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Ma Huang - Mytilus Edulis Byssus Extract

Beauty and Cosmetic Glossary - M


Ma huang. See Ephedra sinica extract.

macadamia nut oil. Used in cosmetics as an emollient for dry skin.

Macrocystis pyrifera. See algae.

Mad Cow Disease. Mad Cow Disease (technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE) is a chronic degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle. The concern for humans is the risk of eating meat or meat products that contain the BSE pathogen. Whether bovine-derived ingredients used in cosmetics can harbor the disease and cause health risks is unknown, but theoretically a remote possible risk does exist. Some researchers believe that there is no evidence BSE can be contracted through the skin (Source: Cosmetic Dermatology, December 2001, pages 43-47); however, neither cooking, preserving, nor any of the other processing that most cosmetics go through can eliminate BSE pathogens. That means if animal by-products are used in cosmetics (in particular placenta and spleen bovine extracts), they can pose a risk, albeit remote, to the user. The British BSE Committee (, in varying reports, has mentioned a concern that people could become infected if the creams were used on broken skin.

It is important to realize that very few products use those kinds of ingredients. If you are thinking of buying cosmetics that contain animal organ extracts of any kind, you may want to reconsider, or discard them if you have already made a purchase.

Madagascar periwinkle. Plant that has anti-tumor properties (Sources: Oncologist, 2000, volume 5, number 3, pages 185-198; and Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, November 2001, pages 5165-5170). However, Madagascar periwinkle is considered toxic and has limited use for cancer treatment (Sources: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database,; and FDA Poisonous Plant Database,

magnesium. Earth mineral that has strong absorbent properties and some disinfecting properties.

magnesium aluminum silicate. Powdery, dry-feeling, white solid that can be used as a thickening agent and powder in cosmetics.

magnesium ascorbyl palmitate. Stable derivative of vitamin C that can be an effective antioxidant. See vitamin C.

magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. Form of vitamin C that is considered stable and an effective antioxidant for skin (Sources: Photochemistry and Photobiology, June 1998, pages 669-675; and Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, March 1997, pages 795-801). For skin lightening, there is only a single study showing it to be effective for inhibiting melanin production (Source: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, January 1996, pages 29-33). The study concluded that a moisturizer with a 10% concentration of magnesium ascorbyl phosphate "suppressed melanin formation. The lightening effect was significant in 19 of 34 patients with chloasma or senile freckles and in 3 of 25 patients with normal skin." One study is not exactly anything to write home about, not to mention that at present there are no products on the market that contain 10% magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.

magnesium gluconate. Magnesium is an essential mineral the body uses to maintain circulatory and nervous system function. There is a small amount of research showing that it has antibacterial properties (Sources: Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, February 2001, pages 132-135; and Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, May 1998, pages 445-452). There is also research showing it may be helpful for healing burns.

magnesium hydroxide. Active ingredient in milk of magnesia. It is an absorbent and has antibacterial properties for skin.

magnesium laureth sulfate. Mild detergent cleansing agent. See surfactant.

magnesium oleth sulfate. Mild detergent cleansing agent. See surfactant.

magnesium stearate. Used as a thickening agent in cosmetics.

mahanimba. See neem extract.

make up brush. Make up brushes are essential to any makeup kit. They are used to apply and even out makeup. Each item of makeup has a different size and style of brush for perfect application.
Most of the brushes come with the makeup items you buy. However you can also purchase them as separate items. It is essential to wash brushes thoroughly and wipe off excess makeup from them.

make up remover.  A product to remove mascara and makeup without causing irritation to sensitive skin surrounding the eye.

makeup kits.  Makeup are substances to enhance the beauty of the human body, apart from simple cleaning. Their use is widespread, especially among women in Western countries

malic acid. See AHA.

 malkagni. See Celastrus paniculatus.

mallow. Can be used as a thickening agent in cosmetics and may have anti-inflammatory and soothing properties for skin due to its content of mucilage, flavonoids, and anthocyanidins (Source: ealthnotes Review of Complementary and Integrative Medicine,

Malvaceae extract. From a plant family, Malvaceae, that includes over 1,000 species, found in tropical and temperate regions the world over. Their varying benefits and problems are diverse. Consequently, if this singular listing appears on a cosmetic ingredient label it is misleading, given that each of the 1,000 species has its own pros and cons.

mandarin orange oil or extract. Primarily used as a fragrance; it can be a skin irritant. There is no research showing it to have benefit when applied topically.

manganese gluconate. Mineral found in trace amounts in tissues of the body. While manganese plays a vital role in the processes of many body systems, there is no evidence it serves any purpose topically on skin, though it may be an antioxidant.

Mangifera indica root. Derived from the mango tree; it can have antioxidant properties (Source: Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, February 2002, pages 762-766).

mannan. Any of a group of polysaccharides that have good water-binding, antioxidant, and anticancer properties (Source: Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, October 2001, pages 213-222). See mucopolysaccharide, and natural moisturizing factors.

mannitol. Component of plants that has potent antioxidant properties (Source: Photochemistry and Photobiology, August 1999, pages 191-198).

manuka oil. Derived from the New Zealand tea tree; the oil is similar to that of the Australian tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia. Manuka oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties (Sources: Phytotherapy Research, December 2000, pages 623-629; and Pharmazie International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, June 1999, pages 460-463). See also tea tree oil.

mare milk palmitate. Protein derivative from female horses that can have water-binding properties for skin. See natural moisturizing factors.

marigold. See calendula extract.

marionberry. Fruit that has potent antioxidant properties (Source: Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, June 5, 2002, pages 3495-3500).

marjoram. Herb with a fragrant component used in cosmetics; can be a skin irritant.

mascara.  Mascara is a cosmetic used to darken, thicken and define eyelashes. It's available in three different formulations: cake, liquid, and cream. It also comes in many different shades and tints. It can help eyelashes to look thicker and longer. Mascara and eyebrow pencil should be colour co-ordinated so that they do not appear to clash.

marshmallow. See mallow.

Mastocarpus stellatus. See algae.

mate extract. See yerba mate extract.

Matricaria oil. See chamomile extract.

Matrixyl. See palmitoyl pentapeptide 3.

MEA. See alkyloamides and triethanolamine.

Meadowsweet extract. Can have anti-inflammatory properties (Source: Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, October 1999, pages 3954-3962).

Medicago sativa. See alfalfa extract.

Melaleuca alternifolia. See tea tree oil.

Melaleuca cajeputi oil. There is no research showing this oil, derived from the same plant family as tea tree oil, to have antibacterial properties. It may cause skin irritation (Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Rockport, MA, Element Books, 1995, page 170).

melamine. Derived from urea, it is used as a film-forming agent. See film-forming agent.

melanin. Pigment in cells that creates the color in skin and hair.

melasma. Melasma or chloasma are brownish discolorations of the face, hands, chest, and neck. Pregnancy is a common cause of melasma, as well as taking oral contraceptives. However, unprotected exposure to sunlight is also a major cause.

Melia azadirachta. See neem extract.

melibiose. Saccharide that can have good water-binding properties. See mucopolysaccharide, and natural moisturizing factors.

Melissa officinalis. See balm mint, and counter-irritant.

Mentha arvensis. See cornmint.

Mentha piperita. See counter-irritant, and peppermint.

Mentha spicata. See counter-irritant, and spearmint oil.

Mentha viridis. See counter-irritant, and spearmint oil.

menthol. Derived from peppermint; it can have the same irritating effect as peppermint on skin (Source: Archives of Dermatologic Research, May 1996, pages 245-248). See counter-irritant, and peppermint.

menthone. Major constituent of peppermint. See peppermint.

menthyl lactate. Used as a cooling agent and fragrance in cosmetics. It is a derivative of menthol and is supposed to be less irritating than menthol. See counter-irritant, and menthol.

methanol. See alcohol.

methionine. See amino acid, and antioxidant.

methoxypropylgluconamide. An alpha hydroxy acid that may be less irritating than glycolic acid and lactic acid. However, there is almost no research about this ingredient and very little is known about its benefit and function (Source: Dermatologic Surgery, May 1996, pages 469-473). It most likely functions more as a water-binding agent than anything else. This ingredient was originally patented by Revlon and the study cited above was carried out by Revlon.

methylchloroisothiazolinone. In combination with methylisothiazolinone, it goes by the trade name Kathon CG. Introduced into cosmetics in the mid-1970s, it elicited a great number of sensitizations in consumers. This led to its withdrawal from cosmetics other than in rinse-off products (Sources: Contact Dermatitis, November 2001, pages 257-264; and European Journal of Dermatology, March 1999, pages 144-160).

methyldibromo glutaronitrile. Formaldehyde-releasing preservative (Source: Contact Dermatitis, December 2000, pages 339-343). See formaldehyde-releasing preservative.

methyldihydrojasmonate. Synthetic fragrant components.

methyleugenol. Natural constituent of such plant oils as rose, basil, blackberry, cinnamon, and anise. According to the November 9, 1998, issue of The Rose Sheet (an insider cosmetics industry newsletter), the National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors concluded that "methyleugenol, a component of a number of essential oils, has shown clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats and mice." The study is an animal model and so the results may or may not be applicable to humans.

methylisothiazolinone. Preservative that should be used only in rinse-off products because it can be too irritating when left on skin. See methylchloroisothiazolinone, and preservatives.

methylparaben. Preservative that should be used only in rinse-off products because it can be too irritating when left on skin. See methylchloroisothiazolinone, and preservatives.

methylrosaniline chloride. See gentian violet.

methylsilanol mannuronate. See silicone.

methylsilanol PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate. Used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics. See glyceryl ester, and silicone.

methylsufonylsulfate. See antioxidant.

methylsulfonylmethane. Also known as MSM. There is no published research to back up claims made regarding any benefit this sulfur compound may have for arthritis or other physical ailments. There is no research about its effect when applied topically. Sulfur is stored in every cell of the body, particularly in the hair, nails, and connective tissue of joints and skin, where it is an important structural protein component. An MSM manufacturer has sponsored two very small trials, but the results have not been published. Until additional research is published, MSM enthusiasm should be tempered. MSM is available in capsules and powder for oral intake or in creams for topical use. So far, there have been no reports of toxicity (Sources: Harvard Health Letter, August 2000,; Healthnotes Review of Complementary and Integrative Medicine,; and

mica. Earth mineral used to give products sparkle and shine.

micrococcus lysate. Earth mineral used to give products sparkle and shine.Enzyme derived from bacteria. It can break down foods and is present in the human body. It has no known benefit in skin care.

Microcystis aeruginosa. Latin name for spirulina. See algae.

milk protein. See protein.

milk vetch root. There is a good deal of research showing this root to have antioxidant properties (Source: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database,, but there is little evidence it has that function when applied topically.

mimosa oil or extract. Used as a fragrance in cosmetics.

Mimosa tenuiflora extract. It is used traditionally to treat wounds and burns, particularly in Mexico where the extract is called Tepescohuite (Source: Revista de Biologia Tropical, December 2000, pages 939-954; and Journal of Ethnopharmacology, March 1993, pages 153-157). But there is conflicting evidence whether or not this extract is really effective and potentially toxic to skin (Source: Revista de Investigacion Clinica, July-September 1991, pages 205-210).

mineral makeup.  As they are made from finely crushed, high pigment minerals, the risk of allergy is minimized and there is no clogging of pores. It helps to retain the moisture and retains hydration. mineral-based cosmetics Mineral make up, as the name suggests, is made from mineral elements. This range of make up is created after mixing minerals with other inorganic pigments for a wide color range. Natural minerals are finely milled, pulverized and purified before they are used in mineral make up items. Mineral makeup stays on for longer since it doesn't crease or smear easily. Mineral make up is usually devoid of any artificial fragrances, color and preservatives.

mineral oil. Clear, odorless oil derived from petroleum that is widely used in cosmetics because it rarely causes allergic reactions and can't become a solid and clog pores. Despite mineral oil's association with petroleum and the hype that it is bad for skin, keep in mind that petroleum is a natural ingredient derived from the earth and that once it becomes mineral oil, it has no resemblance to the original petroleum. Cosmetics-grade mineral oil and petrolatum are considered the safest, most nonirritating moisturizing ingredients ever found (Sources: Cosmetics & Toiletries, January 2001, page 79; and Cosmetic Dermatology, September 2000, pages 44-46). Yes, they can keep air off the skin to some extent, but that's what a good antioxidant is supposed to do; they don't suffocate skin! Moreover, mineral oil and petrolatum are known to be efficacious in wound healing, and are also considered to be among the most effective moisturizing ingredients available (Source: Cosmetics & Toiletries, February 1998, pages 33-40).

mink oil. Considered similar to human sebum and, therefore, an effective emollient. The miraculous claims made for this ingredient are not proven, and in moisturizers it is neither preferable to nor more effective than plant oils.

mint. Can be a skin irritant and cause contact dermatitis. See counter-irritant.

Mitracarpe scaber extract. Extract from a plant native to West Africa; it has been shown to have some antimicrobial properties (Source: Letters in Applied Microbiology, February 2000, pages 105-108).

mixed fruit extracts. See sugarcane extract.

moisturizer.  A product that adds water, and often some emollients, to the skin. A variety of types of moisturizers are available (for various skin types), and are necessary for all skin types to prevent dehydration.

montmorillonite. See bentonite.

Moor extract. Trade name for silt extract, a type of mud or clay that has absorbent properties. There is no research showing it to have special benefit for skin.

Moringa pterygosperma extract. An extract from the horseradish tree. It can have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties when taken orally (Source: Nigerian Journal Of Natural Products And Medicine, November 2001, volume 5,, but there is no research showing those benefits can take place when it is applied topically.

Morus bombycis root extract. See mulberry extract.

Morus nigra root extract. See black mulberry.

Mourera fluvitalis extract. There is no research showing this to have any benefit for skin.

mucopolysaccharide. Also known as glycosaminoglycans. This is a large class of ingredients that includes hyaluronic acid, which is found universally in skin tissue. These substances, in association with protein, bind water and other cellular elements so they remain intact, forming a matrix that holds skin cells together. See natural moisturizing factors.

mugwort extract. There is no research showing this extract to be beneficial for skin (Sources: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, and

mulberry extract. Due to its arbutin content, this extract can have some value in preventing melanin production. Although there is limited research showing this to be the case, the research has only been done in vitro (Sources: eMedicine Journal, November 5, 2001, volume 2, number 11,; and Biophysical Research Communications, volume 243, number 3, pages 801-803). See arbutin.

Musa paradisica. See banana extract.

Myobloc. An alternative to Botox. Myobloc is the botulinum toxin type B. See Botox.

myristates. Generally these are forms of fatty acids used in cosmetics as thickening agents and emollients. As is true for any emollient, they can potentially clog pores, depending on the amount used in the product. See fatty acid.

myristic acid. Detergent cleansing agent that also creates foam and can be drying. See surfactant.

myristyl myristate. Used in cosmetics as a thickening agent and emollient.

myrrh. Fragrant gum resin that can be a skin irritant. There is little research showing it to have any benefit for skin (Source: Healthnotes Review of Complementary and Integrative Medicine,, though there is a small amount of research showing it may have antifungal and antibacterial properties (Source: Planta Medica, May 2000, pages 356-358).

myrtle extract. Contains volatile oil and tannins. It can have fungicidal, disinfectant, and antibacterial properties. It contains 1,8-cineole, a constituent responsible for toxicity. It is recommended that this not come in contact with skin (Sources: Journal of Natural Products, March 2002, pages 334-338 and atural Medicines Comprehensive Database,

Myrtus communis extract. See myrtle extract.

Mytilus edulis byssus extract. Extract of the blue mussel. There is no research showing it to have benefit for skin.