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Active Vs Inactive Ingredients – What’s the Difference?

Words By Martina

Martina is a wellness and skin-health writer, blogger, teacher, mother to twins and world traveler (not necessarily in that order). She believes that life is all about balance and has a special way of taking complicated topics and making them a pleasure to read. Her words are honest, informative and warm. Learn more about your skin health from Martina.

Ingredients are what make up a product, be it a cake, a perfume or a skincare product. Each individual component is an ingredient that makes up the final product. When considering skincare products, what does it mean when an ingredient is considered active or inactive?

What’s the Difference Between Active and Inactive Ingredients?

While all ingredients are important and have a specific function, there is a difference between an ingredient that is active vs inactive. Let’s find out just what that is!

Active Ingredients in Skincare Products

Active ingredients as a whole are ingredients that target a certain problem or condition. For example, if a product claims to help fight eczema, then the active ingredient is what actually does that and has an effect on eczema on the skin. As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emily Newsom, M.D. explains, "An active ingredient has been proven in a lab by research to change the skin in some way; it's an ingredient that has data behind it."¹

In the U.S, any claims about the effectiveness of a product are regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) so that if an active ingredient in a product claims to target a certain condition, then it must be approved. This eliminates the possibility of an active ingredient in a product being unsafe or untested.

It’s important to know that active ingredients are found in prescription and over-the-counter products, as well as in natural products.

Inactive Ingredients in Skincare Products

Inactive ingredients are ingredients that do not target a specific condition. This does not mean that they are not important. On the contrary, inactive ingredients are essential in a product in order for it to work properly. Many inactive ingredients are great for moisturizing the skin, for instance, but aren’t designed for treating a specific condition of the skin.¹ Inactive ingredients help a product to look and feel nice when applied, they help deliver the active ingredients to the skin or can be a preservative to increase the shelf life of a product. There are many important roles that inactive ingredients play.

How to Read Labels

When reading labels, the FDA requires ingredients in skincare to be listed in order of what percentage of the product they make up.² This means that the first ingredients are the ones that make up most of the product and this decreases as you move down the list. This helps you to see how much of an ingredient you can expect to be in the skincare product and what ingredients are the primary ingredients in a product.

What to Take Away

It’s important to start getting more familiar with the ingredients in your skincare products and becoming more aware of why they are in there. While many ingredients are helpful and effective, some ingredients can cause unwanted skin reactions and irritations.

That’s why Skin MD Natural uses only ingredients on the FDA’s most safe list as well as natural botanicals whenever possible. You will never find known irritants such as fragrances, colourants or parabens in their products. On top of that, all of their skincare products are hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and are cruelty free! 

Start being more aware of what products are actually helping your skin so that the next time you are thinking of active vs inactive ingredients in your products, you will know what to look for. 

¹ https://www.self.com/story/what-are-actives-in-skin-care

² https://www.mdsun.com/blog/2018/03/27/active-ingredients-skin-care-products/

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