I feel like this year I’ve had a skincare epiphany. I’ve written a lot of skincare articles for varying companies and had to research into ingredients that I’d never even heard of. Because of this, my approach to skincare has completely changed. I used to be a right sucker for marketing claims and didn’t really understand what ~my skin~ needed and wanted, I just bought things that I thought sounded good. Nowadays, I wouldn’t dare buy a skincare product without looking at the ingredients list, and thanks to my writing I now recognise most of the chemical names. So I thought I’d share my knowledge and dip my toes into deciphering skincare ingredients. Now beware, this is going to be a long one so either settle down with a cuppa or save it for later reference. I really, really hope you find it useful!
Broad Spectrum SPF
One of the main things I learnt during all my skincare research was just how important wearing an SPF daily is. The main cause of premature aging is UV damage, so if you want youthful looking skin definitely protect your skin from the environment. UV rays don’t just come out when it’s sunny, they’re always there, so rain or shine, you should 100% be wearing SPF, and always go for a broad spectrum SPF as this protects against both types of UV (UVA and UVB), not just the latter.
You may see this as: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene.
I always thought antioxidant was a bit of a buzz word, I didn’t really understand what it meant or what they did. Basically, they prevent the production of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules which can be caused by environmental factors such as UV radiation, pollution, smoking and can damage other skin cells causing premature aging. Antioxidants prevent this from happening and protect and repair your skin. Antioxidants are often soothing and anti-inflammatory so if you have skin damage, wrinkles and scars, topically applying antioxidants can really help. Antioxidants can either be manmade or natural, the most common ones are vitamins A, C, E, green tea and grapeseed oil.
You may see this as: tocopherol, ascorbic acid, retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate, retinol, lycopene, niacinamide
Vitamin C doesn’t just have antioxidant properties but it is one of the best ingredients for skincare due to its anti-aging and brightening properties. Collagen is a protein in the body, which essentially holds the body together and keeps it looking firm. From your twenties, your body begins to produce less and less collagen, so as you age your skin will sag and become more fragile. Vitamin C is a key ingredient to collagen production and will keep you looking young! Vitamin C also helps to brighten the skin and can eridacate pigmentation, uneven skin tones and brown spots which are often early signs of aging.
You may see this as: ascorbic acid, L-ascorbic acid,
Lots of ingredients can help prevent premature aging, but there’s not much which can actually reverse the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles – except vitamin A. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and is commonly using in skincare. Retinol encourages surface skin cells to turnover faster, which leaves skin smoother, with a more even skin tone. Retinol also prevents the breakdown of collagen, and thickens skin which makes it such a popular anti-aging ingredient. You have to be careful with retinol though because it can cause irritation on its own, so start slowly and using alongside other soothing and hydrating ingredients.
You may see this as: retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate, retinol
If you suffer from dehydrated skin, hyaluronic acid is a great ingredient to incorporate into your skincare routine. Suitable for all skin types, so even oily complexions, hyaluronic is a natural substance found in the skin which keeps it refreshed and encourages skin cell renewal. However, it’s most known for its incredible water retention properties. When skin is dehydrated it shows up any pigmentations and fine lines, and loses its firm appearance. Hyaluronic acid can help restore water levels for a plumper and smoother complexion without weighing it down. Hyaluronic acid has a weightless texture and is used in many skincare products.
You may see this as: sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronate sodium (water-soluble version)
Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Exfoliants used to be all about manual exfoliation containing beads to stimulate the skin, whereas nowadays chemical exfoliants are becoming much more popular. Alpha Hydroxy Acids, AHAs are a common chemical exfoliator choice as they turnover old skin cells to reveal a brighter complexion. They also help to stimulate collagen production and increase moisture retention. The most used AHAs are lactic acid, which is derived from milk, and glycolic acid which is from fruit sugars. Leanne from LPageBeauty has a fab post which goes into AHAs in much more detail!
You may see this as: glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid,
Beta Hydroxy Acids
BHAs are similar to AHAs but instead of removing dead skin cells, BHAs penetrate the pores of the skin and clean them out of any sebum and dirt, making them the perfect choice for oily and acne-prone skin. The most popular BHA in skincare is salicylic acid which derives from aspirin and is an anti-inflammatory making it more gentle on the skin than other acne products. Just like AHAs, it stimulates collagen productions and thickens skin, however, is an oil-soluble ingredient.
You may see this as: salicylic acid, salicylate, beta hydroxybutanoic acid
You may have seen the term ‘SLS free’ going round, especially in hair care, and this means that a product is made without sulphates. Sulphates are the detergent, so essentially the ingredient which cleans either your skin or your hair and are commonly used in cleansers and shampoos. There is a lot of debate around sulphates as some say they are drying and damaging over the long-run, however, others argue that they have little effect and are the most effective way to clean. I’ll let you make up your mind on that one! Looking for ingredients lists for sulphates can be confusing as so many chemicals have similar names. I’ll pinpoint the main SLS’s below.
You may see this as: sodium lauryl sulphate, ammonium lauryl sulphate, sodium laureth sulphate
Silicone is another controversial one that crops up on so many ingredients lists, in skincare, haircare and makeup. Silicones are manmade polymers which leave a surface feeling smoother and softer, so are popular in haircare serums for taming frizz, and in skincare and makeup for minimising fine lines and blurring pores. Silicones are really commonly used in primers as they create that smooth canvas for makeup application. Silicones are surrounded with controversary as some claim they clog the skin and hair for long term adverse effects, and cause breakouts, and generally people don’t like the idea of using such a manmade product. Again, you decide!
You may see this as: dimethicone, phenyl trimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, methicone, cyclomethicone
Most products we use contain some sort of fragrance as all the chemicals on their own might have an offputting smell, plus people like the sensory and pampering effect that a fragrance can deliver. Fragrances can be either artificial or natural, most brands who use natural fragrances only will make a thing of it, so if you’re unsure it’s likely that they’re artificial. If you have sensitive skin you may want to be wary as some fragrances, especially in skincare, as they can cause irritation. On ingredients lists, most companies simply list that they contain fragrance as opposed to saying what it’s made up of – which is a right pain!
You may see this as: fragrance, perume, parfum, essential oils, aroma
If you’re still with me, then thank you for reading and I really hope you found it a useful post. I feel like I’ve only just skimmed the surface here so do let me know if you want a part two with some more ingredients, or if you want me to go into greater detail on any of the details raised.