Definitions List

Active Ingredients

Active ingredients work either alone or together to deliver a proposed benefit in personal care, hair care and in cosmetics. Active ingredients includes anti-oxidants, alpha & beta Hydroxy acids, Anti aging agents, anti dark circle agents, anti wrinkle agents, Hair repair agents, Humectants, Liposomes, Oily skin regulators, Peptides, Proteins, Rejuvenating and soothing agents, self-tanners, Skin lightning agents and vitamins.

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)

These ingredients can exfoliate the upper layers of the skin giving a smoother more hydrated and firmer skin over time. Can be used in concentrations of 4-8% between a pH of 3-4. These include Salicylic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid.

  • Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA)

Consists of salicylic acid and helps to exfoliate the skin. It is used to improve acne and blackheads and should be used in a pH range of 3-4. It can reverse the appearance of discoloured skin and fine wrinkles.

  • Anti Oxidants

Anti-oxidants have powerful anti-aging benefits. They protect the skin’s surface from oxidative damaged caused by free radicals and Environmental stresses such as UV and pollution. They have 2 major functions of which the first is stabilisation of natural ingredients in the product and secondly it protects the skin cells from being damaged and slows down aging. It can reduces the appearance of fine lines and lighten the skin by minimising hyperpigmentation and age spots.

  • Anti-Aging Agents

Anti-aging agents are generally known as cosmeceuticals and slow down the degenerative processes in the skin which usually occur with aging. They have different functions which includes moisturising, anti-oxidant effects, retains water, stimulates the skin and maintains the natural homoeostatis of the skin cell. They reduce the appearance of fine lines. Such ingredients include Argerilene, Anti-aging phytylene’s and ceramides.

  • Anti-dark circle agents

Eyelid skin is one of the areas where the skin is the thinnest in the body and it dries and irritates easily and therefore blood vessels there are more noticeable. Engorged blood vessels are the result of dark circles around the eyes. Anti-dark circle agent can reduce the appearance of dark circles around the eyes. Typical ingredients to assist in anti-dark circle agents include Hyaluronic acid, Caffeine, Niacinimide, Ceramides and Retinoids.

  • Humectants

Humectants prevent the loss of moisture retaining your skin’s natural moisture. Some humectants can also attract moisture and is very important in skin care products. They can also provide a volume effect to the hair.

  • Hair repair agents

Hair repair agents can repair damaged hair. Proteins are typically hair repair agents that form protective films around the hair shaft, other agents repair dry scalp and keeps the hair hydrated.

  • Liposomes

Liposome have a very small particle size (nano-sized) and have a very high affinity for the skin. They can penetrate the skin deeply. Some of these liposomes include Coenzyme Q10 and ceramides.

  • Peptides

Peptides consist of amino acids and peptides added to skin care, hair care and cosmetics are synthetic. They have various functions of which some include anti aging. They are very water soluble and easy to use. Example, Argerilene is a very good anti-aging peptide.

  • Skin lightning Agents

Skin pigmentation occurs if the skin produces too little or too much melanin and is known as hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation can be caused by skin damage (wounds), hormones and spots caused by sunburn. Skin lightning ingredients reduce or block melanin production. Treatments can include gels/lotions containing these ingredients as well as sunscreen or exfoliants/chemical peels or laser. Examples of skin lightning ingredients include Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate), Niacinimide and Vitamin  A Palmitate.

  • Vitamins

Vitamins provide a wide range of functions in personal care, hair care and cosmetic formulations such as skin lightning, anti-aging, antioxidant, suppression of pigmentation. The most used vitamins include Vitamin A, C, E and provitamin B5 (D-panthenol)

OTC Active Ingredients

Over the counter ingredients include ingredients used to treat Acne, Dandruff, ingredients for antiperspirants and skin protectants.

Acne is an inflammatory skin disease that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. It often causes whiteheads, blackheads or pimples, and usually appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders. Acne can be treated with vitamin A derivatives, exfoliation and anti-inflammatory agents. Good exfoliating agents include salicylic acid and glycolic acid which peels the top layer of the skin and reduces the build up of old skin cells.

Antiperspirants are known for their sweat and odour control properties. They stop or reduce perspiration and reduces the moist climate for bacteria to thrive in. Typical chemicals used in antiperspirant formulations include Aluminium chloride, aluminium chlorohydrate and aluminium zirconium compounds.


Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin using a chemical, granular substance, or exfoliation tool and leaving the skin smooth, fresher and less wrinkled. It promotes blood circulation in the skin and increases the turnover of surface skin cells. There are 2 methods to exfoliate. One method is to use mechanical scrubbing techniques containing small or hard particles and the second method is by using cleansers containing active ingredients with peeling effects such as AHA’s.


If you are creating products for the hair, skin or cosmetics, then conditioners are one of the most important ingredients. The final shine, texture and feel of a formulation is determined by the ingredients in a conditioning formula. There are 3 major categories for conditioners namely silicone conditioners, Protein conditioners,  and quarternaries/cationics.

Quarternaries/cationics are specials cationic surfactants that carry positive electrical charges and neutralise the negative charges formed in hair. It reduces the static electricity of hair, detangling the hair, improving the shine in hair and increasing the life of hair colour on hair.

Protein conditioners are hydrolyzed proteins  from plant and animal sources which function primarily as skin and hair conditioning agents in personal care products. These protein derivatives are prepared by subjecting animal or vegetable proteins to enzymatic or other chemical, partial hydrolyses. They can thicken hair and add volume to hair as well as add shine and reduce the effect of damaged hair.

Silicone conditioners provide smoothness, silkiness and moisturising effects. They are used in sunscreens, shampoos, hair conditioners, lotions, lipsticks and make-up formulations for a superior silky spreadable feel. For the best balance of moisture, shine, and staying power, silicone conditioners are a great investment.


Emollients has the quality of softening or soothing the skin. They consist of specialty emollients, Natural butters, Natural oils and Silicones.

  • Specialty Emollients

Specialty emollients are resistant to oxidation and does not spoil and need no antioxidants for preservation compared to natural butters and oils. They also tend to show excellent spread ability on the skin and provide a smooth and non-greasy feel to the skin.

  • Natural Butters

Natural Butters are extracted from different types of plants, trees, seeds and roots. They remain solid at room temperatures and the composition of acids, oils and active ingredients in the different butters provide different end user properties such as moisturising, soothing, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Natural Oils

Natural oils are very good emollients and leaves the skin moisturised, smooth and soft. They come from vegetables and have different types of organic acids presents such as palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid. Stearic acid and palmitic acid are mostly found in solid natural oils such as coconut oil whereas oleic acid is found in the liquid natural oils.

  • Silicones

Silicones are best known for their occlusive properties and they form a barrier-like coating on the skin that’s resistant to both water and air giving a silky feel. They are polymers with different unique properties such as conditioning, skin protecting, film-forming, thickening, emulsifying, and moisturising. They can reduce irritation caused by surfactants.


Surfactants lower the surface tension between two liquids and acts as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and dispersants. They have good cleansing and foaming properties. Surfactants are classified as either primary or secondary surfactants and have different chemical structures( anionic, non-ionic, amphoteric and quarternary). Besides cleaning, other functions of surfactants can include, wetting, conditioning, emulsifying and thickening.


There are many different types of emulsifiers. The main function of an emulsifier is to prevent oil and water ingredients from separating in an emulsion. There are 2 main types of emulsifiers namely oil-in-water and water-in-oil. Water-in-oil emulsifiers are mostly used in fatty formulations such as sunscreens and night creams whereas oil-in-water emulsifiers are rather used in moisturising formulations such as day creams, lotions and other moisturising creams. There are also special emulsifiers that can be used for sprays and mists and assist in stabilising the formulation. Some of these include polysorbate-20, polysorbate-80, PEG-40 and PEG-7.

Botanicals Ingredients

Botanical ingredients consist of botanical extracts, phytelene’s and hydrosols and flower waters that Enhance the Nourishing, toning, and regenerative properties of your skin care and cosmetic product. People that are interested in natural beauty should invest in the addition of botanicals in their formulas.

Flower waters consist of flowers immersed in water whereas a hydrosol refers to an aqueous solution distilled from aromatherapy plants. Botanical extracts is a part of a plant or algae that has dissolved and becomes part of the carrier liquid. 

Texturizers and fillers

Texturisers and fillers consist of pearlising agents and powdered minerals/grains. Pearlising agents give luster and shine to a formula and some also has thickening and emulsifying properties. Pearlescent pigments, glycol stearate and bismuth oxychloride are examples of pearlising agents.

Texturisers consist of fine natural crystals and minerals such as silicates, bismuth and magnesium. They are widely used in makeup and effective in thickening, filling and stabilising formulas/products.

Colour Blends

Colourants can be classified as either organic or inorganic and can be added as is or dispersed in castor oil.

Organic colours in the past were derived from coal sources but these days they mostly synthetic. Some are soluble in water soluble in oil or insoluble in water/oil (Lakes)

Inorganic colours (pigments) consist of insoluble metallic compounds from natural sources. They do not have health risk associated with organic colours and they are insoluble. They can be classed into iron oxides, zinc oxides, titanium oxides, carbon blacks, chromium oxide greens and ultramarines.

Mica’s have many different colours and particle sizes. Mica’s smaller than 20micron give a satin like appearance and Mica’s with a particle size larger than 150micron give a sparkle appearance.


Fragrances can be used in almost all personal care, hair care and cosmetic formulations. They are typically a blend of natural oils and aroma compounds. Most fragrances are undiluted and have not been cut with solvents and therefore very little is used in formulations. You would typically use 0.1-0.2% fragrance in creams, shower gels, bubble bath and lotions and up to 3% in soaps.


Thickeners are used in many personal care and cosmetic formulas to increase the consistency, volume and viscosity of a formula. Some thickeners also have emulsifying and gelling properties. There are natural and synthetic thickeners from different sources with different molecular structures and they can be liquid, solid or polymers. Polymers can also be used as gel builders, , fixatives, styling agents, conditioners, pearlisers, emollients and fil-formers.

Preservatives and Stabilisers

Personal care, hair care and cosmetics containing water, oils, peptides, and carbohydrates are a good medium for growth of microbes (bacteria and fungi).These products therefore require preservatives to prevent microbial growth and spoiling of the product. Preservatives can increase the shelf life of product from 6-18months.

Preservatives can be classified into either natural antimicrobial, broad spectrum preservatives and stabilisers. Examples of natural antimicrobials include potassium sorbate, tea tree oil, hexanediol and sorbic acid. Examples of broad-spectrum preservatives include phenoxyethanol and parabens (Supguard GMB).

Stabilisers maintain the functionality, pH and activity of ingredients such as essential oils, fragrances, and active ingredients. Examples of stabilisers include EDTA and Sodium Gluconate.

pH Adjusters

pH Adjusters adjust the pH of a finished product. These chemical ingredients maintain the stability of formulations and efficacy of the finished cosmetic or personal care product. Typical pH adjusters include Lactic acid and Citric acid which decrease the pH and Triethanolomine, magnesium hydroxide and sodium gluconate which increase the pH.

Adding Ingredients to final product

Chemical ingredients can be added to already made formulations with care and understanding and should not exceed more than 10-15% as the stability of the formula may be affected. When doing so you need to consider solubility, pH, volume and contamination of the final product. When it comes to solubility, oil soluble ingredients cannot be added to water based products such as toners and water based products cannot be added to oil based products, but both can be added to ready made emulsions such as creams. Contamination can occur if the addition ingredient is not preserved as it may cause bacterial or fungal growth. If more than 10% additional ingredients are added then it is recommended that additional preservative should be added. Usually the rule of thumb is 1% of the ingredient added.

Problems with emulsions?

When an emulsion becomes unstable (oil and water separate) it could be as a result of the following:

  1. Creaming: The oil rises to the top of an emulsion and a fatty cream appear. It is reversible. This happens because the water/oil ratio is wrong, or the droplet size of the emulsion is too big, Reduce the drop size by vigorous mixing, or the emulsion is too runny. If the emulsion is too runny add a thickener to the emulsion.
  2. Flocculation: This occurs when internal phase droplets stick together to form larger clumps. Vigorous mixing can break up the clumps or addition of extra emulsifier.
  3. Separation: When the internal phase droplets merge together to form larger droplets and cause the emulsion to completely separate. This is irreversible and therefore the formula would need to be mixed again. Reasons for why separation occurs:
    1. Too little emulsifier was added to the formula
    2. Water-soluble emulsifiers precipitate out
    3. pH balance is either too acidic or too basic
    4. Interaction of different emulsifiers (cationic and anionic)
    5. Wrong type of emulsifier used.
Xanthan gum does not hydrate properly?

If the xanthan gum make clumps and does not dissolve properly in the water then it was not added correctly. The easiest way to add xanthan gum efficiently to water is to add to glycerine and mix it before adding to the water. Keep stirring until all the Xantahn gum has dissolved and a gum has formed. If a recipe does not have glycerine in then sprinkle the xanthan gum in while continuously stirring.

Batch size calculator
Most formulas are available in percentages which are sometimes difficult to convert to the correct weight to add. It is the most accurate to work in weight and therefore it is suggested that formulas are weighed off using a digital scale to 2 decimal points.


  1. Enter the total amount of formula that you would like to make into the first field (for example 200g of shower gel).
  2. Enter the amount in percentage shown on the recipe of a particular ingredient in the second field. For example preservative 1.5% (Supguard GMB)
  3. Read off the amount to add to the recipe (3g)