If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients on the back of skin care products, you’ll notice there’s a pretty long list. Most of these will be scientific terms you can’t understand or know what it does. So, when it comes to buying skin care, we mostly trust in the brand or go by what it says on the tin.

By getting to know some of these key ingredients and their function, you can know what to look for based on what your skin needs at the time. As these ingredients are featured in skin care products across price points, it’ll potentially save you a bit of money too!

Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is a natural exfoliant extracted from sugar cane. Usually found in exfoliators and facial peels, it safely removes the outer layer of dead skin to unveil fresh new skin.

Not only does it help acne prone skin, but it can help lighten discolouration, such as sun or age spots, and is an effective anti-ageing agent. It works by penetrating deeply into the skin to break down the glue between the skin’s layers to leave you with smoother, brighter and younger looking skin.

Depending on your skin type, you could use it daily to twice-weekly. Dry skin is a sign its used too much. Also, it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it’s very important to wear sunscreen all day every day, even if using glycolic based products at night, to avoid pigmentation and sun damage.

Salicylic acid

It’s commonly used for acne-prone skin. It works similarly to glycolic acid in that it breaks up cells to unblock blackheads and whiteheads to free your skin of blemishes. It is also an anti-irritant, which reduces redness, and calms breakouts with its anti-inflammatory properties. Salicylic acid also aids with anti-ageing, as it helps to firm and plump the skin by encouraging new cell turnover. Much like glycolic acid, salicylic acid makes skin extra sensitive to the sun, so protection from the sun is essential.

With prolonged use, the shedding of the cells could also result in irritated, dry, peeling, flaking and stinging skin so it’s important to use a moisturiser to compliment its use.

Skin care ingredients find out what you're putting into your skin

Retinol/ Vitamin A

You’ll find retinol/vitamin A found in many skincare products targeted at acne and anti-ageing. It works by thickening the dermis to boost collagen and elastin to reduce wrinkles. It also reduces brown spots and pigmentation by decreasing the clustering of melanin granules, and overall promotes healthier skin.

When it comes to anti-ageing, retinol/vitamin A is the number 1 anti-ageing ingredient that dermatologists recommend. It can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and helps collagen-depleted skin while reducing the appearance of pore size. It may seem like a little miracle worker but retinol needs time to adjust to your skin and should be used in conjunction with your moisturiser or serum to avoid irritation.

Retinol based products should only be used at night and sunscreen is essential at all times when using retinol/vitamin A to protect your skin which is much more sensitive to burning.

If your skin is red, raw or flaky, it may be a sign you’re using it too frequently or don’t need it just yet. Remember, glycolic acid is a good all-rounder. Alternatively, use it in short bursts, use it for a month, take a couple of months off. It’s a product recommended from late 20s upwards.


Not only does caffeine wake you up in the morning but it is becoming a popular ingredient to help energise skin. Caffeine can reduce wrinkles, shrink fat cells and smooth cellulite. It works by constricting blood vessels, which minimises the look of puffy eyes, and creates tighter skin. It’s also been shown to have antioxidant properties as it protects skin cells from UV rays and environmental factors. You will mainly find caffeine in eye creams and facial products to help reduce the look of tired eyes and redness, to help give you naturally firm skin.

Hyaluronic acid

If you suffer from dry skin, hyaluronic acid will be your saviour. It is an active ingredient that helps your skin to retain moisture, often keeping skin hydrated for up to 24 hours. It’ll help to plump the skin and instantly reduce the sign of fine lines. This ingredient, which is also naturally produced in the body, is commonly found in eye creams, serums and moisturisers.

This is just a taster of the many ingredients found within our skin care products but are often key ingredients to help tackle a myriad of skin concerns. If you’re seeking a more tailored recommendation suited to your skin type and current state, an appointment with a dermatologist or specialist clinic would certainly prove beneficial as they’ll be able to advise and potentially prescribe correct products (and strengths) to help you achieve your desired results whether that’s acne prone skin, scarring, rosacea or to seek advice about anti-ageing products/ingredients that are suitable for you.

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