Skincare Ingredients – your A-Z Glossary

By June 9, 2020 January 11th, 2021 Beauty
skincare ingredients

Skincare ingredients, their quality, strength and benefits and is what distinguishes a good skincare product from a not so good one. Knowledge of their particular characteristics is crucial when prescribing or choosing skincare for a skin’s specific needs.

However, it can get a bit confusing remembering and distinguishing the nature and benefits of every ingredient used in our skincare. For this reason, we have created an A-Z list that explains the features of some of the most prominent ingredients used in skincare today.

What are AHAs?

Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of chemical compounds found naturally in fruits, milk, and sugar cane. The most common AHAs used as skincare ingredients are glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane), lactic acid (found in sour milk) and citric acid (from lemons, oranges and other fruits).

How do AHAs benefit the skin?

AHAs are water soluble and a gentle form of exfoliation that work on the surface of the skin by sloughing off dead skin cells to improve skin texture and tone. They have a variety of benefits including diminishing the look of fine lines and wrinkles, improving skin’s firmness, and reducing signs of sun damage such as dark spots.

What are BHAs?

Beta hydroxy acid, commonly known in skincare as salicylic acid. This oil soluble liquid chemical exfoliant helps shed dead skin cells superficially and within the pores.

How do BHAs benefit the skin?

Particularly beneficial for acne-prone or oily skin, salicylic acid penetrates the pore lining and exfoliates inside the pore to help reduce blackheads, whiteheads and to fade blemish scars.

What is Charcoal?

Charcoal Powder, Natural Health, Detox, Holistic

Used in health and beauty treatments since Egyptian times, this black carbon and ash residue has impressive detoxifying abilities when used on the skin.

How does it benefit the skin?

Charcoal, specifically activated charcoal, can absorb up to 200 times its weight in impurities. It’s in the top list of skincare ingredients for those suffering with blocked pores, congestion, or acne prone skin.

What is Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)?

Dihydroxyacetone is an ingredient derived from sugar used in self-tanning products to change the colour of the skin.

How does it benefit the skin?

DHA reacts with amino acids found in the upper layers of skin to create brown components giving the appearance of a tan. Dihydroxyacetone does not protect the skin from harmful UV rays.

What are Emollients?

Supple lubricating skincare ingredients that prevent water loss. Examples include plant oils, mineral oils, shea butter, cocoa butter, squalene, and petrolatum.

How do they benefit the skin?

Emollients help nourish dry skin and improve skin’s softness by providing a barrier on the surface and locking in moisture.

What is a Fibroblast?

A Fibroblast is a cell found in the connective tissue that is responsible for the formation of fibres. They are large, flat, elongated (spindle-shaped) cells which fill the space between cells and fibres in the connective tissue which form the structure of the skin working alongside the collagen and elastin network.

How does it benefit the skin?

The primary function of fibroblasts is the maintenance of structural integrity within the connective tissue. They achieve this by secreting extracellular matrix cells required for formation of the connective tissue and various fibres to repair and reconstruct.

What is Glycerine?

Glycerine, also known as glycerol, is a type of lipid (fat) found naturally in the body. It can either be derived from a sugar fermentation process or manufactured synthetically.

How does it benefit the skin?

A skin-replenishing ingredient, glycerine helps retain the correct moisture levels and improve the appearance and texture of skin. Normally found as a base ingredient in both face and body moisturisers.

What is Hyaluronic acid?

hydration hyaluronic acid

One of the most sought-after skincare ingredients, hyaluronic acid is a polysaccharide molecule that is naturally found in the skin. One of the main components of connective tissue, it plays an important role in retaining moisture as one molecule can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water.

How does it benefit the skin?

Hyaluronic acid boosts the skin’s hydration levels which in turn makes skin appear plumper, firmer and hydrated.

What is Iris?

Iris is a flowering extracted  for its anti-ageing abilities. It comes in two forms: Florentina extract and orris root.

How does it benefit the skin?

A good natural alternative to chemical anti-ageing ingredients, iris is packed with antioxidants that protect the skin by neutralizing skin damaging free radicals.

What is Jojoba oil?

A fragrance-free oil extracted from the plant of the same name. A rich source of numerous fatty acids, jojoba oil is unique in the fact it is almost identical in texture to the sebum in our skin.

How does it benefit the skin?

Jojoba oil is a natural, non-greasy option for nourishing all skins. Its antibacterial and inflammatory properties are great for reducing acne and providing an element of hydration. It also contains a source of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant to neutralise and protect from free radicals.

What is Kokum Butter?

Kokum is a highly moisturising vegetable butter, derived from the fruit kernels of the Kokum tree (Garcinia Indica).

How does it benefit the skin?

Rich in essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and 6 and Vitamin E it deeply nourishes the driest of skin types and possesses antioxidant power to protect from free radicals. Whilst softening the skin it also helps to improve elasticity with its conditioning properties. Due to its rich emollient base, kokum butter is easily absorbed by the skin providing deep hydration to the dermis.

What is L-ascorbic acid?

Vitamin C skincare ingredients

L-ascorbic acid, otherwise referred to as vitamin C, is a vitamin naturally found in various fruits and vegetables or synthetically derived. You can read our blog regarding the importance of vitamins in skincare here.

How does it benefit the skin?

An all-round hero ingredient, a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals and brightens skin tone. It helps prevent signs of ageing by shielding skin from pollution, as well as improving tone and firmness.

What is Malic acid?

Malic acid is a lesser known AHA that is much gentler on the skin than its cousins glycolic and lactic. An organic compound from living organism, usually plant derivative.

How does it benefit the skin?

It accelerates cell turnover by dissolving the bonds that hold skin cells together, improving overall texture and enhancing glow by diminishing dead skin cells.

What is Natural skincare?

Natural skincare is a variety of products that have been formulated with inspiration taken from natural derivatives such as plant, fruit, mineral, animal and marine. However, never tested on animals. Natural skincare ingredients are becoming more and more popular these days.

How does it benefit the skin?

Each formulation which is crafted takes inspiration from natural surroundings which possess great affinity with the skin apposed to synthetic or chemically manufactured products.

What is Organic skincare?

Organic skincare are product formulations that contain more than 70% natural ingredients derived from plant, fruit, mineral, animal and marine and never tested on animals. They must be prepared or grown without pesticides, chemical fertilisers, or parabens.

How does it benefit the skin?

Each formulation which is crafted from organic surroundings possess a greater affinity with the skin than natural or synthetic products. Dependant on the formulation and results to be achieved, efficiency tests performed can be more effective.

What are Probiotics and Prebiotics?

Just like ingestible probiotics, which aid in gut health, topical probiotics in skincare are living micro-organisms which are beneficial to skin health. Prebiotics are the food source that help to keep probiotics alive and active.

How do they benefit the skin?

Probiotics calm inflammation in the skin, speed up the repair of the skin’s barrier protection by banishing irritation and dryness and defending the skin from environmental aggressors, such as pollution. Prebiotics maintain a healthy and stable microbiome by feeding the living micro-organisms (probiotics) to aid in strengthening the skin defences.

What is Quercetin?

Quercetin is a natural compound found in fruits, vegetables, and other types of food which possesses a multitude of skincare benefits.

How does it benefit the skin?

Quercetin is essentially a flavonoid. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory which reduces redness and puffiness. It also offers antioxidant power to neutralise free radicals which cause cellular damages and oxidative stress leading to premature ageing.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is one of the most powerful anti-ageing forms of Vitamin A. 

How does it benefit the skin?

Retinol rejuvenates the skin by stimulating natural collagen production. It also speeds up skin cellular turnover to reveal a newer and brighter complexion. It offers a visible improvement to pigmentation, pores, and wrinkles.

What is Saffron?

Saffron, Spice, Pistils, Pistils Of Saffron, Harvest

Saffron is a flower and is one of the most expensive and sought-after flowers in both food and skincare industries. Commonly known for producing saffron spice from the filaments that grow within the flower. The petals of the flower offer a comforting and anti-stress virtue within skincare.

How does it benefit the skin?

Saffron flower possesses a multitude of qualities to treat the skin. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties treat acne prone skin and breakouts. Due to its anti-stress property it provides the skin with a feeling of comfort to soothe and calm the most sensitive and reactive of skins. It additionally provides antioxidant power to neutralise free radicals which cause oxidative stress and premature ageing.  

What is Titanium Dioxide?

Titanium dioxide is a natural mineral that is mined from the earth then processed and purified to be used in skincare, particularly sunscreens.

How does it benefit the skin?

Titanium Dioxide is an important active ingredient used in some sunscreens. Its white colour formulation helps to reflect, absorb, and scatter light (including ultraviolet radiation from the sun) dependant on its molecular size and formulation with other ingredients. It provides protection from the harmful effects of UV radiation which can cause premature ageing (UVA) and skin burns (UVB).

What is UV?

UV is ultraviolet light radiation from the sun’s solar rays. It produces Ultraviolet Age (UVA) rays and Ultraviolet Burn (UVB) rays.

How does it benefit the skin?

Ultraviolet rays damage the cellular DNA, so it is important to ensure that a suitable SPF which compliments your skin tone (Fitzpatrick Scale) is worn for both face and body during any sun exposure. However, ultraviolet light, particularly UVB is also responsible for the formation of Vitamin D which contributes to cell growth, skin repairing and cellular metabolism. It enhances the skins immune system and neutralises free radicals that cause premature ageing.

What is Vegetable Oil?

Vegetable oil is an expressed oil of vegetable origin, rich in essential fatty acids.

How does it benefit the skin?

Vegetable oil provides a level of hydration to the skin by forming a protective lipid barrier on the surface to limit dehydration and locking in moisture.

What is White Tea?

White tea extract is a liquid substance derived from new buds and leaves of the tea plant, otherwise known as the Camellia Sinensis.

How does it benefit the skin?

It has a very high concentration of antioxidants. When applied topically, it provides great defence against free radicals such as pollution, which makes it perfect for city life, individuals exposed to the daily effects of pollution, cigarette smoke and iron particles.

What is Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, a substance derived from sugar. It is usually used as a thickening agent or as a substance which suspends preservatives in skincare products.

How does it benefit the skin?

As a thickening agent, it has the ability to alter the texture, notably making serums, moisturisers, and cleansers richer in consistency. 

What is Yeast?

Yeast extract are microorganisms that fall under the fungus umbrella.

How does it benefit the skin?

Yeast extract contains a high concentration of antioxidants, which reduce oxidative stress on the skin. It has also been proven to reduce sensitivity and to maintain moisture for dry, dehydrated skins. 

What is Zinc?

Zinc is a silvery, white-toned metal, common in supplement form. It is also a key mineral for healthy, functioning skin when applied topically. 

How does it benefit the skin?

Acne or blemish-prone skin can benefit from products containing zinc as it has the ability to regulate sebum production, preventing clogged pores, and repairing damaged skin. It is commonly used in sun care as a mineral filter to reflect ultraviolet light, due to its lightweight texture. It is the perfect topical product to layer on top of a moisturiser etc. for the ultimate protection from sun exposure.