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Ingredients in Skin Products

Ingredients in Skin Products Ingredients in Skin Products Ingredients in Skin Products

According to the market research group Information Resources, the market for skin care products is valued at over $15 billion. No wonder, then, that there are hundreds of skin products with varying purposes. Some are for moisturizing, others for cleansing, still others for healing skin problems like acne or age spots. What they are made of depends on their purpose, but certain ingredients often show up in skin preparations.


Emollients are common ingredients in skin preparations. Their purpose is to make skin soft and supple by filling in the gaps between skin cells and helping to replace lipids. Oil-based emollients contain only a small amount of water and tend to leave a greasy layer on the skin, while water-based emollients have more water than oil and thus tend to be lighter and leave less residue. Lanolin, mineral oil, olive oil and shea butter are examples of emollients.


Humectants in skin care preparations absorb water from the air, and then help the skin retain that moisture. They are also known as water-binding agents. Since their action depends on moisture in the atmosphere, they are most effective under humid conditions. Humectants also help make scaly or thickened skin more supple. Sorbitol, urea, hyaluronic acid and glycerin are common humectants found in skin products.


"Surfactant" is a shortened version of the phrase "surface active agent." Surfactants are primarily used for cleansing and are composed of fat-soluble and water-soluble components. The fat-soluble component sticks to grease and other fat-soluble kinds of dirt, while the water-soluble component helps wash the dirt away. Common surfactants used in skin products include sodium laureth sulfate and cocamidopropyl betaine.


Skin products typically contain one or more preservatives. The purpose of preservatives in skin care products is to prevent the product from contamination by potentially harmful microbes, molds and bacteria. Although preservatives may carry the risk of irritating the skin, the risk of contamination is greater, and preservatives must be included even in products with otherwise natural ingredients. Methylparaben, benzyl alcohol and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate are examples of preservatives used in skin products.


Botanical or plant-based ingredients have been used for skin care since the beginning of recorded history. Olive oil, chamomile, oatmeal, acai berry, curcumin, coffee berry and green tea are just a few that have been demonstrated to have biologically active compounds with skin-enhancing properties, according to a review in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. Botanicals can plump the skin, provide hydration, fade unwanted pigments and lend antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties to skin care preparations.

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