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It can be hard to choose the right skin care product, especially if you’re trying to target skin care concerns such as dry skin, dark spots, or fine lines and wrinkles. And even if you were to read all the ingredients on the back of the product, it’s likely you don’t actually know what any of them are or why they are in the product formula. Here, we have the need-to-know info on the most popular skincare ingredients. After all, if you’re trying to take care of your skin, you should know exactly what you’re putting on it.
During the summer months, your beach bag is probably stocked with aloe vera—and you aren’t alone. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one of the most popular uses for aloe vera gel—a byproduct of the aloe vera plant—is for soothing sunburns. This ingredient also provides antioxidant benefits. Aloe vera is also often found in moisturizing formulations and can be suitable to any skin type.
Product pick: L’Oréal Paris Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care – Normal/Oily Skin
If you’ve ever dealt with acne, you’ve likely heard of benzoyl peroxide! The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends benzoyl peroxide as a topical treatment for acne because it’s an antibacterial agent. Benzoyl peroxide can be found in cleansers, creams, and gels and can be used as a leave-on or wash-off product.
You're familiar with caffeine as the ingredient that gives your coffee its kick, but it also has topical benefits for your skin. Eye creams formulated with caffeine can help awaken the appearance of your eye contour area and help combat the appearance of dark circles under eyes.
Product pick: L’Oréal Paris Eye Defense
Ceramides are key to maintaining your skin’s barrier because of their hydrating properties. The AAD shares that moisturizers formulated with lipids, such as ceramides, are usually well tolerated and improve the barrier that is often compromised in people with rosacea.
You may not have heard of citric acid, but if you love skin care, you’re certainly already in the know about AHAs. AHAs (aka alpha hydroxy acids) have risen in popularity for their ability to help exfoliate dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. Citric acid is one such AHA, which can be found in a variety of products from sheet masks to serums.
Clay is another ingredient that has rapidly gained fans and been added to more and more skin care formulas. Most often, clay can be found in face masks but there are facial cleansers formulated with clay too.
Product pick: L’Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Clarify & Smooth Face Mask
Glycolic acid is another AHA, and as such, its main purpose in skin care product formulas is to help slough away dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. Glycolic acid is an example of a chemical exfoliator, so it’s important to introduce products containing glycolic acid slowly at first to avoid over-exfoliating and irritation. It’s also important to know that AHAs can increase sun sensitivity, so be sure to pair your glycolic acid products with a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily, in addition to taking other sun protection measures.
Product pick: L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Peel Pads
Hyaluronic acid may have acid in its name but it isn’t quite the same as the other acids in this guide. Hyaluronic acid isn’t an AHA and it doesn’t exfoliate. Rather, it helps moisturize. Add hydrating serums or moisturizers formulated with hyaluronic acid to your routine to amp up hydration on your skin’s surface.
Product pick: L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Triple Power Concentrated Serum
Derived from sour milk, lactic acid is another chemical exfoliator. Mayo Clinic recommends using over the counter creams formulated with lactic acid to help with dry, scaly skin.
Inflammation can have many causes, but thankfully, niacinamide is an anti-inflammatory ingredient that can be used to reduce irritation on the skin’s surface. The AAD specifies that skin care products formulated with niacinamide can be used to help those who are prone to experiencing irritation or have acne prone skin.
Retinol is definitely one of the power players in skincare ingredients. Retinol is a vitamin A compound and—according to Mayo Clinic—the first antioxidant to be widely used in non-prescription wrinkle creams. In addition to helping with the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, retinol is recommended by the AAD for addressing the development and maintenance of acne.
Product pick: L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Cicacream Face Moisturizer Pro Retinol & Centella Asiatica
Hydroxy acids are split into two categories: AHAs and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs). You’ve already heard a little about AHAs, but do you know the difference between AHAs and BHAs? Both help to slough away dead skin cells on the skin’s surface but BHAs are more commonly found in acne formulations. Case in point, the most common BHA is salicylic acid, which the AAD notes as an OTC acne ingredient that works.
Vitamin C isn’t just in your orange juice, it’s in skin care products too! The AAD recommends adding topical vitamin C to your routine to help reduce the appearance of dark spots over time—with continued use.
Product pick: L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Radiant Smoothing Wet Cleansing Towelettes
Now that you know what’s in your skin care products, here are Simple Skin Care Routines for Every Skin Type.