It is a fact that the ingredients of a skincare product is the most important part to look for when you need to deal effectively with a number of skin problems, conditions or just needs because whatever the name or the label of a product that you buy indicates about its function, it’s all about the ingredients that it contains ultimately.
Generally talking, there are ingredients that are beneficial for our skin, some that are not and others that can even irritate or harm it, but here I won’t talk about any of these categorizations but I will talk about some of the general categories skincare ingredients belong to.
That way, you will be able to understand the different functions that these ingredients perform in order for you to enjoy a product that has a great texture, absorbs nicely to your skin and offers some short or long term benefits to it.
So, let’s see some general categories of ingredients our skincare products contain and what the role of these components is. This information can probably be more useful for some of you who want to create their own skincare products at home.
Starting with an example, I want you to imagine yourself cooking some stew in a pot. In order for you to create a nice sauce that will add great flavor to your food, the ingredients have to bind with each other.
In the same way, a skincare cream or any other cosmetic product needs to contain ingredients that bind with each other and those are called binding agents.
These agents have thickening properties and gliding features that make your skin smooth. Some examples of binding agents are all those type of fats, waxes and gums you can see included in the cosmetic products you buy such as xanthan gum, beeswax and others.
Emollients, also called moisturizers, are those components that help the skin retain water and keep moist, which in turn helps the skin be soft, supple and moisturized.
Emollients are especially good for dry skin, which lacks adequate hydration, and in general they help protect the skin, soften it and prevent it from cracking, scaling and itching.
Emollients are humectants, lubricants and occluders. While occlusion slows down water loss and humectants improve the skin´s ability to hold water, lubricants make it easier for the product to glide smoothly on your skin.
So, let´s see now what humectants are in detail.
In simple words, humectants work like water magnets. Thus, they increase the amount of moisture in the epidermis, keeping the skin supple and soft.
Looking for more information about humectants, I found out that there are synthetic and natural humectants. On the one hand, the synthetic ones are cheaper but do not provide any long term benefits for the skin. In fact, they can even dry it out in the long term.
The synthetic humectants include Glycerin, butylene glycol, sodium lactate, urea, sorbitol and others.
On the other hand, the natural humectants improve the ability of the skin to be hydrated on its own. Some natural humectants include aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, honey, AHA acids and algae extract. For each of these ones, you can find more information in our articles through the links provided.
Using products that contain ingredients with both humectant and occlusive properties is, from what I was able to understand after reading various information, very important to hydrate the skin and also retain this moisture. A natural skincare ingredient that we all know and has occlusive properties is Shea Butter.
As we have said before, emollients do not only work as humectants but also as lubricants. But what do lubricants contained in skin and hair care products do? The answer is that they offer instant smoothness and softness to your skin as well as control the frizz of dry and untamed hair.
Surfactants are substances that have multiple functions such as stopping oils or fats and water from separating or working as foaming emulsifiers to remove dirt from the skin or hair. They also improve the application of a product to your skin.
A surfactant that has proven to be irritating to the skin is the so called SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) which is widely used to create rich foam in face cleansers, shampoos, shower gels and a lot of other cosmetics.
In cases where a lot of lather is not actually required, you may find surfactants such as Stearyl Alcohol or Cetearyl Alcohol on the labels of your products.
Preservatives are always needed in a product to keep it safe and effective but the thing is that companies can choose between synthetic preservatives and natural preservatives.
Examples of synthetic preservatives include parabens, petrochemicals like Propylene Glycol, Methylisothiazolinone, Sodium Hydroxylmethylglycinate, denaturised alcohol and others.
Some natural preservatives include rosemary oil extract, grapefruit seed extract, citric acid, alpha tocopherol (Vitamin E) and others.
Surprisingly enough, our well known antioxidants that hold anti aging properties can also work as natural preservatives in formulas that contain oils and especially oils that are very prone to oxidation such as sweet almond oil, avocado oil, evening primrose oil and others.
All in all, these are some general categories of ingredients that our creams contain and for me it is good to know a little more about these ingredients´ functions and the reasons they are included in the cosmetic products we all use.