Silicones, parabens and sulphates: we explain them all.

Wondering what the various ingredients that go into your skin care and makeup products really are? We value transparency, so have put together a quick guide.
To be put on the market, all cosmetic products must comply with highly stringent international regulations. Most importantly of all, their ingredients must not be hazardous to human health. In deciding which ingredients to blacklist or whitelist, international regulations draw on scientific studies that are constantly being updated. Yet despite being authorised, some ingredients are controversial because of their impact on human health or the environment, such as silicones, parabens and sulphates.
Clarins pays particularly close attention to these controversies and is actively engaged in following new findings and conclusions released by health authorities.
And even if they are authorised, Clarins aims to substitute these ingredients in its formulas, or restrict them to the smallest possible quantities where no substitute exists. We take a closer look at the facts.

1. Silicones

INCI: Dimethicone; Dimethiconol; Cyclomethicone; Trimethicone; Cyclopentasiloxane and derivatives

Silicones are an extensive family of compounds used in makeup, skin care and hair care formulas. Silicones are prized for their smoothing, correcting and mattifying effects, as well as for their pleasant, silky texture. The issue here is that two of them, cyclopentasiloxane (D5) and cyclotetrasiloxane (D4), have a negative impact on the environment, with build-up accumulating in waste water as a result of their high stability. Furthermore, cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) is also suspected of having harmful effects on human health. European cosmetic regulations restrict their use to a concentration of 0.1% in rinse-off products. Because Clarins takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, the brand is committed to restricting use of silicones of all types in its skin care and makeup products. Although a handful of existing makeup formulas can indeed contain cyclopentasiloxane or cyclomethicone, Clarins is actively working to find alternative means of creating this silky texture in all new products.

2. Parabens

INCI names: Methylparaben; Ethylparaben

An extensive family of molecules, parabens are used in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries for their preservative properties. These molecules help keep formulas intact and protect them from any potential contamination (bacterial, fungal, viral, etc.). Their downside? They are bad for your health. In response to this issue, many scientific studies have been conducted to check parabens' impact on human health, and demonstrated that two of them are perfectly safe: methylparaben and ethylparaben. Although cosmetic regulations prohibit the use of parabens ('long-chain' parabens), they authorise the use of two 'short-chain' parabens: methyl and ethylparaben. Pressure from the media resulted in Clarins opting to use alternatives to these two parabens for preserving its products. But because every formula needs to be tested and trialled to find the right way of preserving its benefits, Clarins may still need to use methyl or ethylparaben from time to time to ensure antimicrobial protection for some of its products.

3. Sulphates

INCI names: Sodium laureth sulphate; Sodium lauryl sulphate

In cosmetics, sulphates stabilise formulas and create a luxurious foaming effect. The most widespread sulphates are sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES). Their downside? They can sometimes be irritating and manufactured via polluting processes. Cosmetic regulations authorise their use based on scientific studies that have demonstrated that in low concentrations, they are safe for human use. Although Clarins uses these certified no-risk concentrations in some of its products, the laboratories are actively seeking to replace them with 'greener' substances to limit their impact on the environment.
Some 'sulphated' ingredients exist, such as zinc sulphate and magnesium sulphate, neither of which are SLS or SLES. These are used for other cosmetic purposes as active or base ingredients in formulas. They do not cause irritation and the way in which they are manufactured does not cause pollution. As a result, they are sometimes used in Clarins products.

4. Alcohol

INCI name: Alcohol

Alcohol may sometimes be used in cosmetic products in ethanol form. It lends a refreshing coolness to products by evaporating upon application, which means that some ingredients can be solubilised within the formula, and the latter is perfectly preserved. Its downside? Alcohol can sometimes be drying or irritate the skin. Because Clarins' priority is developing quality products with sensory appeal that are safe for the skin, the brand only uses natural origin alcohol (distilled from beetroot and wheat) in its skin care and makeup products, at very well tolerated concentrations that do not cause dryness or irritation.


INCI name: Disodium EDTA; Tetrasodium EDTA; Trisodium EDTA

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, also known as EDTA, and its derivatives are used to ensure cosmetic formulas remain stable. The downside? A negative impact on the environment. Although EDTA is authorised under international regulations, Clarins is working to replace it by conducting studies into new, more eco-friendly alternatives.

6. Phenoxyethanol

INCI name: Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is an anti-microbial preservative that ensures cosmetics are kept fresh throughout their lifespan on store shelves, and throughout their use. Incredibly effective at low doses, phenoxyethanol has been the subject of a number of scientific studies designed to green-light its safety of use in cosmetic products. In compliance with the cosmetic regulations in force, Clarins uses phenoxyethanol to preserve its formulas.

7. Phthalates

INCI name: Diethyl phthalate

In the phthalate family, only diethyl phthalate (DEP) is authorised for cosmetic use. It is used in denaturing alcohol, rendering the alcohol used in fragrance unfit for human consumption. The issue with this family of chemical compounds? They have carcinogenic and mutagenic effects and can be toxic to reproduction. It has nevertheless been proven that DEP has no risk for human health. As a result, the regulations in force authorise its use in cosmetic formulas. Yet despite this authorisation, Clarins does not use phthalates of any kind in its formulas, including DEP, and chooses to use a different denaturant in the form of ethylene brassylate.

8. Endocrine disruptors

According to the World Health Organization, as its name suggests endocrine disruptors are substances that can impact on one or more endocrine system functions, resulting in harmful effects on human health. To date, there is no official list of endocrine disruptors recognised and published as such by the European Commission. However, if an ingredient is shown to act as an endocrine disruptor, it goes on to be blacklisted for cosmetic use. Because Clarins cares about its consumers' safety, the brand chooses its ingredients and formulas in compliance with the very latest regulations and actively monitors all new toxicological findings to avoid using ingredients that are identified as being endocrine disruptors.

9. Mineral oils

INCI names: Paraffinum liquidum; Paraffin; Synthetic wax; Cera microcristallina/Microcrystalline wax; Ozokerite; Ceresin; Isododecane; Isohexadecane; Hydrogenated polyisobuten; Hydrogenated didecene

Liquid paraffin, Vaseline, Vaseline oil, mineral waxes, etc. are all part of the extensive family of mineral oils. Used extensively in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries thanks to their emollient properties, mineral oils are excellent for creating texture and hydrating skin. As with all ingredients authorised under cosmetic regulations, mineral oils have been the subject of a plethora of scientific studies to demonstrate that they are perfectly safe for human use. Their downside? They are a by-product of the polluting oil refining industry. Some existing Clarins products may contain mineral oils. But because the brand takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, Clarins is actively seeking alternatives for all new products launched.

10. Sun filters:

INCI names:
INCI for sun filters Europe-Asia 2019:
Chemical/organic sun filters: Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl Triazine, methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol [nano], Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Ethylhexyl triazone, Octocrylene, Polysilicone-15, Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, Homosalate
Mineral sun filters: Titanium dioxide, Zinc oxide

INCI for sun filters USA-Canada 2019:
Chemical/organic sun filters: Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Polysilicone-15, Homosalate, Octocrylene Mineral sun filters: Titanium dioxide, Zinc oxide

Sun filters are a large family of ingredients capable of protecting the skin from the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays. These sun filters are available in chemical (also called organic) and mineral forms, and play a key role in people's health as essential ingredients to be included in sunblock.
We choose the sun filters used in our cosmetic products in line with official lists of sun filters authorised under different sets of international regulations. These official lists differ from one country to the next, and are based on a number of regularly updated scientific studies designed to demonstrate their safety for human health and their effectiveness in protecting the skin from UV rays.
Their downside? There is cause to believe they may be endocrine disruptors or carcinogenic, and are suspected of polluting the oceans and posing a threat to marine species. Sunscreen is one of the most commonly studied cosmetic ingredients in the scientific community. Taken in their entirety, the studies have not demonstrated that authorised sun filters have the potential to act as endocrine disruptors or carcinogenic factors in human health. With respect to their environmental impact, and more specifically their impact on the oceans and marine wildlife, it is difficult to accurately assess the situation and gain a consensus, in the sense that no norms or standards have been established by which to gauge the situation.
Consumer health is Clarins' number-one priority and the brand consistently reiterates the importance of protecting your skin from the sun to safeguard your health. This is why it is crucial to apply sun protection before exposure and to reapply it at least every 2 hours and after every swim. In compliance with the different international regulations, Clarins uses different authorised chemical and mineral sun filters in its sun protection products, all at doses deemed safe for human health, while ensuring optimal protection levels. The protective effectiveness of all Clarins sunblocks is rigorously tested before being put on the market by independent laboratories using the methods required by the regulations in force.
And because Clarins cares about the planet, the brand uses the minimum amount of sunscreen required to effectively keep skin protected.

Extra information to add for countries launching STOCK EUROPE & ASIA from April 2019:
In the absence of reference tests, Clarins has put in place a protocol of tests to assess the impact of its sun care range on coral reefs. These tests demonstrate that Clarins sun care formulas* have an insignificant impact on coral sustainability and cause neither bleaching nor demise.

*Applicable to all formulas with the exception of Mineral Sun Care Liquid SPF 30 & Mineral Sun Care Compact SPF 30

11. Titanium dioxide

INCI name: Titanium dioxide

Titanium dioxide is an inorganic compound found in nature. Once processed and purified, it becomes one of the most widespread substances used around the world, particularly in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

In cosmetics, it can be used as sunscreen to protect the skin from the sun's harmful UV rays. International regulations authorise its use for this purpose and it is one of just a handful of authorised sun filters. It can also be used to bleach and whiten cosmetic formulas, and as a result, it can be used in makeup to achieve 'brightening' or 'light-reflecting' effects. Its nanometric form is preferred for improved dispersion in the product, depending on the desired formula.

Its downside? Its nanometric form makes it easier for it to be absorbed into the body. Use of titanium dioxide nanoparticles is expressly authorised by international regulations based on toxicological assessments that have established percentages of use in sun protection products that pose no risk to human health. Consequently, Clarins authorises the use of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in its SPF sunscreen, and as required by European regulations, includes the term [NANO] after the name 'titanium dioxide' in the list of ingredients printed on its products.

12. Plastics

INCI names: HDI/Trimethylol hexyllactone crosspolymer; Nylon-12; Methyl methacrylate crosspolymer; Polymethyl methacrylate; Polyethylene; Vinyl dimethicone/methicone silsesquioxane crosspolymer

The term plastics encompasses a wide range of polymers that can be either synthetic or natural, all of which come in a variety of forms: films, fibres, glitter, powders, gels... They are used in a huge variety of industries such as design, furniture, food packaging and cosmetics. Because of their suppleness and flexibility, plastics can be moulded, extruded, pressed and worked into various shapes that allow for a number of different effects with varying degrees of transparency, resistance, suppleness and elasticity.

In cosmetics, different types of plastics can be used depending on their specific properties. Until recently, plastic micro-beads (particles measuring over 5mm across) were used as exfoliating ingredients in scrubs. They are now expressly prohibited by European cosmetic regulations. Plastic-based powders, however, are authorised for use in makeup and skin care products for their soft-focus or correcting effects. Plastic gelling agents can also be used to create texture and to give formulas a pleasant silky feel, or 'slip'.

Their downside? Non-biodegradable plastics pollute the environment, as they accumulate in it. Because Clarins takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, the brand removed plastic microbeads from all its exfoliators well before they were officially banned by cosmetic regulations, choosing instead to focus on natural-origin alternatives (cellulose microbeads, lava powder, sugar and salt crystals). In addition, although Clarins may sometimes use plastic gelling agents and powders in its skin care and makeup products, the brand always complies with the regulations in force and strives to restrict their use by actively researching alternatives with the same sensory qualities.

Questions in the same category

How does Clarins ensure its products are safe for consumers?

Carefully selected ingredients and a unique formula: Clarins explains how it ensures total product safety for its customers.

How do we choose the ingredients for our products at Clarins?

Clarins draws on its unique expertise in carefully selecting each and every ingredient that goes into its products, ensuring formulas that are kind to skin.

Why does Clarins use plant extracts in its products?

Plant extracts contain unique active ingredients that make Clarins products stand out. Learn all about the benefits of the plants used in Clarins products.

What does 'Vegan Friendly' mean?

Thanks to the my Clarins range, discover an entire selection of beauty and skin care products that are certified vegan friendly.