The beauty industry is notorious for hyping up products with big promises, but one look at the ingredient list will tell you if a product is actually effective or just a marketing ploy. Being able to understand ingredients will help you save money on bogus products and help avoid wasting time and potentially irritating your skin with low quality products.
Another thing to keep in mind is what order the ingredients are listed on the label. Labels are required by law to list ingredients from the highest percentage to the lowest percentage. One way to tell how much of an ingredient is in a product is to find the preservative. Look for preservatives such as phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, parabens, urea, DMDM hydantoin, among others. Preservatives are never used above concentrations of 1%, so if you see an ingredient listed after the preservative, it means there’s less than 1% of that ingredient in your product. What you want to see is the hero ingredients listed before the preservative and at concentrations above 1%.
So, now that you know how to understand your cosmetic label, here are 11 top powerhouse ingredients you should be looking for to get the best results from your products.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is known to help prevent wrinkles and fine lines, and helps keep skin looking young and fresh. It is an antioxidant that works to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause cellular damage and contribute to premature aging.
2. Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract contains polyphenols called catechins, which have been shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve elasticity. In addition, green tea extract may stimulate collagen production, which keeps skin firm and supple.
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, which is necessary for maintaining healthy skin. It promotes cell turnover and stimulates the formation of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid.
4. Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant that supports the body’s natural detoxification system. It reduces inflammation and speeds wound healing, while protecting skin from environmental toxins. ALA also increases blood flow to the skin, helping to maintain youthful-looking skin.
Peptides are derived from collagen protein, which is abundant in the skin. These peptides are highly effective at repairing damaged skin and promoting its renewal. Peptides work to “fill in” fine lines and wrinkles and help to retain moisture and plump the skin.
6. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance that occurs throughout the human body. It is responsible for keeping skin plump and hydrated, and is especially useful for treating dryness and flaking.
7. Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract is rich in antioxidants, including resveratrol, quercetin, and anthocyanidins. Resveratrol has been shown to inhibit the activity of enzymes linked to the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Quercetin inhibits the growth of cancerous cells and prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Anthocyanidins help boost the immune system and fight infection.
8. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a succulent herb native to tropical Africa. It contains many vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, B-complex, C, D, E, K, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, calcium, sodium, phosphorous, magnesium, chlorine, sulfur, and iodine. It is also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Aloe vera gel is widely used in skin care products due to its soothing and healing properties.
Ceramides are a type of lipid (fat) molecule that is produced naturally in our bodies. They have been shown to play a role in skin barrier function and wound healing. Ceramides help maintain the integrity of the skin’s outer layer, the stratum corneum. When the skin becomes damaged, ceramides are released into the bloodstream where they travel to various organs throughout the body.
Niacinamide (B3) helps to protect and repair the outer layer of skin. Several studies have shown it can also help even skintone, reduce fine lines, and lessen pigmentation, and wrinkles.
11. AHA’s and BHA’s
Alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids are a skincare staple for exfoliating, removing dead skin cells, improving tone, and visibly resurfacing the skin. Any quality chemical exfoliating product should contain AHA’s or BHA’s. Common AHA’s and BHA’s you’ll see on labels include lactic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid, mandelic acid and salicylic acid.
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