What Are Active Ingredients in Skincare Products?

What Are Active Ingredients in Skincare Products?

What Are Active Ingredients in Skincare Products?

Active ingredients are used in skincare products to address various skin concerns and issues such as dry or oily skin, eczema-prone skin, or to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In this post, we discuss some commonly used active ingredients found in skincare products and their benefits for your skin, plus some hot tips for creating your own skincare products at home.

Do you ever look at the back of your skincare products and think “What on earth are all these ingredients?” Well, you're not alone. Most skincare products have a list of ingredients that make no sense to the average person. However, it is a legal requirement to list the names of ingredients by their INCI name which is recognised the world over, making it easier to check ingredients in different regions.

It’s useful when purchasing skincare products to have a basic knowledge of the ingredients. Why? So you can make sure you're buying products that will work for you and your skin type, as well as ensuring you know what you are choosing to put on your skin.

What Are Active Ingredients?

Active ingredients are used in skincare products to deliver several different benefits for the user. They can be found in almost all types of skincare products currently on the market, and have become increasingly popular for use in natural cosmetics.

Examples of active ingredients include antioxidants like Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Probiotics, Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA), Hyaluronic Acid and Coenzyme Q10 are also popular active ingredients for skincare products.

Overusing active ingredients can damage your skin, especially on the face, where skin is thinner. You could do more damage than good, this is why it's particularly important to understand active ingredients if you are making DIY skincare products and to stick to the recommended usage rates. Using more than the recommended maximum percentage does not increase the benefits of the active ingredients, but will add unnecessary costs to your formulation. The manufacturers of the active ingredients have tested them thoroughly to ascertain what amount works best and what fits in with current regulations.

Once you have an understanding of active ingredients and their individual benefits, it is possible to create tailor-made skincare products suitable for your skin type and any skin issues you may have, such as dry, sensitive orirritable skin, eczema-prone or acne-prone skin.

Alternatively, you could select active ingredients that have more specific functions, such as helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Others can support the production of sebum (the oily, waxy substance naturally produced by your body). This will protect the skin from damage caused by external factors as well as from dehydration, thus keeping your skin super-hydrated and glowing at all times.

Examples of Active Ingredients in Skincare and Their Benefits

a woman touching her face after using skincare products

Below is a list of active ingredients commonly used in skincare products and the reason why they are so popular. Please don't be put off by the word "acid", these are not harsh or dangerous acids. Acids used in cosmetic products are used at such low concentrations that they do not pose any serious threat to your skin or health.

Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA) - The Exfoliator

Exfoliating is essential to help remove dirt and grease stuck in your skin's pores. Most people use abrasive physical exfoliators that include Apricot Kernel Powder  or Jojoba Exfoliating Grains. However, those with very sensitive skin should be aware not to overuse such materials as their skin may react to too much exfoliation.

Instead, AHA can be used to do the same job without the physical scrubbing of your skin. AHA is a chemical exfoliator (not as scary as it sounds) that helps to loosen dead skin cells, dirt, and grease without any scrubbing whatsoever. AHA leaves your skin clean, hydrated and feeling smooth and primed for moisturising.

AHA's come in different forms, including glycolic, lactic and mandelic acids. All are safe for use on sensitive skin, when used at the correct percentages, but should not be applied to chapped or open skin. Aromantic's AHA's are a combination of natural fruit extracts found in blueberries, sugar cane, oranges, lemons, and sugar maple.

Hyaluronic Acid - The Super-Hydrator

Hyaluronic Acid (HA) has become extremely popular over the last few years for its ability to absorb and retain moisture within the skin. HA is best known for holding up to 1000 times its weight in water, which means it pulls water to your skin like no other ingredient on the market. The result? Super hydrated skin.

Hyaluronic Acid is naturally produced by your skin, but the production slows down significantly in your thirties. Applying a serum or moisturiser including HA every day will help your skin to retain more moisture and allow for soft, smooth, hydrated and healthy-looking skin.

Due to its hydrating properties, HA is a popular active ingredient among those with dry, mature and eczema-prone skin.

Some Hyaluronic Acid on the market is animal sourced making it unsuitable for vegans and those who wish to use cruelty-free products. Plant based HA’s such as that sold by Aromantic is made using a vegan-suitable fermentation process.

Vitamin C - The Brightener

Topical Vitamin C contains antioxidants that can help make your skin glow. It also fights against UV damage and improves the efficacy of sunscreens. However, Vitamin C is a tricky ingredient that is prone to instability. At Aromantic, we sell the stable form of cosmetic-grade Vitamin C , Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, which is ideal for use in skincare formulations.

Vitamin E - The Protector

You may have noticed that Vitamin E has been a popular ingredient in skincare products for many, many years. This is because Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that reduces damage by free radicals, slows down oxidation in products, as well as being extremely useful in skincare products designed to reduce the appearance of scarring. It can also help to stabilise Vitamin C (above). Vitamin E is naturally found on the skin, but it is depleted when exposed to UV light. Adding a bit extra in the form of a skin product will help boost the skin’s protection from the sun’s powerful rays, but it should not be confused with a sunscreen.

Vitamin A - The Smooth Operator

You will no doubt have heard about the “miracle” ingredient, retinol or Vitamin A. Often touted as being the key to anti-ageing, retinol is most commonly used in moisturisers and serums that claim to roll back the years and make you look young again. Retinol may help with reducing the appearance of wrinkles, but it’s not a miracle solution to aging. In fact, overuse of retinol can render the skin more sensitive to environmental aggressors and actually speed up aging.

Aromantic stocks the stable form of Vitamin A, Retinyl Palmitate which is used in very low percentages as it is so potent. Its powerful antioxidant properties help to protect cell membranes from free radical damage, stimulate skin cell renewal, boost collagen production and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, resulting in visibly younger looking skin. Plus, it counteracts inflammation and helps the skin to repair itself, so is the perfect addition to anti-acne type of products.

Niacinamide - The Inflammation Buster

Inflammation of the skin is typically caused by environmental aggressors like pollution, stress, poor diet and lack of sleep. Those with dry or eczema-prone skin will be more than aware of how inflammation can take over your life.

While preventing environmental aggressors can be challenging, Niacinamide can help to deal with the after-effects, including bumps, rashes and itchy patches. Niacinamide is a derivative of Vitamin B3 and has natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It can help to brighten the skin by evening out skin tone and refine pores. If you have very sensitive skin, it will reduce your skin's sensitivity. Even more, is that it reduces TEWL (trans epidermal water loss) thus improving skin moisturisation, and encourages the production of natural emollients in the skin which all help to maintain skin elasticity keeping it looking healthy.

Peptides - The Collagen Booster

Natural peptides can help to relax wrinkles and increase collagen production. This has made peptides a popular active ingredient worldwide, and can be found in many beauty products that claim to have anti-ageing properties — BUT, they do need to be used at a good working level to have a good effect. Our Lupine Peptides are a blend of penta- and hexa- peptides that work as an MMP inhibitor. MMP stands for Matrix Metalloproteinase. MMP's action is to degrade proteins such as collagen and elastin. These two are the defining features of connective tissue, so including Lupine Peptides in your product increases the contractile capacity of the fibroblast of the dermis, thus reducing the loss of firmness and elasticity of the skin. There are instructions on the website to ensure you do use a good and effective working level.

Use Lupine Peptides in combination with Hyaluronic Acid Gel to plump up the skin and diminish fine lines and wrinkles.

Ceramides - The Barrier Builder

You may have heard numerous times that healthy skin is the result of a healthy skin barrier. One critical key to a healthy skin barrier is ceramides, which help to fortify the barrier. Ceramides are lipids (fatty acids) that are found naturally in the uppermost layers of the skin and in natural carrier oils. They do a pretty good job of keeping out pollutants and dirt from your pores by forming a protective layer on your skin that limits moisture loss.

As we get older, our body's production of ceramide decreases, so using a moisturiser with a good balance of carrier oils is an excellent way to build up the ceramides in your skin's barrier and keep the skin hydrated.

Choosing the Right Active Ingredients for Your Skin

We all have unique skin that requires different levels of care and attention. Some people are fortunate and never have to worry about doing too much for their skin. But many of us need to nourish and protect our skin to keep it healthy and looking great.

So, how do you choose the right active ingredients for your skin? Here are some general, but not definitive, guidelines you can follow. You may have to do some trial and error research to find the best ingredients for your skin. Your skin is unique, and so what works for one person may not work for another.

  • Normal and Oily Skin: AHA's, Niacinamide and Retinol.
  • Dry Skin: Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E and Ceramides.
  • Aging: Lupine Peptides, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
  • Pigmentation Issues: Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) and Vitamin C.
  • Irritated Skin: Vitamin A, Ceramides, Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide).

Tips for Creating Your Own Homemade Skincare Products

an active ingredient in skincare

Creating your own unique skincare product that is perfectly formulated for your skin type and any skin issues is highly rewarding. If you're interested in creating your own skincare products, make sure you read the following tips first:

Find the Right Formula

If you have no experience in creating skincare products, likely, you don't know how to formulate them to ensure they are effective and safe. Taking a course on how to make natural skincare could be your first step. You can learn from home and you will develop the knowledge and skills needed to create great skincare products. Aromantic also has an extensive skincare recipes library packed with free formulations for just about any skin care requirement.

Use Preservatives

Natural skincare products can go bad just like food that's left for too long. You will need to use a preservative in any product that contains water, as water provides the ideal conditions required for bacterial and fungal growth.

Preservatives will ensure your product stays safe to use for longer.

You can learn more about the use of preservatives for moisturisers in our "eB2 Natural Moisturisers and Preservatives 4th Ed". They really are non-negotiable.

Use a Suitable Container

Always store your homemade natural cosmetics in suitable containers that are airtight and hygienic. Airless pumps and spray valves are useful because they don't require you to open the packaging with each use, keeping the contents locked away from the local environment and the introduction of microbes on your fingers.

Be Meticulous with Your Measurements

You must use a scale to help you measure out the correct amount of each ingredient when following a recipe. This will ensure you don't use too much or too little of any ingredient. Some active ingredients can be harmful to your skin if overused, so this is a serious point that needs to be adhered to. You can find accurate scales that measure in 0.01gm increments online.

Always write down your active formulas when experimenting and use percentages to ensure you are still using the safe amount of each ingredient. This will allow you to scale up and down with peace of mind.

Follow Recommendations

Before you get all mad scientist with your DIY skincare recipes, it's worth remembering that recommendations for the dosage of each ingredient is there for a reason. Always follow the recommendation given by the supplier or manufacturer. They are there to protect you.

Measure the pH

The pH affects your entire formulation, so it's essential to make sure you measure the pH and adapt when necessary. This will ensure not only the safety of your product but their efficacy too. The pH also affects the look, feel, colour, scent and even the effectiveness of the preservative you have added.

Keep It Clean

Contamination can happen at any stage of your process. Getting into the habit of keeping your workspace and equipment clean is very important. Make sure you use disinfectant to clean your things and wash your hands regularly. Use gloves during the process and discover the best practices for setting up a home skincare lab.

If you're starting your own cosmetics business, check out our page on Good Manufacturing Practice.

Buy active ingredients plus everything you need to create your own skincare products from Aromantic and get 10% off your first order when you sign up to our newsletter. We have a wide range of cosmetic ingredients for creating homemade beauty products or for small cosmetic companies. If you have any questions or are a wholesale buyer, call us now on +44 1309 696 900 or message us on Facebook.

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