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Learn About Cosmeceutical Ingredients

  • Though the term cosmeceuticals is not officially recognized by the government, the industry that combines cosmetics and pharmaceuticals is growing at a substantial rate
  • A wide variety of ingredients are used in various cosmeceutical products that contain skin tightening agents that aid in anti wrinkle skin care and anti aging skin care treatment (emollients)
  • Other common cosmeceutical ingredients have properties that reduce the effects of sun damaged skin (antioxidants), help exfoliate skin (glycolic acid/), act as (alpha hydroxy acid) and promote the production of collagen fibers (ascorbic acid)


Today more and more people are conscious about their health and this includes proper skin care. In the past, people were less informed about the products they used and the ingredients contained in those products. Now with internet access and a healthy quest for knowledge, many of these people are aware and they even try to learn more and more about the products before actually purchasing any. The information highway allows the common mass to also learn about their skin and the best forms of treatment as well. Treatment doesn’t necessarily mean that the skin is problematic. It means giving proper nourishment to the skin and promoting good health simultaneously.

Cosmeceuticals, is an unofficial but accepted term which combines the introduction of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals into a single product. However, the law does not recognize it and it is also not recognized by the FDA. Even so, the product manufacturers have brought about a revolution in the world of skin care and these products are found in most stores. The cosmeceutical industry is also trying to incorporate pharmaceutical properties and stay close to the methods of “natural” skin treatment. With this in mind, these cosmeceutical products have followed certain standards of incorporating these combination ingredients but the average consumer may not know what these ingredients actually are and what they do.

The following is a list of the most common names and activities of the different ingredients used in cosmeceutical products:

Antioxidants: Antioxidants fight against free radicals that cause damage. Antioxidants should be present in our skin abundantly in order to prevent the harmful effects of free radicals. Our skin is vulnerable to the many factors of the environment which promotes free radical damage to skin cells by causing oxidation, similiar to rust on metal.

Binding Agent: These are substances that help keep the product ingredients bound together to prevent the lipids and water from separating.

Emollients: These are substances that promote the smoothness and the softness of our skin. There are hundreds of different emollients with different properties that give a texture that is unique to the skin.

Emulsions: A mixture or blending of water and oil producing a smooth product.

Humectants: Substances that attract water usually from the air. Humectants are also defined as moisturizers.

Lubricants: Substances that reduce friction and promote the smoothness of the skin.

Preservatives: Substances that are deemed bad in foods, but help in killing the harmful bacteria and yeast or molds, in cosmetics. They also prevent spoilage of the product.

Solvents: Substances like water and alcohol that are used to dissolve other ingredients.

Surfactants: Blends that allow the to spread or glide across the skin easily when used topically.

Vehicle: The base that carry the different active ingredients.

Some of the commonly used cosmeceutical ingredients are as follows:

Part I

Acetone: A solvent commonly used for making skin toners and nail polish removers. Can be drying or an irritanat to the skin when used in strong concentrations.

Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol: Makes the skin soft and also has anti-allergenic properties. This can escalate the production of whiteheads and blackheads.

Acrylates Copolymer: An active ingredient used in a gel form that absorbs oil.

Algae/Seaweed Extract: An emollient and restores the moisture content of the skin; it stated to have antioxidant properties.

Allantoin: A botanical way of thinking and has calming properties to the skin to calm irritation.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids: These are active ingredients and can be obtained from certain fruit acids. It helps in exfoliating the skin epidermis (outermost layer) and also promotes the restoration of moisture. It further helps other ingredients to penetrate right into the skin. These compounds are widely used in the making of anti-aging creams. These can also be used as bleaching agents. These acids may irritate the skin but do not promote aging of the skin. The various AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) include: citric acid from citrus fruits, glycolic acid from sugar cane and lactic acid from milk. Some AHAs are less common as compared to the ones mentioned above: malic acids found in apples and tartaric acid found in wine. AHAs are likely to increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun as it has exfoliating properties.

Alpha Lipoic Adic: An antioxidant which is soluble in water and fat and can reach different areas of the cell.

Alum: Most commonly found in powder or crystal form and has astringent properties. Often used by men for minor cuts from shaving

Ascorbic Acid: This is vitamin C, in the L-ascorbic acid form it also acts as an antioxidant. When used in some products it promotes skin lightening. Helps in maintaining and rebuilding the collagen fibers.

Benzyol Peroxide: An antibacterial agent that helps in killing the germs that cause pimples and acne. Comes in different strengths from 2 1/2 to 10% in OTC products and is available in precription strength.

Beta Hydroxy Acid: Now called salicylic acid and is used as an exfoliating agent for dryer skin and for certain therapies for acne.

Boric Acid: A preservative that prevents the overgrowth of yeast. It also has antiseptic properties and is often avoided in skin care products as it might cause skin irritation.

Caffeine: Commonly used to diminishe puffiness occuring under the eyes.

Camphor: Helps relieve itching and skin irritation. Used in medicinal products for its’cooling properties.

Collagen: It is not really possible to replace dimished skin collagen. Collagen cannot penetrate into the skin, but when topically applied it can moisturize as well as hydrate the skin. Collagen is the important supporting fiber, located in the dermis layers of the skin and provides structure and strength.

Elastin: Also a fiber in the dermis and similar to the collagen. It maintains the elasticity of the skin. In cannot penetrate into the skin but acts as a great protection against loss of moisture or dry skin.

Glycerin: It hydrates the skin and also gives a skin barrier. But it can have adverse effects when used in higher concentrations; it can result in clogged pores.

Glycine: An amino acid and vital for the production and composition of collagen.

Gycolic acid: A form of AHA and is an aid for skin types prone to acne and pimples. It also alleviates problems with dry skin and is also used in certain chemical peels in order to reduce the emergence of wrinkles and pores. It also exfoliates crusty and flaking skin.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

One Response to “Learn About Cosmeceutical Ingredients”

  1. 1
    Marsha Says:
    There are so many of them, it's hard to pick out the right one! Is there a specific cosmoceutical product you can recommend for dry itchy skin? I want all the benefits and none of the side effects, of course!