Within the beauty industry, it’s common for marketing to highlight only the active ingredients in skincare products. Although considering active ingredients is an essential part of selecting the right moisturizer, the actives alone will not paint a complete picture of the formula. Checking the full ingredient list — and knowing what to look for — is just as important.
Below are some important concepts to help make sure your clients are choosing the safest and most effective skincare products.
EXAMINING THE LABEL
A moisturizer’s ingredient deck is always sorted in order from the highest to the lowest concentration. Usually, the list will begin with a hydrating ingredient that makes up at least 50% of the total formulation. Active ingredients are found throughout, each composing anywhere between 20% of the formula (as in our Vita-C 20 Cream with 20% L-ascorbic acid) and less than 1% (as is the case with certain peptides).
Ingredients at the very end of the deck are sometimes labeled as “inactive”. Despite their minute concentration, we know that these ingredients do have activity on the skin. In fact, most inactives are known irritants, and any ingredient that causes irritation on the skin will ultimately result in collagen and elastin breakdown.
It’s important to educate your patients about certain ingredients often found in moisturizing products that are better to avoid. Some of the most common offenders include:
Denatured Alcohol and Ethyl Alcohol
Frequently showing up near the top of a number of highly touted moisturizing formulas, denatured and ethyl alcohol are essentially rubbing alcohol. These ingredients are sometimes used for their “degreasing” effect and can help skincare products feel weightless; however, they are extremely drying and damaging to the skin. Fatty alcohols (like cetyl and stearyl alcohol), on the other hand, are quite safe and beneficial.
Artificial Fragrance and Color
Research shows that artificial fragrance and color can be extremely sensitizing for any and all skin types. Despite being labeled as inactive, these two ingredients are known to be the leading causes of contact dermatitis and should be avoided. Their harmful impact on the skin is often overlooked, because they often cause a “subacute reaction”, which looks like dry, flaking skin instead of a distinctive rash.
Mineral Oil and Petrolatum
These are not harmful or drying ingredients — in fact, as occlusives, petrolatum and mineral oil help seal moisture into the skin. When they are present in high percentages, however, most of the hydrating benefits of a moisturizing product can be attributed to these ingredients. In these cases, the product should not be an expensive one. For example, it’s reasonable to recommend Aquaphor Healing Ointment, which is 41% petrolatum and mineral oil, to your patients. If instead a patient is using a $175 moisturizer that is heavily formulated with these ingredients, we advise you steer the patient to one of your high-performance CosMedical private label moisturizers instead.