Natural Ingredients

Are All Active Ingredients Safe to Use?

6 Mins read

As a beauty blogger, I get asked a lot of questions. One of the most common ones is: “Are all active ingredients safe to use in cosmetics?”

It’s one of those questions that you probably don’t want a short answer to, but at the same time, you don’t want them to be drawn out for days.

So what exactly are active ingredients and what do they do? Here is my attempt to answer that question in layman’s terms.

Are All Active Ingredients Safe to Use?

If an active ingredient is not safe for use in cosmetics, it will not be approved for the formulation.

Active ingredients are materials that are specifically used to treat or prevent problems like acne, excessive oiliness, and dandruff.

In cosmetics, they are usually found in over-the-counter products rather than prescription ones.

Prescription active ingredients have been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has determined that they are safe and effective to use when they are used as directed on their drug label.

Over-the-counter active ingredients haven’t been approved by the FDA because they aren’t considered to be drugs, but this doesn’t mean that all of them are unsafe or ineffective.

In fact, many don’t even need FDA approval because they have been used since before the FDA started regulating cosmetics in 1976.

The FDA does require manufacturers who want to sell new over-the-counter products with active ingredients to prove that their product is safe and effective for its intended use before marketing it.

To find out if you can safely use an active ingredient, look at the list of active ingredients on your cosmetic label.

How Much of an Active Ingredient Is Safe to Use?

The amount of active ingredient that is safe to use depends on a number of factors, including how strong the active ingredient is, the percentage or amount used in a formulation, and how often and for how long the product is used.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has evaluated the safety of many cosmetic ingredients and has established strict guidelines for each one, establishing specific concentration levels that are safe for use by consumers.

The FDA also requires that all cosmetic products and ingredients be tested for safety before they can be sold to consumers.

Before it approves any cosmetic product, the FDA evaluates a wide range of scientific data to ensure that it is safe for its intended use by consumers.

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To help ensure safety, cosmetic companies must follow good manufacturing practices to ensure that their products and ingredients are safe, pure, and properly labeled.

Can Active Ingredients Really Improve Your Skin?

Yes. Active ingredients are formulated to have a specific chemical effect on your skin, which means they can do everything from exfoliating away dead skin cells to protecting your skin from free radical damage that causes fine lines and wrinkles.

That said, the best active ingredients are only as effective as their delivery system.

If a product doesn’t contain an appropriate balance of emollients, humectants, and occlusives (ingredients that seal in moisture and help keep active ingredients stable over time), then any good ingredient it contains won’t be able to penetrate skin’s layers effectively.

In other words, a product can deliver great ingredients but not work well if its vehicle isn’t effective.

Will Too Many Active Ingredients Make My Skin Break Out?

As it turns out, there’s actually no such thing as too many active ingredients in your skincare routine.

Yes, I said it — that’s because your skin can only absorb so much at a time anyway, so layering serums are really just a waste of money!

In fact, according to dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, “You can use as many products as you want as long as they don’t irritate the skin.”

However, he adds that even though there are “no studies showing that more is better,” dermatologists generally recommend patients use anywhere between one and three products per day (and sometimes more).

What Happens if I Overdose on an Active Ingredient?

Overdosing on an active ingredient in cosmetics is unlikely to cause you major problems.

In fact, the most common side effect of overdosing on these ingredients is skin irritation or allergy. But if you feel unwell, see a doctor.

Skin allergies are caused by contact with irritants or allergens — substances that trigger an allergic reaction in susceptible people.

Most cosmetic products contain fragrances, preservatives, and dyes that can cause skin allergies. But the most common allergenic ingredients are preservatives, fragrances, and sunscreens.

Can Active Ingredients in Beauty Products Cause Cancer?

The active ingredients in beauty products are not causing cancer. But that doesn’t mean cosmetic products don’t pose any risk.

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One study of 1,300 women with breast cancer and 1,100 similar women without it found that those who used antiperspirants were at slightly higher risk for developing breast cancer — though the researchers emphasized that more studies would need to be done to confirm any link.

Similarly, no studies have linked the use of cosmetics to skin cancer rates.

However, many chemicals used to make beauty products can be toxic over time or in large doses — even if they’re not causing cancer.

Parabens, for example, are preservatives commonly found in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Many high-end brands have removed parabens from their products because some studies suggest that they might disrupt hormones and affect fertility.

While parabens aren’t strictly carcinogenic (cancer-causing), certain forms of them are toxic in high doses; there’s still a lot we don’t know about their potential long-term effects on health.

Do Active Ingredients Expire?

The active ingredients in cosmetics can expire. Just like food, ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants degrade over time and may not be as effective.

For example, products that contain retinol or vitamin C are especially vulnerable to light and air exposure.

These products are more likely to cause irritation with prolonged use.

Other products, such as those containing peptides, can change in the bottle, from clear to cloudy.

This change does not necessarily mean the product has gone bad — more like it has been altered chemically.

The product may still be effective; you should contact the manufacturer if you have questions about these changes.

Which Products Have Active Ingredients in Them?

Cosmetic products with active ingredients in them include:

  • Body Bronzers: Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)
  • Hair Styling Products: Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), Polymers and Copolymers
  • Lip Color, Lip Gloss and Lip Balm: Lanolin, Beeswax, Pigments/Colorants
  • Nail Polish and Nail Hardeners: Nitrocellulose Resin, Camphor

Are There Side Effects of Using Active Ingredients?

In some cases, yes. Certain active ingredients may cause side effects such as dryness, redness, and irritation, but these tend to be mild and short-lived.

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If you experience any side effects beyond short-lived mild dryness or redness, you should discontinue use and consult a doctor.

How Do I Know if Active Ingredients Are Right for Me?

Identifying active ingredients requires a bit of research, but it can be done. Here are some tips:

1. Check the label

Most cosmetic products list their ingredients on the packaging they come in.

Look for things like active ingredients and percentages. If you do not see a list, try searching online for the product information.

2. Ask your doctor/dermatologist

Your doctor or dermatologist will likely be able to recommend products based on your personal needs.

They are also more likely to know which brands offer quality ingredients and which ones do not.

3. Do your research online

If you are looking for natural products without chemicals, you may need to read up on each ingredient before purchasing the product.

You can learn more about certain ingredients by doing a quick online search or reading reviews from other customers online who have purchased similar items in the past.

4. Know your ingredients

You should know which active ingredients will work best for your skin type, but also which ones won’t work well together or could be harmful.

For example, using retinol and vitamin C together can cause irritation in some people.

Also, alpha-hydroxy acids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so you should use them at night instead of during the day.

5. Know Your Skin Type

Once you know if your skin is oily, dry, or in combination, read up on the best type of products to use to keep it balanced and healthy-looking.

What Are the Benefits of Active Ingredients?

Here are some benefits of active Ingredients;

  • Dramatically improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Leaves skin feeling firmer and smoother.
  • Improves tone and texture of the skin.
  • Helps reduce pore size.
  • Helps improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin.
  • Visible results in as little as 10 days.
  • Suitable for use on all skin types.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand more about what active ingredients are, how they are regulated, and why you should be wary of them.

But as a final tip, talk to your dermatologists to find out which active ingredients you should avoid.