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Is this product telling the truth about its active ingredient?

Richard asks…My wife sent me your article about Vaseline vs. Aquaphor, which addresses the concepts of occlusives, hydrators, and humectants.  Vaseline is supposedly only an occlusive and Aquaphor is supposedly all three.  If that is the case, how come each only lists Petrolatum as an active ingredient?

The Beauty Brains respond: 

Richard has stumbled on one of the three sure fire ways to have your question answered here on the blog. The first way is to enthusiastically praise us  in your question. (You know how starved I am for positive feedback.) The second way is to mention that you bought our book (It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick.) The third way is to be a dude (because we’re trying to increase our male readership!) And now on to his answer…

Skin protectant ingredients are drugs

Both products are marketed under the FDA’s Other the Counter monograph for skin protectants which means they are legally considered to be drugs. The monograph specifies which active ingredients may be used and how much of the active is required. Petrolatum is an approved active at concentrations above 30% and, since both products contain 30% or more of petrolatum, they both list it as an active.

Aquaphor does contain glycerine which is also an approved active. However, the minimum concentration for glycerine is 20%. Therefore it’s likely that Aquaphor contains less than this minimum amount and that’s why they don’t list it as an active.

If you’re confused about what the term “active ingredient” means, stay tuned. We’ll be answering THAT question in an upcoming episode of the Beauty Brains Show. In the meantime you can read more about the skin protectant monograph on the Code of Federal Regulations.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Eileen June 12, 2014, 10:37 am

    That which distinguishes two similar products with the same actives can often be learned by comparing the inactive lists. For example, I have mild rosacea and can only tolerate physical sunscreens. I can find many products with the same percentage of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide disclosed in the active ingredient list, but that does not give me the whole story. I must also scrutinize the inactive list to make sure there is nothing else in the product that is going to irritate my sensitive skin. It’s that inactive list that will often determine which product I ultimately purchase. Moral to the story: To have a better understanding of the product, you need to read and consider both active and inactive ingredient lists.

  • Kevin June 12, 2014, 7:41 pm

    Exactly what Elaine said!

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