Working in the skincare industry, I've learned a lot about what to look for and what to avoid in an ingredient listing. While scanning a list of unpronounceables may seems like an impossible task, once you get the hang of what to look for, you start to realize that many products are really quite similar. You see the same ingredients over and over and over. Here are a few that I love to find on the back of a bottle and a few that send me running for the hills.
Hyaluronic Acid: Oh hyaluronic acid, how I love thee! It might sound scary, but hyaluronic acid (also listed as sodium hyaluronate) doesn't exfoliate or peel your skin like other acids you might have in mind. Instead, this lightweight substance actually draws crazy amounts of moisture in your skin, plumping it up and giving it a hydrated glow that looks like you definitely get your 8 glasses a day. It's extremely gentle and usually infused into water-based moisturizers so it's perfect for sensitive and breakout-prone skin.
AHAs: Brighten, anti-age, glow! I love alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic and lactic acid for their illuminating and exfoliating properties. These naturally-derived acids munch away dead skin without drying you out. However, exercise caution if you have sensitive skin as these ingredients can cause irritation and redness if used in high concentrations.
Rosehip Oil: I'm a big fan of nutrient-dense face oils like sea buckthorn and argan, but rosehip oil is one of my faves. Loaded with essential fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin C and B-carotene, rosehip oil hydrates skin while combatting the effects of photo aging.
Zinc Oxide: My sunscreen of choice, zinc oxide physically protects skin from the aging and burning effects of the sun. It's also been known to soothe skin irritation, zap zits, and control oil production.
JUST SAY NO
You should know by now to avoid big baddies like parabens, talc, phthalates and sodium lauryl sulfate. These toxic yuckies get a lot of the limelight on blogs and in beauty marketing as things to avoid. But there are a slew of other not-so-nice ingredients out there that you should try to avoid.
PEGs: Also known as polyethylene glycol, PEGs are a class of chemical widely used in skincare and cosmetics to moisturize, stabilize, and enhance skin penetration. While there's evidence that PEGs irritate the skin, the real issue with these ingredients is that they are often contaminated with toxic compounds like ethylene oxide,dioxane, and heavy metals that you don't want on your skin.
Chemical Sunscreens: Chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone are regularly used in SPF because they protect skin from sun exposure without the heavy white cast associated with physical sunscreens like zinc oxide. Unfortunately, these ingredients are associated with increased skin sensitivity and allergic reactions. There is also evidence that they bioaccumulate in human tissue; oxybenzone, the most commonly used chemical SPF, can be found in the bodies of over 96% of Americans. Some scientists believe this accumulation causes hormone disruption and may be an underlying factor in rising rates of endometriosis.
Formaldehyde Releasers (Diazolidinyl Urea & Imidazolidinyl Urea): Some "natural" skincare companies talk a lot about being preservative-free which always freaks me out a bit because I've seen firsthand what a moldy pot of face cream looks like. Preservatives in skincare are a necessarily evil if you want to avoid potentially dangerous bacterial growth. Some are worse than others and formaldehyde releasers like the ones mentioned above are the big baddies. These ingredients work by releasing formaldehyde into the product to prevent microbial growth. Formaldehyde is very toxic and these ingredients have been linked to high rates of skin allergies and immune system toxicity.
Hydroquinone: I'm all about a good brightening product, but please God not one that contains hydroquinone. Beauty mags and blogs love touting this ingredient as a miracle worker and the truth is that it does produce seriously amazing results in fading dark spots and scars. It inhibits and controls melanin production, fading age spots and freckles with ease. As you'd imagine with bleaching products, hydroquinone has been linked to serious skin allergies and skin-thinning. Some evidence shows that hydroquinone also has toxic and carcinogenic properties, so no thanks!