Words: Viola Levy & Emily Venables
Navigating the world of skincare can be extremely confusing, especially when you’re bombarded with numerous ingredient names (many of which sound very similar!). To help you decipher your hyaluronic from your glycolic and Vitamin A from your Vitamin C, we have put together a handy guide on some of the more well-known ingredients, so you can have a better idea of what will work best on for your skin.
Aloe vera is often used to treat sunburn or rashes on the skin. It contains polysaccharides, which are known for their ability to hydrate the skin as well as bring down inflammation (so perfect for issues like irritation, itching and dryness). If you have sensitive skin, this is a good ingredient to look out for.
Quick to absorb into the skin, argan oil is highly prized for its ability to moisturise without clogging pores. It works to reduce the appearance of fine lines and leave skin looking plumped and conditioned.
Made from grains such as wheat and barley, azelaic acid is a common ingredient used topically to treat acne and rosacea, azelaic acid works to kill bacteria, reduce inflammation as well as treat hyperpigmentation.
While you’re probably familiar with this ingredient in your double-shot espresso, caffeine can also work wonders in skincare too! A key ingredient in eye creams, it constricts blood vessels to reduce the appearance of redness and puffiness.
Calendula is often used to calm irritated skin, as it contains flavonoids and linoleic acid, which are anti-bacterial and work to support the skin’s barrier while fighting inflammation.
Cica, or Centella Asiatica to give it its full name, is an ingredient commonly found in K-Beauty products boasting a myriad of benefits. Chock full of amino acids, beta-carotene, fatty acids and vitamins including C, A, B1, and B2 cica can help soothe irritated skin, help fight signs of ageing, and it can brighten and hydrate dull, dry complexions.
Nourishing coconut oil is rich in vitamins and fatty acids, working to moisturise and heal the skin – especially skin that’s dry and cracked.
Ferulic acid is a powerful antioxidant that neutralises free radicals and helps protect your skin from pollution, UV light and infrared radiation - all of while speeds up skins ageing process. Think of it as an extra barrier of protection from environmental aggressors.
Glycerin is a popular hydrating ingredient, known as a humectant. It attracts water and pulls it to the top layer of skin and also prevents moisture from evaporating. It’s often featured in moisturising creams, especially night cream, to prevent skin from drying out overnight.
A popular alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), glycolic acid dissolves the bonds that bind dead skin cells together, speeding up cell turnover and leaving skin looking plumped and renewed. It’s a fairly strong ingredient that can cause sun sensitivity, so make sure to only use at night and limit use to twice or three times a week, to begin with.
Hyaluronic Acid (also known as HA) is naturally found in the skin and is responsible for keeping cells hydrated. Soaking up moisture like a magnet, it keeps skin plumped and glowing, diminishing fine lines and dullness. It works well for all skin types and is good for keeping skin hydrated throughout the day.
Lactic acid is part of the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family, exfoliating the skin at a cellular level and stimulating the production of new collagen. Lactic acid tends to be gentler than other AHAs, making it good for sensitive skin.
Part of the Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA) family, Lactobionic acid helps exfoliate the surface level of your skin, but unlike other AHAs, like glycolic acid, it doesn’t penetrate the skin, therefore, it’s better for those with a sensitive complexion. It is also through to act as an antioxidant and as a humectant moisturiser keeping the skin hydrated.
Lanolin is a type of oil secreted from sheep’s skin and is very similar to human sebum (the oil your skin naturally produces). It is an emollient that protects and conditions the skin, making it ideal for dry skin or for use in harsh, winter weather.
The key ingredient of micellar water (hence the name), micelles are a structure of molecules designed to gently lift away makeup and impurities from the skin with zero irritation or dryness.
A great ingredient for treating oily skin, niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that works to regulate the skin’s oil production, as well as reduce redness – making it ideal in acne treatments.
Parabens are a type of preservative used in many beauty products (often listed as butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben) to prevent them growing mould and bacteria. They are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking oestrogen (although there has been no conclusive proof) and can cause irritation in sensitive skin, which is why some people tend to avoid them.
Sometimes listed as pantothenic acid, Pro-Vitamin B5 is often used to treat wounds and irritation, encouraging skin cell renewal so skin is left feeling nourished and fortified.
Also known as Vitamin A, retinol works to resurface the skin and speed up cell turnover. There is a vast array of clinical evidence for its ability to reduce lines and wrinkles. It’s also used to treat acne due to its exfoliating properties, as well as repairing the skin from pollution and sun damage. People with sensitive skin should use with caution, as it can sometimes cause irritation.
A beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid exfoliates the skin at a cellular level, working to dissolve any gunk and dead skin cells that get trapped in pores and cause breakouts. For this reason, it’s commonly used in cleansers, toners and peels to treat blemishes and blackheads.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is a synthetic detergent often used in face wash as it creates a foamy lather. While it can thoroughly cleanse the skin, it can also be quite harsh, so people with dry and sensitive skin should use with caution.
Known as an emollient (for treating dry skin lacking in oil), squalene mimics your skin’s natural oils and is also rich in antioxidants. It works to support the skin barrier helping to protect it from irritation and pollution damage.
A powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient, tranexamic acid helps calm down the skin and restore the skin’s barrier. Tranexamic acid has been dubbed the ‘one-stop-shop for treating pigmentation, dark spots, and skin brightener’.
Also known as tocopherol, Vitamin E is a richly moisturising ingredient, which is also brimming with antioxidants helping to nourish and protect the skin. Often used in night creams, it helps the skin repair and restores itself while you sleep.
A natural astringent, witch hazel is frequently used in toners to dissolve excess oil, tighten pores and calm sensitivity.
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