Beauty and wellness have always had an all-important place in the lives of people. Now it has assumed an even bigger role when there is a rising consciousness among people striving to achieve good health and better physical appearance. The growing awareness especially about the benefits of using various products for skin and overall personal care has led to a boom in the beauty and cosmetics industry.
The cosmetics market is inundated with numerous procedures and ingredients. But one of the latest trends that have gathered steam of late is the preference for Actives. A recent study highlights that the global market for Actives in cosmetics estimated at 3.5 Billion USD in the year 2022, is projected to reach a size of 4.3 Billion USD by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 5.5% during the period.
What are cosmetics?
But before we jump into active ingredients, let us first see what are cosmetics. By definition, any personal care product that helps enhance the look of the body comes under the broad marketing term of cosmeceuticals. It includes all types of beauty preparations, grooming aids, etc. Based on the ingredients and their claims, a personal care product can be classified either as a cosmetic or a drug. Generally, a beauty product or grooming aid is usually cosmetic. Still, it is legally termed a drug if it claims to change specific functions in the body or prevent or treat any disease.
There are a large variety of ingredients commonly found in cosmeceutical formulations with known and scientifically-certified personal care benefits. Some of the most common include Vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid), Vitamin E, Hydroxy acids, Vitamin A (retinoids), Peptides, Hyaluronic acid, etc.
In terms of availability, these ingredients are available in cosmetics or as pharma drugs. Unlike normal cosmetics, pharma drugs have ‘medical’ or ‘pharmaceutical-grade’ active ingredients. It means the quality of the main ingredient and its percentage is good enough to be termed a prescription drug.
What are active ingredients?
Now let us see what active ingredients are – actives, as often called active ingredients are compounds found in beauty products that have an intended purpose—to address a specific concern. They typically impart a functional benefit to the formulation and make the product effective.
Active ingredients appear in almost skincare products, from cleansers to moisturizers, serums to face masks, and let us not forget the sunscreens, all in varying dosages and potency.
How does active ingredient help?
Consumers often struggle to choose a body care regime from hundreds of products flooding the stores. Many times, one chooses to go by the brands and the claims they make. For instance, some products promise to work wonders against anti-aging, some instant whitening or UV protection and some say they are top moisturizers.
A consumer simply looks for a product that he/she thinks can address skin concerns. But unfortunately, it is not that simple. Because at times, people end up purchasing a product that claims to produce a specific result but ends up with a different outcome. So, one way to fight this misinformation is by developing a deeper understanding of ingredients in skincare.
Choosing and using the right active ingredients
While picking up an active ingredient, one first needs to evaluate the reason for its use. It’s always recommended to consult a dermatologist, to detect any underlying health issues and accordingly choose the right type of product to get the desired results.
Types of Active ingredients:
In terms of functionality and usage, cosmetic agents are broadly put under these categories:
Antioxidants: In any product containing oils or other ingredients with unsaturated structures susceptible to oxidation, antioxidants help actives and preservatives escape adverse effects like deterioration and discoloration. Antioxidants fight signs of aging, and acne and also prevent sunburn apart from lightening skin tone. Example – L-Ascorbic Acid, Curcumin
Buffers: Cosmetic buffer agents help build and balance the level of pH in cosmetics. Some examples of buffers are Potassium Acetate, Glycyl, etc.
Preservatives: Ingredients that inhibit microbial activity and prevent deterioration of personal care products are called preservatives.
Surfactants: An important part of all cleansing formulations, surfactants are used as an emulsifier, dispersants, wetting, or penetrating agent in a product. They make a product easier to apply and clean better. Example: Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate.
Flavoring Agents: A majority of cosmetic flavorings in the market are ‘equivalents’ of natural flavors. Natural flavors are edible aromatic compounds found in nature but their equivalent flavorings are man-made compounds but are chemically identical. They are synthetically produced due to the high cost or unavailability of natural extracts. Example: Adipic Acid.
Fragrant Agents: Fragrance is an essential ingredient in cosmetics. There are different types of fragrances like water-soluble, oil-soluble fragrances, and emulsified or powdered flavors. Example: Velencene
Chelating Agents: These components play a vital role in ensuring the stability and efficacy of cosmetics. They have the ability to enhance the activity of preservatives and are employed in liquid soaps and body washes to prevent fragrance and color degradation as well as to enhance lathering and rinseability. Example: Citric Acid
Abrasives: They are used in cosmetic products such as body and facial scrubs, cleansing lotions, soaps, etc. Example: Activated Charcoal, Calcium Carbonate.
Colour Additives: Colourants used in cosmetics are generally inorganic pigments. They give characteristics or desired colors to the cosmetic product. Colorants are mainly used in beauty cosmetics such as lipstick, eyeliners, mascara, nail polish, hair dye products, etc. Example: Beta-Carotene, Carmine
Plasticizers: They are chemical additives that give cosmetic products desired usage flexibility and longevity. Example: Texanol.
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