Knowledge is power – the active ingredients that make a difference
Depending on your skin type and specific concerns, you may choose skin care products suitable for acne-prone, dry, oily, or sensitive skin. What you need to keep in mind, is that unless a product has the ingredients to fulfil its promises, it’s useless. Thankfully, legislation mostly prohibits companies from making claims they cannot substantiate, but there are grey areas when it comes to describing skin care. This is where active ingredients come into play. Provided a product or treatment has an adequate amount of an ingredient proven to treat a condition, you can be assured it can deliver the results you want.
As with many things in life, knowledge is power, so read up below on some of the most common, proven active ingredients on the market today.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)
AHAs are glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids, and are popular in anti-ageing creams and serums thanks to their ability to help reduce fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and age spots, and may help shrink enlarged pores. The versatility of AHAs means they are often used in all types of skin care, and typically deliver great results, but be aware of the side effects; which can include mild irritation and sun sensitivity. It is always advisable to wear sunscreen, at all times, but extra important if your skin care products contain alpha-hydroxy acids.
Beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid)
Salicylic acid helps unclog pores thanks to its ability to penetrate oil-laden hair follicle openings and is therefore often used in products for acne-prone skin. Furthermore, it removes dead skin and can thereby improve the texture and tone of hyper-pigmented and sun-damaged skin. Studies have shown that salicylic acid typically causes less irritation than alpha-hydroxy acids, while providing similar improvement in skin texture and colour.
Hydroquinone & Kojic Acid
Skin care products containing hydroquinone are often called bleaching creams or lightening agents. Whilst often used for an overall lightening effect, hydroquinone can also be found in creams targeting age spots and hormone induced dark spots (melasma or chloasma). Sensitivity to hydroquinones is relatively common, so always patch test any product containing the ingredient. Kojic acid is another remedy for the treatment of pigment problems and age spots and works by slowing the production of melanin (brown pigment).
Hyaluronic Acid (glycosaminoglycan)
Skin care products containing this substance are often used with vitamin C products to assist in effective penetration. Hyaluronic acid (also known as a glycosaminoglycan) is often praised for its ability to ‘reverse’ or halt signs of ageing. This is because the substance occurs naturally in young skin. As you age, however, the forces of nature destroy hyaluronic acid.
This is a form of vitamin C. With age, environmental factors and exposure to the elements, collagen synthesis in the skin decreases, leading to wrinkles. Vitamin C is the only antioxidant proven to stimulate the synthesis of collagen, minimising fine lines, scars, and wrinkles.
As described above, collagen in the skin deteriorates with age, and when this happens, certain peptides are produced. These peptides send a ‘message’ to your skin that it has lost collagen and needs to generate more. When peptides are applied topically, your skin ‘thinks’ that it's a collagen break down product and that your body needs to manufacture new collagen. In other words, skin care peptides stimulate the natural production of collagen.
Retinol, Retinyl palmitate, & Tretinoin
Retinol is derived from vitamin A and is prevalent in anti-ageing skin care products. Retinyl palmitate is another ingredient related to Retinol, but is less potent, making it a good choice for sensitive skin. Tretinoin is a stronger version of Retinol. Depend on your skin type, any of the three can deliver excellent anti-ageing results such as reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, and improved skin tone and texture. They all work in a similar manner: vitamin A has a molecular structure that's tiny enough to get into the lower layers of skin, where you find collagen and elastin.