Ever looked at the ingredients on a bottle and wondered what exactly active ingredients were? Put simply, it’s the part of the medicine or cosmetic that makes it do what it says on the bottle.
In medicines, the active ingredient is the chemical that actually makes it work. For example, although the chemist may carry two different brands of pain relief tablets, if they have the same active ingredients, e.g. paracetamol, they’re going to work the same way.
In skin care and cosmetic products, the active ingredient is the chemical that directly effects a change to your skin. For example, the active ingredients in sunscreens can be chemicals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These are the ingredients that actually do the work of blocking the UVA and UVB rays from your skin.
Active ingredients must be listed at the top of the ingredients list, and will often show a percentage as well. This means that if you’re comparing products, it’s easy to see what the concentration of active ingredients are. Ingredients must also be listed in order of concentration, so whatever the manufacturer uses the most of has to go in first.
Don't be fooled into thinking that the active ingredients are the only ingredients, though. When you're reading labels, you want to have a look at the whole list of ingredients, not just the active ones.
There are many products in Australia, sunscreen being one of them, that may list active ingredients only. This is because ingredients in sunscreen are considered to be 'commercially sensitive' and so they don't have to be fully listed. It's the same with perfume. Perfume or fragrance can contain any of 3,100 different ingredients, and they don't have to be listed on the label as anything but 'fragrance'.
Look for trustworthy manufacturers who are happy to list all of their products on the ingredients list, even when they don't have to.
The rule of thumb is, sure, you might not have to tell us what's in your products, but we can choose not to buy them. Only buy skincare from trusted manufacturers who are happy to list exactly what's in their products and don't have anything to hide.
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