basics of product formulation

The skin health industry is ever-evolving, and new and exciting ideas are constantly being introduced for treating the skin. With all that is available, it can be difficult to know which products will actually deliver the results they promise. Effective formulations are out there; however, many of the most popular and beneficial ingredients are notoriously unstable, making them hard to protect from breakdown in formulations. Although lab tests are necessary to determine whether an ingredient stays stable in a product, a basic understanding of cosmetic chemistry can help identify the product components that contribute to its stability, penetration and activity.

A common misconception about skin care products is that the visible improvement in the skin are the result of one ingredient. Really, there are multiple components that lead to a product’s ability to deliver results.

  • Active (or key) ingredients deliver a product’s greatest topical benefit.
  • Skin conditioning agents improve the skin’s surface and provide a soft, smooth appearance.
  • Functional ingredients determine the end product (e.g. cream, serum, etc.) and act as a vehicle, or carrier, for the active ingredients into the skin.
  • Multifunctional ingredients provide some topical benefits and also help the vehicle.
Examples of commonly used cosmetic ingredients
Active (Key) ingredients Skin conditioning agents Functional ingredients Multifunctional ingredients
•  Retinoids  (vitamin A)•  L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)

•  Peptides

•  Antioxidants

•  Sunscreen agents


•  Glycerin•  Urea

•  Natural oils

•  Sodium PCA

•  Silicones


•  Surfactants•  Emulsifiers

•  Thickeners

•  Preservatives

•  Sorbitol•  Cetyl alcohol

•  Glycol stearate

•  Phenoxyethanol

•  Benzyl alcohol


Each of these categories is important to a product’s function and benefit. Ultimately, the performance of a product depends on the biocompatibility of the ingredients, the use of vehicles and delivery systems that are appropriate for the formulation, and the stability of all of the ingredients within a formulation.

Although it can be hard to choose the products that are the best choices for your skin, understanding some of these basics of product formulation can help you make an educated choice. Make sure that the main ingredients are the form that is most useful to the skin, are in a vehicle that is appropriate, and have proper stabilization, and your search for an effective product will be much more fruitful.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: