Michelle asked: I am wondering what exactly is considered an 'active' ingredient, and if there is a maximum percentage recommended for total active ingredients in a formulation.
In the same post, Belinda said: I will second Michelle’s comment. I, too, have been wondering how many cosmeceuticals is too many. Right now I’m experimenting with the ones I have one at a time, but when I’m sure I’m not reacting to any of them individually, I’d like to use combinations of them in an anti-aging facial lotion. Are there any guidelines for formulating with multiple cosmeceuticals?
In the same post, Mimi added: I have the same question as Michelle and Belinda. Is there a limit to how many cosmeceuticals you can add to a face cream? I put about 6-7 anti aging products that I bought from Lotioncrafter into 1 face cream, but I'm not sure doing this will cause one product to react with another and nullify the effectiveness.
As there's no real definition of what active might be, I'll go with the Australasian College of Dermatologists defintion:
Cosmeceuticals are products that have both cosmetic and therapeutic (medical or drug-like) effects, and are intended to have a beneficial effect on skin health and beauty. Like cosmetics, they are applied topically as creams or lotions but contain active ingredients that have an effect on skin cell function. In some cases, their action is limited to the skin surface (such as exfoliants), while others can penetrate to deeper levels, either enhancing or limiting normal skin functions. Cosmeceuticals are available “over-the-counter” (without prescription) and are generally used as part of a regular skin care regime to help improve skin tone and texture, pigmentation and fine lines.I've been thinking about defining these ingredients by what they might do for our skin...
Anti-aging: This can mean quite a few different things. I generally find it means something that reduces the look, depth, or number of fine lines and wrinkles. It can mean something that prevents you from experiencing the symptoms of aging like a decrease in the production of collagen and elastin, a decrease in sebum production, an increase in wrinkles, and the production of age spots. It can mean your skin is moisturized and hydrated, which will make any wrinkle look less obvious, or it can mean you’re producing new skin cells by using something with AHAs, which will make wrinkles less obvious. It’s kind of a catch all phrase, and I prefer to use something more specific when I can.
Photo-aging: This refers to skin issues arising from too much exposure to the sun. In general, it refers to wrinkles and redness as well as uneven skin tone and blotchiness.
Plumping: This generally means it increases the amount of water in your skin or prevents transepidermal water loss.
Firming or maintaining skin tone: This tends to mean the ingredient helps generate more collagen or elastin in our skin.
Brightening or illuminating: This generally means your skin will look more youthful, perhaps through chemical or mechanical exfoliation and removal of old skin cells to produce new ones, or by evening out skin tone and removing age spots.
Treating age spots: This generally means the ingredient will reduce the look and size of your age spots over time. This can happen by bleaching the age spot and reducing the amount of melanin in it, or it can happen by blocking some biological mechanism that would produce an age spot. This can be referred to as hyperpigmentation or an uneven skin tone.
Skin lightening: This could come under the category of photo-aging as this is about evening out the complexion to be more uniform with fewer darker or lighter patches.
Hydrating: This means the water in your skin is increased in some way, usually by a water soluble ingredient that forms a film on your skin to prevent transepidermal water loss or by adding a humectant like glycerin, propylene glycol, or hyaluronic acid to draw water to the skin.
Behaving as an anti-oxidant: These ingredients can behave as free radical scavengers to reduce the amount of reactive oxygen species that could cause damage through the process of oxidative stress. (More about this shortly…)
Reducing skin roughness: This refers to skin that appears to be mottled or bumpy, and the ingredient will help smooth out your skin. There is a way to measure this and it's done by seeing how much light is reflected back from our faces. Rough skin or deep wrinkles reflect less light, so this can be part of the "brightening" idea above.
Reducing puffiness: This generally refers to your eye area, and it means your eyes look puffy, often because you’re retaining water.
Reducing dark circles: This is again about your eyes, and it's generally about increasing circulation.
Reducing sebum production: This would be all about reducing how much sebum someone with oily skin might product.
Reducing pore size: This is generally done with astringent ingredients, but there could be others.
Treating cellulite: Using anti-inflammatories and ingredients that increase blood circulation to even our skin tone and reduce the appearance of cellulite.
I realize this is a very generic list, but it's the best one I can come up with when thinking about what we might want our products to do for us. With these categories in mind, I thought I could come up with a few examples of what ingredients might seem to be cosmeceuticals or actives to us...
- Vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), Vitamin B5 (panthenol), Vitamin E
- Anti-oxidants: Vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid, Co-enzyme Q10, alpha arbutin
- Cell signalling: Copper peptides, DHEA, DMAE, amino peptides (including palmitoyl pentapeptide-3, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3, and acetyl hexapeptide-3 aka argireline)
- Skin lightening agents: Arbutin, glycolic acid, liquorice extract, niacinamide, retinoids, Vitamin C
- Exfoliants: AHA, salicylic acid, fruit enzymes like those found in papaya
- Acne ingredients: Salicylic acid
- Anti-aging: Argireline,
- Photo-aging: Co-enzyme Q10, genistein, Alpaflor Gigawhite, Fision Active White
- Hyperpigmentation: Vitamin C
- Sebum reduction: Niacinamide
- Anti-inflammatory: Aescin, genistein
Wow, this is far too long at this point, so let's start again in part three as we take a look at further defining our categories and figuring out what we have to take into consideration when creating combinations for formulas.
Previous posts in this series:
Series from a question from Patreon: What's a cosmeceutical? What's an active? And how much can we use of these things in combination? Part one - definitions
Don't forget, your comments and interaction with this topic will unlock part three! I'd love to hear what you think for categories or ingredients! Please comment and share your thoughts!
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