In the world of skin care, it’s all about active ingredients—you know, those buzzed-about words that unlock the secret to perfect, youthful skin. Flip over the back of any beauty product and you’ll find a laundry list of ingredients—some actually provide a skin benefit and others serve another purpose. “Every ingredient has a purpose even if that purpose doesn’t necessarily have an impact on the efficacy of the formula. Every formula created has to add up to 100 percent, but oftentimes, the functional ingredients don’t add up to 100 percent so something needs to be added to make up the difference,” explains cosmetic chemist Ni’kita Wilson.
Common in ointments and lip balms, petroleum is a relatively cheap ingredient to manufacture and gives a thickness to products. However, it is full of synthetic oils and often leads to clogged pores.
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Talc, kaolin and silica
More common in color cosmetics in powder form, Wilson says that both pressed and loose formulas tend to contain more filler. “A powder-based formula can’t be made primarily of titanium dioxide and pigments for cost and feel reasons, so talc, kaolin and silica are used to take up space and fill the formula out. But, they still provide an aesthetic function in regard to how the product feels on skin.”
Wilson says that oil-based ingredients, like hair and body oils, use less-expensive oils or ingredients that make the product feel less greasy like coconut alkanes, cyclomethicone, isopropyl palmitate or ethylhexyl plamitate. “You’ll see this in frizz control products, too.”