Skincare Ingredients 101: Understanding Your Skincare Ingredients

Welcome to our in-depth guide on understanding skincare ingredients! Whether you’re a skincare newbie or a seasoned beauty enthusiast, navigating the sea of products and ingredients can be overwhelming. This guide will break down some of the most common and effective skincare ingredients, explaining what they do and why you might want to include them in your routine.

Skincare Ingredients Explained

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid, a powerhouse in the skincare world, is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) derived from willow bark. Renowned for its acne-fighting prowess, this ingredient dives deep into your pores to dissolve excess oil and exfoliate dead skin cells, making it a go-to for clearer, smoother skin.

When incorporating salicylic acid into your routine, start with a lower concentration, especially if you have sensitive skin, to avoid irritation.

Use it in your cleanser, toner, or spot treatments, but remember to follow up with sunscreen, as it can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Embrace this magic elixir for a radiant, blemish-free complexion!


  • Exfoliation: Unclogs pores and removes dead skin cells.
  • Acne Treatment: Reduces acne and prevents future breakouts.
  • Anti-Inflammatory: Soothes redness and inflammation.

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

Why we love it…

  • Safe for all skin types, yes even sensitive!
  • Non-comedogenic, aka it won’t cause breakouts
  • Ceramides and hyaluronic acid ensure deep hydration while combating rough, bumpy skin

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

Why we love it…

  • Perfect for our oily-skin girls
  • Targets fine lines, reduces enlarged pores and visibly tightens skin
  • Ceramides and hyaluronic acid ensure deep hydration while combating rough, bumpy skin.

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant

Why we love it…

  • Safe for all skin types, yes even sensitive!
  • A tried-and-true product everyone loves – 91% of people agreed their skin appeared healthier
  • Green tea quickly calms and sooths sensitivity

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane. It is known for its small molecular size, which allows it to penetrate the skin effectively.

Glycolic acid works by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells, facilitating their removal and revealing fresher, brighter skin underneath.

Regular use can improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of fine lines, and even out skin tone.


  • Exfoliation: Removes dead skin cells for a smoother complexion.
  • Brightening: Evens out skin tone and fades dark spots.
  • Anti-Aging: Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Naturium Glycolic Acid Resurfacing Gel 10%

Why we love it…

  • Contains fruit acids which are a natural source of alpha hydroxy acids that improve moisturization while increasing the production of collagen
  • Cruelty free, paraben free, vegan, gluten free, fragrance free & non-toxic
  • Biocompatible and dermatologist tested

The INKEY List Glycolic Acid Toner, Exfoliator

Why we love it…

  • Glycolic Acid concentration keeps skin healthy and clear of blackheads and wrinkles while Witch Hazel minimizes excess oil
  • 5% Witch Hazel to help reduce excess oil and soothe
  • Good for oily skin

La Roche-Posay Glycolic Acid Serum

Why we love it…

  •  Dermatologist tested and suitable for sensitive skin
  • Lightweight facial serum suitable for multiple skin tones
  • Tranexamic acid helps the appearance of skin discoloration and overall complexation

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the skin known for its incredible ability to retain moisture. As a humectant, it draws moisture from the environment into the skin, helping to keep it hydrated. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, making it a powerhouse for hydration.

This ingredient is suitable for all skin types and can be found in serums, moisturizers, and masks.


  • Hydration: hydration retention – always apply with damp or wet skin to boost hydration.
  • Anti-Aging: Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by plumping the skin.
  • Healing: Promotes skin healing and soothes inflammation.

Torriden DIVE-IN Low-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Why we love it…

  • 5 types of molecules of HA allows moisture to absorb immediately, deeply, and densely inside your skin to by building 3D networks in the layers of the skin
  • Free of artificial fragrance, colorants, parabens, mineral oils, isopropyl alcohol, and other ingredients
  • Not irritating for skin, and the formula is hypoallergenic and suitable for all skin types including sensitive and acne prone skin

La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Why we love it…

  • Contains vitamin B5 known for it’s soothing properties
  • Noncomedogenic. Safe for all skin types
  • Visibly plums skin and helps repair moisture barrier

Exfoliating Superstars

3. Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is another AHA, derived from milk. It’s gentler than glycolic acid and also helps to exfoliate the skin, making it a great option for those with sensitive skin. It hydrates while it exfoliates, leaving the skin soft and smooth.

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4. Retinoids (Retinol, Tretinoin)

Retinoids are a class of compounds derived from vitamin A. They are renowned for their anti-aging properties, as they accelerate cell turnover and stimulate collagen production. While retinol is available over the counter, tretinoin requires a prescription.

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Moisturizing Marvels

6. Ceramides

Ceramides are lipids (fats) that help to form the skin’s barrier and retain moisture. They are essential for maintaining the skin’s protective barrier, which keeps environmental aggressors out and hydration in.

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7. Glycerin

Glycerin is another effective humectant that attracts moisture to the skin. It’s found in a variety of skincare products and is suitable for all skin types, providing lasting hydration without being greasy.

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Targeted Treatments

8. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that brightens the skin, fights free radical damage, and boosts collagen production. It’s ideal for those looking to reduce the appearance of dark spots, fine lines, and overall dullness.

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9. Niacinamide

Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is a versatile ingredient that helps to regulate oil production, improve skin elasticity, and enhance the skin’s barrier function. It’s beneficial for all skin types, especially those with acne or rosacea.

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10. Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial agent that kills the bacteria causing acne. It’s highly effective in treating inflammatory acne and is often found in spot treatments and cleansers.

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Protecting Powerhouses

11. Zinc Oxide

Zinc oxide is a mineral sunscreen ingredient that provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. It’s gentle on the skin, making it ideal for sensitive skin types and those prone to irritation.

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12. Titanium Dioxide

Titanium dioxide is another mineral sunscreen ingredient that offers broad-spectrum protection. It’s often combined with zinc oxide in physical sunscreens for comprehensive sun protection.

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13. Antioxidants (Vitamin E, Green Tea, Resveratrol)

Antioxidants protect the skin from free radical damage caused by environmental stressors like pollution and UV rays. Ingredients like vitamin E, green tea extract, and resveratrol are commonly found in serums and moisturizers, providing additional protection and anti-aging benefits.

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Ingredients to Avoid Using Together

While many skincare ingredients are beneficial on their own, some combinations can lead to irritation, reduced efficacy, or even adverse reactions. Here are a few combinations to avoid:

1. Retinoids and AHAs/BHAs

Using retinoids with alpha-hydroxy acids (like glycolic acid) or beta-hydroxy acids (like salicylic acid) can increase the risk of irritation. Both types of ingredients promote cell turnover and exfoliation, so using them together can be too harsh for the skin.

2. Vitamin C and Niacinamide

Although recent research suggests that using vitamin C and niacinamide together might not be as problematic as once thought, it’s still best to use them separately if you have sensitive skin. This is because they can neutralize each other’s benefits when applied simultaneously.

3. Benzoyl Peroxide and Retinoids

Benzoyl peroxide can deactivate retinoids, making both ingredients less effective. If you need to use both, apply benzoyl peroxide in the morning and retinoids at night.

4. Retinoids and Vitamin C

Both retinoids and vitamin C are potent ingredients that can cause irritation when used together. It’s best to use vitamin C in the morning and retinoids at night to avoid overloading your skin.

5. AHAs/BHAs and Vitamin C

Combining exfoliating acids (AHAs and BHAs) with vitamin C can cause irritation and reduce the effectiveness of vitamin C. Use these ingredients at different times of the day or on alternate days.

Choosing the Right Ingredients for Your Skin Type

For Oily/Acne-Prone Skin

Focus on ingredients that regulate oil production and keep pores clear. Salicylic acid, niacinamide, and benzoyl peroxide are excellent choices. Lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizers with hyaluronic acid can help hydrate without clogging pores.

For Dry/Dehydrated Skin

Hydration is key. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides to maintain moisture levels. Lactic acid can provide gentle exfoliation without stripping the skin of its natural oils.

For Sensitive Skin

Choose gentle, soothing ingredients that strengthen the skin’s barrier. Lactic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides are good options. Physical sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are less likely to cause irritation.

For Mature/Aging Skin

Ingredients that boost collagen production and improve skin texture are essential. Retinoids, vitamin C, and peptides can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Ensure your routine includes a good sunscreen to prevent further damage.

How to Incorporate These Ingredients into Your Routine

  1. Cleansing: Start with a gentle cleanser suited to your skin type. For acne-prone skin, consider a cleanser with salicylic acid.
  2. Toning: Follow with a toner to balance your skin’s pH and prepare it for subsequent steps.
  3. Exfoliating: Use an exfoliant like glycolic or lactic acid 2-3 times a week to remove dead skin cells.
  4. Treating: Apply targeted treatments like vitamin C in the morning or retinoids at night. Niacinamide can be used both morning and night.
  5. Moisturizing: Hydrate your skin with a moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid or ceramides.
  6. Protecting: Finish with a broad-spectrum sunscreen every morning, regardless of the weather.

Final Thoughts

Understanding skincare ingredients is the first step toward creating an effective routine that caters to your specific needs. Remember, everyone’s skin is different. It’s essential to introduce new products gradually and patch-test to avoid any adverse reactions. Always consult your dermatologist for personalized advice and to address any concerns.

With the right knowledge and products, you can achieve healthy, glowing skin.

Ready to upgrade your skincare routine? Check out our recommended products on Amazon and start your journey to better skin today!

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