Here are some of the biologically active ingredients you should look for when purchasing skin care products. Take time to read the ingredient labels. If the “active” ingredient is way down on the ingredient list, it may be in insufficient quantity to be effective. This is the case in many over-the-counter skin products, even those claiming to have anti-aging benefits. To get the most value for your money, we invite you to spend some time with our medical esthetician who can guide you in making wise and worthwhile skin care product decisions. In the meantime, put these active ingredients on your radar next time you’re in the cosmetic aisle.
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant that fights future skin damage and repairs past damage. It diminishes fine lines, gives skin a healthy glow, and boosts levels of other antioxidants, such as vitamin C. It has been called a “universal antioxidant” because it is soluble in both water and oil which permits its entrance to all parts of the cell.
- Alpha-Hydroxy Acid
Creams and lotions with alpha-hydroxy acids may help reduce the appearance of fine lines, correct uneven pigmentation and age spots, and help shrink enlarged pores. Alpha-hydroxy acids include glycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric acids.
- Beta-Hydroxy Acid
Also known as salicylic acid, this ingredient penetrates oil-laden hair follicle openings and as a result helps with acne. This acid removes dead skin cells, improving the color and texture of sun-damaged skin.
- Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally and abundantly in the body’s skin, tissues and joint fluid, but unfortunately decreases with age. The most noticeable result is wrinkled skin. Skin care products with hyaluronic acid are often used with vitamin C products to assist in effective penetration.
Hydroquinone acts as a bleaching or lightening agent to lighten hyperpigmentation such as age spots or dark spots related to pregnancy or hormones. It is an ingredient in many OTC products, but if it’s not performing as expected, prescriptions with higher hydroquinone concentrations are available here.
- Kojic Acid
Kojic acid works similarly to hydroquinone as a lightening agent for pigment problems and age spots. It is a good alternative for those with hydroquinone sensitivity.
- L-Ascorbic Acid/Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the only antioxidant proven to stimulate the production of collagen, minimizing fine lines, scars and wrinkles. However, not just any vitamin C or vitamin C derivative will do. L-ascorbic acid is the only form of vitamin C that you should look for, as it is the only form that is useful and effective.
Retinol, desired from Vitamin A, is a staple in many OTC anti-aging skin care products. It has been proven to improve pigmentation, skin texture, tone and color, and also to reduce fine lines and wrinkles while hydrating the skin. Tretinoin, which is the active ingredient in prescription Retin-A, is a stronger version of retinol. Skin responds well to retinol because Vitamin A has a molecular structure tiny enough to penetrate the lower layers of skin where it can interact with collagen and elastin.
Knowing what ingredients to look for in skin care products is not just about saving money. Some skin care and cosmetic ingredients actually do more harm that good. (See Ingredients to Avoid in Skin Care Products.)
The more you know about your skin, the healthier it will be and the better it will look over the long term. Choose your skin care products wisely, and don’t forget the sunscreen.