Skincare terminology got you in a spin? You're in the right place!
Here is our comprehensive list of skincare ingredients so you'll be able to tell the difference between your Antioxidants and your Extracts and find which ones are beneficial for your skin.
Allantoin is a naturally occurring chemical compound that can be extracted from beetroot, chamomile and wheat. It is a skin soothing and conditioning agent that actively supports and promotes cell turnover and skin regeneration. It's commonly found in skincare products meant for skin resurfacing and healing scars because of its soothing, moisturising and healing properties.
Aluminium dihydroxy allantoinate
Benefits: Healing processes like scar elimination, moisturisation and cell resurfacing. Skin Types: This chemical compound is super gentle meaning all skin types can use frequently without irritation.
Aloe Vera is a natural substance that is derived from the thick broad leaves of aloe plants, aloe vera gels and waters deliver a large dose of water to the skin’s barrier and then coaches the skin to lock in moisture.
Aloe vera helps reduce inflammation and increase hydration by binding moisture to the skin. It also soothes sunburns, promotes healing, and cools.
This chemical compound is super gentle meaning all skin types can use frequently without irritation.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)
Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) is a chemical exfoliant derived from various plants that gently removes dead skin cells. This acid group is so powerful that if formulated with 12% or more of this exfoliant, it may be considered a chemical peel.
When using AHAs, there is increased sun sensitivity, so don’t forget to apply your morning dose of sunscreen.
Common AHAs found in skincare include glycolic and lactic acid.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids exfoliate the top layer of the complexion, smoothing and rejuvenating skin while it simultaneously evens out pigmentation.
AHAs are a chemical, so those with sensitive skin should conduct a patch test before they apply it to their face. Those with normal, combination or oily skin can use this effective exfoliant 3-4 times a week after slowly incorporating it into their routine.
Althaea Rosea Flower Extract
Derived from the hollyhock flower, this extract is a cousin of the marshmallow plant!
It’s medicinal usage dates back thousands of years, when ancient Greeks used it as a healing cure-all. A natural extract, it boasts antifungal, antimicrobial, moisturizing, and anti acne properties.
Hollyhock flower extract is an emollient, meaning it moisturises the skin without being too greasy. It also lends itself to zapping zits, healing acne scars, and maintaining a healthy skin barrier.
All skin types should be able to enjoy the fruits of althaea rosea flower extract. However, a skin patch test is always recommended for sensitive skin types.
This large group of naturally occurring compounds is one of the skin care world’s most beloved ingredient groups, and for good reason: they protect the skin from free radicals.
Dermatologists love antioxidants, as they both inhibit our molecules’ natural oxidation and shield the skin from environmental risks like UV rays and pollution.
Vitamin E, Carotenoids, Vitamin C, and Resveratrol all fall under this free radical fighting umbrella.
Antioxidants take the cake when it comes to preventing aging, healing scarring and brightening skin! These nourishing compounds also strengthen the skin barrier, which promotes moisture retention.
There’s an antioxidant for everyone!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Made from fermented apple juice, ACV generally hits somewhere in the 3-5 pH range. Since human skin hovers around the 5 pH mark, ACV is considered skin-friendly because of its relatively close pH, but its higher levels of acid content makes it better at killing off microbes that you don’t want around, which means it’s great at spurring cell exfoliation.
Apple Cider Vinegar wards off skin issues, like acne, caused by bacteria due to its acidity. It also promotes brightening and helps to erase pigmentation through exfoliation!
Oily and acne prone skin types benefit the most from apple cider vinegar’s bacteria squashing properties.
This is a natural skin brightener derived from bearberries that inhibits cells from producing skin darkening pigments.
Many studies suggest that arbutin is a natural, effective way to brighten the skin and it’s widely considered to be a gentler version of hydroquinone.
Arbutin evens the skin tone and easily tackles hyperpigmentation, dark spots and melasma.
All skin types are welcome to use arbutin. Because it’s a much gentler derivative of hydroquinone, those who are pregnant can also use this brightening agent.
Although we often see argan oil, a liquid extracted from the fruit of the argan tree, in hair and body products, it’s also efficacious in skin care products!
Super rich in vitamin E, it also contains a dream fatty acid duo: oleic acid and linoleic acid. Argan oil easily penetrates the skin and then works to prevent oxidation and increase hydration through cooperating with ceramides.
This fatty acid filled oil moisturizes the skin while also delivering a powerful free radical fighting punch with vitamin E. Due to this, it’s also anti aging, as it reduces fine lines and evens pigmentation!
Everyone’s welcome to use this oil everyday! Those with sensitive skin should start out by using it 1-2 times a week, and work their way up to everyday usage.
This natural antioxidant is found in tons of citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables, however, ingesting produce with this antioxidant won’t improve your skin. To see results, Ascorbic acid aka vitamin C should be applied topically.
Due to its strength and pH level, ascorbic acid shouldn’t be applied at the same time as Retinol. Apply your favorite vitamin C brightening goods in the morning and a retinol at night so you can fully enjoy both ingredients without any interactions.
Ascorbic acid’s another name for skin care’s most popular brightening ingredient Vitamin C.
A superstar brightener, ascorbic acid fades pigmentation, including melasma, acne scars, and dark spots. Because it’s an antioxidant, it protects the skin from free radicals. Think of it as an anti-aging shield for your skin so you’re not only reducing what damage has already been done, but also preventing future damage.
Sensitive skin types should slowly ease into vitamin C application, testing out products with lower percentages of the ingredient before diving head first into an ascorbic acid loving lifestyle. When applying vitamin C, it’s integral to follow up with a trusty sunscreen.
Based on it’s name, you might have been able to tell that this water soluble antioxidant is a derivative of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. Ascorbyl glucoside, a derivative, combines ascorbic acid with glucose, making it a bit weaker and less potent than vitamin C, but much more stable. On the skin, it breaks down to ascorbic acid, so you can still enjoy all the benefits of the acidic complexion savior in a more gentle way.
Ascorbyl glucoside retains the benefits of its stronger relative, ascorbic acid. It brightens, evens out melasma, pigmentation, and scarring, and lends itself to the anti-aging front, as it protects against harmful free radicals.
Due to its gentler formulation, ascorbyl glucoside can be enjoyed by all skin types
Bursting onto the sunscreen scene in the 1990s, this oil-soluble ingredient protects the skin from UVA rays through absorption.
Protection from UVA rays cuts down on sunburn, fine lines and wrinkles!
Avobenzone can be used on all skin types, however, it’s not recommended for use while pregnant.
Avocado’s popularity continues to grow with avocado oil now taking the skin care world by storm. Derived from the delicious avocado fruit, this oil is a natural antioxidant and emollient. It’s stuffed to the brim with vitamin E and fatty acids.
When looking for a product with avocado oil it’s important to search for unrefined and cold-pressed versions of this ingredient. These forms are the purest and deliver the most benefits.
Avocado oil provides hydration as well as protects from free radicals.
Super gentle by nature, this moisturizing wonder is great for every skin type. Moisturizing and anti-inflammatory, those with eczema and psoriasis are also encouraged to use avocado oil.
Azelaic Acid is a dicarboxylic acid derived from grains like wheat and barley. It’s an acid and an antioxidant!
It inhibits the growth of acne causing bacteria and is a natural exfoliator that helps to reduce the buildup of dead skin cells. On top of all of this, azelaic acid has excellent anti-inflammatory properties and targets pigments that create hyperpigmentation.
Due to its targeted fight against bacteria, it eliminates whiteheads and black heads. Unlike other acids it also works well with cystic acne! The ingredient’s exfoliating and anti-inflammatory points help reduce redness, especially for those who suffer with rosacea. The benefits don’t end there! The dicarboxylic acid prevents and reduces hyperpigmentation.
The acid itself is most effective at 15-20% formulations, but that would be way too much to start out with for anyone’s skin, regardless if they’re sensitive or not. Similar to other acids you’ll want to ease into using it with an adjustment period. It’s best to start out by alternating nights and then eventually working up to everyday usage when you feel your skin is ready. After this, any skin type is good to use this hard-working ingredient!
Bakuchiol is a phenol that’s found abundantly in the seeds and leaves of a plant called psoralea corylifolia. It’s arguably the buzziest and most akin retinol alternative. Because it’s not quite as potent as retinol, the possibility of irritation is much lower.
Bakuchiol boosts antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Much like it’s harsher cousin, this phenol stimulates collagen production and increases cell turnover. In scientific studies, it’s been shown to work just as well as vitamin A derivatives. It works best in concentrations between 0.5 % and 2%.
This organic compound squashes signs of aging through reducing fine lines and wrinkles and increasing collagen production. It also evens skin tone due to its exfoliation.
Suitable for all skin types because of its gentleness, this phenol is a great retinol alternative for those with sensitive skin.
Used in Asia for centuries to heal skin, bamboo extract has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Bamboo extract is also rich in many essential compounds, like amino acids and flavonoids, which are antioxidants. This classic K Beauty extract is a known humectant!
Bamboo extract works to heal and regenerate through nourishment of the skin barrier. This helps combat the negative effects acne can have on the skin. Due to its heavy flavonoid percentages, it's anti-aging too!
The whole spectrum of complexion types can use bamboo extract.
Also known as apitoxin, bee venom is a combination of enzymes, peptides and amino acids. This ingredient uses a bit of trickery to produce results. When applied in safe concentrations, it convinces the skin it is being stung, thereby triggering the skin to produce collagen and increase blood circulation. No honeybees are harmed in the collection process!
Apitoxin can diminish the visibility of fine lines and smooth skin texture.
Bee venom shouldn’t be applied if one has a bee allergy.
Created when volcanic ash ages, this fine powder has been used for ages as a cure-all. Bentonite clay is considered a more aggressive clay and has two types: sodium bentonite and calcium bentonite. It’s mostly known as a master absorber!
Bentonite is most revered for its detoxifying abilities. It’ll suck the bacteria and impurities right out of your pores to help tighten, get rid of acne, tone and improve overall texture.
Sensitive and dry skin types should stay away from bentonite! It’s drying and recommended for use 1-2x a week for oily skin.
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most popular and well known over the counter acne ingredients! There’s been countless studies that prove its ability to penetrate pores and kill the bacteria strains that create acne - before they even produce pimples. Because it’s an organic acid, it also removes dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. It’s strength is a pro and a con. Clothing bleaching, dryness, and sun sensitivity are side effects of benzoyl peroxide.
Eliminating acne is this organic acid’s main game and it’s absolutely wonderful at doing so. It also improves skin texture and helps reduce oil production.
Acne prone oily skin suits benzoyl peroxide’s profile the best! Even if this skin type describes you perfectly, you shouldn’t apply it more than twice a day and should always use it in conjunction with sunscreen and a moisturizer.
If you’re an avid ingredient list reader then you’ve totally seen this organic alcohol before. Benzyl alcohol is mostly used as a preservative and derived from fruits, giving it a pleasant aromatic scent.
This derivative helps to preserve and better the texture of skin care formulations.
Most skin types can apply products with benzyl alcohol as it’s one of the most gentle preservatives. If you have a sensitivity to alcohols, avoid benzyl alcohol.
These are polysaccharide sugars found in cell walls that are derived from various mushrooms, plants, algaes, yeasts or oats. They’re known to have immune-enhancing benefits which help to protect the body from pathogens, AKA bacteria, thanks to their ability to increase macrophage activity. Macrophages are scavenger cells that essentially search for and destroy pathogens.
In skin care, beta glucans work twofold to soothe and calm irritated skin and as an effective anti-ager to firm and plump fine lines and wrinkles.
Compromised and irritated skin, as well as sensitive skin types, will benefit from trying beta glucans.
Beta Hydroxy Acid
Beta hydroxy acids are chemical exfoliants that are greatly beneficial. Salicylic acid and betaine salicylate are popular BHAs because they are anti-inflammatory and oil-loving. They penetrate deeply and empty pores of dead skin cells and excess oil.
BHA’s are effective because they do more than just banish zits from the face—they can help minimize wrinkles, minimize large pores, and brighten skin.
These chemical exfoliants are great for acne prone skin as well as for those who have sensitive skin and want to exfoliate, rather than use physical scrubs.
Bifida Ferment Lysate
One of K-Beauty’s hidden secrets, Bifida Ferment Lysate is a yeast ingredient created when Bifida bacteria is fermented. It’s probiotic properties strengthen and nourish the skin microbiome.
Repairing in nature, it strengthens the skin’s microbiome, which leads to less irritation and more hydration.
Everyone needs a nourished microbiome! However, compromised skin will see the most change when this probiotic is applied.
Birch juice extract, also referred to as birch tree sap or birch tree water is extracted from the white and black birch tree the same way syrup is extracted from a maple tree. It’s loaded up with wonderful nutrients, including amino acids, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and xylitol.
Birch extract has powerful anti-inflammatory and moisturising effects that help the skin stay protected and hydrated. Birch juice not only intensely hydrates the skin, but it also protects skin cells from oxidative stress, including UV rays and environmental pollution.
Gentle and hydrating, all skin types can indulge in birch products.
Black tea has been used in skin care for hundreds of years, dating all the way back to China’s Ming Dynasty. Like green tea, black tea is loaded with antioxidants, however it has even more caffeine than its green counterpart.
Black tea helps protect skin from UV damage and environmental pollutants. It’s high caffeine content tightens and tones!
Most skin loves black tea!
Hear me out, broccoli extract is amazing! We know it’s a pretty divisive veggie, but when it comes to topical application, it’s widely loved. The extract contains lots of vitamin C and sulforaphane, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables.
According to recent medical studies, the sulforaphane in broccoli extract may help reduce UV induced skin damage. Beyond this, the vitamin c in this veggie-based extract slows down aging and protects from free radical damage.
Skin types across the board can apply this topically.
Butylene glycol is an alcohol that serves many purposes when used as a skin care ingredient! It’s commonly used to improve skin care texture. Beyond improving products consistency, it’s a humectant and an emollient.
Butylene glycol moisturises the skin by pulling water to the skin’s outer layers and then preventing the hydrating agents from leaving through the skin barrier!
Irritation from this ingredient is rare, however those with very sensitive skin are encouraged to conduct a patch test before a full application of formulas containing this alcohol.
From our morning coffee to our favourite eye cream, caffeine - a stimulant, has worked its way into many facets of our everyday routines. In fact, caffeine is probably an ingredient in more of your skin care products than you expect! It’s been speculated that caffeine is anti-inflammatory, causes vasoconstriction, or the (temporary) shrinking of blood vessels, and contains antioxidants.
Caffeine may reduce puffiness, redness, and protect the skin from free radicals. This means it can be an anti-aging cornerstone.
Most skin types can use caffeine. Those with morning puffiness are most likely to benefit.
Calendula, also known as calendula officinalis, is derived from the plant pot marigold and is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and saponins. It’s served as a highly popular herbal and medicinal ingredient for centuries. The primary part of the plant that’s used is the actual flower petals, which are either pressed to extract oil or infused in a liquid to create a broth or toner.
Calendula’s major benefits are that it’s anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, hydrating, and soothing. It’s been shown to promote skin healing and repairing!
It’s healing and repairing properties make this a perfect skincare ingredient for sensitive skin types.
Camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) is a fruit tree found in the Amazon rainforest that grows cherry-like berries that are jam-packed with all kinds of powerful antioxidants - most importantly, Vitamin C. Niacin, another skin care lover’s favorite, is also included in camu camu, as well as flavonoid antioxidants including ellagic acids and anthocyanins.
Camu camu stimulates the synthesis of new collagen production and as a result, minimises the appearance of deep wrinkles and fine lines. It also helps reduce hyperpigmentation and protects the skin from UV damage.
Camu Camu is suitable for all skin types. In rare cases, people who have hypersensitive skin may suffer from minor irritation.
This alcohol, caprylyl glycol, is the secret worker bee of moisturising formulations. Although many assume alcohols are drying, this one isn’t because it’s derived from a fatty acid. Besides its inclusion in products for its hydrating properties, many brands seek it out as a preservative.
Hydration! Caprylyl glycol works to pull moisture into the skin.
It’s safe for use by all skin types.
Carrot can be used in many ways! There’s extracts from the plant’s roots and oils derived from the plant’s seeds. Carrot seed oil is actually extracted from the seeds of the Daucus carota, a wild carrot that’s commonly referred to as Queen Anne’s lace.
This essential oil considers itself a pretty antioxidant rich ingredient, containing vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E. Better yet, carrot seed oil possesses a carotenoid, beta carotene.
Carrot seed oil contains all the benefits of vitamin C, like protection against free radicals and an evening of the skin tone. It also stimulates cell regeneration, as it also contains vitamin A.
Carrot seed oil is recommended for all skin types, however, the vitamin A and vitamin C in this ingredient might irritate sensitive skin. Be careful when using carrot seed oil. Make sure to apply sunscreen after application and practice safe pairing. Applying it with other vitamin A and vitamin C rich ingredients might cause irritation.
Castor oil’s long been used for medicinal and healing purposes, dating all the way back to the days of the ancient Egyptians. In popular culture, it’s been touted as a hair growth accelerator. Also referred to as Ricinus communis, this fatty acid rich oil contains vitamin E. Like many other oils, castor oil hydrates the skin.
It may moisturise the skin and reduce the look of fine lines, as it's said to have collagen stimulating qualities.
Anti-aging ingredient seekers are welcome to use castor oil once a week. Those who are pregnant should not use castor oil.
Many of the foods we eat promote internal and external health. Celery, and celery seed extract, happens to be one of these foods! Celery’s rich in antioxidants and might have antibacterial properties.
Antioxidants protect the skin from free radicals, so celery extract can be used to fight skin damage and aging.
Those who are pregnant are discouraged from using celery oil and extract. Otherwise, its nourishment can be enjoyed by all.
Centella asiatica, or cica, is a perennial herb found in humid climates, like those of India, Sri Lanka, China, South Africa, and Mexico. Cica’s been elevated to inhabit the group of ingredients known as the “miracle elixirs of life,” because of its implementation in Chinese medicinal cures. Although some chemical components of cica vary depending on where it comes from, cica extract is generally high in skin-benefitting phytochemicals. It’s rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B1 and B2, niacin, and carotene.
Cica smooths and heals skin. Asiaticoside found in cica induces production of the type 1 collagen, which then helps your skin stay plump and youthful, making it an anti-aging ingredient! It also fights inflammation.
As cica’s soothing and healing, it can be applied to all skin types. Sensitive, dry, and sensitised skin will see the most benefits from cica.
Ceramides are lipids that help hold skin cells together. When your skin is damaged or irritated, ceramides decrease, leaving the skin susceptible to skin ailments. When ceramides are increased, they create a protective, hard-to-penetrate layer that shields the skin from outside damage and helps retain moisture. The ceramides you find in products are either synthetic versions or are derived naturally from plants. They are nearly identical to the stuff already found in human skin.
Ceramides repair and nourish the skin barrier. They intensely moisturise and prevent environmental damage.
Everyone! Your skin naturally produces ceramides. They can be used two times a day to reach optimal moisture levels.
Alcohols in skin care have a bad rap, however not all of them are stripping. Cetyl alcohol is one of few “fatty” alcohols. These alcohols are often used as emollients in skin care formulations.
This ingredient works to smooth and soften the skin. As an emollient, it also prevents water loss and helps our skin barrier to retain optimal moisture levels.
Dry and combo skin will love incorporating cetyl alcohol into their routines after patch tests.
Charcoal, more specifically activated charcoal, has been used for its detoxifying properties for years in everything from water filters to face masks.
At its most basic level, activated charcoal is carbon that’s been specially treated to make its particles more craggy and porous. That pocket-riddled texture in turn works like a magnet for all kinds of stuff you’re looking to get rid of like oil and impurities.