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Skincare Ingredients Guide: What to Look for When Buying

Skincare Ingredients

You’ve probably read the back label of skin care products once or twice. And we understand how you feel.

It’s tough to read all the ingredients and have no clue as to what skincare companies use for their products!

And here’s the biggest concern: Without the right skin care ingredients, not even a $175 product is going to give you the results you’re craving to have. PRICE DOESN’T DICTATE QUALITY, after all.

But we’re happy to tell you our guide will teach you the following:

  • How to read the ingredients found on skin care products
  • Which ingredients you should be familiar with
  • The best ingredients for your skin type: oily, combination, and dry
  • How to layer each ingredient PROPERLY: Do’s and Dont’s
Table of Contents

Skin Care Ingredients 101

Ingredients 101

If you’re skincare fanatics like us, you’ve probably heard of influential skincare enthusiasts like Hyram or James Welsh.

What’s more is, skincare experts like Dr. Vanita Rattan, Cassandra Bankson, or popular channels like Wishtrend TV and Beauty Within all share the same sentiments we have: Learn about your skin care ingredients!

So without further ado, let’s get right to it!

How to Use This Guide:

All the information below is segregated into 5 categories:

  • Actives
  • Acids
  • Essential Oils
  • Plant Extracts
  • Synthetic Components

Each category has its own function and use for every skin type. However, it’s best to start familiarizing yourself first with Actives since these are the easiest to remember and understand in most skincare products.

Pro Tip: The first few ingredients you see in skincare products represent those with the highest percentages. So if you see niacinamide as the first ingredient, it will have the highest percentage among all other ingredients mentioned.

And don’t forget at the end of this article, we’ve also included 3 tips you can use + 1 final tip at the “Conclusion” when reading the ingredients label! Stay tuned!

1. Actives

1. Actives

Actives are common ingredients you see in most skincare products: Vitamin A (Retinol), Vit C, Vitamin E, Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, and so on.

Although skin care actives can significantly treat skin problems, you still have to decide which ingredient suits your skin best. Below, we’ll dive into each Active and how it treats your skin.

#1 Vitamin A: Retinoids/Retinols

We loooove Vitamin A! And if you’re 25 and up, it’s about time you start incorporating Vit A or retinol into your skin care routine.

So what is Vit A? Well…you can refer Vit A to their more general term: Retinol/Retinoid. You might have heard of The Ordinary 0.5% Retinol in Squalene. This is one skincare product with Vit A as the main ingredient!

But what can Vit A do for your skin? And who should use it?

Just about anyone can use Retinol! Its benefits include:

  • Evens out skin texture
  • Smoothes fine lines and wrinkles
  • Kills acne and inflammation
  • Treat hyperpigmentation/skin discoloration
  • Gives you smoother and younger-looking skin

As you age, collagen production in your body slows down. That’s why you’ll see a lot of brands manufacturing anti-aging skincare lines with Vit C or A as their ingredient for boosting collagen production.

The result? You’ll look like you’re 25 even though you’re 40! But of course, that also means you have to include it into your routine as early as possible!

All skin types can benefit from Retinol’s amazing benefits; however, if you’re new to using it, make sure to get products in lower percentages first so your skin can adapt and get used to it.

Before we move onto one of our favorite ingredients, Vitamin B3, it’s important to note that Retinol and Retinoid are different.

So between Retinol vs Retinoid, which is better for your skin? Generally speaking:

  • Retinoids are stronger/more potent than Retinol.
  • Retinoids are typically prescribed by a dermatologist while Retinol is a product you can purchase over the counter. Other names of Retinoid include Adapalene, Differin, Retin-A, Tretinoin, and Retinaldehyde.

That being said, it’s safer to try out Retinol first then consult your dermatologist if you might need a Retinoid.

#2 Vitamin B3: Niacinamide

Niacinamide literally gets us up in the morning. Why?

Because it’s a proven ingredient known to provide the following benefits:

  • Minimizes pores
  • Controls sebum and oil production
  • Treats skin dullness and texture
  • Anti-inflammatory properties

But that’s not all! Because of its pH level at 4.5, it’s a non-irritating ingredient you can safely add to your routine that won’t irritate your skin!

The most exciting part? Niacinamide pairs well with A LOT of other ingredients, so you can pair it with strong acids even like salicylic acid, AHAs, BHAs, Vit C, Vit A, and so forth.

Although Niacinamide is suitable for most -if not all – skin types, acne-prone/oily and sensitive skin types can benefit the most from Niacinamide since it balances the sebum production of your skin.

How amazing is that, right?! Now, if you’re looking for a way to BRIGHTEN your skin tone and reduce aging, then the next ingredient does just that AND MORE. Even for sensitive skin!

#3 Vitamin C

Vit C might seem like it’s an overhyped product, but that’s also because well…let’s use an example.

Think of a fresh orange.

When you cut it open, you can’t help but say to yourself “Wow, that looks refreshing.”

Now imagine skin looking like that: Refreshing, bright, and full of youth. How could this ingredient not be overhyped? Or rather…how could it not be trending?

A more technical definition of Vit C is it brightens your skin while promoting elastin and collagen production. Just like Vit A, Vit C also boosts collagen production.

In fact, ALL skin types can benefit from Vit C. HOWEVER, there are several forms of Vit C in the market right now. Here are those forms and which ones are suitable for your skin:

  • L-ascorbic acid – Has the lowest pH level and that means it’s very acidic. Now, using a product with high acidity can lead to skin damage and skin irritation for prolonged use so by all means, avoid L-ascorbic if you have sensitive skin. 
  • Sodium ascorbyl phosphate – This is a much gentler form of Vit C and it’s non-irritating and water-soluble!
  • Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate – You might have seen this form of Vit C in the Ordinary’s product line. What’s great about magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is 60% of it is converted into L-ascorbic, making it a fantastic choice.
  • 3-0 Ethyl Ascorbic Acid – If you want something even better than magnesium ascorbyl, 3-0 Ethyl Ascorbic acid has an 80% conversion into L-ascorbic so it’s much stronger at boosting collagen production than magnesium ascorbyl.
  • Ascorbyl Glucoside – Ascorbyl glucoside is also a non-irritating form of Vit C and a great choice if you’re looking for Vit C creams. It’s good for sensitive skin too.
  • Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate – Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is the star of all the forms of Vit C available. Not many brands have it but what makes this Vit C form such a rave is it’s fat-soluble. And that means it penetrates your skin cells much deeper than a water-soluble ingredient would.

With all the love we’ve been showing to Vit C, Vit A, and Niacinamide, let’s start to dive into an ingredient specifically suited to dry skin types in the next section below.

#4 Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

Dry skin types MUST – and we repeat – MUST have Hyaluronic Acid (HA) as part of their routine.

Dermatologists swear by the effects of hyaluronic acid on dry skin. In fact, the next moisturizer you buy SHOULD have this ingredient! 

Why? The key benefit or function of HA is to moisturize your skin cells. Take note: HA is also a naturally-produced sugar molecule in your body.

Now for dry skin types, if your skin tends to flake a lot or shows signs of cracking, those are your skin cells screaming: “We need moisture!”

Believe it or not, your skin naturally has hyaluronic acid.  However, this naturally-producing sugar molecule in our body is vulnerable to things like sun damage or smoking, which decreases the production of HA in your skin.

HA also decreases as you age, so that’s more than enough to tell you that your skin cells need a replenishment of HA over time!

We say HA is specifically suited to dry skin types because dry skin tends to mean your skin cells produce less moisture than other skin types. This is not to say oily skin, combination skin, acne-prone, or sensitive types can’t benefit from HA.

In fact, HA is safe to use alongside many other ingredients and you can incorporate this into your routine easily as we’ll share more with you below.

a. Use with Exfoliants

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the question: Can you use Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid together?

Yes, you can! In fact, we recommend it! Since AHAs like Glycolic acid tend to leave the skin feeling a little dry, it helps to nourish your skin and add moisture with a powerful ingredient like HA!

b. Use with Serums

So you’ve learned about the benefits of HA and Vit C. You may want to ask if can you combineHyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C for an even stronger boost?

You most surely can!

This skin-boosting duo can fortify your skin barrier, reduce the appearance of wrinkles & fine lines, and improve skin texture!

Tip: For sensitive skin types, it’s better to use HA creams than HA serums.

#5 Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

A-ha! That’s how we feel whenever we use AHA or Alpha Hydroxy Acids.

Of course, this isn’t the kind of A-ha feeling you get because something went wrong. It’s like removing all the dead flowers in your garden and turning it into a lush space of red, blue, and yellow roses!

So what is AHA? Put simply, AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acid exfoliate your skin and remove dead skin cells allowing your skin to look clearer as a result.

Furthermore, AHA unclogs your pores and evens out your skin tone! Examples of AHA include:

  • Glycolic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Mandelic acid
  • Tartaric acid

But now, you’re wondering…do you need Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)?

Think of it this way: When your skin regenerates, some of the dead skin end up sticking onto your skin. Surely, you wouldn’t feel too comfortable now knowing some of that “deadness” is actually sitting on top of your skin right?

That’s where AHA comes in.

As for the skin type, AHA would suit dry skin types more. Needless to say, oily skin, combination skin, and acne-prone skin can benefit from this too if your main concern is treating acne scars.

But be careful of which AHA you use. Although you’ll find a ton of the best AHA products in the market, not all are safe for your skin.

Glycolic acid, for example, is highly potent and may cause skin irritation to some. While lactic acid is much gentler on the skin and suited to sensitive skin types.

#6 Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

And finally, BHA or Beta Hydroxy Acid.

BHAs are similar to AHAs such that it also exfoliates dead skin EXCEPT that BHA is an oil-soluble product. What this means is it can penetrate deeper into your skin more!

That also means it’s a fantastic ingredient for oily skin types! How so? Two things:

  • Since BHA penetrates deeper into your skin, it can penetrate deeper into your pores and dissolve excess bacteria/oil that causes acne
  • Its use is widely known for minimizing enlarged pores on acne-prone skin

1 BHA skincare product that raved thousands of oily skin users up to this day is Paula’s Choice BHA 2% Liquid Exfoliant. It’s beyond amazing!

BHA is a must-have ingredient for those looking to control sebum production while exfoliating the skin to reduce the appearance of large pores and give you a smooth, even skin tone overall. That’s why it’s great for oily skin types.

One highly popular BHA is a common ingredient you see in serums and even cleansers: Salicylic Acid. Trust us when we say your oily skin will THANK salicylic acid for its powerful acne-clearing effects!

2. Acids

2. Acids

Amino Acids

Fun Fact: These acids make up 75% of your body!

Surprised? The best way to explain amino acids are…

  • They are the building blocks of protein that your body NEEDS to function. Yes – needs.
  • Responsible for several functions including collagen production and synthesis. To put it bluntly, your skin wouldn’t be able to function WITHOUT these acids. And to think, you’ve been ignoring 75% of these acids until right now. Ha-ha.
  • All these acids collectively maintain your overall health and help you achieve beautiful skin.

As you can imagine from the 75% makeup, there are about a total of 20 Amino Acids for the skin you should only be concerned about.

First, you have to understand there are two categories: essential and non-essential. Now, we can dive into their definitions and their examples:

Essential Acids

These are acids NOT produced by the body. You only get these acids and their benefits from specific foods and supplements. Examples of essential acids include:

  • Histidine
  • Leucine
  • Methionine
  • Isoleucine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine
  • Lysine
  • Threonine
Non-Essential Acids

These are acids produced by your body and therefore, you don’t necessarily have to get them from certain foods or supplements. Examples of non-essential acids include:

  • Arginine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Glutamic acid
  • Alanine
  • Asparagine
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Serine
  • Proline
  • Tyrosine
How Do Amino Acids Benefit Your Skin?

There are TONS AND TONS of benefits worth mentioning. But, we’ll mention only the most important traits:

  • Helps in the production of collagen and elastin, keeping your skin firm and elastic. If your body produces less of these acids, your skin eventually becomes thinner making it more vulnerable to UV rays or sun damage.
  • Maintains your skin’s hydration
  • Boosts your skin for an overall healthy appearance
  • Strengthens your immune system
  • Reduces signs of aging and free-radical damage

Obviously though, it would be tough to remember EACH AND EVERY ONE of these acids right? So, here are a few you should mainly look for:

  • Histidine – Has antioxidant properties, soothes skin, and fights off free radicals that cause wrinkles
  • Lysine – Strengthens your skin’s surface along with hydrating it and collagen production
  • Glycine – Aids in repairing damaged tissue and boosts or speeds up your skin’s healing process
  • Arginine – Restores and improves skin damage
  • Leucine and Proline – Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines (also when used alongside Glycine)
  • Methionine – Protects your skin from harmful substances

It takes a lot of effort, even for dermatologists to remember every single ingredient important in skin care products.

And so, we’ve done the hard work for you and found 3 awesome products you should check out!

  • The Ordinary Buffet
  • Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster
  • The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors + HA

You can easily find these products over the counter.

If you’re not too keen on spending a lot on skincare, The Ordinary is an affordable brand you’ll love. Not to mention, thousands have already reviewed and commented on how effective their products are!

However, as premium-priced Paula’s Choice products are, they’re one of the few brands with excellent value and proven results you’ll find everywhere online.

3. Essential Oils

3. Essential Oils

If you’re fond of DIY skincare routines, then you’ve probably watched a ton of videos or read up a bunch of articles about using highly fragrant essential oils.

Essential oils have been used long back before skin care even became a thing. Yes truly – in Egypt sesame oil and olive oil were popular “remedies” for people back then.

Flash forward decades to today, you’ll now find a variety of essential oils like jojoba oil, rosehip oil, coconut oil, tea tree oil, and so on.

Generally, essential oils are volatile (evaporates at room temperature), fragrant compounds derived and extracted from various parts of a plant – leaves, peels, bark, flowers.

Essential oil/s also have a wide number of benefits, such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Controlling sebum production
  • Powerful antioxidant effects to smooth skin and keep it healthy
  • Fights inflammation and free radicals
  • Reduces pimples on acne-prone skin
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

…and much much more!

But despite all its amazing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and healing properties, the biggest concern for most consumers is: Is using essential oil/s safe for your skin?

We’ll discuss these in the later sections below after we’ve mentioned a few of the most popular essential oils today: carrot seed, jojoba oil, and peppermint oils.

#1 Carrot

Carrot Seed Oil comes with so many benefits that it’s hard to believe whether it’s actually legit.

In fact, carrot seed oil is like an all-of-the-above oil because its benefits for skincare are astoundingly vast. To give you a glimpse, it has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and antibacterial benefits!

Among other things, the beta carotene content can even:

  • Improve your hair health
  • Reduce feelings of fatigue, stress, and anxiety
  • Provide great moisturizing effects
  • Exfoliate skin
  • Add it to your sunscreen for an extra moisturizing kick

#2 Jojoba

If you’ve ever come across the ingredient Jojoba oil or esters, you’ve most likely wondered, what are Jojoba Esters?

This miracle oil is popularly used in various cosmetic and beauty products such as:

  • Makeup remover
  • Hair conditioner and shampoo
  • Lip balm
  • Massage oil
  • Moisturizer
  • Lip tint

To learn more about its benefits, we can use the acronym S.H.A.M.M.P.E. to remember it easily:

  • Scar reduction –Jojoba oil has both a Vit A component and Vit C component, making it great for reducing acne scars
  • Healing – Due to its Vit E concentration, it also has healing properties on your skin!
  • Anti-aging – Jojoba also aids the production of collagen, reducing wrinkles and giving it anti-aging properties!
  • Moisturize – Essentially, jojoba is a humectant that preserves moisture on your skin. It creates a protective layer that prevents your skin from drying out
  • Minimize acne – Anti-inflammatory properties reduce breakouts and acne, can also be used as a spot treatment
  • Protect – Like carrot seed oil, Jojoba also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties to protect your skin and fend off dirt easily!
  • Exfoliate – If you’ve ever wanted a natural DIY scrub for your body, Jojoba has wonderful exfoliating properties you should try!

#3 Peppermint

Peppermint oil for the skin is like an S-Tier rank oil if ever we were to rank oils based on grades. It’s potent, powerful, and popular in both the skincare and medicinal industry!

The first thought that comes to mind with peppermint is soothing and refreshing. Although you aren’t wrong for thinking this way, the benefits of peppermint are much, much higher than that.

Here are its benefits:

  • Brightens dull skin
  • Controls oil to keep acne at bay, including diminishing acne
  • Hydrates and moisturizes lips – two words: LIP. BALM. Only it’s DIY style now
  • Reduces redness and soothes inflammation
  • Rejuvenates skin thanks to its cooling effects

Should You Use Essential Oil on Your Skin?

Now that you’ve read all the vast benefits a single essential oil can provide for your skin, there might be something hinting your brain: “Why don’t a lot of brands use essential oils?”

Actually…they do. And some of the most common oils you see include:

  • Lavender
  • Bergamot
  • Geranium
  • Rosemary
  • Tea tree
  • Orange peel
  • Oregano
  • Lemon peel

If you’ve ever used CosRx Low pH Good Morning Cleanser, this actually contains essential oils! So then…if other brands are using essential oils, then it must be safe for your skin, right?

NOPE.

Don’t be fooled by labels like “Organic, All-natural, or Preservative-free” labels on skincare. We’re sorry to break your routine but…essential oils are NOT SAFE for your skin.

We’d love to get down into the complete science behind it we’ll keep it short and enumerate three reasons we advise against essential oils:

1. Each Essential Oil Contains Hundreds of Different Chemical Components

Some have 100 to 250 components while others have as many as 450 to 500!

While it’s true that some of these components have anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties, these components are also sensitizing and irritating to your skin!

Watch out for components like limonene, eugenol, linalool, and citronellol.

2. One Word: Fragrance

We know. Fragrant skincare products seem like a great advantage or benefit to have, but they’re also…dangerous.

The main problem of fragrance in skincare is it can cause contact allergy or contact dermatitis.

Now, here’s the twist.

Most consumers don’t notice these allergies until much, much later on in their life when they try a new product and suddenly…BAM! You’ll see a 1-star review of a user saying how it irritated their skin and so on.

3. Fatty Acids Contained in Essential Oils

We’ll get straight to the point.

The keyword here is fatty acids. The majority of face oils today contain fatty acids in the oil’s molecule which can be alarming to your skin.

And the problem is, there isn’t a lot of data to support the claim that face oils, which contain these fatty acids, can actually improve your skin.

Furthermore, because essential oils have chemical properties that vary per oil not to mention fatty acids that vary as well, it’s hard to tell how these will behave on your skin.

Take tea tree oil, for example. Yes – it’s been proven to provide a lot of benefits, but you’ll also find it usually has denatured alcohol paired with it too, which is drying for your skin and a big NO-NO for any skin type.

And lastly, if the size of the fatty acid molecules in the essential oil is too big, they’ll just sit on top of your skin and act as an occlusive. If the molecules are too small, they can penetrate deeper and might actually repair your skin’s moisture barrier.

However, understanding the size of the fatty acid molecules for each essential oil you use is time-consuming and well…chemistry-heavy. If you failed Chemistry, reading the data on this is a serious headache.

Want Our Full, Honest Advice?

Refrain from using essential oil in your skincare routine. ESPECIALLY sensitive skin types!

These do more harm than good and could destroy your skin in the future.

Essential oils may have been an innovative approach to improving skin in general; however, a lot of studies and data are limited, or rather, the data isn’t enough YET to back up any claims made.

And let’s not forget that these oils are also sensitizing and irritating. Instead of using fancy “natural” essential oils on your skin, why not go with salicylic acid or prescribed retinoids to treat acne?

These are – after all – proven through various studies and data research.

However, you can use essential oil/s for aromatherapy purposes, DIY scrubs (since you wash it off after anyway), or small drops from time to time to treat medicinal conditions.

If you don’t believe us, ask a dermatologist and they’ll tell you the same thing. Now, what if you still believe in the miraculous effects of essential oils?

Well, at least choose non-fragrant oils to save your skin from future harm.

4. Plant Extracts

4. Plant Extracts

If we could describe our skin’s relationship with plant extracts, it would be: it’s complicated.

This is not to say plant-based skincare or plant extracts are bad.

What’s important here is: you should use plant extracts with caution or rather, you have to educate yourself first on what’s safe and what’s not, and what is not sensitizing to your skin.

So first…what are plant extracts? These are natural ingredients extracted from plants and then formulated and added into skincare.

The reason these plants extracts are so popular nowadays are due to their antioxidant benefits and soothing, healing properties against free radicals and inflammation.

FAST FACT: Free radicals are caused by smoking, fried foods, alcohol, and exposure to harmful elements like air pollution and in effect, cause sun damage to your skin. 

Although a plant extract has its antioxidant benefits against free radical damage, there are thousands and thousands of plant extracts so knowing which ones aren’t harmful to the skin is important too.

Apart from the list of plant extracts we’ve listed below, we’ll also list down a few plant extracts you can safely add to your routine:

  • Centella Asiatica – Healing properties and reduces inflammation
  • Aloe Vera extract – A popular plant extract and well-known among many for its soothing properties
  • Brassica Oleracea Acephala (Kale extract) – A great extract that reduces excess sebum production and controls oil
  • Ubiquinone (Coenzyme q10) – Powerful antioxidant properties that protect your skin from free radical damage
  • Camellia Sinensis (Green tea extract) –  A high-quality extract that reduces inflammation and aging
  • Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice Root extract) – Has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Soothes skin.

You might have already come across extracts like green tea, aloe vera, and kale, right? For example, Krave Beauty Skin Barrier Relief is a popular serum that uses kale in its formula.

In fact, their cleanser has matcha in it! What’s great about plant extracts is they’re also not limited to use facial use.

You can even use some to treat your hair or other parts of your body! However, always consult a dermatologist beforehand.

What about plant extracts that aren’t recommended to use? Our best answer to that question would be to avoid any citrus-related extracts.

Although these promise antioxidant benefits and exfoliating properties for removing dead skin, they’re also highly sensitizing. Some of these include:

  • Orange extract
  • Lemon extract
  • Grapefruit extract
  • Any plant extract related to the Citrus family

Citrus-based extracts tend to have higher acidity than most and so this also means it could be irritating to your skin, especially sensitive and acne-prone skin types.

Furthermore, citrus-based extracts are unstable when they react with sunlight. Their volatile nature screams a BIG FAT NO unless you want to risk your skin having contact dermatitis in the future or even worsen the side effects of radical damage.

Now that we have a clearer picture as to what plant extracts can do for your skin, let’s dive into 6 great plant extracts you can consider adding to your routine.

#1 Camu Camu

If this is your first time hearing about Camu Camu, get ready for an EPIC antioxidant treat!

Ready? Get this: Camu Camu has 40 TIMES the amount of Vit C!

If you could rank Camu Camu higher than Super boost, Camu Camu would easily bag that spot. Just like Vit C, Camu Camu has the following benefits:

  • Anti-aging
  • Evens out your skin tone
  • Treat acne and anti-inflammatory effects

Other benefits also include improving the overall health of your eyes, mood, cognition, and boosts your immune system.

For the full guide on Camu Camu’s benefits for your skin, you can check out our article. We give an explanation on Camu Camu, how it differs from Vit C, and everything there is to know about it.

#2 Chamomile

We’ll cut straight to the chase.

Chamomile for skin has REGENERATIVE properties, helps tighten pores, and slows down the rate of aging.

Also, chamomile has been known to help brighten skin and even reduce dark circles under your eyes! But take note though, there aren’t a lot of studies that show its effectiveness for eye treatment.

If you want an ingredient that reduces dark circles under your eyes and studies that back it up, caffeine is a fantastic option and dermatologist-recommended.

A brand we know that includes Chamomile extract in their ingredients is Simple. 

You’ll find that some of their toners and cleansers contain chamomile extract along with other plant-based extracts beneficial for your skin!

#3 Coffee Beans

Is coffee bad for the skin? Quite the contrary, it’s not!

BUT! That depends on how you’re using it too! Coffee has a lot and – we mean – a loooot of data that backs up its benefits…if you drink it.

For your face, that’s a different story. It’s rare and almost hardly possible for a dermatologist to recommend coffee beans for your face.

Again, the key ingredient you should notice is caffeine. And as mentioned earlier, caffeine is a fantastic eye treatment!

However, if you want to solve issues like brightening, skin inflammation, or hyperpigmentation, a dermatologist would recommend Vit C, Vit A, or salicylic cleansers/treatments as the first option.

#4 Mushrooms

The world of natural skin care expanded once they started including MUSHROOMS into the picture.

The keyword here, though is: adaptogen. Adaptogens are a mushroom extract that you’ll see some brands incorporate into their formulation. An example of a brand that does this is Piperberry.

The brand takes an ethical and sustainable, natural approach towards skin care. In fact, you’ll find they emphasize how they use adaptogens in their skincare line.

So are adaptogens good for your skin?

Yes, they are! They’re great for reducing irritation and sensitivity. Now if that doesn’t sound too appealing, then perhaps you should try Tremella mushrooms.

Tremella mushroom’s skincare benefits range from hydrating your skin to anti-aging and skin lightening benefits.

Furthermore, Tremella has good contents of Vitamin D, giving it healing properties for treating acne scars.

As great as this sounds, we recommend using Tremella extract with Vit C or even Kojic acid if you want better brightening/lightening effects.

AND AS ALWAYS… proceed with caution. Do a patch test first before you use any natural extract.

#5 Papaya

There are several Papaya extract benefits for the skin such as hydration, reducing pigmentation, clearing acne, and even anti-aging.

However, what you’ll find most brands doing with papaya extract is manufacturing cleansers/exfoliators.

Why? Because well…papaya extract has shown to have great exfoliant properties that make it suitable for removing dead skin cells. An example of a product that uses papaya extract is the Origins Never a Dull Moment Skin-Brightening Face Polisher.

Another brand would be the Eve Lom Morning Time Cleanser. So if you’re open to using papaya extract in your routine, we suggest trying it as an exfoliator to gauge its effects better.

#6 Rice

And finally – to end our plant extracts list – is rice, specifically rice water.

Here are its benefits:

  • Improves skin damage from the sun
  • Great for dry skin especially those that have skin damage from Sodium Laurel Sulfate
  • Lightens and brightens the skin
  • Repairs damaged hair inside and out
  • Treats acne, rashes, and even eczema

As you can see, using rice water for skin is not only natural but versatile when it comes to all the benefits it can give.

Two brands that use rice water in their formulations are The Face Shop and I’m From. In the case of The Face Shop, there were a considerable number of good reviews showing how users benefitted from it.

As for I’m From, James Welsh recommends it. In fact, he said he loved it.

James Welsh has been in the skin care industry for a long time and with so many brands he’s already tried and tested, it’s fair to say we trust his opinion too!

5. Synthetic Components

5. Synthetic Components

You can think of synthetic components as the contrast or opposite of natural ingredients. Synthetic components are quite frankly lab-made ingredients.

Now before you get all discouraged and think that lab-made = bad…WAIT.

Because ingredients like HA, Vit C, or even SPF are synthetic components. And these are all -in fact – ingredients you love.

However, since we’ve already discussed the majority of these ingredients in the previous sections, we’ll dive into less common types you may or may not have noticed starting with…

#1 Adenosine

Adenosine’s main benefit is to improve, restore, and soothe the appearance of aging. In other words, it’s an anti-aging ingredient.

What’s great about Adenosine is it’s suitable for ALL SKIN TYPES, and even synergizes well with other ingredients without causing irritation!

If you’ve tried brands like CosRx, Purito, iUNIK, Innisfree, Klairs, Mizon, Laneige, and Missha, these all have products with adenosine in them!

For example, CosRx’s Advanced Snail 92 All in One Cream has it. The Innisfree Green Tea Foam Cleanser has it too! In fact, Adenosine has been used widely in Korean skin care, so it won’t harm your skin!

You can learn more about Adenosine in skin care in our article guide.

#2 Arbutin

Is your brain still okay from all that we’ve discussed so far? Don’t worry, just a few more left!

Speaking of which, we feel most of you will love this ingredient: Arbutin.

So, what is arbutin? Think hyperpigmentation and dark spots. This is what Arbutin is meant to do. If you suffer from discoloration issues or hyperpigmentation, grab a serum of Alpha Arbutin and add it to your routine!

There are two types: Alpha Arbutin and Beta Arbutin. Beta Arbutin is the cheaper and not-as-potent form of Arbutin. Alpha Arbutin is obviously the stronger, more powerful option.

Between the two, we recommend going for Alpha Arbutin. In fact, you might have seen this already in The Ordinary L-Ascorbic Acid With 2% Alpha Arbutin!

As much as we do love The Ordinary, we don’t recommend this product, mainly because of L-ascorbic acid. Due to its unstable nature and easily oxidative properties, it’s not the best choice out there if you want to treat hyperpigmentation.

Instead, you can go with The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% HA. Another option is a price-friendly Alpha Arbutin product manufactured by Inkey List.

#3 Butylene Glycol

Butylene Glycol in skin care isn’t an everyday term/word you hear often. That’s because terms like these touch deeper into the science of skin care itself.

To make things simpler, Butylene Glycol has 2 primary functions:

  • Increase or improve hydration on your skin
  • Allows better or deeper penetration of an ingredient onto your skin

Now, there’s 1 product that has Butylene Glycol and is also well-known in the community for its amazing results…and that’s Paula’s Choice 2%BHA Liquid Exfoliant.

It’s a cult favorite and suitable for ALL SKIN TYPES. Nevertheless, because it’s quite strong, do a patch test before using it on your skin.

#4 Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate

Now before we jump into the definition of Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, JUST KNOW it’s a type of fungus.

Fungus what?!

Yup – that’s probably how we felt the first time too. But hear us out first.

Fungus isn’t all bad. Take a look at snail mucin, for example! You’ve most likely tried using it on your face, right? Galactomyces is also a fungus…the good kind.

It was first discovered in sake breweries when they found that the brewers had wrinkle-free and smooth hands.

And TA-DA! Galactomyces was born! And it comes with a loooot of benefits such as:

  • Minimizes the appearance of your pores
  • Strengthens your moisture barrier
  • Evens out dark spots
  • Reduces acne and inflammation
  • Slows down aging

If you’re had experience with Snail Mucin before, then perhaps your face will love Galactomyces too! Products to look out for include:

  • CosRx Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence
  • SK II Facial Treatment Essence
  • PURITO Galactin Niacin Power Essence
  • Some By Mi Galactomyces Vit C Serum

#5 Glycerin

Finally, we have Glycerin as our last synthetic ingredient. Dry skin types, are you listening? This ingredient is specifically formulated for you!

And not to worry, oily skin, combination skin, and acne-prone skin users can also benefit from Glycerin too!

So what does Glycerin do for our face? First and foremost, it has incredible – and we repeat – INCREDIBLE moisturizing properties.

Second, it is very long-lasting after you’ve applied it. So here’s our tip: the next time you shop for a moisturizer, look for Glycerin in the ingredients list.

Products with Glycerin worth mentioning are:

  • Glossier Priming Moisturizer
  • First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Moisturizer
  • CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
  • Paula’s Choice Water Infusing Electrolyte Face Moisturizer
  • Youth to the People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser
  • Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum
  • The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

Special Mention: Adding Antioxidant Ingredients to Your Routine

Special Mention

A special acid to mention would be alpha-lipoic acid.

You’ll often find these sold to consumers in capsule or tablet form; however, you can also source these from spinach, rice bran, red meat, organ meat, tomatoes, and Brussel sprouts.

The reason why we brought up this acid is because it has also been a concern as to whether users should include this specific acid into their routine. Not to mention, it’s a VERY GOOD and POTENT antioxidant.

Our advice? For this specific acid, you’re better off sourcing these from the food you eat. This also brings us to our next important topic:

Why You Should Add Antioxidants to Your Routine and Which Ones to Choose

There are 5 reasons why you should start including antioxidants into your routine:

  1. To get firm skin. As you age, your firmness also declines. Antioxidants reduce or slow down the deterioration process.
  2. For soothing skin and even rosacea. Nobody enjoys seeing the redness they see on their face, right? And that’s why antioxidants exist.
  3. It’s an anti-pollution defense. Dirt, grime, dust, and even UV are all potentially harming pollutants to your skin. That’s why you have sunblock for UV and…antioxidants for dirt, grime, and dust. Honestly, your skin takes a good beating from all these pollutants and although you don’t see it happening visibly, doesn’t always mean your skin is fine on the inside.
  4. For brighter complexion. You’re telling us that brighter, youthful skin or a healthy, bright glow doesn’t sound appealing to you? Seriously?
  5. Fights wrinkles. Do we need to say any more? It’s quite clear that for those of you who hate fine lines and wrinkles, then antioxidant yourself!

Look out for these antioxidants in the ingredients list when you shop for your next skin care product:

  • Green tea
  • Chamomile
  • Beta-glucan
  • Vit C
  • Almond oil
  • Linoleic acid
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Ubiquinone
  • Vit E
  • Vit A (Retinol)
  • Resveratrol

How to Read the Ingredients List of Your Skincare?

How to Read

With all the knowledge in your brain, you now have a general idea of what you should be on the lookout for when you buy products be it online or in a physical store.

However, there are times when there are too many ingredients. You won’t have the luxury of time to sift through each and every ingredient, right?

You also can’t ask your dermatologist every time you see an unfamiliar word either. Your dermatologist might actually explode if you asked about all 25 ingredients for 1 product.

Terms like sodium hyaluronate, benzoyl peroxide, or even azelaic acid are some terms you’ve glanced at and seem familiar to you. So here’s what we’re going to do.

We’ll be sharing our tips on how to read an ingredients list PROPERLY without overworking your brain.  Here are X tips to use when reading the ingredients list:

Tip #1: Read the First 5 to 6 Ingredients

Ingredients will be listed starting from the highest to lowest concentration levels. What this tells us is the first 5 to 6 you see are those with the most concentration.

How Does This Help You?

For starters, if you were looking for an Azelaic acid cream and you noticed that azelaic acid wasn’t in the first 5 to 6 ingredients, it won’t likely be as effective as you think.

The same goes for other ingredients like Vit C, Centella Asiatica, Glycerin, Niacinamide, and so on.

Tip #2: Look at What Comes Before & After PhenoxyEthanol

You might see harmful ingredients listed throughout your favorite moisturizer, BUT WAIT! There is a 1% exclusion rule when it comes to this.

First, anything BELOW 1% is generally considered okay to apply onto your face. This means anything below 1% is actually able to be listed in your ingredients list. So where does Phenoxyethanol come in?

How Does This Help You?

Phenoxyethanol is your middleman:

  • Anything below Phenoxyethanol is lower than 1%
  • Anything above Phenoxyethanol is higher than 1%

Tip #3: Use a Resource/Site

Surely, you can’t memorize all the ingredients you see on the label. HEck, even a dermatologist couldn’t!

Although it’s true that a dermatologist would remember most ingredients, it’s also impossible to say they remember every single piece of information they read.

This is where 2 resources/sites we love come in:

  • Paula’s Choice dictionary
  • INCIDecoder

How Does This Help You?

If you type, for example, “sodium hyaluronate incidecoder” on Google, you’ll see a description of what it does, its benefits, and products that use it.

This saves you a lot of time rather than scrambling through the information in your brain and trying to remember what it was you read last night.

Conclusion

Conclusion

The skincare industry has thousands and thousands of ingredients that wouldn’t be enough for any of us all to mention for a single article.

However, educating yourself, using the tips we shared with you, and at least starting with the basics like Actives is enough to get you off to a good start.

Finally, remember to consult your dermatologist if you have serious or severe issues you want to treat. Skin care is a long process and requires patience if you want great results.

Before you go, here’s a bonus tip. Look out for any of these ingredients and AVOID them:

  • Denatured alcohol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Ethanol
  • Polyvinyl alcohol
  • Fragrant essential oils like lavender, ylang-ylang, eucalyptus, etc.
  • Citrus extracts (orange peel, lemon, grapefruit, lime)
Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.