Article by: Perry Romanowski

On one of my other blogs (The Beauty Brains) we do a series where we look at the ingredients on a cosmetic label and write about what they do. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to do the same on this blog about cosmetic science. So, here is a new series. We’ll take a look at labels of random cosmetics and dissect what each ingredient does and ponder why it was added.

Today’s product will be Jergens Natural Glow. I should note that I haven’t personally worked on this product or any of the future products that we will dissect here. This analysis is strictly based on my knowledge of cosmetic chemistry and formulation.

Jergens LOI

First, we list the LOI in the order presented.

Water, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth 20, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Petrolatum, Dihydroxyacetone, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil (Fruit), Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Flower Extract, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Octyldodecyl Myristate, Stearic Acid, Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, BHT, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, DMDM Hydantoin, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance, Erythrulose, Caramel, Titanium Dioxide, Mica

The 1% line

When looking at an LOI the first thing I always like to do is guess where the 1% line. This is the point in the LOI where the ingredients are no longer listed in order of concentration. According to labeling rules, all ingredients above 1% in the formula have to be listed in order. At 1% or below they can be listed in any order. This usually means that companies will put their “natural” sounding ingredients higher on the label to give the impression that there is more in the formula than there actually is.

In this product, the most likely point for the 1% line is after the Ethylhexyl Isononanoate. It is highly unlikely that Tocopherol is used in this product above 1%.

What the ingredients do

Rather then go through each ingredient in the order listed on the LOI, I thought it would be better to group them according to function. So, here you go.

Self tanning functional ingredients

Dihydroxyacetone – Responsible for changing color of skin
Erythrulose – Responsible for changing color of skin
Using a blend of these two ingredients gives a better result than DHA alone.

Emulsion ingredients

Water – The solvent. In an oil in water emulsion it’s almost always to most abundant ingredient.
Stearic Acid – Emulsifiers
Cetearyl Alcohol – Emulsifiers
Ceteareth 20 – Emulsifiers
Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer – Thickener / emulsion stabilizer

Skin feel ingredients

Glycerin – For its humectant and moisturizing effect
Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum) – Moisturizer
Petrolatum – Occlusive agent and excellent moisturizer
Ethylhexyl Isononanoate – Emollient affecting skin feel
Octyldodecyl Myristate – Emollient
Dimethicone – Emollient that improves shine & slip

Claims & puffery ingredients

These make the product sound natural and allow for various marketing claims. They don’t have much impact on the performance of the formula but they do have an impact on whether it sells or not.

Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E)
Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil (Fruit)
Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract
Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil
Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Flower Extract
Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil

Production adjustment agents

These are added to improve stability and make adjustments after production.
BHT – Antioxidant added to improve stability
Citric Acid – pH adjusting compound
Sodium Hydroxide – pH adjusting compound


They are leaving nothing to chance here including both a formaldehyde donor and a couple of parabens. This is a nicely preserved product.
DMDM Hydantoin – Preservative
Methylparaben – Preservative
Propylparaben – Preservative


Caramel – Brown Colorant
Titanium Dioxide – Colorant
Mica – Colorant gives sparkles

Odor adjuster

Fragrance – Because the odor of DHA is awful

Overall, a nicely formulated product.


  1. Avatar

    Guys, 1% is not always insufficient. I have a cream with 0.5% of a certain plant extract (powder) which does wonders!
    The law doesn’t distinguish between a powder plant extract (100% extract) and liquid extract (at best 1% powder in propylene glycol or glycerin).

    1. Avatar

      I agree with you Liliana. Just add up all those little percentages and you will have enough to make a difference.

      Also Perry there is soooo much research done on Tocopherol as an antioxidant (just ‘Tocopherol lipid peroxidation’ or just lipids), it’s a part of many antioxidant combinations that are added to vegetable oils, along with BHT, to ensure a reasonable shelf-life. I think it was added to the vegetable oils in this product, that why it got mentioned on the label.

      It’s unfortunate that the science on natural extracts and such is not up to date, but I hope experience as formulators count for something too? It’s really not all just bs and marketing (something I wrote on thebeautybrains too)…

      1. Avatar

        Eliza, most likely the manufacturer buys the natural oils as a blend and tocopherol is just one of the ingredients in there. And you’re right, it could be in there as a natural anti-oxidant to protect the stability of the oils. But I remain skeptical that it is in this formula for any functional benefit to the consumer.

        There are three problems with natural extracts. First, there is scant evidence that they do anything in a finished formula. The majority of good studies are done by simply looking at the effects of the extract alone and not against a reasonable control or they are in-vivo studies. Second, the ingredients are relatively expensive so a mass market formula couldn’t be sold with effective amounts. Third, consumers can’t tell a difference whether the ingredient is used at 1%, 0.1% or 0.001%. There is no economic reason to use high levels.

        If there were ingredients that showed demonstrable effects I would certainly advocate the use of high levels. But the truth is in my last few years at my last employer I was in the innovation group and I worked with suppliers looking for any ingredient that could show ANY effect that a consumer would notice. I didn’t care about price or origin or anything else, just looking for noticeable effects. I found almost nothing beyond standard ingredients. But that’s just my experience. No doubt, other formulators have had different experiences.

        Happy holidays!

        1. Avatar

          Thank you, Perry, for sharing your experiences! I have no doubt most studies would benefit from a better scientific design. Unfortunately I miss the extensive experience you have with comparing ingredients, so I take your word for it ๐Ÿ˜‰

          From the little experience I have, I personally feel a difference (tactile & scent wise) with plant extracts and vegetable oils, when comparing them with their easily sourced petroleum or silicone sisters, even at very small %. But maybe it’s because I haven’t tried a huge range of sophisticated natural-substitutes cosmetic ingredients (yet)? Or maybe it’s just a psychological placebo effect: they work cos I believe they work? (even when doing loads of triangle tests)
          Unfortunately I don’t have the resources to do double bind or in-vivo studies…

          Just trying to combine modern science with traditional knowledge, herbalism has an ancient history and I believe like the organiceutical lady: there must be a way to combine both?

          Happy holidays to you too ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Avatar

      Liliana – I never meant to imply that ingredients below 1% are insufficient or ineffective. Certainly, there are lots of ingredients that have an effect under 1%. Preservatives, dyes, fragrances, cationic polymers, etc. all have huge impacts on the formula and are used at below 1% levels.

  2. Avatar

    Perry, could you tell us what you think about about this product?
    INCI: Water (Aqua), Alcohol, Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Punica Granatum Fruit Juice, Panicum Miliaceum (Millet) Seed Extract, Prunus Spinosa Wood Extract, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Fragrance (Parfum)*, Limonene*, Linalool*, Geraniol*, Citral*, Coumarin*.
    I won’t disclose the brand ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Avatar

    Yes, finally! I love this idea. That’s why I usually hang out at BeautyBrains, to learn what’s inside the product.

    But why is Tocopherol not considered to make any impact? According to Paula Begoun’s ingredient dictionary it has some benefits?

    Regards from Sweden!

    1. Avatar

      Well, the reality is that while tocopherol can be shown to have benefits when tested in the lab under specific conditions and high levels, there is little evidence that it has any benefit in a real product used in the real world. This product is a sunless tanning product and that is its main purpose. Tocopherol is simply added for marketing reasons. That is true of many ingredients in cosmetic products.

  4. Avatar
    Nancy Liedel

    If you can’t break and inci down and know what is what, then it’s pretty hard to be a decent formulator. While you’re busy figuring it out, ideas will come to you. “Huh, they used that? I can think of something that will appeal to the, “all natural,” niche that would work even better. I’m going to start writing it down and playing on paper, then THE FORMULARY!”

    I don’t bother messing in the formulary till it looks good in three versions on paper and make them one after another. If one of them stands out, it’s tweak time. If they are all, ennh, I go back to my paper. Keeps me thinking all the time and abreast of what other companies are up to. Get to what you think the next logical step is and beat them to it.

    Facial color (or colour, for Canadians and the English) can be predicted by several things. The past season, what’s going down the runway, the economic feel of the country (historically we go brighter and wild in times of late recession, about to upswing. Hence the horrible orange of last year), and watching trendsetters. This requires zooming in on fashion blogs and reading and re-reading. Especially those directed at your niche. I read Seventeen Magazine, for example. I’m not thrilled with it, but I tear out photos of new season stuff for the teens and put it on a thinking board. I’ve created some neat stuff that way.

    A doctor once said (I love this quote and wish I remembered where I read it and who wrote it) that mineral makeup is just regular makeup with fewer ingredients.” His intention was to be dismissive and derisive. I whooped. That’s the point, for me. Less stuff, that actually works? Just what’s needed? I’m there. His crack became my mantra. I can break down a lip formula now, and dump what’s really an unneeded extra, using less incis and sell it well because of that.

    If I could not break incis down at the percent they are normally used, then I would be idea free. The purpose of breaking down incis is not only to inform us of what others are up to and teach us. Innovation is not out of a box of air. I take the ideas of others and re-work them until they are mine. Most of us do. We innovate on the backs of those who came before us, as they did as well. It’s a good thing. Innovation without solid study is really just sort of stabbing at the dark.

    People want to look tan, but not tan. Self tanners were born. Now, someone innovate one that does not make me look like an Oompa Loopa and we’re all good. As natural as possible, to hit my personal niche ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great article Perry. This thing really gets you thinking. It also gets me caught in the beauty aisles while my husband shops, so I can read incis of interesting products. Yes, I could take a photo, or look it up online, but it’s cool to say, Allantoin. I bet that’s about 1% here.

  5. Avatar

    What a lovely idea, Perry, thank you! Especially interesting if one would like to make a knock-off.

    1. Avatar

      The thing about cosmetic & personal care products is that even if you could create an exact duplicate of someone’s formula, it’s not going to help you that much to be successful in the marketplace. If your products are not unique, you need to make them stand out with marketing. And when it comes to marketing companies like Kao, P&G, L’Oreal, Unilever and the rest are tough to beat.

      1. Avatar

        I meant more from a learning point of view, Perry ๐Ÿ˜‰
        I totally agree that being different and innovative is the way ๐Ÿ™‚ Like for example in the above formula exchanging the used ingredients for other ingredients.

        1. Avatar

          Learning. Yes indeed. Doing exercises like these is one of the best ways to learn how to become a cosmetic formulator. I look at it like a musician who has to learn to play Bach before they can learn to create their own songs.

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