Skin Care Ingredients

Skin Care Ingredients 101: Active vs Inactive

Shopping for skin care products can sometimes feel like being asked to learn another language. How do you adjust your skincare routine? What materials should you pay attention to and why? To begin unpacking the answers, a good place to start is by asking about active and inactive ingredients.

What are “active” skincare ingredients?

If you scan the ingredients listed on a skin care product, you will see some of the components labeled as “active” ingredients. It is part of a formula that is proven to work on the skin or fight disease. For example, when you look at anti-aging products, retinoids like vitamin A are usually seen. For acne-fighting options, you might look to benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid.

This infographic was created by SeSpring, a cruelty-free Korean revitalizing serum mask

What are “inactive” skincare ingredients?

“Inactive” ingredients are another part of the product. These components can serve a variety of purposes, including effects on the skin, but this has not been clinically proven. This part of the skincare formulation includes anything added to improve smell, taste, retention and/or ability to deliver active ingredients to the skin.

Why is this important to you?

Whether you’re browsing the cosmetic aisle or shopping for beauty products online, it’s good to know how to read labels.

Here are two advantages:

• Know What You’re Buying: Understanding the active ingredients used in formulas will help you understand what research support components are included so you know what to expect when using them. Note that the ingredients are listed in order of highest to lowest concentration, so the element that comes first has the greatest impact.

• Avoid Common Mistakes: If you think using two products with the same active ingredient doubles their effectiveness, you’re not alone – but you will be disappointed. In fact, multiplying the amount of alpha hydroxy acid or retinol can decrease its effectiveness. If you don’t follow the listed ingredients, you could be inadvertently working against your skincare goals.

To learn more about choosing products based on their active and inactive ingredients, see the companion resource, by SeSpring. It offers a variety of tips to help you choose and use different products.

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