Understanding how to decipher cosmetic ingredient lists is an essential skill in developing your formulating skills while also making you a more informed consumer. By honing this skill it will help you understand the purpose of an ingredient, what ingredients work well together (and what don’t) and help you make informed purchasing decisions. As we have written about before when you analyze a cosmetic ingredient list, there are basically three categories of ingredients including:
- Functional – ingredients that deliver the claimed product benefits
- Aesthetic modifiers – ingredients that improve the usability of the formula
- Claims (or hero ingredients) - ingredients that support the marketing or brand story but often don’t provide any measurable benefit
Given the importance of understanding ingredient lists, we are starting a new series of posts that evaluate popular products on the market and will break them down by category of ingredients.
To start, we’ll take a closer look at Clinique’s Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm.
Primary purpose and claims:
Facial cleanser/makeup remover that claims to dissolve long-wearing makeup, sunscreen and oil.
Opaque solid balm that turns into oil once applied to the skin.
Ethylhexyl Palmitate (emollient), Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Polyethylene, Peg-5 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Water\Aqua\Eau, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol
- Ethylhexyl Palmitate is an emollient (meaning it softens and smooths skin). It’s insoluble in water but it is soluble in alcohol and some oils.
- Safflower seed oil is an emollient and contains fatty acids (primarily linolenic acid) which moisturizes and softens skin.
- Caprylic/Capric triglyceride is a light emollient that also works to bind other ingredients together.
- Soreth-30 Tetraoleate and Peg-5 Glyceryl Triisostearate are self-emulsifying surfactants which means they have good compatibility with oils and water, promoting good rinsability.
- Polyethylene is a binding and thickening agent. In this formula it was likely used to thicken oil-based ingredients and modify the rheology.
- Phenoxyethanol is the preservative. It’s broad spectrum and given that this is a low water formulation, microbial growth is not a big concern.
- Tocopherol is a Vitamin E derivative and has antioxidant properties and some moisturizing benefits.
The functional ingredients are a blend of emollients that work together to dissolve other oil-based ingredients on the skin (“like dissolves like” concept). So, these ingredients “cleanse” the skin of oily substances like makeup and sunscreen as the product claims.
The aesthetic modifiers are used to promote easy rinsing of the emollients while also providing a pleasant product texture.
Overall, this is a pretty straightforward formula and every ingredient serves a purpose.