When we talk about skincare ingredients, we are not exaggerating when we tell you that we could make an A to Z dictionary with all the active and synthetic ingredients in the skincare industry. From hyaluronic acid and vitamin c to green tea and jojoba oil, there is a never-ending list of ingredients created to satisfy all skin types and target skin concerns.
Asian skincare products - especially Korean ones - have become the latest trend in the beauty world and every day the list of ingredients that promise to work miracles on the skin grows and grows.
With so much to talk about, this topic could be a college 101 class on the basics of skincare! That’s why we are here to help you navigate your way through this. If you are wondering which ingredients are worth the hype and which are just trends, or what are the best ingredients for skin care depending on your skin type, you’ve come to the right place!
Keep reading and let’s unveil the ABCs of skincare ingredients to put your best face forward!
Ingredients in skin care products: What you need to know first
Let’s face it, if you're not a skincare guru, reading- and actually understanding- the ingredient list on a skincare product is a nightmare! We know that sometimes reading about complex terms such as “alpha hydroxy acids” or “benzoyl peroxide” can make you feel confused and scared, so, if you are not a chemistry ninja, you need to hear this:
Just because an ingredient in a skincare product is chemical or hard to read doesn't mean it's bad for your skin. In fact, many of the all-time faves of beauty enthusiasts are chemical ingredients *and yes, we are talking about the beloved hyaluronic acid*
Synthetic just means that the ingredient has been manipulated in a lab to make it beneficial to human skin, so you don’t need to be afraid of them! In fact, the chemical ingredients are also active ingredients, which means that they are the ones designed to give you the skin benefits listed on the front of the product.
Pro-tip: Research about skincare ingredients and what they do, and take into account that some of them are better for certain skin types than others.
Run away from comedogenic ingredients!
Simply put, “comedogenic” is a synonym of “pore-clogging” components, so it’s the nightmare of those with acne prone skin or oily skin because they attack the skin’s surface, blocking the pores and creating blackheads and pimples everywhere.
Any board certified dermatologist would tell you to stay away from comedogenics if you are treating acne or want to avoid damaging your skin barrier function. Most of these ingredients are oils like avocado and almond oil, however, there is a long list of comedogenics you should avoid, check the list here.
Ingredients explained according to your skin type
It doesn't matter if you have dry, sensitive, or wrinkled skin, these are the ingredients you should be looking for based on your skin type and skincare goals:
Dry skin: from Sahara desert to baby-like soft skin
As you may already know, as you age your skin loses its ability to retain moisture *30-something skin crisis much, right?*, but you don't have to worry! These exfoliating ingredients with moisturizing agents will do all the work for you:
A trendy ingredient and definitely worth the hype! Hyaluronic acid has multiple benefits such as hydrating and anti aging effects, moreover, it seals moisturization in, helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and improves skin elasticity. This acid will help you avoid dehydration and restore your skin to its glowing state
You can find this ingredient in almost every type of skincare product: serums, creams, cleansers, toners, masks, and many others.
Say goodbye to dull skin! This ingredient gently exfoliates your skin, getting rid of dead skin cells and revealing the beautiful hydrated face that was hidden behind them. Lactic acid can help you boost cell turnover and improve the overall appearance of your skin.
A good skincare regime for dry skin should include products with shea butter! This active component nourishes your skin and can be easily absorbed, so it won’t feel heavy over time.
In the same way, this moisturizer also works as a shield that protects skin against free radical damage and environmental factors such as pollution and dirt.
With antioxidant properties, vitamin e is an all-in-one ingredient that can protect you from the sun damage and environmental stressors that can dry your skin while working as an anti-aging treatment.
It is common to find vitamin E in serums and creams or combined with other antioxidants such as vitamin C.
Oily and acne prone skin: no more pimples and breakouts
Having oily skin can be your worst nightmare. Treating it can be challenging, but not impossible! There are currently thousands of skin care products formulated to help you avoid feeling “greasy” and eliminate the pimples that make you feel self-conscious:
Commonly found in cleansers and acne spot treatments, salicylic acid, also known as beta hydroxy acid, is an exfoliator that unclogs pores, wipes excess oil away, and diminishes the appearance of acne scars. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce redness.
A big moisturizer, but also a good help if you are battling against acne! This ingredient is an alpha hydroxy acid that minimizes large pores -common in oily skin- and decreases acne breakouts without drying your skin out. Glycolic acid can also even your skin tone, balancing its appearance and reducing dark spots and scars.
Being an exfoliator, glycolic acid will help you get rid of dead skin cells and promote the growth of glowing, new skin.
Warning: this acid can increase your sun sensitivity, so you should only use it at night or use sunscreen on top of it.
This is what we call the best of both worlds: an anti-acne ingredient and the fountain of youth. Niacinamide can regulate sebum production *bye-bye, greasy skin*, remove redness and scars, and reduce inflammation caused by pimples and blackheads.
Moreover, this vitamin can naturally increase collagen production, improve skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
You can find this product by itself in serums or mixed with other anti-aging or anti-acne ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, alpha-hydroxy, or beta hydroxy acids.
A non-comedogenic oil that will reduce the appearance of acne scars! If you are acne-prone, you need to keep this in mind: having oily skin doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use oils, it just means that you should avoid heavier oils (like coconut) and embrace the lighter ones.
Grapeseed oil has way too many benefits, however, if we focus only on treating acne, this light oil has antibacterial properties that will clear pimples away, so you totally should go for it!
Pigmented skin: lighten up those dark spots!
There are many reasons why you may have hyperpigmented skin: sun damage, age, acne scars, genetics... and the list goes on and on! Even though some of those blemishes can be treated in dermatologic surgery, a lot of them can go away over time if you apply the right ingredients:
Vitamin c or ascorbic acid
The best natural products to fade hyperpigmentation include vitamin c because it prevents the excessive production of naturally occurring pigment due to sun exposure or aging. Moreover, its antioxidant effects can protect any of the skin types against harmful free radicals.
This ingredient can be applied topically through serums and creams with other vitamin c derivatives or consumed in supplement form, both have many skin benefits!
Beware: you should bear in mind that, if you have sensitive skin, vitamin c could cause skin irritation.
Retinol or vitamin A
This is a go-to skincare routine step if you have hyperpigmented skin since it pushes cell regeneration and exfoliates pigmented cells away.
This miraculous ingredient is cream of the cream right now, nevertheless, you should check with a board certified dermatologist before considering adding retinol to your ultimate skincare routine, as it can cause irritation on sensitive skin. In addition, we recommend that you use this product at night.
Sensitive skin: redness was never an option!
Delicate skin gets more common by the day and finding skincare products that don’t irritate or reduce reddened skin can be complicated!
If you are a skincare rookie and don’t want to waste money on products that could damage your skin, here are some of the ingredients that your skin will love:
Argan oil is a naturally occurring ingredient that works as a moisturizer with no irritants. It is also a non-comedogenic oil that will hydrate your skin without clogging pores or making them red.
It works for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
Gently natural, jojoba oil is a non-irritant, anti-inflammatory ingredient that will repair your skin barrier and deeply hydrate your skin. If you have sensitive and dry skin, this oil will give you the moisturization that you need without risking redness.
An anti-inflammatory par excellence, green tea is a board certified dermatologist ingredient that will help you reduce the irritation, itchiness, and swelling caused by the sun and other agents.
You can find green tea mostly in face masks such as mud and clay.
Combination skin: it’s all about balance
Combination skin may sound like a challenge, however, the reality is that you have many more ingredients that you can apply to your skin!
Here are our best tips:
- Treat each skin type separately! For example: if you have pimples only on your forehead and chin, choose an acne spot treatment for those places. With this, we are trying to say that you should only use skin care products that address extreme oily skin or really dehydrated skin in the zones where they are necessary
- Furthermore, you should stay away from products containing drying alcohol.
- Also, bear in mind that there are products that you can use on your whole face without causing damage, such as vitamin c and hyaluronic acid.
- Opt for balanced products. In the beauty industry, you will find chemically-formulated products to create the best skincare routine for combination skin.
Ingredients in skin care products: The ultimate tools
When it comes to a good skincare regime there are do’s and don’ts. We have already mentioned the ingredients you should totally go for depending on your skin goals, nevertheless, we know that once you go to your favorite beauty store you will need extra help to know what the ingredients in your skincare products are for, that’s why here are our top 4 easy-to-use tools to check the components:
- Decode INCI: if you are shopping online, you can copy and paste the ingredients of the product you are interested in and the tool will show you what they are for and if they are safe or not. On the other hand, if you are physically shopping, Decode INCI includes a scanner, so you only need to take a photo and the tool will work its magic.
- Think Dirty App: with a friendly user experience, the Think Dirty App is a well-known tool that offers very detailed information about the product you are looking for by just scanning the barcode in your phone.
- SkinCarisma: the holy grail of skincare ingredients tools! It is really easy to use and goes one step further by offering you a list of products containing the ingredients you are searching for.
- CodeCheck App: an app that will help you buy products with conscience! This tool not only shows if a product is safe for your skin health, but it also lets you know when the product packaging is not green and affects the environment. Like other apps, you only have to scan the barcode to reveal all the information about the product.
Yes, doing this step with each and every skincare product can seem very tedious, however, these tools will help you stay away from non-comedogenic ingredients and those that are not safe for your health, so it is really worth it!
Related article: Skincare Actives Not To Mix: The Deadly Sins of Skincare Mixing
Now it’s time to build your ultimate skincare routine!
Congrats! You’ve officially graduated from Basics of Skincare 101 and now you know a big bunch of skincare ingredients and what they do. We know that this industry can be confusing but believe us, your face will thank you once you find the right products.
Are you ready to build the ultimate skincare routine that will address all your skin concerns? If your answer was a big *ABSOLUTELY*, then visit our website to find the vegan, clean, and safe products that will revolutionize your skin care regime
And if you want to discover more about skin types and which Asian products will work best for you, visit our skincare quiz
Put your best face forward with Asian Beauty Essentials!