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What Do These Words Mean, Anyway?

Demystifying the beauty ingredient list


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Photo by alex steinberg

While I’m a pretty simple girl, basically using oil for my skin care routine, I realize not everyone is ready for such a pared-down routine. Recently on a job, the model was asking just what all the ingredients mean on the back of the lotion bottle she had picked up as a sample somewhere .

Being from Europe, she had a very simple and healthy skin care routine, but was genuinely curious and wanted to learn more. We talked for quite a while about creams, oils, and the latest and greatest.

For the purposes of this post I used definition information from Mayo Clinic, as well as information from Dr. Mona Gohara, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale and co‚Äźfounder of K & J Sun Protective Clothing and Jessica Haggy from makeup.com.

AHA/BHA: Two types of acids very useful in the fight against acne, exfoliation, anti-aging, and overall skin maintenance.
Antioxidants: These fight and repair the damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants protect cells from damage that causes aging and some cancers. They can come in various forms of synthetic chemicals, vitamins, or foods. Retinol is a common antioxidant found in skin care creams. A few antioxidant-packed foods include apricots, kiwis, blueberries blackberries, prunes, pomegranate, pink grapefruit, red grapes, kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beets and red bell pepper, salmon and other oily fish, nuts, lentils, peas and beans.
Enzymes: Types of proteins that speed up a chemical reaction without being consumed in the chemical reaction. For skin, they help with inflammation, aging, and cell turnover (exfoliation).
Peptides: The building blocks of proteins—they are small particles that can penetrate the skin easily and signal other cells to do things (such as rebuild collagen), making peptides a prime ingredient in cosmetics.
Hydroxy acids: Alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, and poly hydroxy acids are exfoliants — substances that remove the upper layer of old, dead skin and stimulate the growth of smooth, evenly pigmented new skin.

I hope these definitions help you when you are shopping for your skin care products…and when you are enjoying that salmon or eating those red grapes you can feel extra good about the free radical battle you are winning!

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