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Fig. 1 Active ingredients used in cosmetic products

Is it really necessary to get concerned about the ‘actives’ that make up the skin care product? ‘Active ingredients’ is a term commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry but rarely used in skin care. In skin care industry the actual meaning is not clear. Could it be some sort of chemical that targets specific skin conditions or the first ingredients that is listed on the product label? Could it be equated to effectiveness of the skin products.

In few lines I would discuss the importance and meaning of ‘actives’ in skin and drug products and their differences in the two context. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [1], an active ingredient is any component that provides pharmacological activity or other direct effect in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or animals.

So, what are active ingredients in skincare? These are the components of a product that generally are designed to deliver the benefits that are advertised on its label. While a lot of consumers are unsure of whether a product actually claims what it markets, there is need for looking at the active ingredient in a product in order to meet a specific skin care concern rather than using a product based on peoples recommendation and reviews. Unlike,the active ingredients in drugs,those of the skin care are not meant to alter the function of the skin.Therefore,taking a look at skin product label,most times its always divided into two different section; the active and inactive. Some of the skin care actives includes: alphahydroxyacid, betahydroxylacid, salicylicacid, Retinol, ceramides and hyaluronic acid [2]. Generally, skin care products are meant to improve consumers appearance and not have any medical effect unlike drugs. Skin care actives may basically be used if there is a need to target medical concerns such as acne, psoriasis.

In essence, as a consumer it might be confusing to get a skin product because there are so many advertising and marketing claims but knowledge of some ingredients in the product might be helpful in differentiating the exact product that might work best for the specific skin concern [3].

With the above information, there is a clear cut difference between the actives in personal care products and drugs. It is important to read labels on personal care product and tailor the purchase to your skin concerns.However, if the skin concerns are associated with medical effects then a drug might be involved in such.


1. Inactive Ingredients in Approved Drug Products Search: Frequently Asked Questions. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed 6/12/2022.

2.Science-of-skincare.what-is-an-active-ingredient-in-skincare. Accessed 6/12/2022.

3. Active-ingredient-in-skincare. Accessed 6/12/2022.

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