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 fine lines and wrinkles. In this post, we discuss the most common active ingredients used 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.
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.
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.
The strength of the active ingredients varies depending on the type of product being used and where it has been bought. Over-the-counter products will typically use a low percentage, whereas prescription products may be much stronger.
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.
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 skin, sensitive skin, irritable skin, eczema-prone or acne-prone skin.
Alternatively, you could select active ingredients that may help reduce fine lines and wrinkles or those that support the production of sebum, keeping your skin super-hydrated and glowing at all times. Sebum is the oily, waxy substance naturally produced by your body to protect the skin from damages caused by external factors and from dehydration.
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.
Exfoliating is essential to help remove dirt and grease stuck in your skin's pores. Most people use abrasive physical exfoliators that include microplastics or coffee grounds. However, those with sensitive skin should avoid these types of products as they can irritate and damage the skin.
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.
There are several types of AHA, including glycolic, lactic and mandelic acids. All are safe for use on sensitive skin, but should not be applied to chapped or open skin.
BHA is similar to AHA helping to exfoliate and hydrate the skin. However, BHA works slightly differently because it's oil-soluble, making it suitable for those with normal or oily skin. This makes BHA useful for skin that is prone to spots, clogs and blemishes.
BHA has natural skin-calming properties, which makes it suitable for those with sensitive skin or those prone to redness.
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 a 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.
HA 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 and eczema-prone skin.
The majority of HA on the market is sourced from animals making it unsuitable for vegans and those who wish to use cruelty-free products. Plant-based HA’s can be found and is made using a vegan-suitable fermentation process.
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 to stabilise and can quickly go bad. At Aromantic, we sell a cosmetic-grade Vitamin C and a form of ascorbic acid, which are ideal for use in skincare formulations.
You may have noticed that Vitamin E is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in skincare products. This is because Vitamin E helps 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.
You will no doubt have heard about the “miracle” ingredient, retinol. 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 ageing. In fact, overuse of retinol can render the skin more sensitive to environmental aggressors and actually speed up ageing.
Retinol should be used conservatively at low strengths and low levels for the best results. There is a short transition period in which you may get flaky skin due to the retinol re-training your skin cells to turn over at a faster rate. After this initial transition, you will notice your skin start to tighten up and become much smoother.
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.
Natural peptides may help to relax wrinkles and increase collagen production. This has made peptides a popular active ingredient worldwide and can be found in hundreds of beauty products that claim to have anti-ageing properties. Peptides make up elastin fibers (a type of protein), which helps to make skin firmer and tauter.
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 (fats) that are found naturally in the uppermost layers of the skin. 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 ceramides is an excellent way to build up your skin's barrier and keep the skin hydrated. Once you add ceramides to your skin, they can start to stimulate the growth of more ceramides.
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 the majority 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, but you may have to do some trial and error research to find the best ingredients for your unique skin.Your skin is unique and so what works for one person may not work for another.
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:
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 should be your first step. You can learn from home and you will develop the knowledge and skills needed to create great skincare products.
Natural skincare products can go bad just like food that's left for too long. This is a common mistake made by DIY beauty enthusiasts when they first get started. Preservatives will ensure your product stays safe to use for longer.
You will need to use a preservative in any product that contains water. Water provides the ideal conditions required for bacterial and fungal growth. You can learn more about the use of preservatives for moisturisers in our "eB2 Natural Moisturisers and Preservatives 4th Ed".
Always store your homemade natural cosmetics in suitable containers that are airtight and hygienic. Pump and spray valves are useful because they don't require you to open the packaging, keeping the contents locked away from the local environment. Anything that reduces the chances of contamination is an excellent way to store your homemade skincare products.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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