pheebs  (avatar)
updated 2 years ago

About active ingredients...


Ya I'm still alive

Almost died from lack of sleep last week but I'm pretty sure I made up for it this week LOL

Sorry I haven't been replying comments too. Won't make excuses for bad behaviour 😭 sorry!!! 🙇🏻‍♀️

I'm back today with a post on active ingredients used in cosmetic products! And I'll try to get around replying comments (some of them from 20 days ago O M GEE 😱)

But first, let me attempt to explain what an cosmetic actives are!

What are actives?

I say attempt because there is no legal definition and it really depends on how it is interpreted.

An active, defined by Dr Lintner (a big shot in cosmetics industry research 😂) is a material "for which it is possible to carry out controlled experiments in which a baseline cosmetic effect is measurably enhanced by the addition of the active in a defined concentration."

A bit cheem but basically what this means is that when an active is added to the formulation at a certain concentration, the active should induce a cosmetic effect.

A cosmetic effect is something like moisturising, reducing appearance of wrinkles, lightening, exfoliating etc.

Anything that induces a physiological change, will fall in the boundary zone between pharmaceuticals and cosmetics - cosmeceuticals as they are called in America and quasi-drugs in Japan.

So basically anything that isn't merely functional (i.e. surfactants or lipids etc) but gives a enhanced effect that can be measured like increased hydration, shallowing of wrinkles is an active.

This is where it gets very confusing, because glycerin can be an active or not, and this depends on how the definition is interpreted.

But okay that's not the point of today's post actually.

Factors affecting activity of actives

When someone asks me, "Does ________ work?" I actually don't know the answer.

That's cause it really depends on a few factors:

1) activity of the active molecule - what does it do to the skin

2) size of the molecule - anything larger than 500 Daltons is just going to sit on the surface so pure collagen is not going anywhere

And most importantly,

3) delivery of the active to the right site of action

For example, UV actives should sit on the surface but lightening actives need to penetrate the upper layers of the epidermis to reach the melanocytes (cells that create melanin)

The actives have to be able to get to the right place for them to work.

Absorption and penetration of actives

Just because the product formulation contains the active ingredient doesn't mean the product will work.

It depends on whether the active is hydrophilic (likes water) or lipophilic (likes oil).


The stratum corneum, the topmost layer of the epidermis (the first layer of the skin) consists of corneocytes, flattened skin cells that are filled with keratin, and a lipid bilayer in between the corneocytes.

This means that if the active is meant to penetrate the SC, it has to be lipophilic, or have some sort of affinity with oils in between the corneocytes.

Hydrophilic actives, on the other hand, will have to go through the hydrophilic corneocytes. But that's the problem here.

The active goes through one corneocyte but it has to get through the intercellular lipids before it can get to the next corneocyte.

So does this mean hydrophilic actives are useless?

Not entirely, the lipid bilayer does contain water so this just means that the penetration of these actives might be a little less efficient.

But again it all depends on the chemistry of the active.

😒 I really don't like to say "depends" but I have to LOLOL

And here in lies the problem, the nature of the formulation does affect how much of the active gets to the site of action.

The solubility of the active matters in this case and it is highly technical and a bit too complex to explain but basically this explains why people sometimes find products ineffective.

How will I know whether the actives in a product work?

HAHAHAHA I also don't have the answer lol

But generally, bigger companies will have access to the information, expert consultation and software for the "Formulation For Efficacy (FFE)" model.

Also, another way to know whether something works is to find out through HONEST user reviews I guess.

But yea hopefully this FFE will take off and cosmetic scientists will use it to make new products more efficacious!

#pheebscosmeticsguide #pheebsskincare #dayrebeauty

Day 302

Friday, 28 Oct 2016

62 31
viviiccc (avatar)

viviiccc Hello there! Have you heard of makehappyskin (Taiwanese brand). Apparently it is created by an ingredient guru from tw.

2 years ago

quintinahyt (avatar)

quintinahyt Hey glad you've got enough sleep from the busy week! Just wonder do you have any review/updates from using PHA NeoStrata Bionic Lotion? Thanks

2 years ago

amandawoo (avatar)

amandawoo What's the best way to get rid of acne scars on the back? (It's been there for years) Is there a product that helps or only laser can help? I've always googled and peoples home remedy was to use lemon and sugar. Does it really work? Thanks!

2 years ago

allycontrary (avatar)

allycontrary 👏👏 thanks for putting so much effort into your posts!

2 years ago

rwrfn (avatar)


2 years ago

rwrfn (avatar)

rwrfn 💋💋💋💋

2 years ago

celestials (avatar)

celestials hello!! been reading your posts for a while now haha they're super informative i've learnt a lot 🙆🏻 i've been wanting to ask, do chemical exfoliants e.g. salicylic acid cause purging? i've experienced little bumps on my face after using it for a week or two, not sure if sensitivity or purging :(

2 years ago

pgtxl (avatar)

pgtxl @viviiccc nope, have not heard about this brand before but I just read the article where she busted the myth of preservative-free so I am inclined to think that she is an okay source?

2 years ago

pgtxl (avatar)

pgtxl @quintinahyt no leh I have not used the bionic lotion yet. Actually the important bit is the PHA content, not the format!!

2 years ago

pgtxl (avatar)

pgtxl @amandawoo hahaha lemon & sugar omg lol sorry but no that's not going to work. The best way to lighten the appearance is to use exfoliating agents! If you really want a home remedy version, you can try using milk! Milk, especially one that has gone sour contains lactic acid! (Which is an AHA!) good luck!!! It can be rather frustrating but I found AHAs helped me to lighten (and dare I say get rid of) the scars on my face.

2 years ago

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