A-Z of ingredient functions

Look up different ingredient types and why we use them.

Browse our ingredient types

Abrasive
Removes dirt to leave surfaces clean or polished through rubbing/ brushing
Absorbent
Helps to absorb fluids like water or oil
Additive
Added to a product to improve one or more important properties
Adhesive
Helps bind surfaces to each other
Alkalinity Source
Increases the alkalinity of the product to help in the washing away of dirt.
Anti-redeposition Agent
Helps prevent the removed dirt in washing water from reattaching to a surface
Anticaking Agent
Helps to prevent the formation of lumps in the product.
Antidandruff Agent
Helps to relieve or control the symptoms of dandruff
Antifoaming Agent
Prevents excessive foam or bubbles forming when a product is used
Antimicrobial Agent
Helps to reduce the amount of bacteria on a surface or body (part)
Antioxidant
Helps to prevent reactions promoted by oxygen in the product, which can cause product spoilage.
Antiperspirant Agent
Helps to reduce sweating
Antiplaque
Helps protect against plaque
Antiseborrhoeic
Helps control sebum production
Antistatic Agent
Helps to make you hair, skin, clothes, kitchen ware or hard surfaces feel better by reducing static charge
Astringent
Creates tightening or a tingling sensation on the skin
Binder
Helps materials to bind or stick together
Bleach Catalyst
Boosts the performance of bleach to make it more effective at low temperatures
Bleach Precursor
Becomes a bleaching substance during washing
Botanicals
Ingredients from herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, leaves or seeds
Buffering Agent
Maintains the right acidity / alkalinity balance of a product
Builder
Reduces water hardness, makes cleaning products more effective
Bulking Agent
Diluant. Dilutes solids or liquids to allow for more accurate dosing
Cleansing
Helps to keep the body surface clean
Colourant
Colours the product, your hair or skin
Cooling Agent
Provides a cool and fresh sensation
Corrosion Inhibitor
Prevents corrosion of packaging
Denaturant
Changes the taste of a product to prevent ingestion. Typically used in alcohol-containing products.
Deodorant Agent
Helps to reduce or mask unpleasant body odours
Dye Transfer Inhibitor
Prevents colour rinsed out from clothes into wash water being deposited on to your other clothes during the wash
Emollient
Softens and smooths the skin
Emulsifier
Helps two or more liquids, that don't usually combine to form a single solution; often referred to as an 'emulsion'
Emulsion Stabiliser
Prevents a mixture from separating and helping to increase a product's shelf life
Enzyme
Boosts the cleaning properties of a product to help remove specific stains at lower temperatures e.g. fats, egg, blood.
Enzyme Stabiliser
Makes an enzyme last longer in liquid detergent
Evaporation Aid
Helps a product dry faster
Exfoliating Agent
Helps to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin
Fabric Conditioner Agent
Helps to soften and improve the feel of a fabric
Fabric Lubricating Agent
Lubricates the fibres of fabrics to gives benefits such as helping to make ironing easier.
Film Former
Helps provide a smooth, consistent coverage when applied
Fixing Agent
Helps to maintain the hold of your hair style
Flavour
Improves the taste of oral or lip care products, such as tooth paste or lip balm
Fragrance
Provides a distinctive, pleasant smell
Gel Forming
Gives the consistency of a gel to a liquid
Hair - Shaping/Styling Agent
Helps you to style or straighten your hair
Hair Conditioning Agent
Helps to improve the gloss, sheen and texture of your hair
Hair Dyeing
Colours hair
Humectant
Helps to retain water in a product, in hair or the top layers of skin
Hydrotrope
Allows cleaning agents to be uniformly dispersed within a product.
Nail Conditioning
Improves the cosmetic characteristics of the nail
Opacifier
Makes the product appear more opaque or pearly
Optical Brightener
Provides additional brightness to the surface to which product is applied.
Oral Care Agent
Helps to clean, protect or remove/cover an unpleasant smell in the mouth/teeth/gums
Oxidising Agent
In laundry and household care products stains are removed by oxidation (bleaching).
Pearlescer
Helps to give products a shimmery appearance
Plasticizer
Makes materials more flexible and resilient
Preservative
This prolongs the shelf-life of the product, even once it has been opened, protecting it from bacteria, yeasts and moulds
Process by-product
A secondary component/ingredient which is created when making the product
Propellant
A compressed gas that helps expel product from a can
pH Adjuster
Controls the acidity / alkalinity balance of products
Reducing Agent
Changes the nature of another ingredient by adding hydrogen or removing oxygen.
Regeneration Salt
Regenerates the water softener in a machine dishwasher.
Sequestrant
Helps prevent impurities from water from causing adverse effects on product performance, appearance, or stability.
Skin Brightening Agent
Helps to brighten your skin
Skin Conditioning Agent
Helps to make your skin feel soft, smooth and supple.
Skin Protectant
Helps to temporarily protect minor cuts, scrapes, burns or skin irritation
Slip Modifier
Helps a product spread more easily
Softness Extender
Makes a softening agent more effective and last longer
Solubiliser
Helps an ingredient in the product dissolve better
Solvent
Dissolves substances or ingredients
Soothing
Seeks to achieve an even skin surface by decreasing roughness or irregularities
Spray Modifier
Changes the characteristics of a spray; for example: makes it thicker, thinner or more foam-like
Stabilising Agent
Helps maintain the stability of a product's formulation, appearance and texture
Structurant
Gives a product form or shape
Sunscreen Agent
Helps to protect the skin and filter out harmful UV rays
Surface Modifiers
Changes the look and feel of an object's surface in home care products
Surfactant
An ingredient which helps to clean or remove dirt and oil, creating foam when used with water
Suspending Agent
Helps keep solids separated and evenly dispersed within a product
Sweetener
Makes products taste sweeter
Tablet Disintegrant
Helps tablets break up so the product works faster
Tanning
Tans the skin without exposure to UV or sunlight
Tonic
Produces a feeling of well-being on skin and hair
UV Absorber
Helps to protect the product formulation from UV rays
Viscosity Controlling Agent
Controls the density or thickness of a product
Back to top

CONNECT WITH US

We're always looking to connect with those who share an interest in a sustainable future.

CONTACT US

Get in touch with Unilever PLC and specialist teams in our headquarters, or find contacts around the world.

Contact us