Tuesday, 28 November 2017 06:28

The Good, the Bad, and the Organic: 16 Ingredients to Look for in Skin Care

Written by   by Courtney La Marine

With so many skin care lines on the market today, knowing and understanding all the ingredients can be confusing. Luckily, there are articles to help understand and effectively read a label on skin care products. Here are a few common, innovative, hazardous, and organic ingredients often found in the products on people’s shelves right now.

While there are many ingredients, this will focus on the most commonly used, their benefits, and why it is important to be cautious and informed about long-term effects. Staying informed about what to put on client’s skin goes hand-in-hand with the knowledge of what effects the body as a whole. Stay informed!


As technology evolves, so can the ingredient, making it much more effective and the results more noticeable. Each of the following ingredients is commonly found in skin care products.

Hyaluronic Acid
This is a naturally occurring substance in the body, with the highest concentrations being found in the eyes or joints. The greatest benefit of hyaluronic acid is that it reduces water loss, keeping skin hydrated from the inside out. One gram can hold up to six liters of water. It is also very gentle and can be used on all skin types, aiding in healing various skin conditions.

This is a botanically-derived polysaccharide from the seeds of the Indian plant Cassia Angustifolia. It provides a high dose of moisture to the skin, similar to hyaluronic acid. Hyalurosmooth can give up to 24 hours of moisturization.

Vitamin A is an extremely effective ingredient for anti-aging. It diminishes fine lines and wrinkles, significantly improves uneven skin tone, smooths and refines the skin surface, and increases the appearance of firmness. Vitamin A aids in cellular turnover, so a quality product with retinols or vitamin A is a smart addition a night regimen.

Ceramides are necessary for their water-retention capacity and are naturally occurring. Adding them to a skin care product helps provide replenishing and restoring benefits. There are nine different ceramides, but the most common in skin care are ceramide AP, ceramide EOP, ceramide NG, ceramide NP, ceramide NS, phytosphingosine, and sphingosine. Typically, ceramides are derived from plants, but can be from a synthetic form. The lipid improves skin texture, suppleness, and can soothe sensitivity.

The depletion of collagen in the skin can be caused by many factors; environmental factors and age are the biggest culprits. As collagen deteriorates, it produces peptides that send messages to the skin that it needs to produce more collagen. When a person applies peptides topically, it tricks the skin into thinking it is a collagen breakdown product and begins to produce more collagen naturally. Some of the common peptides used in skin care are Matrixyl, Argireline (Acetyl hexapeptide), oligopeptides, copper peptides, and pentapeptides (found in Matrixyl). As may know, peptides are the building blocks to fight aging. This ingredient should be a part of anyone’s arsenal.

Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids
Both alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) diminish fine lines and wrinkles and improve dull, uneven tone and texture. These acids also increase hydration and help the skin feel firm. As AHAs are water-soluble, they are better for normal to dry skin types. AHAs improve sun damage, as well as enhance natural moisturizing factors. BHAs are oil-soluble and are preferred for oily or acneic skin types. BHAs work very well on clogged, enlarged pores; help kill bacteria in active acne; and can help in removing milia. BHAs also have a natural skin calming ability, meaning people with sensitive skin or even rosacea can still benefit from a BHA. They can be used in higher concentrations as a chemical peel or in a product for specific skin conditions highlighting these two ingredients. Following instructions carefully on products with and AHAs or BHAs is important. Over-exfoliating the skin can cause unnecessary redness and irritation.


There are many new and improved ingredients in skin care. While some fade and others last for many years, staying up on the new trends is imperative. These are a few that are not over-saturated in the beauty industry…yet. They have some interesting qualities and are worth a look!

Cholesterol is one of the most common lipids naturally produced in the body; it gives cells structure and fluidity. Levels can decrease in skin up to 40 percent by the time people are 40. So as the skin thins over time, cholesterol can fill in the “cracks.” All ages can benefit from using this ingredient. Every time the face is exfoliated, cleansed, or an aggressive treatment is applied, the skin is being stripped of essential lipids. Using a product containing cholesterol helps to replace these essential fats; keeps the skin barrier healthy; and ultimately, results in a smoother, more hydrated complexion. Applying cholesterol topically does not affect levels in blood, which happens to be a common misconception. Replenishing what should naturally be there is the new trend in skin care.

Royal Honey
Because it is winter, royal honey may be a go-to for dehydrated skin. Royal honey is aged honey, different from regular honey as it goes through a 60-day fermentation process in the beehive after being secreted by worker bees. As a result, it has less water filler and more skin benefiting ingredients, from vitamins to minerals and amino acids.

Birch Sap
Asia has caught onto this new and exciting ingredient and it is making its way to the United States! Birch juice is being called the next coconut water based on the high levels of amino acids, minerals, and sugars. It helps the skin to retain moisture and maintain a positive oil-moisture balance. It has become a popular replacement for water in many Korean beauty products. It is tapped directly from Birch trees and is known as Birch water or Birch juice. An important fact to know about Birch sap is that it is highly perishable on its own. In a reputable skin care product, it is worth nothing that it has been pasteurized, fermented, or preserved.

Yuza (Yuzu in Japan)
It is a citrus fruit with a high concentration of vitamin C, grown mainly in Asia. The citrus helps brighten the skin, protect from premature aging, and has a lovely aromatherapy scent. Adding this topically or to a bath is recommended.


There are many ingredients be cautious of – knowing why is half the battle. Being able to spot some of these on an ingredient label will deter an unnecessary breakout down the road.

Be on the lookout for ingredients ending in -siloxane and -methicone. This ingredient is used in cosmetic products to soften, smooth, and moisten skin. While it might make the skin feel like it is being hydrated, the same ingredient is used in water-repelling windshield coating, building sealants, and lubricants. It is extremely occlusive and can cause a barrier rather than allow the skin to breathe. A very common -methicone used is Dimethicone. These ingredients create a layer over the skin rather than stimulate the skin to repair hydration issues. Others that fall into this category are Phenyl trimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Dimethiconol, Dimethicone copolyol.

Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
According to data from the FDA, nearly one in five cosmetic products contains a substance that generates formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. A cosmetic product label will not say if there is formaldehyde in the product. It is up to consumers to know what the formaldehyde-releasing chemicals are on labels: DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-1, Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol), 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane, and Hydroxymethylglycinate.

While the FDA does not regulate the levels allowed of these ingredients, the American personal care industry’s ingredient safety panel, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, has mimicked the European Union’s guidelines, which bans more than 0.2 percent of formaldehyde in personal care products. Even at small levels, they can cause dermatitis and skin inflammation and are considered allergens. Cosmetic products do need preservatives to prevent bacteria, but formaldehyde-releasing ingredients are not the only option.


Monoethanolamine, Diethanolamine, and Triethanolamine are potential carcinogens. They can control pH levels, create foam, and are found in many beauty products from makeup to hair care to sunscreens. It is recommended that these ingredients be rinsed from the skin immediately and any product designed to sit on the skin be less than five percent. The MSDS sheet for Ethanolamine notes that skin contact can be harmful, cause chemical burns, and possibly inflammation. The sheet also notes that animal studies (while never encouraged in any capacity) with DEA and MEA have shown a possibility for these chemicals to form tumors and to cause developmental abnormalities to an unborn fetus. The bottom line is that they are not helpful to the skin and there are many products that do not carry these ingredients and are just as good.


So the common, new, and bad are out of the way. Organic ingredients have come a long way. And while there are many, here are a few to keep an eye out for in skin care products.

Eyebright (Euphrasia Officinalis)
This is an extremely effective ingredient for under eye puffiness and dark circles. It reduces inflammation and drainage. It has high levels of iridoid glycosides, flavonoids, and tannins.

This is a great ingredient for treating acne and has proven to be very effective. It is an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory for skin. It can calm and soothe irritated and acneic skin very effectively. This is a beloved ingredient when treating clients with troublesome acne.

Bee Propolis
This is a resinous mixture that bees collect from tree buds, sap flows, and other botanical sources. It functions as a natural disinfectant against bacteria. When used in skin care, a similar effect occurs. It is an antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and an antioxidant.

There are many ingredients in day-to-day products – and yes, it can be very confusing. But, with basic knowledge of labels and ingredients, it will make choosing products easier.

Courtney La Marine has been a licensed aesthetician since 2006 and continues to grow and learn in the skin care industry every day. She is based in Denver and owns Clove Studios. She also currently works with Sciote Skin as their director of operations and education, creating all of their skin protocols, as well as a unique massage technique used exclusively through their line. La Marine is a result-driven professional who loves what she does, creates unique treatments for each client, and wants to give clients the skin they deserve. Staying current with new trends, innovative ingredients, and the latest technologies is of the upmost importance to her.

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