Thursday, July 5, 2007

Skincare Ingredients – What Do they Mean?

You’re at the cosmetic counter at the mall, looking to invest in a few new products for your skin. You choose several products and compare the ingredients, but you ask yourself, what is hyaluronic acid? Or, you’re at the drugstore and notice your cleanser has new packaging with headlines such as “antioxidant-rich” and ingredients such as kinetin and Vitamin A. You ask yourself, is it still good for my skin?

Gone are the days when skincare products were simply categorized for dry, normal or oily skin. Over the past decade, products have (and continue to) evolved with sophisticated new formulas and ingredients that can mimic products and treatments once found only in dermatologist’s offices. Here is a quick guideline on how to decipher the current list of 50-cent words on product labels.


Chemicals that halt the oxidation of cells and ward off free radicals, unstable electrons that lead to cell breakdown. Cell breakdown leads to fine lines, loss of moisture and elasticity, dull, rough appearance and discoloration. Common antioxidants used in skincare are Vitamins A, C, E and K.

Alpha Hydoxy Acids (AHAs)

A group of chemical compounds that can occur naturally or chemically that can help reduce aging and wrinkling and improve the skin’s look and texture. AHAs include glycolic (the most commonly used in skincare), malic, citric, tartaric and lactic.

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

A mild acid that helps with the sloughing of dead skin cells that can clog pores and deep cleans without overdrying. The most common BHA is salicylic acid.

Coenzyme Q10

A fat-soluble antioxidant with a similar structure to Vitamin K. Plays an important role in preventing cell breakdown and promotes cell renewal and an increase of hydration, moisture and cell revitalization.

Hyaluronic Acid

A jelly-like substance that occurs naturally in the soft connective tissues of all living substances and can also occur in some cartilage and joint fluids and skin tissue. Hyaluronic acid holds moisture within the collagen and elastin of the skin and can hold 1000 times its weight in water.


A powerful, topical lightening ingredient that was once available only in dermatologist’s offices. Over the counter products only allow up to 2% of this ingredient. When using hydroquinone, one must use it on a three-months on, three-months off basis, or as soon as discoloration is less noticeable.


A botanical-based ingredient found in plants, which helps plants to retain water. When used in skincare products, kinetin helps treat the signs of photoaging and restore the skin’s moisture barrier.


Pronounced “ee-dee-bee-known”, its structure is similar to Coenzyme Q10 but its function is more powerful. Along with the treatment of wrinkles, idebenone has been successful in both cerebral and some organ studies.

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