Skincare Ingredients 101: Actives Vs. Inactives

This infographic was created by SeSpring, cruelty-free Korean gel cleanser for face

Shopping for skincare sometimes feels like being asked to learn another language. How do you customize a skincare routine? What ingredients should you look for, and why? To start unpacking the answers, one good place to begin is with the issue of active versus inactive ingredients.

What Are ‘Active’ Skincare Ingredients?

When scanning the ingredients listed on a skincare product, you will see some components labeled as “active” ingredients. These are the parts of the formula that have been proven to impact the skin or to work against disease. If you’re looking at anti-aging products, for example, it’s common to see retinoids, such as vitamin A.For acne-fighting options, you might see benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid.

What Are ‘Inactive’ Skincare Ingredients?

“Inactive” ingredientsare the other parts of the product. These components may serve any number of purposes, including impacting the skin, but they have not been clinically proven to do so. These parts of a skincare formulation include anything added to enhance its smell, feel, preservation, and/or ability to deliver actives to the skin.

Why Does This Matter for You?

Whether you’re standing in the cosmetics aisle or shopping beauty products online, it’s helpful to know how to read labels.

Here are two benefits:

  • Knowing what you’re buying:Understanding the active ingredients used in a formula helps you know what research-backed components are involved, so you can know what to expect when using it. Keep in mind that ingredients are listed in order from those with the highest concentration to those with the least, so items that come first will make the biggest impact.
  • Avoiding common mistakes: If you think using two products with the same active ingredients will double their effectiveness, you’re not alone — but you’re going to be disappointed. In fact, multiplying the amount of an alpha hydroxy acid or retinol can reduce its effectiveness. If you don’t pay attention to the listed ingredients, you could accidentally work against your skincare goals.

To learn more about choosing products based on their active versus inactive ingredients, take a look at the accompanying resource, by SeSpring. It offers a variety of tips to guide your selection and use of various products.

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