Active Ingredients: What Are They, Do You Need Them?
I was having lunch with my friend last week and I was telling her about an amazing new skin product I had been trying out so I could write a blog for Jersey Beauty Company. She had been having skin concerns like mine and I knew this product would be a good fit for her. She asked me, how much is it? When I told her, she asked me a question we get from quite a few newer customers to JBC, ‘what makes products expensive, is there really any difference between them and the cheaper ones you can pick up as part of a supermarket shop?’ My answer was the same as it always is – it’s all about active ingredients.
So what are active ingredients? Why do we need them? Well, the best person to ask about that is JBC’s resident science expert, Chris Smith, technical editor of Personal Care Magazine and skin care product creator.
What is an active ingredient?
Like the name suggests, active ingredients in skincare are ingredients that actively do something to your skin. Whether that is rebuilding collagen or elastin, repairing the lipid barrier or rehydrating, to get technical for a moment, active ingredients have some form of physiological action on the skin.
What’s the difference between a cheaper product like E45 and one that contains an active ingredient?
It can be confusing when you see a cheaper product like E45 and a more expensive one with active ingredients to know what the difference is. Well, a product with active ingredients, Chris says, will do more than just cover your skin with an oily layer of moisture. Whereas you may have a standard moisturizing cream or like an E45 cream that is just there to put a bit of oil on the skin. An active ingredient is there to modify something in the skin. That’s not to say E45 doesn’t work – it’s just it is limited in its job. E45 is a load of oil in a thick cream. It is there really to coat the skin and just deliver an oil, whereas a skin renewing cream for instance would have something that is there to try and promote the skin doing something for itself.
So… do active ingredients work?
Scientist Chris has a simple answer to this, yes. It’s science. But… it depends what you want them to do or what you’re expecting them to do. When people say that active ingredients don’t work, it’s often more true that they are expecting something that ingredient isn’t there to do.
If active ingredients do work, why do people still have wrinkles?
At Jersey Beauty Company, we love our wrinkles, we know they are a natural part of the ageing process. We don’t like the fact that some companies try to market products that hide or reverse the ageing process because it’s natural!
What active ingredients can do is fight premature ageing and make sure our skin is as healthy as it can be – which will reduce the appearance of deepening lines and wrinkles, but won’t just do that. Active ingredients will work with your skin, to renew cells and collagen and elastin production, which will lessen the appearance of wrinkles. Active ingredients can also reduce reddening and sensitivity due to dehydrated or dry skin, working deeper in the layers of skin.
The result of active ingredients’ work should be healthier, happier skin that glows with health.
When should you start using active ingredients?
Active ingredients have two jobs – they help repair skin and they also prevent damage to skin. So, when we talk about when to start using active ingredients, that all depends on which ingredients you are thinking about using.
At Jersey beauty Company we recommend different ranges for different aged skin. That’s because some active ingredients are preventative, so you should be using those on younger skin, to protect against environmental damage and also to address specific issues, like dryness or dehydration. Some active ingredients are more effective for more mature skin, like Retinol (Vitamin A) which we’ll come to later.
Which active ingredients work?
One active ingredient you should be looking for in products at whatever age or stage in the ageing process, is SPF. Protecting your skin against free radical damage – the effects of the suns rays on your collagen levels – will help prevent premature ageing of your skin.
Always boost moisture levels
When people use cheaper moisturisers, they aren’t getting ingredients that work on boosting moisture levels in the deeper layers of skin. They are just putting more oil on the top layers. This does have a temporary moisturizing effect on those top layers but it doesn’t address the deeper issues. You need active ingredients that lock moisture in.
If you have dry, dehydrated skin, products with active ingredients like hyaluronic acid, that increases your skin’s ability to hold water, will have an impact on your skin health. The difference with the active ingredient, Chris explains, is that it binds the moisture to your skin cells and so it locks in moisture, rather than just putting another layer on top of your skin.
Collagen is the stuff that plumps up your skin. As you get older you naturally produce less collagen – the hollowing is what causes fine lines and wrinkles to start appearing. So products with the active ingredient of collagen work to encourage collagen renewal to plump up skin.
When it comes to collagen as an active ingredient, a phrase we have been hearing a lot lately is cellular communication. Although it sounds like a phone network (!) scientist Chris explains it’s actually a process of trying to get cells at the top layers of your skin to tell cells in deeper layer of your skin to produce collagen. You actually get them to communicate as though they were young again – the idea being to produce new skin in a way that it used to when you were younger. It’s not about reversing ageing but encouraging your skin cells to do what they always have done!
Often labelled as Retinol as an active ingredient, Vitamin A can be amazing for cell renewal, encouraging collagen production and a general overhaul of your skin health for mature skin. But it can also irritate some skin types. Retinol is used in really small quantities because of its potency as an active ingredient. But even then it can be too much for some skin types.
As with every active ingredient, it all depends on your unique skin, how it reacts and what concerns you have.
Another active ingredient that is great for increasing collagen production is algae. Unlike Vitamin A it doesn’t cause irritation or reactions. What it does do which is pretty clever is basically mimic human skin. It’s actually very similar so it has a lot of the same oils and lipids and minerals and amino acids. So, Chris explains, when we take extracts from algae, it’s got this really good affinity with the skin. It’s already looking at all of the same compounds that we may be missing with ageing or dry skin. The other good thing about algae is that it copes with the stress of the sun beating down on it all day long through the sea. It copes with high salt. It copes with the pollution that you have in the sea. It’s evolved to fight all of these aggressions that damage our skin, so unlike Vitamin A, that makes your skin more sensitive to sun damage, algae actually helps to protect your skin.
So Back To The Original Question… Are Active Ingredients Worth The Extra Cost?
At Jersey Beauty Company, we are passionate about skin education. We don’t do gimmicks or miracle products. We do science.
And the science says that active ingredients do more than the cheaper alternatives that just sit on the top of your skin.
So we think it’s worth the investment for great skin care products with active ingredients that are working towards healthier happier skin. It all comes down to making sure you get the right active ingredients for the unique remarkable you. Your skin has its own concerns and individual needs – there’s not a one-size-fits-all skin care product – you need to find the right products for your unique skin.
For more information on skin care from scientist Chris, and skin therapists, you can download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Skincare here: