Here's the problem with these categories: They can be a bit vague.
What does anti-aging mean? It means that something might treat the signs of aging, like age spots, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, or roughness of our skin. In this category, you'll find so many things, so it might be a better idea to break this down into smaller categories, like photo-aging and so on. One of the terms you'll see a lot is "brightening", which means the skin looks less rough and reflects more light, or "illuminating", which means the same thing, really.
But I think it's the best we can do for now...
So can we find a definition for the word "cosmeceutical" or the word "active"? I think it's a hard thing to do as something as simple as olive oil might be considered an active as it can plump your skin by preventing transepidermal water loss and reducing inflammation thanks to all those lovely phytosterols.
After all of this defining and re-defining, I think it's safe to say that cosmeceuticals and actives are things we think may have some kind of effect on our skin. They're ingredients we use for some kind of effect beyond "moisturizing" or "hydrating" or "smelling pretty". They're things like vitamins and enzymes and exfoliants and skin lightening agents.
I would like to stop here a moment and acknowledge this isn't a good definition, but I think it's the best working definition we can use at the moment. I welcome any and all suggestions to change or refine this further.
Is there a limit to how many actives we can use in a formula? I'd say no, there really isn't a hard and fast rule we can follow, so we'd have to analyze our formulas on a case by case basis by considering a few things...
- Most effective usage: What's the suggested usage rate? What rate seems like it will produce the results you want?
- pH level: What's the ideal pH level? Very important for things like Vitamin C or AHAs with pH levels of around 3.5 and niacinamide, which works best at pH 6.
- Compatibility with other ingredients: Does this work well with that?
- Incompatibility with other ingredients: Does this work well with that? Or do you have too much of something by combining ingredients? (Lke chemical exfoliants, like AHAs or salicylic acid or papaya extract.)
- Combinations that work well together: For instance, niacinamide and n-acetyl glucosamine or Vitamin C and ferulic acid.
- Doubling up on an action: Is there a point in using three things that work as anti-oxidants or three things that help with aging? This is the hardest one, I think, as we have to figure out how each thing works and go from there.
- Compatibility with the product you're trying to make: Will that ingredient work with gels, emulsions, surfactant blends, and so on?
- Stability of the product: Will this ingredient speed up oxidation or reduce the shelf life? Will this ingredient work with your preservative system? Do you need a chelating ingredient or anti-oxidant?
- "Science versus science fiction": Does this ingredient really work? Is there science behind it or just "fairy dust"?
Previous posts in this series:
What's a cosmeceutical? Part one - definitions
What's a cosmceutical? Part two - categories
Join me in the next installment as we analyze a formula to see if we can't answer the question - Is there a limit to how many cosmeceuticals or actives we can include in a product?
Don't forget, your comments and interaction with this topic will unlock part four! I'd love to hear what you think for categories or ingredients! Please comment and share your thoughts!
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