One thing that I’ve become somewhat obsessed with during my skin care journey is the ingredient list. Not only did I want to know what my skin care is made of, but what are the ingredients doing? What I call “skin care heavy lifting” is all the extra effort put forth to understand what’s going on with my face and why. What does your skin react badly to? What does it react well to? What is your skin saying that it needs when you look in the mirror? What does this ingredient promise vs what it realistically does?
I like to draw the heavy lifting analogy because skin care is much like the gym. You have to pay attention to small improvements and be patient for it to start taking the shape you want. Initial improvements do show after a few days, but you have to be dedicated to see the big picture. It could take up the 4-5 weeks for you to see the full benefit of a product, so stick in there!
You also have to know proper form, or in this case, know what your skin likes. So I compiled a list of ingredients that I’ve found that my skin likes, and some that it doesn’t care for.
Things My Skin Likes
Propolis: propolis is a resin collect by bees and is used to hold and seal together their hive. Sounds a little odd, but it is full of nutrition and has a host of benefits. It is an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory agent and anti-bacterial. On top of all that, its been pointed out that propolis is a cancer preventative, which is a definite plus. What I love about propolis is that it’s notorious for giving the “glow from within” look, and I’m all about my face being as radiant as a lighthouse. [Source] [Source]
Snail Mucin Filtrate: Snail mucin is a popular Kbeauty ingredient that has a handful of benefits. It acts as a lightweight moisturizer, has natural proteins to nourish the skin and contains traces of AHA’s to help smooth out the texture of skin. Whenever I use a snail product my skin feels soft, plump and hydrated without any oiliness. It’s been found that Snail mucin helps to speed up wound healing and subdue inflammation, a process that’s accelerated when working in tandem with honey. This leads to it being a good acne fighting ingredient. [Source]
BHA: BHA stands for beta hydroxy acid and they are chemical exfoliants that clean deep within the pore lining. The only BHA I’ve used is a 2% salicylic acid, but I have no need to change it up because it works so well for me. Salicylic acid help to prevent future breakouts and to tame current ones by penetrating the pore and cleaning it from the inside. Two years of use so far, and two years of almost completely eliminating random breakouts. I use it about three times a week, or whenever my skin feels congested.
AHA/BHA’s are also present in very low concentration in other skin care products outside of exfoliants, such as face wash and toners. I feel like when they are present in lower concentrations it really helps the cleaning factor of the product. I had a AHA/BHA toner that I would use to swipe off sweat and dirt after a gym session and my skin would look, and feel, refreshed and cleaned. If you are going to introduce a chemical exfoliant into your routine, just a word of caution to take it slow because they can cause sensitivity if overused. [Source]
Niacinamide: An all star ingredient. It helps to promote a healthy and well functioning skin barrier, refines skin texture, reduces sun damage, brightens skin complexion, regulates sebum control, reduces redness/blotchiness, and increases elasticity. The benefits go on and on with this one. It can offer all of these benefits without being irritating to the skin, unlike its fellow powerhouse ingredient tretinoin, which can be majorly irritating.
One thing to take note, research involving niacinamide showed that results appeared with concentrations of 4% and 5%. Many products that have niacinamide have a very low percentage, usually around 2%, which was shown to not bring any visible change. Keep that in mind when shopping around. [Source] [Source]
Preservatives: To formulate or not to formulate with preservatives, that is the question. The past few years I’ve noticed a marketing trend that focuses on “paraben free!” and tout “all natural” as if there are not things in nature that are bad for us. Sharks, for instant. Very natural. Very bad. “Natural” and “chemical” are marketing terms for the most part. Sorry ‘bout it.
So what happens if you don’t preserve things correctly? Well, let’s take a look. Not too long ago a Korean brand that’s known for their “natural” formulations ran into an issue because their lack of proper preservatives caused a batch of their product to go bad. This cause horrible reactions with people’s skin, as you could imagine, resulting in cystic acne, major inflammation, and infections. Just google “Benton skincare contamination.”
I don’t care how “natural” skin care is, I don’t want it growing things on my face that aren’t supposed to be there. Chel from Holy Snail does an excellent job explaining why preservatives are a good thing, check out her post.
Ingredients That Are Meh
As much as there are ingredients that my skin and I enjoy, there are also some that either don’t impress me or don’t set well with my face. Do they have benefits? Maybe. Am I impressed? Nah.
Rice: supposedly the skin refining and brightening star, it has never impressed me – or really did anything for me.
Rose: Just… What? It always feel like such a vague throw-away skin care ingredient. Hardly any benefit that cant be provided by other ingredients and doesn’t really seem to be anything more than a “romance” ingredient. See also: pearl, gemstones of any kind, gold. Or maybe I’m just jaded idk
Honey: A great humectant and acts as an anti-bacterial, but it’s just too heavy for my face and breaks me out. Products formulated with it tend to be a little sticky and that can be annoying. Great ingredient, but my face just doesn’t enjoy it.
Aloe Vera: Comprised of mostly water, is a moisture binding ingredient and calms inflammation. I don’t really have any gripe with aloe other than it’s just incredibly boring and there are other ingredients that do its job better. See honey and green tea.
Citrus ingredients: Lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit. Sure, they’re all natural but they’re all irritants and can cause skin to become photosensitive, increasing sensitivity to UV light. They -can- brighten the complexion, but there are other ingredients that aren’t as harsh that do the job as well. See niacinamide.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients! Just because one thing didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it’s bad, it could be the skin savior for the next person! Everyone’s skin reacts differently and has different needs, so explore and be a little adventurous to find what meets your skincare needs.