Understanding Performance Cosmetic Ingredients

The Naked Chemist is all about transparency in beauty.

Sometimes, the number of ingredients within the cosmetic industry can be overwhelming.

Cosmetic preparations are personal care products that are designed to cleanse, protect and change the appearance of our skin in some way. the main ingredients present in most cosmetics include water, emulsifiers, thickeners, preservatives, moisturisers, colours and fragrances.

There are two groups of cosmetic chemicals, used in formulations which we look at below, so you can get a better understanding, of how ingredients found in skin care products work.

Types of cosmetics used within formulations

Functional cosmetic ingredients

These are cosmetic ingredients used to help the product spread and preserve, which affect the feel and look of a product.

A spreading agent such as an emulsion is a functional ingredient. Parabens and preservatives are also considered functional agents.

Performance cosmetic ingredients

These ingredients help to create physiological changes within the skin tissues.

For example, an antioxidant cream that claims to prevent premature ageing, making skin smoother, and reducing fine lines and wrinkles is a cosmetic claim, so in this case, the antioxidants would be the performance agents.

Performance versus functional

Some chemists argue that performance ingredients are the most important ingredient in cosmetic chemistry because they benefit the skin directly.

Some companies will also exploit the role of functional ingredients, using only minimal quantities to exploit the claims that these ingredients make, Rosehip seed oil is a good example of such an ingredient.

Whilst yes I agree, that every skincare product should contain a number of active ingredients in order to get results,

Functional ingredients also have their place in cosmetic science, because their delivery system has a direct effect on product penetration.

Liposomes are a good example of this; they are encapsulated to protect performance ingredients such as Antioxidants.

Their role is to protect these delicate ingredients, preventing them from becoming oxidized, so that they can be delivered to the skin whilst at their most potent.

I have also included ingredients that aren’t necessarily great for the skin.

For further reading on this subject, you may find the following article really useful, which gives a detailed breakdown of cosmetic formulas and they’re application on the skin.

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