Skincare 101: Ingredient Cheatsheet

Welcome to another edition of Skincare 101; today’s lesson is all about what makes up a great skincare product – the ingredients. Understanding skincare ingredients is the real secret to a great skincare routine, regardless of what your budget is; if you know what your skin needs then you can seek out specific products that have the ingredients that will really make a difference for you. 

Understanding skincare ingredients completely changed the way I look at and evaluated skincare products and the way I approach my daily beauty routines. A lot of brands are starting to think more about this too, such as Deciem’s The Ordinary, who produce skincare products to give you a very refined form of specific skincare ingredients rather than dressing them up in fancy bottles, with big hype. 

Despite what you may think, skincare doesn’t have to be expensive in order to be effective; many products have hyped up priced simply because of the brand behind the product, the type of packaging or the market they want to appeal to. Once you understand what makes up different skincare products you will be better equipped to judge weather a product’s price tag is justifiable or not.

Today I am sharing with you a beginners ‘cheatsheet’ or guide to skincare ingredients that will help with common skincare issues such as ageing, blemishes, discolouration and more.

Vitamin E- for healing

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin which acts as an antioxidant, protecting our cells from free radical damage caused by exposure to pollutants such as sunlight and cigarette smoke. When applied to the skin Vitamin E works both as a protective barrier against the elements and to encourage the healing process of the skin. Look for Vitamin E in body lotions, lip balms and hand creams to help heal chapping and broken skin while also helping protect the skin from further damage. In facial skincare, Vitamin E is a great ingredient to have in both day and night creams; it will help along with an SPF to protect your skin from daily elements and at night encourage the healing of marks left from blemishes or any other surface damage. 

Vitamin C- for glowing skin

We all know how important Vitamin C is for our wellness and immune system, but have you ever thought about what it can do for your skin? Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a powerful skincare ingredient that has shown many benefits as part of skincare products, especially when combined with the above mentioned Vitamin E. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from and repair the damage of free radicals, but on top of that can help make stabilise sunscreen ingredients to make your SPF products more effective at preventing UV damage. It promotes healing within the skin, especially in relation to collagen and sun damage, and can help reduce inflammation and swelling so great to help get red of red marks from blemishes or acne. It also works as a skin ‘brightener’ and can give your complexion a healthier glow. 

Vitamin B3- for anti-ageing

As a general rule of thumb, lack or deficiency of any of the B vitamins can result in skin problems such as chapped lips, dermatitis and possibly even acne, so a taking a B supplement can often really help to improve the condition and appearance of hair, skin and nails. As a skincare ingredient though it is Vitamin B3, or niacin, that you need to be looking for listed in products, especially in terms of anti-ageing. Niacin has powerful skin rejuvenating properties, it can help restore the skin’s moisture barrier and reduce the amount of water loss through the skin, keeping it more hydrated and plump looking. Niacin has also been shown to smooth or reduce the appearance of wrinkles and is a common ingredient in high end anti ageing products. Niacin is also a great product to help with cell renewal and reducing inflammation caused by acne or rosacea. 

Vitamin A- aka retinol

If you are by any means interested in the beauty and skincare industry then you will have probably heard retinol mentioned a few hundred times in the last year or more, as it is fast becoming one of the most popular skincare ingredients and here’s why: it can help to inhibit the breakdown of all that wonderful collagen and elastin that keeps your skin looking youthful. Retinol or other forms of vitamin A can also help reverse sun damage to the skin and combat skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. Vitamin A is damaged by sunlight though, and therefore you should look for it as an ingredient in night skincare products, or introduce it in purer forms to your existing night moisturisers and oils (because it is fat soluble, it will work more effectively when applied with a facial oil). 

Aloe vera- for healing

Aloe vera (aloe barbadensis) is a natural antibiotic and has been used or years to treat skin irritations, infections and burns. In skincare products aloe vera is an excellent ingredient for soothing, cooling, hydrating and promoting healing; because of it’s gentle effects on the skin it is suitable for sensitive skin types,

Caffeine- for dark circles

Caffeine isn’t only a great ingredient as part of your morning routine to get you up and going for the day, but also a great ingredient in skincare to help reduce the appearance of tired eyes. Caffeine helps to dilate blood vessels and purge water from the body, therefore a helpful ingredient in eye creams to reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffiness. Caffeine has also been shown to reduce the appearance of cellulite. 

Calendula & Camomile- for irritated skin

Calendula (marigold) and camomile are both plant extracts known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Both are highly soothing when applied to irritated skin and can help promote accelerated healing thanks to their antibacterial properties. For sensitive, dry or irritated skin, these two ingredients are great. 

N-Acetyl Glucosamine & Hyaluronic acid- for hydrated skin

N-Acetyl Glucosamine triggers the synthesis of hyaluronic acid in the skin; hyaluronic acid is known for it’s ability to absorb and store water, and is a popular ingredient to promote hydration in the skin and therefore make the skin appear plumped. Glucosamine along with this, promotes healing and also improves hydration. Both these ingredients can be used in skincare to temporarily reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles because of their ability to promote water storage and therefore plump the skin. 

Coenzyme Q10- for youthful skin

Coenzyme Q10 may sound like something that would be listed as a top secret ingredient, but in actual fact it is a very common ingredient in anti ageing skincare products. Coenzyme Q10 helps maintain healthy skin cells and therefore has been shown to improve the skins texture, elasticity and promote collagen production. However, Coenzyme Q10 is often not potent enough in most skincare products; for the best results, look for products where this ingredient is listed high up or at the beginning of the ingredient list, as ingredients are listed in order of quantity or percentage of the product. 

Ginger – to promote circulation

Ginger root extract (zingiber officinale) is a rich source of proteins minerals and the perviously mentioned Vitamin A and niacin. It is often used in skincare because of it’s antibacterial properties, but also because of it’s ability to promote circulation within the skin which results in a healthier looking complexion especially if you’re skin tends to look washed out or pale. 

Grape- to help preserve collagen

Grape water, skin and seed oil extracts (vitis vinifera) are all powerful anti ageing ingredients that are becoming more popular in skincare. Grapes are rich in an antioxidant called resveratrol, which has shown anti ageing and anti-inflammatory effects when used in skincare. Grape extracts can help preserve collagen and elastin in the skin and help reduce swelling. Grape seed is also often used as an ingredient in exfoliators. 

Witch Hazel- for blemished skin

Witch Hazel (hamamelis virginiana) is a plant extract with highly astringent and antiseptic properties; it is a popular ingredient in toners and spot treatments because of it’s ability to kill bacteria and treat infections. Witch hazel can be very drying on the skin though, so make sure you combine any witch hazel products with other more hydrating products to balance this out. 

Green Tea- for sun damage

Again, we all know green tea has wonderful benefits when ingested, but what can it do for our skin? Green tea (camellia sinensis) is rich in antioxidants as well as having anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. The combination of the antioxidants present in green tea extracts have been known to soothe and calm the skin as well as reduce and repair sun damage thanks to it’s ability to stimulate the production of chemicals within the skin that help repair it’s DNA. 



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