Add ingredients to cosmetic products

On sites like you can order cosmetic ingredients. I ordered Niacinamide and Panthenol, because they are quite stable and not too difficult to formulate with. I want to add a low percentage, like 1-4% to my toner, but I wonder if this is wise to do. If you ask companies like Paula's Choice they advice against it, but I don't know why. If the product (toner in my case) which you add it to is in the right pH range, and you add such a small amount, could there be any negatives, but more importantly maybe do you get the beneficial properties of the active ingredient?

I do understand formulating with ascorbic acid, or green tea is too difficult because the ingredients are too unstable and need to be in the exact right ph range. And also you can't formulate sunscreens yourself.


  • It depends on what else is in the product and what the intended benefit is. In some cases there may be no issues with adding ingredients. In others, it could be problematic. It's tough to say without looking at each case on its own merits. 
  • And what if I only add 4% niacinamide to the Paula's Choice Skin Balancing toner? The pH after adding the niacinamide is about pH 6 - 6.5, and it doesn't precipitate. Even then you can't be sure if the niacinamide will have it's anti-inflammatory/pore reducing properties?
  • Niacinamide does fight inflammation. It also may reduce water loss by increasing production of lipids and ceramides and by increasing cell turn over; reduce wrinkles by increasing collagen production; and lighten age spots by reducing the amount of pigment transferred from melanocytes to keratinocytes. I've never seen data showing it reduces pores. 

    Anyway, that pH range should be fine for niacinamide so if it's soluble in this system you're probably fine. 

    But be careful: from the ingredient list below it appears that the product already contains a reasonable amount of niacinamide (it's the 4th ingredient). If you're adding 4% on top of that you could start to experience the negative side effects of the ingredient which include redness and irritation.  

    Here are the ingredients in Paula's Skin Balancing Toner: 
    Water (Aqua), Glycerin (hydration/skin replenishing), Butylene Glycol (hydration/penetration enhancing), Niacinamide (vitamin B3/skin-restoring), Adenosine Triphosphate (skin-restoring), Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract (chamomile extract/skin-soothing), Arctium Lappa Root Extract (burdock extract/antioxidant), Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters (hydration/skin replenishing), Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (hydration/skin replenishing), Sodium PCA (hydration/skin replenishing), Panthenol (skin replenishing), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration/skin replenishing), Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate (hydration/skin replenishing), Ceramide 3 (hydration/skin replenishing), Ceramide 6 II (hydration/skin replenishing), Ceramide 1 (hydration/skin replenishing), Phytosphingosine (hydration/skin replenishing), Cholesterol (hydration/skin replenishing), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Oleth-10 (texture-enhancing), DEA-Oleth-10 Phosphate (texture-enhancing) , Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate (texture-enhancing), Polysorbate 20 (emollient), Caprylyl Glycol (preservative), Hexylene Glycol (preservative), Sodium Citrate (pH balancing), Xanthan Gum (texture-enhancing), Trisodium EDTA (stabilizer), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

  • edited October 2016

    What is the recommended % of Niacinamide to use? How much is too much?

    I use several products for my skincare routine (hello K-beauty 10 steps) and I noticed Niacinamide appearing in more than 1 product. No redness or irritations fortunately. I am guessing I am probably using over the 4% recommendation.

    If only you can combine L Absorbic Acid  + Niacinamide.. that would make a nice product together with Retinol. lol but you can't due to their different pH stability. :(

    Also agree with @Peter that YOU CAN'T FORMULATE sunscreens yourself. Have read many articles on this.

    One DIY I do is add Skinactives Antioxidant Booster to my creams.  The ingredients are: Pomegranate (Punica granatum) Seed Oil, Tocotrienols, Tocopherol (Alpha-D-Tocopherol, Vitamin E), Astaxanthin, Lycopene, Xanthophyll (Lutein), Alpha Lipoic Acid [R-(+)-], Beta Carotene.

    No mention of pH though.

  • 4% niacinamide has been well researched. 
  • @RandyS
    I don't believe Paula's Choice uses high percentages of active ingredients in most products, the exceptions maybe being the products where she lists the percentage. Maybe she uses 0.1 to 1% Niacinamide in the Skin Balancing toner. Even the Antioxidant Serums are basically silicones with something like 0.01-0.05% of active ingredients, the exception being the Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum with 5% Vitamin C. Some products have Sodium Hyaluronate and Palmitoyl Tripeptide very high up on the ingredients list, while these are used at a maximum concentration of respectively 1% and 0.005%. So I guess she adds most of the active ingredients below 1%, this means she can list them in random order, making the product look very potent. I'm certain most of her products contain more preservatives than "active" ingredients. Considering she has to ship it worldwide it would be very logical. Also she very often very unstable ingredients (like green tea extract and resveratrol) in tube or bottle containers, at sufficient high percentages to product would turn extremely brown. Of course some ingredients work at very low percentages, but with Niacinamide or Vitamin C for example you need to have at least 5%.

    The shrinkage of pores is based on the fact that Niacinamide increases cell turnover, thereby reducing pore clogging. Because it stimulates collagen production it also, theoretically, should reduce the widening of the pore lining.

    Well hopefully adding some "actives" works, I would really like to add some ingredients to existing products. I believe adding it to a toner is most easy, it already has a preservative system, and most ingredients can be solubilized quite easily. Although I wouldn't start bothering with Ascorbic Acid, I've read so many articles and it is simply too difficult to keep it stable.
  • edited October 2016
    @Peter You could always do a fresh batch of L Ascorbic Acid and use it as a facial for 15-30min? it could do wonders! and yes stability is an issue. I'm still playing with that. 

    For pores, i personally am in love with Azelaic Acid. It's amazing! Or even Salicylic Acid.

    Agree with you regarding Paula's Antioxidant serum. I've tried it. Not impressed with the results. 

    @RandyS Paula Choice had a new Vitamin B serum. Niacinamide at 10% They must have pulled it, i don't see it now.

  • @preciousia

    I do have quite a lot of pure ascorbic acid powder, but from what I've read, stability is really an issue and also the pH. I'm not completely sure if this is only because companies don't want you to make something yourself, or if it is really not beneficial.

    And indeed I'm already using a salicylic acid exfoliant. Because most products with Niacinamide are extremely expensive, also the Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster, but Niacinamide has well researched skin benefits, I wanted to add a bit to a product I'm already using. Formulating with Niacinamide shouldn't be that hard, it's very stable to heat and light, you only need to formulate it in the right pH range.
  • edited October 2016
    @Peter With regards to L Ascorbic Acid stability. I have stored my DIY Ascorbic Acid serums in an airless UV protected container, stored in the refrigerator and tested them after 4 months, and it is still good! I have yet to buy Ferulic acid. It's really not that tough, as long as you are not selling, you can duplicate the $200+ patented Skinceuticals CE Ferulic serum for personal use. I'll be happy to pm you the formula if you want.

    Also noticed The Ordinary coming out with a 10% Niacinamide Serum. Pretty sure it must be safe at that concentration though most reports i have seen supports the usage at 4%. Niacinamide is not unstable and not expensive, it's really odd why the products are expensive. No harm, having a go! Why not make a small batch. What is the pH of your Paula Choice's Skin Balancing Toner anyways?

    Niacinamide pH is ideally 4.0-6.0 and synergistically combined with N-Acetyl-D Glucosamine at 2% for maximum benefits. 

    i can't remember where i read.. Niacinamide can smell bad! not sure if it is the pH or quantity.
  • @preciousia

    But how do you test if the ascorbic acid didn't oxidize, you can't tell it by the color, because oxidation already occurs without color change. I still have a feeling maybe we don't know certain things, we can't test for bacteria and fungi for example, so maybe you shouldn't do diy cosmetics. There is a reason why it always has been difficult to formulate vitamin C serums, and why Skinceuticals has patented its formulation. If it was this easy every company would make a vitamin C serum and sell it for much less. I once read only mixing some distilled water and ascorbic acid does more harm to your skin than good. Although Niacinamide shouldn't be that difficult to add to a product, under the right pH range its quite stable. And also using or mixing some oils shouldn't do any harm.

  • edited October 2016
    @Peter. I use iodine (an oxidant) to test... following a University science experiment to test for Vitamin C (anti-oxidant)

    This was a question i was going to ask Beauty Brains but i was holding back to go thru' their massive database before i ask.

    I'm a noob at chemistry but as far as i can tell, the vitamin C content in my DIY serum after 4 months were superb. I have sent one over to a friend (no refrigeration over the weekend) and it's still good. phew. I gave her only a little bit. I sent some overseas to my sister, it's still good she told me a week ago. It's all trial and error. Stability testing required before i dare give anyone outside my circle. I rather toss and make a new batch. i keep the old ones just for testing purposes.

    see my Vitamin C tests here:

    No... i do not look at colour, though it can be an indication. Experience have shown it can start oxidising and still look deceptively clear. 

    @Peter I do use preservatives to counter bacteria/fungi/deterioration :) And no, my formulae isn't just h20+Ascorbic acid... :)
    If you want to mix oils... over 1-2% you need an emulsifer. Vitamin E (fat soluble) alone is 1% in my recipe (supposing your vitamin C is a water based formula)

    There are companies who formulate similar products (due to a loophole in the pH of Skinceuticals patent) for MUCH LESS. You should google this brand called "Timeless" It's about $20

    I also call to your attention a new line by the DECIEM group The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% for £4.90 

  • @preciousia

    Well, maybe diy cosmetics is possible. I don't know enough about formulating products to be sure we don't overlook something. (with mixing oils I ment mixing oils, so not mixing oil in water). But considering I have Ascorbic Acid powder and some other ingredients, I certainly would like to experiment.

  • there's lots of free tutorials all over the internet. I'm going to start sharing them in my blog.
    Oil in Water or Water in Oil formulaes just need emulsifiers so they don't separate :)

    btw, i have just ordered The Ordinaries 10% Niacinamide and 23% Ascorbic Acid products... and a bunch of others.

    Total of 12 products including Dr Hauschka
  • edited October 2016
    An easy peasy recipe for Ascorbic Acid would be this:

    You would not have to worry about emulsifiers or preservative. Just use it up within 2 weeks and store in the refrigerator. The Aloe vera gel i was using contains Vitamin E anyways. Really effective :) Give that a go :) Get your hands on a 10ml airless bottle. not too big otherwise you won't finish it. Possibly even 5ml. The key is not to make too much.

    i mentioned to use distilled water but ideally demineralised water is best.

    test the pH before use.

  • Preciousia,

    Please do report back on how the Ordinaries products work for you! I'm in Canada so I'm really thinking of ordering them. But isn;t the 23% ascorbic acid sold out just the other day...?
  • Yep. It is on pre-order. which is alright.  i bought a dozen items from the. i want to try the "ingredients" separately before i diy.. and the prices are so good.
  • edited October 2016
    anyways, this is what "Ordinary" skincare i bought

    1. Niacinamide 10% + Zinc PCA 1% by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    2. Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    3. Buffet by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    4. Advanced Retinoid 2% by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    5. Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    6. Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    7. Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    8. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    9. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    10. Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% by The Ordinary (30-ml)
    11. Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA by The Ordinary (30-ml)
  • I just ordered the niacinamide 10% and alpha arbutin 2% too! I'm already using a vitamin c serum (sodium ascorbyl phosphate). I wonder when I'll receive those items... hehe

    But gosh, you ordered so much! How're u going to test them all?
  • According my dermatologist even vitamin C derivatives like Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate need air-tight packaging and need to be stored refrigerated. So I don't know if the Vitamin C serums of The ordinary will stay stable in bottle packaging. 

    The Niacinamde serum isn't expensive so a great option, but I'm going to try to mix some distilled water and Niacinamide myself first, I also have Dexpanthenol, Allantoin. Making 30mL will cost about 3 euros (3.50 dollars), so I can make it fresh every other day for example.

    I can also locally buy pure ECGC, Ferulic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, Caffeine, N-Acetyl D-Glucosamine, but they are extremely expensive ingredients over here. A serum of 30mL will cost about 25 euros (28 dollar), and considering I don't want to use preservatives, I can only store it like 2-3 days.So in the end it will still be expensive. Also Ascorbic Acid is only stable at a pH of less then 3.5. So if you making it yourself, you can end up with extremely acidic sollutions, which can irritate the skin, or a sollution that will act as a pro-oxidant.
  • @Peter I am a packaging fanatic too. I have enough airless bottles to transfer ALL the bottles :) 

    Very good point... but their pricing is cheap. so can't complain.

  • That's why I don't DIY. I leave it to the cosmetic scientists. :D

    But where do you guys get this airless bottle...? amazon? ebay?
  • edited October 2016
    @escherichia I decant a lot, anything I don't like >> decant. Probably spend more on containers sometimes than the product sometimes. The good is that I can recycle and reuse them And fortunately they are not price prohibitive. The best packaging will minimise air, protect fr uv, & dispense the product easily, avoid bacteria introduction (dipping fingers into jars). I follow Paula Begoun's theory on this and I am with her 100%.

    You can read more about decant /packaging on my blog. You can try Amazon or ebay but I will pm you other sources to consider :)

    I created a table to rank packaging, let me dig it out.
  • image

    Ranking different kinds of packaging. If money is not an objective, I absolutely adore airless jars!
  • edited October 2016
    @escherichia I ordered idealistically. I did not think of how to introduce them practically. Any suggestions?

    If I narrow which vitamin c I like I can buy the ingredient to DIY. It is far too expensive to buy everything and allow them to expire. I am only one person, how am I going to use it up?! DIY can get more expensive than finished products. ESP mistake = bin or skin irritations, something you cannot afford to mess with :)
  • @Peter it is my opinion that ALL antioxidants... need airless packaging. All my dermatologist products came in airless bottles. 

    so that refers to all the vitamin C variants... regardless of their stability. Mad hippie packaged their Vitamin C in a dropper bottle, there is 2 risks: bacteria and air. 

    i repackaged it. 

  • Wow... U know, should I decant the Ordinaries alpha arbutin and niacinamide into airless containers? But their original packaging are dropper style...?
  • I agree with preciousia that anti-oxidants should be packaged in airless containers. I really don't understand why Paula's Choice packaged their 15% Vitamin C serum in a dropper, and they even start talking about a special rubber ring reducing air in the product, while if you take the dropler of, air will just flow into the product. I also wonder about their toners, they contain antioxidants, but they are certainly not airless.

    On the other hand, many ingredients that function as antioxidants are pretty stable. For example Niacinamide is very stable, also esters like tocopheryl acetate are pretty stable. And even the Skinceuticals Vitamin C + Ferulic acid seems to be a quite stable combination of ingredients, according to the patent. So I don't know maybe the manufacturers know what they're doing, maybe it's like avobenzone, which is unstable on its own, but can be stabilized if octocrylene or tinosorb m is present in the product. But personally I like airless packaging, it may even reduce the amount of preservatives necessary I hope.
  • Natural vitamin E is not stable. Tocopheryl Acetate is synthetic Vitamin E.
    In fact, Dr Todorov recommended we get vitamin E pills instead so it is individually encapsulated (less oxidation)

    Skinceuticals CE+ferulic isn't full proof either... still got to throw it away after 2-3 months.

    hey packaging isn't that expensive.. i rather not take the risk. i will be repackaging all of mine.

    i don't know why they don't package it in airless container... just like jars... why do they still package products in jars? the consumers like the dropper bottles (i abhor them)
  • edited October 2016
    Yes Tocopherol is not very stable, that's why tocopheryl acetate was created. I really don't understand the C15 from Paula's Choice. They say the "air restrictor" reduces air intake, but if you take the droppler out air will flow in anyway, I mean otherwise the bottle would have to be vacuum in the end, so constantly new air is flowing in the bottle.

    It would be interesting to know how long it takes for the ingredients to deteriorate in for example the Paula's Choice products. If it is for example 15 minutes after producing, with all shipping times the products will be useless, but if it takes about 2-3 months or even longer, its long enough for normal use conditions.

    I think there are three scenarios:
    1. She uses extremely low concentrations of the unstable antioxidants, something like 0.0001%, then it wouldn't make a difference if it was oxidized or not. Because the actives wouldn't do anything anyway. 
    2. Considering she claims the ingredients are added in sufficient high concentrations to be active, maybe by the combination of actives, stabilizers and the pH etc the ingredients are stable enough to last during the 2 months of usage. Would be a nice thought, but for some ingredients simply not valid.
    3. The ingredients are oxidated when you use the product, and you are damaging your skin by using the products. For example Ascorbic Acid, Retinol, EGCG, Resveratrol are extremely unstable ingredients, theoretically they can only be used in airless packaging. And even when producing the products special lighting and filling techniques have to be used to keep them stable. Paula's Choice says a slight yellow color is normal for the C15 serum, but Vitamin C will be oxidized significantly even before any change in color happened.

    I mean I want airless packaging as well. But we have to admit, we only know the ingredients are unstable, not in what time frame they will be completely degraded/oxidated. I really wanted to buy the Resist Toner, Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel and 10% Niacinamide Booster, but I constantly keep thinking well are the concentrations of actives high enough, and will they be stable.
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