Essential Ingredients Glossary

08.05.2015, 10:51 CDT | Posted In: Products

Essential Ingredients (Chemistry set graphic)

At Obagi, our goal is to create a full spectrum of products to address every skin type and concern. The essential ingredients listed below are the backbone of our product line; you can study up here, and be sure to ask your skin care physician which products and essential ingredients are best for you.

Active Ingredients

For years, Hydroquinone, a prescription drug, has been considered the gold standard for treating hyperpigmentation and is the key ingredient in our Obagi Nu-Derm® System*. Hydroquinone works by blocking the process in the skin that leads to discoloration. See Important Safety Information regarding the Obagi Nu-Derm System below.

Tretinoin is used to treat acne. Obagi tretinoin products available for the treatment of acne include a cream formulation of 0.1%, 0.05% or 0.025% and a 0.05% gel. Renova, a derivative of Vitamin A, is a prescription drug used to reduce the appearance of fine facial wrinkles when used along with a total skin care and sunlight avoidance program. Obagi’s Renova® Tretinoin Cream is available as a 0.02% formulation. (Please see below for Important Safety Information and Prescribing Information for Renova Cream, Tretinoin Cream, and Tretinoin Gel.)

Benzoyl Peroxide is used to treat mild to moderate acne at the source by reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria.1 Find Benzoyl Peroxide in our CLENZIderm M.D.™ products.

A powerful mineral, Zinc Oxide is known for its sun-deflecting ability as well as its non-irritating and non-allergenic properties.2 Used in sunscreen, zinc oxide is often a preferred active ingredient because it provides physical, broad spectrum UVA and UVB sun protection. Obagi uses zinc oxide as one of the active ingredients in our Obagi Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen, which provides protection from the sun with an elegant, matte finish for all skin types.

Other Key Ingredients

L-Ascorbic Acid, the active form of Vitamin C, may help with the appearance of skin aging. Find L-Ascorbic Acid in Obagi’s Professional-C™ Serums.

Hydromanil is a cosmetic ingredient derived from the tara seed and is known to be an innovative and potent moisturizer, which is why we made it a key ingredient in both our Obagi Hydrate® and Obagi Hydrate Luxe moisturizers. This advanced moisturizing ingredient captures and retains water and assimilates it into the skin in both an immediate and long-lasting way to enhance your skin’s appearance and texture.3

Kinetin and Zeatin are growth factors that have been shown to be effective in improving the appearance of aging skin and are the key ingredients in Obagi’s Gentle Rejuvenation System, a cosmetic system designed specifically for those with sensitive skin.

Retinol, another derivative of Vitamin A, is used in cosmetic preparations to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, refine complexion, and smooth the appearance of skin texture with minimal irritation. Retinol is featured in our Obagi360® system, an ideal system for younger patients.

The showcase ingredient in Obagi’s Professional-C Peptide Complex, Peptides are chains of amino acids that occur in all living organisms4 and some types used in cosmetic products may help your skin appear plump and firm.


Last updated: 7/15/17

*The safety and effectiveness of the Obagi Nu-Derm System beyond 24 weeks of use have not been established. If no improvement is seen after 3 months of treatment, use of this product should be discontinued.



Indication for Tretinoin
Tretinoin Gel (0.05%) and Cream (0.1%, 0.05% and 0.025%) are used in the topical treatment of acne vulgaris.

Tretinoin is for use on the skin only. Do not get it in your mouth, eyes, vagina or the corners of your nose.

Important Safety Information
Gels are flammable, so avoid fire, flame or smoking during use of Tretinoin Gel.

While using Tretinoin, spend as little time in the sun as possible, use an effective broad spectrum sunscreen, and wear a hat even on cloudy days. Do not use sunlamps or tanning booths, and avoid extreme wind and cold. If you do get a sunburn, stop using Tretinoin until your skin is back to normal.

Tretinoin may cause skin irritation. Some patients may get dry, red or peeling skin that requires them to use less medication or use it less often, or stop use either temporarily or altogether. Patients who develop a rash or itchy skin should contact their healthcare provider. Do not use more Tretinoin, or use it more often, than your doctor has told you, because it will not work better, and may increase the irritation to your skin. Avoid use of other products that may dry or irritate your skin.

The safety and efficacy of Tretinoin have not been established in the treatment of patients younger than 10 years of age (Gel) or 12 years of age (Cream), or in pregnant or nursing women.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Click here for Prescribing Information for Tretinoin Cream and Tretinoin Gel, including Patient Information.


Indication for Renova
RENOVA (tretinoin cream) 0.02% is a serious medication that may help treat but will not ”cure“ fine wrinkles, spotty skin discoloration, and rough feeling skin. RENOVA 0.02% WILL NOT REPAIR SKIN, ELIMINATE WRINKLES, OR REVERSE AGING.

RENOVA should be used as part of a broad skin care program that includes avoiding direct sunlight (by using protective clothing and sunscreens with a minimum SPF of 15) and using other moisturizing facial creams without RENOVA.

Important Safety Information
Do not use RENOVA if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Tell your doctor about any other medications or skin creams you are using. RENOVA increases your sensitivity to sunlight and should not be used with other medications or skin care products that increase sensitivity to sunlight.

You should not use RENOVA if you are sunburned or highly sensitive to the sun, if you have eczema, or if your skin is irritated. Remember to limit your time in the sun, and always wear a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.

RENOVA has not been studied for daily use beyond 12 months.

RENOVA can irritate the skin. Most patients experience one or more local skin reactions, including dryness, peeling, burning/stinging, redness and itching. These are usually mild to moderate and occur early in treatment, but can be severe, especially if used near the eyes, ears, nose or mouth.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Click here for Prescribing Information for Renova Cream.



  1. Benzoyl Peroxide Topical. WebMD Website. Accessed May 26, 2015.
  2. What to Look for in a Sunscreen. New York Times Website. Accessed June 26th, 2013.
  3. Hydromanil product brochure. OMP, Inc. Data on file.
  4. Peptides and Skin Health. Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute. Accessed March 23, 2016.


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