lowdown on active ingredients in skincare

the Low Down on Active Ingredients in Skincare

Have you ever taken a moment to look at the ingredients on your favorite products and say to yourself ‘What the heck is that?! Well, it happens quite often that we put products on ourselves that we have no idea what their ingredients do.

As an esthetician, I can help you get an idea of what some of the most popular active ingredients are and what you should be looking for.  Your skin should be very important to you as well as the care you take, so grab some of your favorite products and see just what exactly you have been putting on your skin.

Some tips to keep in mind when reading your product label are:

  1. The ingredients are listed in descending order while the first ones listed are those with the largest amount of the ingredient in the product.  Those towards the end of the list are the ones that don’t have as large of an amount as those at the top. Usually, the first ingredient that is listed in majority of products is water.
  2. Inactive ingredients are those that may not have large amounts in the product or may be the most effective but, they help by enhancing how the other ingredients effect your skin.
  3. When you are looking for products to help fight acne, you don’t always have to find items that specifically say ‘Acne’ on them.  Those that say ‘Clarifying’ will also help your skin in controlling acne.
  4. You should really find products that are listed as Noncomedogenic which have been tested to not clog the pores. These products are especially great for those with acne prone skin.

For those who are looking to not only moisturize their skin but to brighten any dull areas, there are some ingredients to look for:

  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene
  • Citric Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Retinol
  • Tocopheryl Acetate
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Glycosphingolipids

Types of Emollients that will give you smooth, soft, suppleness that remain in your skin as a lubricant while holding the moisture in are typically:

  • Cyclomethicone
  • Dimethicone Copolyol
  • Glyceryl Stearates
  • Isopropyl Palmitate
  • Lanolin
  • Propylene Glycol Linoleate

Products with Occulusives help increase the amount of water in your skin creating an oily layer which helps moisture from evaporating from the surface.

  • Propylene Glycoldioleate
  • Paraffin
  • Mineral Oil
  • Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Caprylic/Caprictriglyceride
  • Beeswax

A main ingredient in many types of products are Humectants which are able to absorb water and retain water into the skin preventing it from cracking. These humectants help the other active ingredients by assisting them with not only penetrating the skin but making the ingredients last longer.

  • Ammoniumlactate
  • Sorbitol
  • Sodium PCA
  • Propylene Glycerol
  • Hylauronic Acid
  • Glycerin
  • Butylene Glycol

For those of you who are dealing with acne issues you should be using products that include:

For Blackheads: Salicylic Acid. It’s a great exfoliate which will peel dead skin cells from the skin’s layers.

For Whiteheads: Benzyl Peroxide. It will help in removing those awful dead skin cells as well as kill bacteria.

For Cystic Acne: The best solution to cystic acne is to see a professional. Dermatologists can prescribe the proper topical or oral medications to help clear the skin.

Those that suffer from sensitive skin should really avoid products that include ingredients with known irritants such as:

  • Artificial colors and any types of fragrances
  • Sulfates likeSodium lauryl sulfate’ that allow products to not only foam up but remove oil
  • Parabens which are a type of preservative that extends shelf life of products but also protects from mold and bacteria from forming

If you are still unsure what you are reading, or what products are best for your skin, ask a professional and go see your local esthetician.  

When you’re shopping online for a new product, just ask your super helpful askderm product specialist with any questions or concerns you have and they can gear you towards the right products for your skin care concerns.  

So start reading up on your ingredients and stay informed so you can properly take care of your skin the way you should be taking care of it and make the most informative decisions.  Good luck and happy reading!



askderm's guest esthetician

Blog Written by askderm’s Guest Esthetician 

Stephanie Ivonne is a New Jersey licensed Esthetician.  Her fun-loving, outgoing personality will shine through her product selections & reviews to help you discover the hottest skincare and beauty products.

When Stephanie is not scouring the internet for the next hot skincare product, she is a mother to two wonderful biological children, a dedicated foster mom and is devoted to her husband of 13 years.