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Active Ingredients in Action

By: Terri A. Wojak
Posted: August 29, 2012, from the September 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Every day, people are inundated with advertisements about the next “miracle” product. Whether it is an average consumer, a skin care professional or a physician, all would like to believe that they have finally discovered the magic ingredient to make skin flawless. As reality sets in, it becomes apparent that no two people have the same skin, and skin care is not an exact science. As a skin care professional, your job is to educate clients and consumers about what is best for them and to foster realistic expectations for their skin care concerns. Too often, clients come in saying they spent $200 on a product with a recently discovered botanical that will make them look 20 years younger or a product that is claiming to be better than a pharmaceutical drug. It is your job to educate them about what you know to be true.

Besides the abundance of daily advertisements, skin care professionals often have representatives call to promote their products and explain why their line is a perfect addition. Don’t shut down the opportunity to have a product representative visit. If nothing else, treat it as a learning experience that will provide knowledge about other products in the industry. You may even discover something appealing that you want to offer clients. There are many effective product lines on the market, and the hardest part is choosing the best line for your business. As a skin care professional, it is important to take a few issues into consideration including safety, education, demonstrated results and product variety.

Active vs. inactive ingredients

There are two main groups of ingredients in cosmetic product formulations—active and inactive. Active ingredients should have an effect on the skin; they are added to a product to carry out an action. (See Top 10 Active Ingredients.) For example, retinol may be added to speed cellular turnover.

Inactive ingredients are included to help deliver the active ingredients, as well as preserve the product and make it aesthetically pleasing. Inactive ingredients include buffers, coloring agents, emulsifying agents, fragrances, preservatives, solvents, thickeners and vehicles. Each of these inactive ingredients has its own function or multiple functions for making the product effective. The manner in which the product is formulated is equally as important. If products are not formulated correctly, they may be ineffective or potentially harmful.

Ingredient penetration

The function of the stratum corneum is to protect the internal organs and keep out potentially harmful bacteria. The skin also holds moisture in and acts as a barrier to keep chemicals out. You may ask yourself how skin care products can possibly penetrate this protective barrier. There are three efficient ways an active ingredient can do this.