other carotenoids. Astaxanthin is also produced synthetically in extremely large quantities.


(Environment Canada. 2008. Domestic Substances List Categorization. Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) Environmental Registry.)



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