8 Common Skincare Ingredients and What They Mean

With companies promoting their ingredients more and more, it can be quite complicated for people that are not in the industry to understand what they mean. Below I’ve compiled a list of the 8 most common ingredients that you can find in the market today, what they mean and their benefits.


1.     Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Alpha Hydroxy Acids are organic carboxylic compounds that are either natural or synthetic and derived from foods. You only need a small amount for it to work and it penetrates the skin deeply. AHA can cause irritation so use only a small amount. AHAs are water soluble.


2.     Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

Beta Hydroxy Acid, BHA, is also an organic compound that has a slightly different chemical structure than an AHA. The main BHA is salicylic acid, more on than below. BHAs are oil soluble and therefore are better for oilier skin types. BHAs are less irritable than AHAs.


3.     Glycolic Acid

An AHA that is similar to lactic acids and is derived from sugar cane. The molecules are smaller and thus will penetrate the skin deeper and faster. However, because of this it may not be suitable for sensitive skin as it may cause some irritation. Glycolic acid is typically used in high percentages in peels that can be used weekly or in smaller percentages for daily use. It eats away the glue between the dead skin cells.

Glycolic acid is great to reduce pores and in time will increase cellular turnover. Always use a sun screen when using any products that has glycolic acid in it as it will make your skin sensitive to the sun.


4.     Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring molecule in your skin, primarily in your eyes and joints. It retains so much moisture in your skin that there is nothing to compare it to. As you age, naturally the amount of hyaluronic acid in your skin will decrease so applying it topically will help you retain your moisture.   


5.     Lactic Acid

Another AHA that is typically an exfoliant and is extracted from milk. This AHA has water binding properties. It exfoliates cells on the skin surface by breaking down the material that hold dead skin cells together. This ingredient is also used in milk baths for softer skin. With consistent use of lactic acid, it will stimulate your collagen production resulting in firmer skin and less wrinkles


6.     Peptides

Peptides are naturally occurring short chains of amino acids. Collagen is the foundation of your skin and when it breaks down it leaves short chains of amino acids (protein) known as peptides. With many benefits to peptides, it primarily reduces signs of aging like wrinkle reduction, this is why you see it promoted in many anti aging skin care products. 


7.     Retinol

Retinol naturally occurs in vitamin A including animal fat, fish liver oil and plants containing beta carotene. It is a great skin restoring ingredient and antioxidant that improves a variety of skin conditions. The benefits include unclogged pores, decreased inflammation and increase your cell turnover. In addition to this, it evens out your skin tone, improves sun damage, spots and pigmentation. Retinol also proved to treat acne. Retinol penetrates the skin deeply and stimulates collagen production.


8.     Salicylic Acid

A BHA derived from the willowbark tree. It dissolves oil and dead skin cells with deep exfoliations. Another great property of salicylic acid is that its anti-bacterial but can be slightly drying to your skin so always use a moisturiser.

It is one of the best ingredients to use if you want to get rid of blackheads. It opens your pores, increases cellular turnover at a faster rate. It is most effective in less concentration (around 0.5% - 2%) used daily. When using it in your skincare products, make sure that the pH levels are between 3 to 4 because it can actually be damaging if the pH level of your product is lower than that.