Beautician Note Class 6

   Product Knowledge

 With a wide assortment of products on the market, choosing one which will most benefit the customer becomes complex. Take the time to learn about your products and their benefits.


This chapter takes the chemical knowledge of cosmetics you learned in the last chapter and shows you how to apply it to the many different products you will be recommending to your customers. Knowing how these products are formulated will help you decide which products are appropriate for each customer and you will be able to make recommendations confidently and persuasively. It is important to understand how cosmetic products perform. There are four ways in which most products perform on the skin. 

1. Various cosmetic products form an occlusive barrier on the surface of the skin to prevent moisture loss, allowing the skin to remain soft and supple due to its natural hydration. Some cosmetic products perform by adding protection against harmful UV rays known to prematurely age the skin. Other products remain strictly on the surface of the skin in order to soften the top layers of dead skin cells and facilitate their removal allowing for a more youthful appearance.

2. The second way that cosmetic products perform is to penetrate the top epidermal layer. These products help to facilitate skin hydration by introducing hydrating ingredients into the intercellular channels. When products penetrate the top epidermal layer they often have ingredients known as liposomes. These are time-release capsules from which moisture or special ingredients may slowly be released. Various products penetrate the epidermal layer to assist with deep exfoliation. These products help soften the cohesive bonds that “glue” the corneum cells together, therefore allowing the dead surface skin cells to be removed more easily.

 3. The third way that products perform is to penetrate into the Pilosebaceous Orifice (hair follicle); this assists in the reduction of bacteria population. This also reduces cellular hyperkeratinization (also called hyperkeratosis), which is an overgrowth of the top layer of skin cells forming visible scales or flakes.

4. The fourth and final way that products perform is by penetrating more deeply into the epidermal tissue. This ultimately helps to improve skin hydration. This product performance also helps to reduce oxidation that results in free radical formation (certain oxygen molecules that damage DNA in the skin cells) causing the skin to look dull and tired. Every cosmetic product requires vehicles, catalysts, additives and active ingredients. Vehicles are known as one or more substances that “carry” the active ingredients allowing for product performance. There are two common forms of vehicles used in cosmetics. The first type is a solvent. Commonly used solvents include: purified and distilled water, or ethyl and isopropyl alcohol. The second type of vehicle is an oil. These may be either animal, vegetable, or mineral oils. Vehicles are usually the first items on the ingredient list making up the largest portion of the product formula. Catalysts are ingredients that help bind the vehicle and active ingredients. Catalysts also improve the action of the active ingredients. There are four common forms of catalysts used in cosmetic preparations. Humectants, such as glycol and propylene glycol, are used to draw moisture from the air and hold it close to the surface of the skin giving it a more youthful appearance. Thickeners, such as gelatins and gums, may also be incorporated as catalysts in various products allowing for the active ingredients to improve their action. Emulsifiers include waxes and fatty alcohols. Stabilizers, such as fatty acids, are also known as cosmetic catalysts. Additives are added to the basic ingredients and each additive has a specific role in the product. These ingredients are usually found towards the end of the ingredient list and are usually present in small concentrations. They can also be known as inactive ingredients. Inactive ingredients aid by adding bulk, density, feel, texture and penetration ability to a product. Typical additives are preservatives, antioxidants, colorants/dyes and fragrance/perfumes. Active ingredients determine the function(s) of the cosmetic product, and their action or aim, which provide visible results to the skin. Active ingredients are often added to the vehicle in a concentration that varies depending on the ingredient and the purpose of the product. These ingredients ideally should be listed between the first two to five items in a product’s ingredient list. Active ingredients can have a variety of different properties and purposes: moisturizing, soothing, calming, antibacterial, toning, regenerating, exfoliation or astringent. Common active ingredients include plant and animal extracts, essential oils, vegetable oils, and animal oils and fats.  

·         Active has a direct effect on the skin.

·         Inactive performs a function that helps the product, such as a preservative.

Other common chemical terms that you will notice on various product labels include:

·         Acids are used to neutralize substances that are too alkaline; they also have an exfoliating action.

·         Alcohols are colorless liquids or waxy solids made from fermented sugars. Sometimes recognized by the suffix – “ol”, such as ethanol, isopropanol, etc. These ingredients are often used in perfumes, lotions and tonics, and as a strong antiseptic.

·         Amino Acids are molecular units known as building blocks from which protein is formed.

·         Antioxidants, also known as preservatives, prevent compounds from oxidizing (for example, rusting). They are commonly used to describe free radical neutralizers frequently used in anti-aging cosmetics.

·         Binders are ingredients used to increase the consistency of a product; they allow the product to hold its ingredients together, preventing separation.

·         Buffers are ingredients that resist changes in the pH balance of a product, or they help to neutralize the pH of a product.

·         Colloids are liquid mixtures made up of small particles of insoluble materials. The product can be shaken to blend, but will have a tendency to separate again on standing.

·         Colorants are substances that give a product its characteristic color. They may be synthetically or naturally created.

·         Comedogenic describes ingredients that may clog the skin’s pores.

·         Dispersants may be used to scatter particles of solid ingredients into a liquid base resulting in the creation of a suspension.

·         Emollients may be oils or waxes used to make the skin feel smooth and pliable. They are also referred to as skin conditioners.

·         Emulsifiers are ingredients that make it possible to mix ordinarily unmixable liquids, like oil and water, thereby avoiding separation in a cosmetic preparation.

·         Emulsions are a mixture of oil and water made miscible through the use of an emulsifier, usually creating a milky appearance.

·         Enzyme is a biological catalyst; either an animal or vegetable derivative. It is known to speed up the chemical reaction of a product; most often used in peels and exfoliants.

Esters are organic acids combined with alcohol, which are used to soften and condition the surface of the skin.

Flavonoids are active plant extractions commonly used as antioxidants.

Free Radicals are atoms or molecules that are unstable because of an unpaired electron. They can cause damage to the skin by attacking and destroying healthy cells.

Humectants are key ingredients that absorb moisture from the air; therefore, they can be used to increase the moisture content of the skin. They also have the ability to assist in keeping cosmetic creams from drying out.

Hydrophilic is an ingredient capable of combining with or attracting water.

Hydrophobic is a water fearing substance.

Hypoallergenic ingredients/products are those least likely to cause allergic reactions.

Immiscible are unmixable liquids such as water and oil.

Miscible are ingredients that readily mix with each other such as milk and water.

pH, known as “Potential Hydrogen”, refers to the acidity or alkalinity of a substance.

Solute is a substance that has the ability to dissolve in a solution.

Solvent T is liquid that readily dissolves other ingredients.

Surfactants are ingredients that allow lotions, liquids, and creams to spread out quickly and evenly. They allow cosmetic products to slip across the skin and adhere easily. However, they can be highly irritating to the skin, potentially causing skin sensitivities and reactions.

Suspensions are mixtures of liquid and insoluble particles that have a tendency to settle on standing.

Texturizers give the product a desired feel and appearance.

Vehicles are ingredients that carry active ingredients into the skin.

Cosmetic Preservatives

Products based on natural ingredients are often very effective, but the use of natural preservatives does not necessarily mean these products are better. It is necessary to use preservatives (i.e. parabens) in skin care products to prevent the growth of fungus and molds, thus prolonging shelf life. Plastic tubes and jars allow oxygen in, therefore making preservatives necessary.

Preservatives inhibit the growth of pathogenic disease-causing bacteria in products. Healthy skin is more resistant to microbial infection. Bacterium/pathogens can be especially harmful if the skin is inflamed (i.e. acne), irritated, cut or burned. Aged skin and the skin of people suffering from illnesses are also more susceptible to infection.

In order to be effective, the most common chemical preservatives need to make up only 1/10 of 1% of the product.

What is a Paraben? Parabens are chemicals that function as common preservatives to extend a product’s shelf life by warding off bacterial growth. Parabens belong to a family of alkyl esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. Many researchers believe parabens contribute to the increasing incidence of breast cancer, low sperm count and other estrogen influenced medical problems in humans.

Commonly used parabens include: methylparaben, propylparabens, ethylparaben, benzylparaben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben.

Organic and natural preservatives include: rosemary extract, citrus seed extract, potassium sorbate, benzoic and sorbic acids, sodium benzoate, Vitamins A, C and E.

Natural preservatives can make up to 3% of the product by volume in order to be effective. At this level, they will likely have an interaction with the skin, altering the product’s effectiveness. This is acceptable only if their effect is desirable on the type of skin for which the product is made. Occasionally, there is a

natural variance in the quantity and quality of a natural preservative, so it may not have the same effectiveness at all times.

How Can We Tell If a Product is Truly Organic?

There are three levels:

·         Products comprising 100% organic ingredients

·         Products made of 95% organic ingredients, allowing 5% as synthetic ingredients

·         Products containing 70% to 90% organic ingredients

Natural vs. Synthetic Products

There is a lot of discussion about Natural vs. Synthetic products, and which one is better. In our ever- changing cosmetics industry, a product that is considered to be “natural” is when the ingredients are directly extracted from a natural source. This natural source could be mineral, vegetable, animal or even human.

Some natural ingredients could be unrefined; these extracts may have unappealing colors, textures and even unpleasant odors. Some examples of these natural ingredients are aloe vera, wheat germ and soy proteins, coconut, sesame and almond oils. Some human hair-styling aids actually contain human placenta extracts.

Synthetic products are composed of ingredients that are chemically created. These ingredients are known to mimic natural products or to create ingredients not found in nature to fill a demand or need. Synthetic products can often replace natural products, which may be rare, expensive, difficult to purify, or those that have a short shelf life. Synthetics are economical to produce and the quality, quantity and uniformity are always constant. An example of a synthetic ingredient is Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C).

Some die-hard naturalists believe the claims made by “all natural” cosmetic companies that their products truly do not contain synthetics. However, since natural extracts can have a foul smell, it is obvious that these natural products often undergo some form of synthetic alteration. For example, as human placenta has a shiny appearance and texture, it would be hard to believe it is sold in its “natural” form.

To color, refine, or deodorize natural extracts, the ingredients must undergo some chemical procedures, yet still remain effective. Synthetics are added and combined with the natural ingredients to create products that will fulfill the company’s claims. This introduces a whole new potential category. This category is labeled as the semi-synthetic or modified natural ingredient.

With the needs and the demands of consumers constantly changing, cosmetic companies need to

continually create new products to keep consumers interested and maintain the companies’ bottom lines at the same time. In many cases, there may be no natural product or ingredient that can fulfill the desires of the consumers, so synthetics are added or created.

An example would be luxurious foam baths, which contain solvents of essential oils and extracts of creams and milks derived from natural fatty substances. These ingredients could never produce the desired effect of a long-lasting, silky foaming product on their own; therefore synthetics are added to the natural ingredients to create the perfect foam bath. Semi-synthetics are created to adapt the skin’s biology with physical, chemical, mechanical, and bacteriological stability.

Common Chemical Ingredients

At present, the cosmetic industry selects from more than 5,000 different ingredients. It’s no wonder consumers can be perplexed. To follow is a list of familiar cosmetic ingredient categories, their related function and common ingredients used within each category as applied to cosmetic products (active drug ingredients not included).

Moisturizers function as a moisture barrier or to attract moisture from the environment. Common ingredients include:

·         cetyl alcohol (fatty alcohol)

·         dimethicone silicone

·         isopropyl lanolate, myristate and palmitate

·         lanolin oil and lanolin alcohol

·         octyl dodecanol

·         oleic acid (olive oil)

·         panthenol (Vitamin B-complex derivative)

·         stearic acid and stearyl alcohol

Preservatives and antioxidants (including vitamins) prevent product deterioration. Common ingredients include:

·         trisodium and tetrasodium edetate (EDTA)

·         tocopherol (Vitamin E)

Antimicrobials fight bacteria. Common ingredients include:

·         butyl, propyl, ethyl and methyl parabens

·         DMDM hydantoin

·         methylisothiazolinone

·         phenoxyethanol

·         quaternium-15

Thickeners and waxes are used in stick products to harden (i.e. lipsticks and blushers) and contain the following ingredients:

·         candelilla, carnauba and microcrystalline waxes

·         carbomer and polyethylene thickeners

Solvents are used to dilute and include the following ingredients:

·         butylene glycol and propylene glycol

·         cyclomethicone (volatile silicone)

·         ethanol (alcohol)

·         glycerin

Emulsifiers break up and refine. Common ingredients are:

·         glyceryl monostearate (also a pearlescent agent)

·         lauramide DEA (also a foam booster)

·         polysorbates

Color additives add color and can be categorized as synthetic organic or inorganic pigments.

·         Synthetic organic colors, which are derived from coal and petroleum sources and are not permitted for use around the eyes, include:

·         D&C Red No. 7 Calcium Lake (lakes are dyes that do not dissolve in water)

·         Inorganic pigments, which are approved for general use in cosmetics, including the eye area, are:

·         iron oxides

·         mica (iridescent)

Hair dyes contain phenol derivatives, which act as active preservatives, and also have the ability to increase the chemical reaction of the dye. They are used in combination with other chemicals in permanent (two-step) hair dyes. One common ingredient is:

·         amino phenols

pH adjusters stabilize or adjust acids and bases and include:

·         ammonium hydroxide, which is used in skin peels, hair waving and straightening products

·         citric acid

·         triethanolamine pH adjuster, which is used mostly in transparent soap

Other Common Chemical Ingredients Include

·         magnesium aluminum silicate absorbent – anti-caking agent

·         silica (silicon dioxide) – absorbent, anti-caking and abrasive

·         sodium lauryl sulfate – used as a detergent

·         stearic acid – cleanses, used as an emulsifier

·         talc (powdered magnesium silicate) – absorbent and anti-caking

·         zinc stearate – used in powders to improve texture and as a lubricant

Cosmetic Claims

There are many cosmetic claims that you will hear in our industry. A general understanding of what those claims mean will prepare you for any consumer questions that you may experience.

Hypoallergenic – Does not mean non-allergenic. It simply means that common irritants have been removed from the product, i.e. fragrances.

Fragrance-Free – Even if the manufacturer does not include fragrances in the product, the product can still have a smell, usually from the raw material ingredients.

Preservative-Free – Be very cautious if the product claims to be preservative-free. It is almost impossible to have a product on the shelf without adding preservatives. Preservatives used in cosmetics are effective and safe in very small doses.

Dermatologist Tested – This simply means the product has been tested for irritation under the supervision of a dermatologist and the results are publicized.

Dermatologist Recommended – Based on the testing performed, dermatologists may recommend the product. This could be a very misleading term.

Non-Comedogenic – Certain ingredients known to clog pores have been eliminated in these formulations.

Oil-Free or Water-based – These two claims are often for products designed for an oilier skin. Neither of these terms mean that the product is truly non-comedogenic.

·         Oil-free technically means that there are no oils in the product, but this does not mean that there are no fatty acids or other comedogenic ingredients.

·         Water-based means that the main ingredient is water, which again might be mixed with some comedogenic ingredient.

Animal Testing – In general, cosmetic companies have made a legitimate effort to reduce animal testing; however, some vital testing cannot be performed without using animals. Formulas sometimes are not tested on animals, but almost all ingredients used in cosmetics have been tested on animals at one time or another.

Cleansing Products

The basic function of cleansing products is to remove makeup, surface impurities and oils; and to cleanse the skin thoroughly and gently.

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