Understanding Cosmetic Ingredients Part 1

With a million skincare products on the market, how can we really determine what’s a right fit for our individual needs? Over the next few weeks we will be breaking down each ingredient in our Marie Hunter Skincare line. But first things first, active vs inactive ingredients, what’s really the difference?


Active Ingredients in cosmetic products are responsible for delivering benefits and results in a particular product. The percentage and function of each active ingredient must be approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Inactive Ingredients in cosmetic products are ingredients that the FDA does NOT consider “active”. The FDA requires that inactive ingredients still establish a record of safety and should be listed in descending order of concentration if concentration is 1% and any concentration lower than 1% can be listed in any order.

Below you will find a list of active vs. inactive ingredients in cosmetic products and their function in skincare.

Active Ingredients

Antioxidant - Limits production of free radicals to prevent cell damage.

Astringent - Minimizes pores and balances oil production.

Exfoliant - Freshens and smooths skin by shedding dead skin cells.

Humectant - Attracts moisture from the environment and maintains skin moisture.

Skin Conditioner - Hydrates and softens skin.

Surfactant - Cleansing agent.

Non-Active Ingredients

Emollient - Smooths and softens the skin.

Emulsifier - Stabilizes the formula mixture.

Fragrance - Adds natural scent to products.

PH Adjuster - Guarantees stability, safety and performance.

Thickener - Gives creams their distinctive feel and form.

Preservative - Prevents bacterial growth for longer shelf life.

Color - A safe colorant.