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Active Ingredients in Skin Care

Active Ingredients in Skin Care Active Ingredients in Skin Care Active Ingredients in Skin Care


There are so many skin-care products on the market that it can be difficult to determine where to begin when putting together a healthy skin-care regimen. One of the first things you should examine on the label of any skin-care product are the active ingredients listed. Some may have a positive effect on your particular skin type, while others may be detrimental. In skin-care products, active ingredients do such things as help heal sun damage, slough off dead cells, close pores, moisturize cells or inhibit microbe growth.

Meaning of "Active"

According to the World Health Organization, an active ingredient is one that has some level of therapeutic activity on or within the body. Therapeutic activity means that the ingredient has some kind of proven effect on the body to treat or prevent a physical or mental symptom, illness or chronic condition. If there are active ingredients listed on your cosmetic product, then it has been tested and approved by the FDA to produce certain effects. Whether these active ingredients are present in a high enough percentage to accomplish what the product claims is not necessarily guaranteed, but if the ingredient is labeled active, then it has some kind of medicinal value.

Anti-Aging Ingredients

Some active ingredients are chemicals or compounds that have anti-aging properties. Some of these ingredients work by stimulating the muscles just under the skin on the face, causing them to tighten, which reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Other anti-aging ingredients stimulate collagen production, which is a basic biological building block found in skin that helps keep your skin elastic and youthful looking. The Truth in Aging website suggests that some ingredients you should look for in an anti-aging formula are phenyl butyl nitrone, carnosine, astaxanthin and ferulic acid.


Astringents are ingredients like alcohol, witch hazel, alum and oatmeal that, when applied to the skin, will constrict pores and dry out the skin. In cosmetics, astringents are sometimes referred to as toners. Though these products are often recommended for acne, astringents may actually make acne worse because they close the pores, allowing more oil buildup under the skin. If you do not have acne, astringents are good products to use after cleansing and before applying moisturizer or make-up, since an astringent will keep these other products from clogging up your pores.


Many skin-care products include vitamins in their list of active ingredients. In a study called "Vitamins and Photoaging: Do Scientific Data Support Their Use?" a team of dermatologists found that vitamins A, C, E and B-3 do seem to have positive results when it comes to healing damage caused by the sun. Other vitamins included in skin-care products may help the skin retain moisture or repair dark spots or blemishes.

Anti-Microbial Ingredients

Anti-microbial ingredients are those that inhibit the growth of microbes such as bacteria, fungi, yeasts and viruses. These are more likely to be found in prescription skin-care products that are designed to treat a particular infection or condition, but other products such as deodorants, lotions, hand sanitizers and soaps may have anti-microbial ingredients.

Moisturizing Ingredients

Moisturizing is an important part of a skin-care regimen. According to Dermnet NZ, moisturizers work in two ways: as an occlusive, which creates a barrier on the skin to prevent moisture loss, or as a humectant, which enters the cells and helps them retain water. Some active moisturizing ingredients are urea, glycerine and alpha-hydroxy acids.


Exfoliants are ingredients that remove the layer of dead, flaky skin that creates a dull or uneven appearance. Most exfoliants are some kind of mild acid, such as lactic acid or salicylic acid, and are included in skin-care products to gently remove the dead skin, revealing the healthy layer of skin below. Some products may also use abrasive materials such as salt, silica or microbeads as a non-chemical exfoliant, but you may also use a washcloth or loofah sponge to the same effect.

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