Do you ever find yourself picking up skincare products and turning them tentatively over to reveal an ingredients list which looks like a brain boggling mensa test? Now I’m not suggesting that after reading this you’ll be a whizz at deciphering ingredients, all chemists will tell you there is a lot more to it than just recognising names. What I’m hoping is that after reading this A-Z you’ll have a general idea of what certain ingredients do and you’ll be able to apply this to what your skin concerns and needs are. So without further ado, let's get started:-
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s). This covers a group of ingredients designed to exfoliate the skin. Put simply they work in a way to loosen the glue-like substance which holds our dead skin cells together so they can be effectively shed from the surface. If your skin is dull or lacks radiance, look for AHA’s in your cleansers or anti ageing creams.
Benzyl Alcohol. Many people fear alcohols in skincare products as they associate them with drying the skin out. This is right in some circumstances but not all as different alcohols provide different functions. Benzyl alcohol is an organic alcohol which occurs in fruits and teas. Its main function in skincare is as a preservative. Interestingly it is found to be one of the least sensitising preservatives used.
Caffeine. Not just useful for an early morning pick-me-up but also has skin benefits too! When applied topically caffeine is thought to have antioxidant and soothing properties. Caffeine also works as a vasoconstrictor, which means that it constricts blood vessels thus reducing redness and inflammation.
Dulcis Oil (Sweet Almond Oil). This is a non-fragrant plant oil which is a great source of Vitamin E and copper which makes it a rich antioxidant. The skin benefits are multiple including hydrating skin, calming any irritation and improving uneven skin tone.
Ectoin. Recent research has shown that ectoin can help to protect skin against environmental stressors (pollutants, natural light) due to its antioxidant ability. It also acts as an emollient for the skin.
Ferulic acid. This powerful antioxidant is plant based. As with other antioxidants, it helps to slow skin aging by reducing the effect that free radicals (from pollution and UV exposure) have on the skin. It may also be used in skincare formulations to enhance the stability of Vitamin C and E.
Glycolic Acid. This is a type of AHA (mentioned above). It is one of the most researched forms of AHA and works very effectively as an exfoliant. It's particularly beneficial for skin showing signs of aging or sun damage.
Hyaluronic Acid. This is naturally found within skin tissue. When applied topically it can boost moisture content within the skin and help protect against moisture loss. An interesting fact is it is able to hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water, this is why it is such a great hydrator!
Inca Inchi Oil. Another wonderful antioxidant, rich in Vitamin A and E. It is also a very rich source of Omegas so helps to maintain a balanced skin. An ingredient to look for when skin is showing signs of aging.
Jojoba. This can be found in many forms in skincare, as jojoba butter, esters, spheres, wax and oil. In whatever form it is found, it is a great ingredient! This multi-tasker can work as an emollient, antioxidant and physical exfoliator.
So there you have it, the first instalment of our A-Z of skincare ingredients! When you are reading marketing claims from skincare companies, hopefully now you’ll be able to relate those claims to the ingredients you can name. Keep an eye out for the next instalment which will take us from K through to T!
Stay well and stay safe x
Natalie/The Derm Nurse