Lanolin, Dimethicone, shellac, glycerin – these are just a few of the weird, genius ingredients that creep into our beauty regimes, and when it comes to looking flawless, we’ll try just about anything. But, how many of us know what’s actually in our products, and do you really know the difference between salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid? There’s a big difference between the two, and knowing what they do can help you make sure you don’t use products that could potentially damage your skin. When you’re looking for a new skincare product, being able to decipher an ingredients label is near impossible, but just by knowing a few key ingredients, you’ll be on your way to decoding them in no time at all.
Kiss my A…cid
Salicylic Acid: Okay, so this gets pretty technical, but we’ll skip to the important stuff. Salicylic acid is naturally derived from plants, and once dried and turned into powder, it creates aspirin! Salicylic Acid is an oil-soluble acid, which means it’s able to penetrate deep into your skin. This is why salicylic acid is amazing for acne-prone skin, as it’s able to penetrate deep into pores and dissolve excess sebum and dirt. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you should look for cleansers, serums and spot treatments containing salicylic acid, which will help decongest your pores.
Hyaluronic Acid: One of our fav beauty ingredients, hyaluronic acid is actually produced naturally in the body, but as you age, less and less is made. It’s touted as “The Fountain of Youth,” because it can hold 1000 times its weight in water, which helps hydrate and keep your skin supple. Hyaluronic acid – you’ll also see it listed as Sodium Hyaluronate on the ingredients list – is a bomb anti-aging ingredient that helps to plump away fine lines. Look for it in toners, essences, serums, and moisturizers – it works well for all skin types. We love applying a few drops of The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5, $11, after a toner before serums or moisturizer.
Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHAs): Here’s a popular one that’ll make you say ‘Aha!’ – sorry, we just had to. Alpha-hydroxy acids are made up of a group of natural and synthetic ingredients that exfoliate the uppermost layers of skin, which include citric acid (found in citrus fruits), glycolic acid (found in sugar cane), lactic acid (found in milk and tomato juice), malic acid (found in apples), and tartaric acid (found in grapes). AHAs work to gently exfoliate the skin by ‘ungluing’ dirt and oil trapped in your pores, which is why they’re crucial in acne-prone and anti-aging skincare routines. Look for AHAs in toners and cleansers, but if you have sensitive skin, it’s better to avoid them, as they can be too harsh for your skin.
Things That Make You Go “Wait… What?!”
Shellac: This one is guaranteed to bug you from now on. This gel-polish hybrid, and the reason behind your flawless, chip-free glossy, gorgeous nails actually comes from beetles. The sticky substance was first used in the beauty industry in hairsprays to give women in the early 30s completely immoveable ‘dos. But what is it that makes this ingredient so strong and so shiny? Shellac is a resin secreted by female ‘lac’ bugs – once it dries, the flakes are added to alcohol to make liquid shellac – ewww!
Lanolin: Our skin produces sebum (aka annoying oil and the culprit of your shiny T-zone), and sheep, well, they secret lanolin, a waxy substance that protects their fleeces and keeps them dry. Because it’s so insanely good at locking in moisture – it can hold 200% of its weight in water – and protecting, it’s one of the best things for hydrating dry skin and chapped lips, which is why it’s in tons of lip balms and moisturizers. It’s also completely cruelty-free as sheep have their fleeces sheared every year, at which point the lanolin is extracted by boiling the fleeces. So, that’s nice.
Glycerin: In almost any moisturizer you’ve ever used, you’ll probably find glycerin; it’s also found in food, drinks, and medicines, but mostly we’re quite fond of slapping it on our faces. We always thought it sounded like a man-made product, but it’s usually derived from plant oils such as soybeans and palm. Glycerin is what’s called a ‘humectant’ (it attracts water), which makes it great for hydrating your skin and preventing moisture loss – basically, it’ll keep your skin dewy! It’s a super hydrating compound that cools, protects, and even heals your skin in some cases. In fact, it’s so good at retaining moisture that it’s used on film sets to stop scenes in water from ‘drying out.’
Dimethicone: Look at almost any product on your beauty counter, and somewhere, you’ll see the magically smoothing ingredient, dimethicone. Dimethicone is a type of silicone that has a durable, rubber-like texture and is often used in primers, creams, and serums to give an insanely smooth after feeling. Products with Dimethicone act as a barrier that protects skin from the elements and also fills in pores and fine lines, due to its silky smooth texture. Look for dimethicone in primers to help create a flawless, pore-free canvas for makeup, like our Complexion Perfection Pre-Makeup Base, $35.
Check out some of the insane natural ingredients that are super popular in Japan here.