A-Z of ingredient functions

Look up different ingredient types and why we use them.

Browse our ingredient types


Removes dirt to leave surfaces clean or polished through rubbing/ brushing


Helps to absorb fluids like water or oil


Added to a product to improve one or more important properties


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)


Helps to prevent reactions promoted by oxygen in the product, which can cause product spoilage.

Antiperspirant Agent

Helps to reduce sweating


Helps protect against plaque


Helps control sebum production

Antistatic Agent

Helps to make you hair, skin, clothes, kitchen ware or hard surfaces feel better by reducing static charge


Creates a tighter skin or scalp feeling


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


Ingredients from herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, leaves or seeds

Buffering Agent

Maintains the right acidity / alkalinity balance of a product


Reduces water hardness, makes cleaning products more effective

Bulking Agent

Diluant. Dilutes solids or liquids to allow for more accurate dosing


Helps to keep the body surface clean


Colours the product, your hair or skin

Cooling Agent

Provides a cool and fresh sensation

Corrosion Inhibitor

Prevents corrosion of packaging


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


Softens and smooths the skin


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


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


Improves the taste of oral or lip care products, such as tooth paste or lip balm


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


Helps to retain water in a product, in hair or the top layers of skin


Allows cleaning agents to be uniformly dispersed within a product.

Nail Conditioning

Improves the cosmetic characteristics of the nail


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).


Helps to give products a shimmery appearance


Makes materials more flexible and resilient


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


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.


Helps prevent impurities from water from causing adverse effects on product performance, appearance, or stability.

Skin Conditioning Agent

Helps to make your skin feel soft, smooth and supple.

Skin Lightening Agent

Helps to lighten the shade of your skin

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


Helps an ingredient in the product dissolve better


Dissolves substances or ingredients


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


Gives a product form or shape

Sunscreen Agent

Helps prevent sunburn.

Surface Modifiers

Changes the look and feel of an object's surface in home care products


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


Makes products taste sweeter

Tablet Disintegrant

Helps tablets break up so the product works faster


Darkens the skin without exposure to UV or sunlight


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


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


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

Contact us