In this day and age of heavy consumption, we as smart shoppers all know this useful rule of thumb: always read labels and fine print. This practice can honestly be applied to everything in life, but also when buying skin care products. Within a rather saturated market, it can be difficult to judge whether a product is suitable for you or not from looks alone: cute, irresistible packaging and seductive marketing language promising to firm, plump and rejuvenate your skin is now becoming the norm.
Thus why it’s up to us, the consumers, to educate ourselves and research just what exactly we’re rubbing into our skin everyday. While this may sound like a huge undertaking and indeed rather daunting, it’s a good thing you have us, because we’re going to help break things down for you. Before we begin, it should be said that when it comes to skincare, there simply is no one cure-all formula, it’s really about understanding what kind of treatment your skin needs and targeting those problems. Translate that into ingredients, and you’re going to have a couple of categories such as antioxidants and skin protectants, skin-restorers, and Alpha- and Beta-Hydroxy Acids, to name a few. Now, let’s dive in:
ANTIOXIDANTS AND SKIN PROTECTANTS: VITAMIN C
Everyday, our skin is affected by our environment, whether it’s the sun or pollution, it’s critical to protect our skin from it. Vitamin C is one of those ingredients that helps combat that. Not only is it a great antioxidant, helping to neutralize skin-damaging free radicals caused by exposure to the environment, but it also interferes with the production of excess pigment in the skin, helping to fade spots and discoloration. Moreover, it helps to stimulate collagen production. Some people can be more sensitive to vitamin C than others and may experience some irritation, and it’s also very easily rendered inactive if exposed to sun and air. Look for vitamin C products housed in dark, opaque bottles, and stash them in a cool, dark place, like a drawer.
SKIN RESTORERS: RETINOL
What skin-restorers do is basically communicate with your cells to make better, younger cells. Retinol is a natural form of vitamin A which improves on every major skin concern you might have, especially if it’s anti-aging. Retinol increases cell turnover, which prevents pores from clogging and clears up acne. It also has properties which lighten skin discoloration, and smoothes fine lines and wrinkles, overall improving the skin texture and clarity. However, the major drawback of using retinol is that it is notorious for causing irritation, at least when you first start using it. Some of you may experience symptoms like dryness, itching, redness, and increased sensitivity.
ALPHA- AND BETA-HYDROXY ACIDS: GLYCOLIC ACID
Alpha and beta-hydroxy acids are helpful in resurfacing the skin and causing dead skin cells to shed quickly. Glycolic Acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane which can penetrate deep into the skin, removing dead skin cells and surface discolorations. It has many exfoliating benefits which can improve skin texture, tone, and pore size. Another benefit is that it boosts levels of collagen and elastin in the skin, giving the skin a youthful look. It is often a key ingredient in products like peels and exfoliating toners, cleansers, and creams. However, it is also known to cause irritation, and its effect varies depending on concentration, thus be aware that products containing 10% or less of glycolic acid can be used daily, but chemical peels might contain 20% or more of glycolic acid. Concentrations at this high level should be used with caution and with restraint.