What are active ingredients in cosmetics?


Element 44 Inc, Chicago, USA


Cosmetics are often marketed as containing active ingredients. However, this is a misrepresentation of the compounds which are better described as functional or claims ingredients. Active ingredients specifically refer to drug actives as found in over-the-counter drugs while functional ingredients mean those that make the products work. Claims ingredients are also used in formulating added primarily to support marketing claims.

The term “active ingredient” is used frequently in cosmetic marketing.

In fact, it has been suggested that you can’t create a successful skin care line if you don’t have some type of active ingredient. The claim is meant to imply that the ingredient is somehow responsible for making the product work in a special way. It relies on the consumer’s knowledge of Over the Counter (OTC) drug products and the labeling that separates out active ingredients from inactive ingredients.

But when it comes to cosmetics, the use of the term “active ingredient” is mistaken. There are no active ingredients in cosmetics. In fact, having active ingredients in a cosmetic would make the product an illegal, mislabeled drug. To see how this is true, we first have to look at how cosmetics are regulated.


Cosmetics vs Drugs

In the US, the FDA classifies cosmetics and drugs differently. Drugs are products specifically meant to treat or cure diseases. The active ingredients are the compounds that have been proven effective in treating whatever condition for which they are being used. The inactive ingredients are the delivery vehic ...