The Function and Use of Cosmetic Ingredients

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Explaining the various types of ingredients contained within cosmetic products and their functions.

There are two basic types of ingredients in cosmetics. Their function and use is defined below.

Functional Ingredients are inactive ingredients that are used as a vehicle to apply cosmetics to the skin. The majority of cosmetic products consist of Functional ingredients, which gives the product texture, spreadability, and its specific form. Examples might include cream, lotion, or gel.

Performance (Cosmeceutical) Ingredients are active ingredients that cause change to the skins appearance. These are the ingredients in cosmetics that actually benefit the skin directly.

Cosmetic companies are governed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in regards to product labeling. Companies must list their name, the location and address of the distribution point, and the ingredients contained in each product. Ingredients are always listed in descending order of quantity contained, and are helpful for safety reasons, especially concerning allergies.

Functional and Performance ingredients can be broken down into eight basic categories.

Ingredient 1: Water

Water benefits cosmetic products by helping spread the product and mix other ingredients in the solution. It also replenishes moisture into the skin, which is vital considering water makes up the majority of our skin cells.

Ingredient 2: Emollients (fatty ingredients)

Emollients aid in the spreadability of the product and also helps to keep the product in place. It lubricates the skin and fills in the gaps to provide a smooth skin appearance.

Ingredient 3: Surfactants

Surfactants function to reduce surface tension between the skin’s surface and the product, allowing for better cosmetic performance. Surfactants come as (1) Detergents which lift dirt and oil off the skin and (2) Emulsifiers which keep water and oil blended in a product, preventing the customer from needing to vigorously shake it repeatedly.

Ingredient 4: Thickeners or Texturizers

Thickeners and Texturizers work to give consistency to gel-like products, allowing for easier spreadability and a more consistent feel.

Ingredient 5: Fragrance

Fragrances are used is cosmetics primarily for their sensory effects rather than their functionality. Fragrances are not necessary for the effectiveness of a product and are the most common causes of allergic reactions.

Ingredient 6: Preservatives

Preservatives keep bacteria out of products and stop chemical changes from occurring that hinder the effectiveness of the cosmetic.

Ingredient 7: Colour Agents

Colour Agents add colour to the product and are responsible for cosmetic effects (ex. the specific colour of eyeshadow, blush etc.).

Ingredient 8: Humectants (Hydrators/Moisturizers)

Humectants draw water to the skins surface, helping to ensure healthy skin hydration. Most moisturizers are a combination of humectants and emollients.

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Posted on Sep 7, 2010