A chemical education

This post is for anyone who’s been tormented by questions such as, “Why is there dimethicone in my deodorant?” Anyone else is fervently urged to move along, or else run the risk of being bored to tears.

Curiosity having got the better of me, and having a lot of time on my hands, I decided to look up the ingredients in my shower gel, shampoo, body lotion, deodorant and mouthwash. My research was greatly aided by Google suggest, meaning that I didn’t have to type put some of those impossibly long names in their entirety. Eventually I landed on a couple of sites which between them had a wealth of information: cosmeticanalysis.com and cosmeticsinfo.org. Here’s what I found (the names of the products may sound pretentious, and that’s because I looked them up on the manufacturers’ websites):

Palmolive Aromatherapy Anti-stress shower gel

24 ingredients

Name Function
Aqua Water. Solvent and forms emulsions
Sodium c12-13 pareth sulfate Surfactant (helps water to mix with oil and dirt so they can be rinsed away) and emulsifier
Cocamidopropyl betaine Surfactant, viscosity builder, foam booster
Parfum Fragrance
Sodium chloride Thickens aqueous part
Sodium benzoate Corrosion inhibitor, fragrance, preservative (prevents or retards bacterial growth)
Cocamide MEA Increases foaming and/or stabilises foam. Thickens aqueous part
Sodium salicylate Denaturant (imparts an intensely bitter to make it unsuitable for drinking), preservative
Citric acid Preserves product by chelating (binding) with metals. Also adjusts the acid/base balance
Polyquaternium-7 Inhibits the build-up of static electricity in hair and inhibits hair’s ability to absorb moisture
Tetrasodium EDTA Bind to metal ions which inactivates them, to prevent deterioration of personal care products.
Poloxamer 124 Surfactant. Also helps form emulsions and helps other ingredients to dissolve in a solvent in which they would not normally dissolve.
Benzophenone-4 Protects skin from UV rays
Cananga odorata oil Ylang-ylang oil. Fragrance
Pogostemon cablin oil Patchouli oil. Fragrance
Lavandula angustifolia oil Lavender oil. Fragrance
Alpha-isomethyl ionone Fragrance
Benzyl salicylate Fragrance
Coumarin Fragrance
Hexyl cinnamal Fragrance
Limonene Fragrance
Linalool Fragrance
CI 17200 Red cosmetic colourant
CI 60730 Violet cosmetic colourant

Dove go fresh Fresh Touch Beauty Care Body Wash

27 ingredients

Name Function
Aqua Water. Solvent and forms emulsions
Sodium Laureth Sulfate Surfactant. Emulsifies oils. Contributes to foaming properties.
Glycerin Humectant (ingredient that increases the water content of the top layers of the skin by drawing moisture from the surrounding air), skin conditioning agent, skin protectant, viscosity decreasing agent
Cocamidopropyl betaine Surfactant, viscosity builder, foam booster
Cocamide MEA Increases foaming and/or stabilises foam. Thickens aqueous part
Parfum Fragrance
Isopropyl Palmitate Lubricant, giving skin a soft and smooth appearance
Cucumis sativus fruit extract Cucumber extract. Emollient. Reduces flaking and restores suppleness of skin
Camellia sinensis leaf extract Green tea extract. Skin conditioning agent, astringent (tones skin by drawing tissues together), tonic
Acrylates Copolymer Adhesive (binds components together). Film former (dries to form a thin coating on the skin). Suspending agent – nonsurfactant (modifies the interface between solid particles and the liquid medium to improve the particles’ resistance to settling). Viscosity increasing agent – aqueous
(increases the thickness of the aqueous (water) portion of cosmetic products)
Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride Conditioner
Glycol distearate Opacifying agent, skin conditioner, increases viscosity
PPG-12 (Polypropylene Glycol) Attracts water and functions as a moisturiser by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness. Also used to help stabilize formulations.
Laureth-4 Surfactant – Emulsifying Agent (helps to form emulsions by reducing the surface tension of the substances to be emulsified)
Sodium chloride Thickens aqueous part
Citric acid Preserves product by chelating (binding) with metals. Also adjusts the acid/base balance
Sodium benzoate Corrosion inhibitor, fragrance, preservative
Alpha-isomethyl ionone Fragrance
Benzyl alcohol Preservative, solvent, viscosity decreaser
Butylphenyl methylpropional Fragrance
Citronellol Fragrance
Hexyl cinnamal Fragrance
Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde Fragrance
Limonene Fragrance
Linalool Fragrance
CI 19140 Yellow cosmetic colourant
CI 61570 Green cosmetic colourant