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Active Ingredients in Action

Terri A. Wojak September 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
professional skin care products with active ingredients

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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.

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Top 10 Active Ingredients

  • L-ascorbic acid. A powerful antioxidant that helps fight off free radicals produced by UV, it promotes collagen synthesis and has skin-brightening properties.
  • Argireline. This is a peptide commonly used in skin care products to slow down muscle contraction over time. This ingredient should not be compared to Botox, which is a pharmaceutical drug.
  • Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Derived from green tea, this is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is often used with other antioxidants, as well as in products used to treat acne.
  • Epidermal growth factor (EGF). Used to help stimulate repair by reducing inflammation, EGF also enhances epidermal growth and keratinization.
  • Glycolic acid. An alpha hydroxy acid known for its exfoliating properties, glycolic acid helps strengthen collagen and increase cell renewal.
  • Retinol. Known as a skin-normalizer, retinol increases cellular turnover, collagen production and circulation within the skin.
  • Salicylic acid. This is a lipid-soluble hydroxy acid that helps to break down comedones, as well as dissolve dead surface cells.
  • Hyaluronic acid. A naturally occurring polysaccharide in the dermis, hyaluronic acid delivers moisture to dehydrated skin. It also provides a healthy environment for the growth of new cells.
  • Emblica. This skin-lightening agent, commonly used to even skin tone, is an antioxidant that also has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Resveratrol. A potent antioxidant found in grape skin, resveratrol works as a matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor (MMPi), which helps to preserve the structure and function of the skin.

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