common skincare ingredients

As I entered my teen years, my skin became increasingly problematic. It was never horrendous by any means, but it was quite sensitive and prone to blotchiness and breakouts. Dealing with these issues got me interested in skincare. I’ve actually become something of a junkie. I love knowing exactly why and how products work. It’s funny because they always tell us at work to speak to the benefits of a product, rather than the ingredients, but to me they’re one in the same. To truly understand the benefits of a product, you have to understand the ingredients and what they’re able to do for you. Knowing that will help you to determine exactly what’s right for your skin and whether or not a product is worthwhile.

Last night I got to thinking, I’ve talked about ingredients before, but I’ve never really gone into detail. When I was (and still am) learning about skin care it took me a long time to sift through information and start to understand what everything did. Now that I feel like I have a pretty firm grasp on things, I wanted to share with you a clear and concise list of key ingredients to look out for and exactly what they’ll do for you. That way, next time you go shopping for skincare you’ll have a better idea of exactly what you’re looking for.

1. Enzymes: a very gentle form of chemical exfoliation (pumpkin and papaya enzymes are commonly used in skincare).

2. BHAs: beta hydroxy acid (or salicylic acid) kills bacteria, balances PH and exfoliates the top layer of the skin, as well as inside the pores. Salicylic acid is the only exfoliant that can work inside the pores. Additionally it has an anti-inflammatory effect. This makes it an ideal ingredient for treating acne.

3. Willow Bark: a natural form of salicylic acid.

4. AHAs: alpha hydroxy acids (lactic acid, glycolic acid and citric acid) kill bacteria and exfoliate the top layer of the skin. They are ideal for treating mild sun damage, exfoliating drier skin types and boosting skin radiance. They can also be used for congested and acne prone skin.

5. Benzoyl Peroxide: kills bacteria and is often an effective, but slightly damaging, way of treating acne.

6. Sulfur: often used in spot treatments to kill bacteria and “dry out” blemishes.

7. Retinoids: only available through prescription. Retinoids are extremely strong. They’re a unique ingredient that essentially tells your skin to produce healthier cells. They also speed up cell turnover. They’re effective in the treatment of sun spots, fine lines, acne and many other problems.

8. Retinol: a milder version of retinoids that is available without a prescription.

9. Hyaluronic acid: acts as a humectant – causes your skin to hold onto moisture.

10. Ceramides: also a humectant.

11. Glycerin: yet another humectant. There’s some debate about whether glycerin actually dries out the deeper layers of your skin. But according to Beautypedia, when products are formulated with the correct quantity of glycerin and paired with right ingredients, it is beneficial to the skin.

12. Squalane: a highly hydrating ingredient for those who want to avoid using oils.

13. Peptides: firm and plump the skin. Considered to be a key anti-aging ingredient.

14. Omegas: hydrate, plump and firm the skin.

15. Hydroquinone: essentially a bleaching agent for dark spots.

16. Antioxidants: protect the skin against free radicals (particles in the air that cause damage and prematurely age the skin). Antioxidants are vital for preventing signs of ageing. Green tea, vitamin C and resveratrol are key ingredients to look for.

17. Vitamin C: increases collagen production, which evens skin tone. It’s effective in treating sun spots and  acne marks, as well as firming the skin. As mentioned before, it’s a powerful antioxidant. Basically vitamin C is a fantastic all rounder than everyone could benefit from.

18. Vitamin E: acts as a moisturizing ingredient and an antioxidant. It’s effective in healing the skin, particularly for scarring.

19. Vitamin K: the only ingredient that will improve hereditary dark under eye circles.

20. Caffeine: increases blood flow and brightens the skin. It also decreases puffiness. Commonly used in eye creams.

21. Licorice: a soothing ingredient, great for sensitive skin. It also evens and brightens skin tone.