The Formulation of Skincare Creams and Their Use

The Formulation of Skincare Creams and Their Use


Active ingredient: It is an ingredient that is biologically active and serves the purpose of that particular product.

Fat soluble: A chemical/ingredient/product that only dissolved in fats rather than water.

Stratum corneum: The outermost cell layer of epidermis that consists of hard and mature skin cells.

Corneocytes: Cells present in stratum corneum. The cells contain collagen and are mature and hard.

Epidermis: It is the outermost skin layer, one of three major skin layers.

Keratinocytes: These are the skin cells that produce keratin that is protein responsible to give strength to our skin.

Dermis: It is the middle layer of the skin which is present below epidermis. It contains blood vessels, nerve endings, glands that secrete sebum and hair follicles along with immature skin cells.

Elastin: It is a type of protein present in the skin and many other tissues. It functions to provide elasticity to the structures.

Collagen: Collagen is also a protein present in the skin and many other tissues in the body. It provides firmness and strength. In the absence or decreased production, as in old age, the skin becomes saggy and wrinkled.

Pruritis: Redness and itchiness of the skin due to different reasons.

Emulsifier: Emulsifier is a substance that prevents two liquids from separating when the liquids are not soluble in each other usually, such as oil and water. It keeps the particles of one liquid suspended in the other one.

Emollient: Emollient is a greasy substance that keeps skin soft and moisturized.

Isopropyl myristate: An emollient which is used as a cream base for good absorption.

Polysorbate20: It is a type of emulsifier used in creams to stabilize them.

Humectant: A humectant is a type of moisturizer that attracts and retains the moisture in the air nearby via absorption.

Lipid barrier: Our skin has a layer of lipid on the surface. These lipids are secreted by the glands in the skin. This layer is called lipid barrier because it prevents water loss and protects the skin.

Skin barrier: Skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin that protects the lower layers from dryness and environmental factors.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): A surfactant found in soaps, detergents and creams.

Surfactant: Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension (or interfacial tension) between two liquids, between a gas and a liquid, or between a liquid and a solid.

Yucca schidigera: Yucca schidigera, also known as the Mojave yucca or Spanish dagger, is a flowering plant that is native to the Mojave Desert, Chihuahuan Desert and Sonoran Desert of southeastern California, Baja California, New Mexico, southern Nevada and Arizona.

Borax: It is a powdery white mineral.

Sodium Behenoyl Lactylate: This substance is derived from vegetables. It acts as an emulsifier, humectant and conditioner.

Ceresin: Ceresin is a wax derived from ozokerite by a purifying process.

Carbopol: Carbopol is a water-soluble polymer, used as an emulsifying, stabilizing, suspending, thickening and gelling agent in many industries.

Butylene glycol: A chemical widely used in cosmetic industry.

Alpha-hydroxy acids: A class of chemical compounds.

Glycolic acid: A type of alpha-hydroxy acids widely used in cosmetics.

Anti-oxidants: Substances that prevent oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

Oxidative damage: Damaged caused by free radicals produced due to oxidation reactions.

Solute: The substance that is dissolved in a solvent.

Deionized water: Deionized water is a type of drink which removed all of its ions, and it has no charge.

Shea butter: Shea butter is a vegetable fat obtained from the fruit of a tree native to Africa, Butyrospermum parkii.

Melanin: A dark colored pigment found in the skin. It gives color to the skin.

Melanocytes: The skin cells that produce melanin pigments.

Cellulite: Cellulite is the herniation of subcutaneous fat within fibrous connective tissue that manifests on the skin surface as skin dimpling and nodularity.

Ethyl hexyl palmitate: A colorless, odorless liquid used in the cosmetic industry.

Eczema: An inflammatory skin condition that causes itchiness and dryness.

Psoriasis: An inflammatory skin condition that causes itchiness, dryness and scaling. It also affects joints.

Main Topics of Discussion in Paper

  • Background of skincare products and their active components
  • The structure of the skin
  • Introduction of different types of skincare products
  • Function of skincare items
  • Different types of skincare cream, their composition, function and mode of action

Studies Conducted and Theories Suggested

The skin is made of multiple layers. The outermost layer is epidermis that is made of corneocytes. This performs the function of barrier and protects the deeper layers. The other type of cells present under corneocytes is keratinocytes. These cells grow old and finally turn into corneocytes. Under epidermis, there is another skin layer called dermis. This layer is responsible for skin elasticity and firmness. Dermis is rich in elastin and collagen proteins. The deeper most layer is called hypodermis. It is rich in fat cells, mall blood vessels, hair follicles and glands.

Skincare creams basically work on the outermost skin layer, i.e. epidermis. There are different types of skincare creams including bodywashes, moisturizers, exfoliants, cleansers, toners, etc. These products usually contain a base in which active ingredients are present. There can be one or more than one active ingredients. Other chemicals, such as stabilizers and preservatives, are also present. Following are different functions of some types of skincare creams.

  • Cleansers work to remove dirt, sebum, sweat, exfoliated corneocytes and microorganisms from the skin.
  • Soothing creams can help reduce pruritis and redness.
  • Some restoring creams can help restore dry and inflamed skin.
  • Toners balance skin pH and reduce germs.
  • Creams can protect the skin from external environment.
  • Some creams hydrate skin well and provide a good feeling.

There are basically two major types of cream. One type is of oil-in-water creams. In this type, oil droplets are dispersed in a water base. The other type is water-in-oil creams. In this type, water droplets are dispersed in an oil base. They are also known as water-based or oil-based creams, respectively. Oil-in-water creams are more comfortable to used and more widely used because they are less greasy. Water-in-oil creams are oilier and have other drawbacks but when it comes to delivering fat-soluble active ingredients, water-in-oil creams are better. Water-based creams are easier to use, and they can be easily removed as well. However, they are not as hydrating as oil-based creams. Water-in-oil creams moisturize the skin and prevent water loss from stratum corneum. Different types of creams are discussed below in detail.

Cleansing Creams

Skin cleansing is carried out since old times. A piece of bone was used to scrape the skin back then. After that, people shifted to plant products for the purpose that were dissolved in water. Those were the earliest cleansing creams. Soaps were also produced by ancient civilizations. Many cleansing creams were manufactured afterwards by using oils basically. Cleansers kept evolving over the time. According to definition, a perfect cleanser cleans the skin, removes dirt, sweat, sebum, exfoliated dead cells etc. without causing any skin damage. Cleansing skin regularly improves its texture and prevents acne. However, over-washing and vigorous washing can damage the skin and disrupt its protective mechanisms.

Modern cleansers are mild in nature that perform the abovementioned tasks without damaging the skin. They also moisturize the skin rather than drying it out like older cleansing products. They are safe for sensitive and acne prone skin as well. Petrolatum, mineral oil, waxes and water are major components of cleansing creams. They also contain emulsifier that stop the contents of the cream from separating into layers. These cleansing creams are an integral part of the modern skincare regimen.

Petrolatum is one of the most basic ingredients of cleansing creams. It traps moisture by making a layer on the skin. Some fats are also used in creams that make a layer similar to the skin’s natural lipid layer and give the skin a healthy glow. Mango butter, cocoa butter and several other exotic fats are utilized for this purpose. Some other emollients used in cleansing creams include isopropyl myristate, isopropyl ester of myristic acid, and polysorbate20. Glycerin I also widely used in cleansing creams as humectant. One study showed improvement in the skin hydration after regular use for ten days. According to research, the moisturizing ingredient in a cleansing cream works in a 4-step process, i.e. it repairs the skin barrier, increases water content of the skin, reduces water loss and restores the lipid barriers’ ability to attract, hold and redistribute water.

Another important component of the cleansing creams is cleansing agent. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is an important cleansing agent. However, it should be used carefully because it can get absorbed from the skin and can stay in the heart, lungs, kidney and the brain. It can also cause blindness upon contact with the eyes. Therefore, an alternative called sodium cocosulfate, that is produced from coconut oil, can be utilized in skincare products as a replacement for SLS. Recent research shows that coconut oil can be a good surfactant when combined with Yucca schidigera extract.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel analyzed the safety of 39 polyether lanolin components and triethanolamine (TEA) and 31 related TEA-containing ingredients that are used to formulate cosmetic products like cleansing creams. They were also found to be safe. Hence, modern cleansing creams have been formulated after research of so many years. The ingredients are effective and safe to use. 

Talking about how a cleansing cream works, it is spread on the skin and massaged gently using fingers. It loosens and removes dirt and other things from the skin surface. It can hen be wiped off using a soft cloth or tissue paper. A think layer of emollient is usually left behind that moisturizes the skin. Cleansing and moisturizing are the most important steps of skincare and cleansing creams fulfill both these tasks. Studies have shown visible improvement in the skin texture after doing these activities regularly.

Cold Creams

Cold creams were first discovered by a physician named Galen in Greece in the second century. Cold cream is a thick cream that is used to soften the skin. It is the best solution to eczema and dry skin, especially in the winter season. It is called cold cream because it is cold when touched. It contains both water and fats. These creams are oil-based. The water evaporates after these creams are applied, while oils and fat remain on the skin working to remove dirt and grime while making it softer at the same time. 

These creams have evolved a great deal over the time. Back in time, vegetable oil or almond oil was used to make them. Then pharmacists started using borax and beeswax for the purpose.  This formulation turned out to be cheaper and long lasting. These cold creams were used widely to treat dryness, cleanse and remove makeup. However, the use of cold creams has declined over the time. Borax, a main ingredient of these type of creams, has reported to cause skin irritation due to alkaline nature, kidney damage due to accumulation in the body and fetal development problems. Some studies also suggest that borax can cause damage to the immune system. Borax is a natural ingredient, so these studies also suggest that natural things are not always safe.

Some substitutes to borax include Sodium Behenoyl Lactylate, beeswax, ceresin, Carbopol, butylene glycol, and polyethylene glycols. Glydant plus is a type of preservative that is used in cold creams. It is cheap and very effective in preventing the growth of microorganisms in creams. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) are a popular modern-day skin care ingredient. They help loosen the bond between the skin cells and that is why exfoliate the skin. Glycolic acid is the most wide used AHA. It exfoliates the skin and removes the signs of ageing caused by different environmental factors, such as sunlight and dust. It also enhances the production of new skin cells. 

Anti-oxidants are also added to cold creams at times. These usually include vitamin C and E. Oxidative processes are a major reason for skin damage. These vitamins prevent the damage. However, in most cream formulations, these ingredients are not effective. The reason is that they are unstable and adding their stable form to the formulation is essential to get their benefits. 

Night Creams

As the name indicates, these creams are formulated to remain on the skin surface for many hours. They also stick to the skin after rubbing. This is why they are formulated accordingly. The oils present in these creams stay on the skin even after rubbing on linen or cloth. They have a high oil content. Melatonin has been recently introduced in night creams, and it is considered a very strong anti-oxidant molecule. Studies show that it can reduce the signs of ageing visibly. Deionized water is also used in these formulations which is a very good solute. Glycerin works as an emollient and also increases the absorption of ingredient through the skin. 

Some natural oils, such as sunflower oil, are also used in these creams. Sunflower oil is safe to use in creams. It does not cause skin redness and does not damage it. But it is important to be careful while adding natural oils in the formulation because as per research, olive oil application to the skin can cause redness and damage. Hazelnut oil also has good properties. It is non-greasy, so an excellent choice for people with oily skin. It conditions skin without causing any known damages.

Many anti-oxidants are also added to night creams. They help prevent environmental damage caused by pollution and UV rays. Anti-oxidants stop oxidative damage that can lead to ageing. Shea butter is also a good quality naturally occurring emollient for the skin. It hydrates the skin ad reduces swelling. Some night creams also contain whitening or brightening ingredients. Whitessence ™ is a highly effective naturally found lightening agent that is extracted from Asian nangka seeds. It causes skin lightening by stop the transfer of melanin from melanocytes to surface skin cells. Tyrostat™ is another skin lightening chemical that works by inhibiting the production of melanin by inhibiting an enzyme that does the task. Potassium sorbate is a potassium salt that works as a preservative in various skin care formulations.

Massage Creams

Massages give skin a firmer and healthier look by promoting blood circulation and collagen production, while prevent saggy skin and dullness. Massage creams are available for this purpose. Doing a skin massage followed by a moisturizer is a popular skin treatment. Many other skin treatments involve skin massage as well. Massage an emollient or massage cream into the skin can have many positive effects. However, some immediate effects like redness and swelling can be noticed in some patients. Other patients also experience delayed problems, such as acne and skin inflammation. Also, in subjects with a fragile skin, a vigorous massage may cause skin damage. Creams are important during massage to reduce friction and the chances of developing side effects. But this cream use does not only have positive implications in massage. The creams can over-moisturize the skin and prevent the shedding of dead skin cells. This eventually makes skin fragile because our skin needs regular shedding of surface skin cells, so that newly formed healthy cells can come on the surface. 

Massage can be helpful in skin conditions like cellulite. Massage reduces this problem by reducing swelling, increasing collagen production, and reducing fat cells. Massage not only has cosmetic purposes, but also helps with medical conditions, such as depression, autism, skin conditions, fibromyalgia, hypertension, autoimmune conditions and cancer. Thai foot massage is a way to improve balance and other symptoms in diabetic patients with foot involvement. It also reduces blood pressure that shoots because of stress.

There are different types of massage creams – some are thick, while others have a medium consistency. Thick creams are a better option for thick and dry skin areas. Ethyl hexyl palmitate is widely used in massage creams. It helps keep skin well-hydrated by preventing water loss. It also acts as a lubricant and reduces friction during massage. It is a very good emollient for dry and rough skin especially. So, it is beneficial for people with eczema and psoriasis. The extracts of grape seed, cucumber, basil, jojoba oil, almond oil, olive oil etc. are also present in various massage creams for hydration. Grape seed extracts contain omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E that are responsible for moisturizing properties. Vitamin E is also an anti-oxidant, so it prevents skin damage. 

Moisturizing Creams

There are different types of moisturizers. One type is emollients that are rich in lipids that fill the gap between surface skin cells, smoothen, soften and increase the flexibility of the skin. Second is occlusive type. These moisturizers make a layer on the skin and prevent water loss caused by evaporation that allows the skin to stay hydrated. The last type is called humectants. This type helps the skin in staying moisturized by attracting water molecules and absorbing them. The type of moisturizer is decided after looking at the skin requirements. 

There are two major reasons of dry skin – one is due to low humidity and air movement and the second is because of age related changes. Many skin conditions also lead to dryness, such as eczema and psoriasis. Hydrating skin is very important to prevent skin conditions. Studies shows that dry skin contains more inflammatory agents as compared to healthy skin. The topmost layer of the skin starts cracking in the absence of moisture. 

Using Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF) is one of the best approaches to hydrate the skin. These are different amino acids, urocanic acid, inorganic salts, sugars, lactic acid and urea naturally found in the skin. These factors attract water and keep skin well-moisturized. 

Vanishing and Foundation Creams

Most of these creams are just moisturizers with few added components. Vanishing creams are all those creams that vanish in the skin after application. These creams contain emollient ester in oil phase that helps them absorbing in the skin. The amount is low to make the cream non-greasy. These creams are water-based mostly. Foundations are also similar to vanishing creams and are used since long time to make skin look pale. The formulation is about the same and they may contain sunscreen as well. However, making sure that sunscreen is effective is very important. Some formulations can contain sunscreen that does not work properly exposing user to harmful sun rays, while the user believes that he or she is wearing a sunscreen as well. 

There are various forms of foundation like liquid, mousse, and even powder. They are used to give the skin a flawless look. There is 3% to 25% pigment present in foundations. According to dermatologists, foundation can log pores, and it does not allow the skin to breathe. This can cause skin damage, rash, acne and dryness.

Hand and Body Creams

Hand and body creams are also called all purpose creams because they serve many purposes. They moisturize and nourish the skin. They can work as a cleansing cream and can also serve as a base for foundation creams. These are non-greasy.

Such creams are mostly used by those individuals who do not want to waste their money on multiple creams or do not bother much about different types of creams available in the market. Such creams can be used generally for skin protection from environmental factors.

Detailed Account of What Paper Suggests

The paper discusses different types of available creams in detail. Different creams serve different purposes and contain different active ingredients. Over the time, such creams have been developed that have more benefits and negligible harms to the skin. Basic composition of most creams is the same. However, a few ingredients differ in every type of cream that serve the purpose of that cream, such as pigments are present in foundation creams to give a color and hide blemishes. Side effects of cream ingredients should be kept in the mind while using some cream. Also, it is vital to use a suitable cream according to your skin requirements. It is especially true for moisturizers that only work if used according to the skin type. Moisturizer are also the most important skin cream without any doubt. Creams help tackle skin care problems without any doubt if chosen correctly and wisely.


Creams are being used by men and women since ancient times. It was figured out centuries ago that good skin is not accidental and needs care. Different creams help us care for the skin. It is important to provide our skin with nourishment, moisture and protection against environmental factors, such as grime, dust, sun, makeup products etc. Creams do this job and make our skin look clean and healthy. However, they come with their own drawbacks as well. Although creams are carefully formulated, and the modern creams are highly effective with very low side effects, the risk of a few side effects caused by the ingredients is always there. It is always a wise idea to see a dermatologist before starting using a cream. If not, choosing dermatologically tested creams from trusted sources is the least that can be done to ensure skin protection.

Interesting Information to Takeaway

  • Skin care products are numerous and perplexing, yet there is certain commonality among 80% of the formulations.
  • It is important to cleanse face thoroughly after using a foundation creams or you can suffer from acne, rash, dryness, etc.
  • Natural ingredients are not a guarantee that there will be no side effects.
  • Many toxic substances can be absorbed from creams into the skin leading to health issues.
  • All purpose creams serve multiple purposes and are a good choice for people who do not want to use many creams for reasons like cost, time and mood.
  • The legendary Roman Holiday actress, Audrey Hepburn, once famously said, “I owe 50% of my beauty to my mother and the other 50% to Erno Laszlo.” Erno Laszlo was a pioneer in skin care in 20th century.
  • According to the magazine Longevity, Princess Diana was “scrupulous about using an SPF-8 sunblock.”
  • Skin creams are not totally free of side effects. Even the safest ingredients can cause a few problems depending on many factors, such as skin type and application,


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