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What Are Bioactive Ingredients Anyway?

Chemist wearing white coat and beakers


Bioactive ingredients. They sound, well, so active. No wonder you see the term used so widely in marketing associated with skin care. We all want active transformation when it comes to skin care and “bioactive” is so full of promise. So is this just another buzzword? Or is this the real deal? Let’s get to the meat of the bioactive matter.



What does bioactive mean?

The medical definition of bioactive is “having an effect upon a living organism, tissue, or cell. Biologically active.” Antibiotic, enzymes, antioxidants, and vitamins are all bioactive substances. Outside the medical community, a bioactive substance is often defined more narrowly, limiting it to compounds derived from plants.



Are bioactive and organic ingredients the same thing?

Organic skin care manufacturers have tried to claim the term bioactive as their own, linking it so firmly with the term organic that it appears the two are one and the same. They are not. An ingredient can be organic and not be bioactive, just as an ingredient can be bioactive and not be organic. The two terms are not interchangeable.


In the botanical world, bioactive elements are typically things that are produced by the plant to play a role in competition for resources, defense, attraction (i.e., pollinators), and signaling. It’s generally these properties that make the substances valuable to humans for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Nature is the originator and inspiration, but it is not the only source.


Thanks to modern science and tools for chemical synthesis, which allow us to isolate, purify, and create stable, sustainable alternatives, we have another, more reliable source of bioactive molecules: the lab.



The question of bioavailability

Bioactivity is only half the equation with thinking about transformative ingredients. The more important issue is bioavailability, meaning can the ingredient effectively reach its target. This is a question better answered by science than nature.


First, there needs to be enough of the ingredient to make a difference. Direct from nature, the bioactive constituents in an ingredient may occur in too small an amount to have an impact. Also, check the ingredient list to see where the key ingredients fall. The higher on the list, the higher the percentage.


Bioactive ingredients also need the right vehicle to get past the skin barrier, so unless optimized or aided by the right additives, many natural and organic substances won’t be absorbed by the skin. In the lab, we’re able to extract and concentrate the most vital elements and formulate in a manner that assures they can penetrate the skin and provide true benefit.


And finally, there’s a little matter of molecular size and weight. Large particles can’t get down to the lower layers of skin to reach their target cells, leaving the bioactive ingredient to sit on top of the skin where it activates nothing. 


Synthesis allows us to take the best elements of nature, extract their bioactive constituents, concentrate them, and ensure their bioavailability for maximum effectiveness.


Vivant products are formulated with a wide range of bioactive ingredients including our patented Vitamin A Propionate, mandelic acid, rosehip oil, kojic acid, vitamin C, whole leave aloe, algae, green tea extract, peptides, niacinamide. The list goes on. Everything that is not a stabilizing or carrier vehicle is a bioactive element. Otherwise, it has no place in the formula. 




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