Cosmetic Ingredient Glossary

A-PINENE: derived from the resinous sap of pine trees, this substance is a major component of turpentine and can damage the immune system. Found in cleansers and soaps.

A-TERPINEOL: this chemical is extremely irritating to your mucous membranes. Frequent or prolonged exposure (especially repeated inhalation) can also cause edema, as well as respiratory difficulties. Found in soaps and cleansers.

ACRYLATE: a salt or ester of acrylic acid.


BISPHENOL-A: a component of polycarbonate plastic (#7), used in baby bottles and water coolers.

BENZALDEHYDE: also called oil of bitter almond, this substance is a narcotic and anesthetic that can depress the central nervous system and, when inhaled, can bring on vomiting, dizziness and a sudden drop in blood pressure. It is found in some commercial soaps

CGMP: Current Good Manufacturing Practice

CALENDULA ESSENTIAL OIL** (used in Sappho NP Cosmetics): extracted from the plant Carum carv. It originates in Germany but is grown worldwide. Its positive effects on the skin were discovered in Ancient Egypt and it remains one of the most popular herbal anti-fungal and anti-bacterial remedies for promoting skin healing and cell regeneration. Calendula essential oil is an excellent remedy for all kinds of skin damage, such as wounds, scars, burns, scalds, abrasions, infections, various inflammations, sun damage, and other injuries. The powerful action of Calendula oils lies in improving the blood flow, and it acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic.

CARCINOGEN: A substance or agent that causes cancer.

CARROT**: (used in Sappho NP Cosmetics) naturally contains over 600 antioxidants. Antioxidants destroy free radicals which, if unchecked, can attack and destroy healthy tissue. Antioxidants can even attack cancerous cells. They also protect against UV radiation—a major source of wrinkles. Carrot oil has been shown to improve the appearance and texture of skin, is high in vitamin content and is said to help maintain the elasticity of skin, keeping it firm, smooth and youthful.

CEDAR WOOD** (used in Sappho NP Cosmetics): Beneficial in calming seborrhea and eczema, it is an antiseptic and antispasmodic.

CELIAC DISEASE: As much as 1% of the US population has this disease, a condition which results from an adverse immune system response to gluten. The manifestations of celiac disease range from no symptoms to malabsorption of nutrients with negative effects on multiple organ systems. The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.

COAL TAR: human carcinogen, can irritate eyes; repeated exposure can cause brown staining in the eye. Coal tar can irritate the nose and throat and cause hoarseness, nosebleeds, coughing with phlegm. Prolonged exposure may cause changes in skin pigment and a rash. Banned in European Union cosmetics.

CYTOPHLACTIC: term for the encouragement of cell regeneration.

DIMETHICONE: silicone emollients like dimethicone are occlusive, which means they coat the skin, trapping anything beneath it, and do not allow the skin to breathe. Some synthetic emollients are known tumour promoters and accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes. They are also non-biodegradable. Includes Cycloethicone and dimethicone Copolyol.

DMAE** (used in Sappho NP Cosmetics:) A naturally occurring substance that is a structural derivative of one of the B vitamins and a powerful antioxidant. It promotes skin firmness and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It is helpful in the body’s production of natural collagen.

DIBUTYL PHTHALATE: Reproductive/developmental toxin which is linked to birth defects and is toxic to the immune system. Its negative effects can result from inhalation or absorption through the skin. May cause mutations, reproductive damage, headaches, nausea, drowsiness and seizures. May affect the nervous system. Banned in the European Union.

ESTER: a compound produced by the reaction between an acid and an alcohol with the elimination of a molecule of water, as ethyl acetate, C4H802 or dimethylsulfate C2H6S04

ETHYLPARABEN/BUTYLPARABEN: preservatives in cosmetics, skin and body products. Closely linked to various cancers as well as reproductive abnormalities in males.

ETHYLACRYLATE: Linked to cancer and birth defects, it is toxic to the immune system. Its negative effects can result from inhalation or absorption through the skin. Prolonged contact can cause severe irritations and burns to the skin and eyes. May cause a skin allergy and prolonged exposure may cause liver and kidney damage.

FRANKINCENSE** (essential oil in Sappho NP Cosmetics): prevents and fades scars. Frankincense can help minimize marks from boils, acne, pox and stretch marks. It is an antiseptic, lifts the skin, is said to promote collagen production in the skin, and is cytophylactic, so it promotes regeneration of healthy cells and also keeps existing cells and tissue healthy

FORMALDEHYDE: human carcinogen. Linked to birth defects, it is toxic to the immune system. Its negative effects can result from inhalation, swallowing or absorption through the skin and it should be handled as a carcinogen. It may cause skin allergy, can irritate nose, throat and mouth, and is a corrosive. Used in production of urea and asthma sufferers are at risk. Also listed as FORMALIN.

GLYCOL: any of a large group of alcohols containing two hydroxyl groups, used as solvents in latex paint, brake fluid, antifreeze, enamel, varnishes, laundry detergent, lacquers and inks. Some are also used in industrial and household cleaners, in dry-cleaning compounds and in cosmetics. Easily absorbed into the skin, they can dissolve its natural oils. Glycol may irritate the eyes, nose and throat as well as the skin. High levels of exposure can damage red blood cells and cause anemia. Some such as 2-methoxyethanol and 2-ethoxyethanol may cause reproductive problems, including reduced sperm count. Animal studies link glycols to birth defects.

GLUTEN: is a special type of protein that is commonly found in rye, wheat, and barley, and therefore in most cereals and bread. Examples of grains that do not contain gluten include wild rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, teff, oats, soybean and sunflower seeds. As much as 1% of the population of the USA has celiac disease, a condition which results from an adverse immune system response to gluten.

JOJOBA OIL** (ORGANIC used in Sappho NP Cosmetics): Jojoba (pronounced ho-HO-ba) is a botanical extract of the seed of the jojoba tree (Simmondsia chinenis). What’s interesting about it is that it isn’t actually an oil, but rather what they call a wax ester. Why do we care? Because this wax ester is the most similar of all the compounds in nature to human skin oil (sebum). It is theorized that applying jojoba to the skin can “trick” the skin into thinking it is producing enough oil, thus balancing oil production.

LANOLIN: wool grease refined (and thereby concentrated) for use in ointments and cosmetics. It is best to stay away from lanolin products, especially if you’re allergic to wool.

LAVENDER** (used in Sappho NP Cosmetics): odour has a calming effect and helps to disinfect scalp and skin and enhance blood circulation. It is an antifungal, anti-viral, anti-toxic, anti-inflammatory, cytophlactic, restorative used to treat skin disorders such as acne, wrinkles, psoriasis and other inflammations. It heals wounds, cuts, burns and sunburns by aiding in the formation of scar tissue.

LEAD ACETATE: known human carcinogen. Linked to birth defects, it is toxic to the immune system. Its negative effects can result from inhalation, swallowing or absorption through the skin and it should be handled as a carcinogen and a teratogen—with extreme caution. It may cause kidney and brain damage and damage to blood cells resulting in anemia. As well, lead acetate may harm foetuses and increase the risk of impaired fertility.

LILALOOL: also found in soaps and cleansers, it is a narcotic that can impair respiratory function and motor activity. Also attracts bees, so not advisable for those allergic to bees.

MEADOW FOAM** ESSENTIAL OIL (used in Sappho Organic Cosmetics): pressed from the seeds of Limnanthes alba, it is native to parts of the western US and Canada. A non-greasy skin moisturizer, it helps to reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging and is a stabilizer in solution.

MERCURY: human carcinogen, linked to birth defects and toxic to the immune system. It can affect you when breathed in or absorbed through your skin. Can irritate skin and eyes and may cause a skin allergy.

METHYLPARABEN: It is a mould-inhibitor and a popular preservative for food and cosmetics; also often used as an antibacterial agent and preservative in local anaesthetics. Closely linked to various cancers and may affect the prenatal development of the male reproductive system.

MINERAL OIL: an oil of mineral origin; a refined petroleum oil used especially as a laxative

NEEM ESSENTIAL OIL** (used in Sappho Organic Cosmetics) extracted from the Neem tree, its beneficial properties have been known to the Native Americans for centuries. It is a natural insect repellent, a safe pesticide, and a fertilizer. It is a skin care ingredient helpful in the treatment of acne as it effectively controls the harmful bacteria that cause the infection and reduces the inflammation that causes the redness, swelling and tenderness.

NON COMEDOGENIC: not tending to clog pores (clogged pores promote the formation of blackheads)

PETROLEUM DISTILLATES: linked to cancer and harmful impurities, its safety is largely unassessed. Insufficient data to give accurate profile; however, existing data points to it being an extreme hazard. May cause cancers, harmful if swallowed, and may cause lung damage if swallowed. Also listed as PETROLEUM DISTILLATE, PINE OIL, PETROLEUM HYDROCARBON.

PARABENS: Used a preservative in a range of cosmetics, linked to cancer, can mimic estrogen and penetrate the skin.

PARAFFIN: a waxy crystalline flammable substance obtained especially from distillates of wood, coal, petroleum, or shale oil that is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and is used chiefly in coating and sealing, in candles, in rubber compounding, and in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics

PHTHALATES: pronounced (thah-lates). A set of industrial chemicals linked to birth defects and used in personal care products and vinyl plastic

PINK WASHING: a term used to describe the activities of companies and groups that position themselves as leaders in the struggle to eradicate breast cancer while engaging in practices that may be contributing to rising rates of the disease.

PLACENTAL EXTRACT: used in hair products marketed primarily to African American women.

POLYBUTADIENE: a synthetic rubber that has a high resistance to wear and is used especially in the manufacture of tires.

POTASSIUM DICHROMATE: possible human carcinogen. Linked to cancer, birth defects, and is toxic to the immune system. Can affect you when you breath it, should be handled as a carcinogen and prolonged exposure may cause a "hole" in the bone dividing the inner nose. May affect the kidneys.

PROPYLPARABEN: the propyl ester of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. It is a preservative typically found in many water-based cosmetics, such as creams, lotions, shampoos and bath products. Known to disrupt endocrine (hormone) function. More than 12 recent research studies show parabens to have estrogenic activity when applied to the skin; they raise estrogen levels which increase the risk of certain cancers.

ROCKROSE ESSENTIAL OIL** (used in Sappho Organic Cosmetics): Traditionally used as a skin rejuvenator, treating infected wounds and skin ulcers. It is an antiseptic and stimulates white blood production. In skin care, it is used as an astringent, an antiseptic, a tonic and to reduce swelling.

ROSEMARY EXTRACT** (used in Sappho Organic Cosmetics) contains more than 2 dozen antioxidants and provides potent protection against chronic diseases. It protects brain cells from the normal effects of aging, inhibits growth of cancer cells, helps reduce allergy symptoms

ROMAN CHAMOMILE** (used in Sappho Organic Cosmetics) organic oil with an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. It can be used to calm acne, eczema, rashes, wounds, dermatitis, dry and itchy skin and other allergic conditions.

SODIUM LAURYL (LAUREL) SULFATE (Also AMMONIUM LAURYL SULFATE- ALS): a very harsh cleanser used to increase absorption of other chemicals. It is also a “wetting agent” that allows shampoo to spread out and penetrate more easily. SLS breaks down lipids (fats) and impairs the skin’s ability to retain moisture. It is classified as a “mutagen” meaning it can alter genetic material. In fact, SLS has been used in Japanese studies to promote bacterial mutations

SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (Also AMMONIUM LAURETH SULFATE – OR SLES): lauryl sulfate is converted to laureth by adding the petrochemical ethylene oxide. But this process, called ethoxylation, creates the petroleum-derived contaminant 1,4-dioxane. Found in many baby shampoos, hand soaps, face and bath products this contaminant is a well-known cancer-causing agent

SULFATE: a salt or ester of sulfuric acid

TERATOGEN: an agent capable of causing malformations in ebryos.

TOUENE: produced during the manufacture of gasoline, it is also used in paints, paint thinners, fingernail polish, lacquers and adhesives. It affects the nervous system, causing fatigue, weakness, confusion, memory loss, nausea, vision loss and hearing loss even at low to moderate levels. At high levels, it damages the kidneys and may cause intoxication, unconsciousness or even death.

TRICIsOSAN – a bactericide and mutagen found in soaps and cleansers that is readily absorbed by the skin. It’s also an eye irritant and associated with causing liver damage

2-BROMO-2NITROPROANE - 1,3- DIOL: linked to harmful impurities and is a toxic to the immune system. BANNED IN EUROPEAN UNION COSMETICS, harmful if in contact with skin or if swallowed. Dangerous to the environment and toxic to aquatic animals.