The Skin Care Ingredients You Should Know About
Iantha Yu is a beauty editor with a passion for writing, styling, presenting and digital strategy.
Most recently, she was the Acting Beauty Director of marie claire Australia and the Beauty Editor of BEAUTYcrew.
She has also worked within the beauty, lifestyle and fashion departments at a number of leading women’s magazines including Women's Health, Virgin Australia Voyeur, SHOP Til You Drop and SHOP 4 Kids.
When it comes to nailing your beauty game, you want products that carry ingredients that are proven to improve the quality of your skin. We’re talking about everything like improving moisture levels in the skin, brightening a dull complexion, smoothing uneven texture or even addressing niggling signs of ageing such as dark spots and fine lines.
With the innovations in skincare products in recent years, new ingredients are always cropping up and trying to understand what each one of them does can be a bit of a minefield. Each different ingredient can target different skin concerns as well as be good for those with different skin types, including dry skin, sensitive skin, oily skin, and acne-prone skin.
Knowing your alpha hydroxy acids from your beta hydroxy acids and so on is the first step to good skin and good skincare products. Below we have listed a range of skincare ingredients commonly found in skincare products and summarized why each of them is good for your skin, what it does, and which products you'll find it in.
To find out more about what is in all of your skincare bottles, keep reading now.
Skincare ingredients to know
Have you ever looked at the label of your skincare products and wondered what on earth is going on inside that bottle? Well, now is your chance to find out. Below are some skincare ingredient heroes that you'll be seeking out from now on to get glowing skin.
Vitamin A: the anti-ageing hero
Also known as retinol, vitamin A is an anti-aging ingredient that has reached cult status all thanks to its ability to encourage collagen production. You’ll usually find vitamin A in nighttime skincare products as it can increase your skin’s light and sun sensitivity and make it more susceptible to burn.
Using products with vitamin A in is going to leave your skin looking younger, plumper and firmer due to a boost in collagen synthesis. It is also known to promote the health of the glands in our skin that produce sebum. This can help to regulate naturally produced sebum on the skin's surface.
Hyaluronic acid: a skin hydration hero
One of the most celebrated skin care ingredients in the industry is hyaluronic acid, which can famously hold 1000 times its weight in water. It’s a top choice for those who want to weightlessly boost the skin's moisture and make it look really plump and juicy.
You'll find hyaluronic acid across a range of skincare products and its main benefit is its ability to hydrate skin. Hyaluronic acid is also known to boost elasticity, firm and plump the skin, induce collagen production, and reduce scarring. Hyaluronic acid is one of the most well-loved skin care ingredients for a reason.
It is great for keeping dry skin hydrated and can be used as a base for all skincare products.
Niacinamide: the skin tone boosting wonder
When it comes to reducing the size of your pores, you can’t go past niacinamide, which is also known as vitamin B3. This clever ingredient can also brighten your complexion, improve skin tone, and improve your skin’s barrier function and rate of healing, too.
Niacinamide usually comes in the form of a serum and is layered over other treatments like hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. It is thought to regulate the skin's natural oils and excess sebum production and so is perfect for those with oily skin.
Vitamin E: with restorative and antioxidant properties
Commonly found in a lot of skin care products, vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that is an absolute no-brainer if you’re looking to up your skin’s ability to heal and restore itself. It does so by fighting any free radical damage that your skin comes across on a daily basis.
Found naturally in human sebum, vitamin E is also thought to protect the skin from UV rays, helping to reduce signs of ageing, including wrinkled skin and age spots.
Vitamin C: firming and smoothing
Another highly-celebrated antioxidant in skin care is vitamin C, which is best known to diminish the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Besides this function, vitamin C can also be used for its anti-aging effects to address fine lines and wrinkled skin, and to firm up skin.
Vitamin C is found in many different products for many different skin types and is available as a simple serum too. Younger users may use it to prevent premature aging whereas, in mature skin products, vitamin C treats aged skin.
Clay: for removing impurities and dead skin cells
Whether you have normal, oily or combination skin, you can benefit from an application of clay (such as via a face mask) to draw out impurities from your skin and clear clogged pores. Kaolin, bentonite white, green and pink clay are the most commonly-used clays found in skin care.
Glycolic acid: for plumping and brightening
Want to brighten your skin, address uneven texture and make your skin look plumper? You’ve come to the right place.
Due to its small molecular size, glycolic acid can penetrate deep into your skin and improve collagen production as well as loosen the sticky bond between dead skin cells, making it one of the best exfoliating ingredients around.
Exfoliation is a fantastic tool to help prevent acne breakouts as well as treating acne-prone skin. Glycolic acid is an incredibly strong version of what are known as alpha-hydroxy acids or AHAs and may be found in chemical and physical exfoliants and toners.
Lactic acid: an exfoliation dream
Out of all the chemical exfoliating ingredients, lactic acid is the most gentle and suitable to use on all skin types. It won’t dry out your skin, and it’s great at addressing pigmentation such as age spots, and hyperpigmentation such as sun damage.
Lactic acid is particularly useful for those with sensitive skin as it doesn't change the pH of the skin when applied. It is one of the most common skin care ingredients in exfoliation products formulated for sensitive skin.
Malic acid: for clearing pores and renewing the skin
Clogged pores are in the firing line once malic acid is applied to the skin. Plus, it can also promote the turnover of cells, making your complexion look really fresh, smooth and bright after applying it.
Malic acid is one of a few prevalent skin care ingredients and is a cross-over between an AHA and a BHA. As well as its exfoliating properties, it can also help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and can clear skin of blemishes too.
Malic acid will be found as an ingredient in many products for acne-prone skin as it is very adept at treating this skin type.
Mandelic acid: anti-aging and good for those with sensitive skin
Mandelic acid is commonly used in anti-aging ingredients (especially for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin) as it can increase cell turnover, boost skin’s luminosity and smooth the surface.
Mandelic acid has a larger molecular structure than other ingredients of its type, such as glycolic acid, and so it doesn't penetrate as deeply into the skin. This makes it very good for people with sensitive skin as it is a gentle AHA.
Along with its ability to boost the look and feel of skin, it is also effective in treating inflammatory acne and can treat sun damage and even out the pigmentation of the skin.
Salicylic acid: the hero of oily skin
Got oily or congested skin? Then you’ve most likely come across salicylic acid, which is the only BHA - or beta hydroxy acid - that exists. The reason why it’s such a great ingredient to use is because of its ability to break down dead skin cells and therefore can clear congestion and prevent breakouts with ease.
This BHA is a great ingredient to add to your skin care regimen to boost skin health, particularly if you're prone to breakouts. Salicylic acid not only helps to treat acne breakouts but will also speed up wound healing to clear away blemishes quickly.
Beta-hydroxy acids are best for those with oily skin, whereas alpha hydroxy acids are better for those with dry skin. This is because BHAs have skin peeling properties which could damage dry skin but work just fine on oilier skin.
Whether you have dry skin, skin irritation, rough skin texture, a need for sun protection, or anything in between, there is a skincare ingredient out there for you. The ones we have listed and briefly summarised here are just a few of the most common and efficient ones.
When looking into skincare products, ensure you do your research on what is in each to make sure it will target any areas for concern and is suitable for your skin type.
The skincare industry is growing and innovating as the world becomes more concerned with good health and so customised formulations, and formulas built specifically for each concern are becoming the norm.
Why not test your knowledge next time you go shopping for skincare!