Let’s be honest: ingredient lists can sometimes look like a big ole pot of alphabet soup. But we believe knowing and understanding what you put on your skin (and how it can help your concerns) is the key to finding the right routine for you and the best way to be empowered by skincare.
Plant parents, you’ll know this one. The gooey gel inside the aloe plant hydrates because it’s 99.5% water. The other .5%? Hydrating and anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals.
(Molecular) size matters. Larger hyaluronic acid molecules stay on the surface to instantly soothe. Smaller ones penetrate to hydrate at the cell level for a long-term plumping effect. Check for words like micronized, low molecular weight or sodium hyaluronate. That’s your green light.
If your skin cells are the bricks, ceramides are the mortar holding it all together. These naturally occurring fatty lipids make up 50% of the skin barrier. Age and sun damage can zap them, so add them back in to stay plump, hydrated and protected.
Think of glycerin like a sponge. This plant-derived liquid soaks up moisture in the air and brings it right where you want it.
Hemp Seed Oil
Buzzy ingredient, without the buzz. Hemp seed oil soothes inflammation and locks in hydration with omega fatty acids. It’s great for acne-prone skin since it helps regulate oil production.
The hydration MVP. This naturally occurring substance holds 1000X its weight in water. We produce less as we age, so you’ll want to add it back in with the right products.
Keep it light—that’s the jojoba oil motto. It comes from a drought-resistant shrub and does the same for your face. Mimicking natural oils for moisture without the greasiness. (BTW it’s pronounced ho-ho-ba in case you were wondering.)
It’s not regular honey. It’s *cool* honey. The bees that pollenate the manuka tree in New Zealand are responsible for this special blend—making it anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and moisture-rich.
A moisturizer that does more: Yes, rosehip oil keeps skin well hydrated, but it also improves collagen production, brightens and calms inflammation. Even sensitive skin types will love it.
One letter makes all the difference. Your skin naturally produces squalene, but squalane is its more stable counterpart. That means when you apply it, you get all the lightweight hydration and antioxidants, plus a longer shelf-life.
It’s a classic for a reason. Vitamin E comes in both natural and synthetic forms (though natural has been shown to be slightly more powerful). It helps hydrate, heal damage and protect from environmental stressors.
AHA (Alpha hydroxy acid)
AHAs exfoliate the outermost layer, dissolving the “glue” between dead skin cells (good riddance). Made from fruit, milk or sugarcane, these multitaskers address fine lines, hyperpigmentation and more.
The major standout of benzoyl peroxide? It’s antibacterial. Use as a spot treatment, in a cleanser or as a lotion to stop acne in its tracks. Limit yourself to one form though to avoid dryness.
BHA (Beta hydroxy acid)
BHAs dive deeper to dissolve oil and remove dead skin cells inside your pores. Salicylic acid is the most well-known BHA—great for clearing up acne. Look for willow tree bark for a gentler BHA.
Acids are photosensitizing—making you more prone to irritation and damage from the sun. Always, always always apply SPF when using acids.
Here’s the breakdown: enzymes are amino acids that, yes, break down dead skin cells. The ones found in skincare typically come from fruits and veggies. Their exfoliation skills are especially beneficial for those with skin too sensitive for acids.
The prom queen of AHAs: Glycolic acid is beloved by derms for its ability to exfoliate away age spots, fine lines and acne. It also manages to boost collagen and help retain moisture, making it an all-around winner.
Don’t cry over (spoiled) milk—because it makes a great exfoliant. Yes, weirdly enough that’s where lactic acid comes from originally, but don’t worry, you can find vegan versions too. This AHAs larger molecules make it a gentler alternative for sensitive skin.
B3—not just a bingo call. In fact, niacinamide (aka vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid) is a prize in itself. It reduces oil production, minimizes pores, smooths fine lines and protects the skin barrier. In short: what can’t it do?
PHA (Poly hydroxy acid)
Feeling a bit sensitive? Reach for a PHA. Think of them like the laid-back cousins of AHAs: exfoliating at the skin surface, but slower to avoid irritation.
Bringing new meaning to the phrase, “go deep!” Acne sufferers have probably heard of this one—salicylic acid is the best-known BHA. It's a staple in the oily skin arsenal to exfoliate deeper and clear clogged pores.
Tea Tree Oil
Heading to the Land Down Under: Tea tree oil has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, thanks to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Diluted versions work wonders on acne (but pure tea tree oil can be irritating so always patch test).
Yes, that slimy sea stuff. Turns out, all that ocean bathing has benefits. Algae soaks up tons of minerals from the water around it which provide antioxidant protection while instantly hydrating skin.
Topical or ingestible? Topical collagen works great to temporarily hydrate the skin, but the real magic happens when you eat (or drink) it. We’re talking major elasticity boosts.
Also known as acetyl hexapeptide-3 (say that five times fast) is a peptide made from the same stuff as Botox. Its goal? Softening those dynamic wrinkle lines that only needles could help before.
Think of it as retinol’s gentler, plant-sourced cousin. Bukuchiol has a lot of similar properties, i.e., skin restoration, wrinkle smoothing and brightening—without the irritation that retinol can have. Seems like a win-win.
Oh, how we love you, collagen. This natural protein keeps skin looking fresh and plump. By age 25 or 30, we lose a teaspoon of collagen a day (!), so work it into your routine asap.
Your skin barrier superhero. Ferulic acid acts as a shield, fending off pollutants and free radicals. This means fewer fine lines, dark spots and more. Pro tip: it also helps vitamin C + E work better.
For more than just sipping—and that’s the tea. Green tea contains polyphenols and EGCG which reduce inflammation and act as antioxidants. Another bonus? The caffeine helps reduce puffiness.
Throwback to Biology 101: Peptides are the amino acids that make up proteins like collagen and elastin. They also stimulate collagen production for stronger, firmer skin all around.
Puts that glass of vino in perspective. Resveratrol, a polyphenol (commonly found in red wine and chocolate), helps repair UV damage and protects from environmental stressors. It also calms skin as much as the aforementioned wine and chocolate does you.
Viva vitamin A—the source of retinol. Power-packed at its core, this ingredient speeds up cell turnover and, yes, boosts collagen for smoother, brighter, and more even skin tone.
Get your daily dose—because vitamin C is one of the most tried-and-true antioxidants. It helps fend off environmental pollutants, boost collagen and brighten hyperpigmentation. An all-around radiance booster.