Know your Ingredients

The skin absorbs and responds to each and every ingredient applied on it. Right ingredients make it flourish and harsh chemicals wilts the skin. A little awareness about the ingredients most commonly found in cosmetics will help you make a smarter choice as sometimes the cause of pimples, wrinkles, oily, dry and dull skin is not internal but merely the skin’s reaction to harmful ingredients applied topically. There are great skin care devices, but a good organic skincare routine is always a good thing.

I have categorized the ingredients/chemicals in 5 sets for simplification. You don’t need all good ingredients in your regime, only the ones most suited to your skin condition. The last category is of harmful ingredients/chemicals that irritate and cause various side effects. Never buy products with any of these ingredients in it.

Best ingredients for skin care


Alpha hydroxyl acids


AHAs are natural emollients derived from fruits and milk. They penetrate the skin and exfoliate top layer. It stimulates collagen and helps in faster regeneration of new skin cells.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids AHA
There are 5 kinds of AHAs:

  • Glycolic Acid - Derived from sugar cane. It penetrates through skins top layer most easily making itself the most popularly used ingredient in cosmetics and anti-acne treatments.
  • Lactic Acid - Derived from Milk. Used for its disinfectant and exfoliating properties.
  • Citric Acid – Derived from citrus fruits like lemon, oranges and pineapples. It is used for adjusting skins pH or acidic level, it also produces antiviral tissues making it an active ingredient in chemical peels.
  • Malic acid – Derived from apples. This is also used to adjust skins pH level, unclog pores and improve skin texture.
  • Tartaric acid – Derived from grape wine, acts as an antioxidant.

Alpha lipoic acid

Alpha lipoic acid is both water and fat soluble antioxidant that regenerates skin cells and increase collagen production. It also improves skin texture. ALA’s anti-inflammatory properties protects the skin from damage done by free radicals. According to research ALA is less irritating for skin than retinoid and benzoyl peroxide. But can make skin sensitive by prolonged sun exposure.

Beta-hydroxy acid

Also commonly known as salicylic acid, it is a plant extract with anti-inflammatory properties. Salicylic acid works as an effective exfoliator by making skin shed dead cells speedily. It opens clogged pores and neutralizes bacteria preventing pores from clogging up again by shrinking pore size, and allowing new cell growth.

NOTE-Usage of concentrated solutions of salicylic acid without sunblock can cause hyperpigmentation.

Vitamin A or Retinoid– Retin A, a derivative of vitamin A is probably the oldest topical acne treatment. It definitely cannot work for every skin type and can prove

to be irritating but overall it has proved beneficial in improving sun damaged skin, treatment of acne and its scars by unclogging pores, collagen production and better absorption of other acne creams and lotions.

The three main forms of retinoid are:

  • Tretinoin – Also known as Retin A, treats wrinkles and sun damaged skin. Can be found in over the counter acne treatment products.
  • Tazarotene – It is the strongest form of retinoid and is available in gel or cream form. It is used to treat acne and psoriasis. Though it is available over the counter I would suggest consulting a doctor before using this or at least make sure you are not on any other medication or pregnant.
  • Adapalene – Also known as Differin, is used to treat mild to moderate acne and is not as strong as Tretinoin or tazarotene.

Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid is derived from rice bran oil and is a powerful antioxidant. When combined with vitamin C and E in right amount, it fights against sun damage and repairs already damaged skin.

  • Lycopene – Lycopene protects against UV rays. Tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are very important ingredients in protecting against sun damage. They are must have’s in a good sunblock cream.
  • Coenzyme q10 (CoQ10) - Fat soluble, helps preserve antioxidant action of vitamin C and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Potassium ascorbyl tocopheryl Phosphate - It’s a blend of vitamin C and E and acts as a powerful antioxidant.
  • Benzoyl peroxide – Benzoyl peroxide treats acne by killing bacteria on skin surface and is one of the most common ingredient in acne treatment products. The downside is it can lead to dry, flaky and red skin. It also makes skin more sensitive to sun rays. Always start using a low concentration first and if it suits you increase thepercentage of benzoyl peroxide concentration.

Kojic Acid


Kojic acid is a byproduct of the fermentation process used to produce Japanese rice wine. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help in fading acne blemishes.

Kojic acid is also an antioxidant that fight free radicals or oxidative stress in skin cells. It is also being used as skin lightening agent since it fights the production of melanin in the body, improving sun damaged skin.

NOTE- Do not use these acids if you have open sores, dry flaky, sensitive skin, sunburns and if you are pregnant/nursing. Seek medical advice before beginning any treatment.


Argan oil/almond oil/jojoba oil/olive oil

​​These oils are rich in anti-oxidants called polyphenol, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that heal and replenish skin. They moisturize skin without clogging pores. In fact the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties fight toxins, clear acne, rectify the damage caused by UV rays, which in turn shrink pore size. 

argan oil

These oils can be used for removing make up, for body massage and scalp massage. So go on use them directly or opt for products that contain them. Mostly being natural they do not have any side effects and are suitable for all skin types. People with nut allergies should not try almond oil.

Soy oil

The proteins in soy tighten skin. Vitamins and lechtin exfoliate, shrink pores and fight against sun damage. You can use it by adding few drops in other essential oils or in your favorite cream.

soy oil

Coconut oil/primrose oil

They are natural moisturizers as they are rich in fatty acids but are heavier than olive and sweet almond oil, best suited for Dry to Normal skin.

coconut primrose oil

Tea tree oil/neem oil/mint oil

To treat pimples and other skin infections these antifungal and antibacterial oils are found in spot- treatments and anti-acne creams. If using directly always dilute with water.

tea tree oil


Green tea/black tea/white tea

The health benefits of teas differ on basis of how they are harvested and processed. Black tea leaves are fermented the most, thus they lose most of their catechin content. Green tea leaves are not fermented and are subject to air drying so they retain a good amount of catechin content that helps in fighting oxidative stress in the body, the antioxidants (called polyphenols) in green tea protect against cancer by reducing inflammation.

White tea leaves are least fermented and made from young green tea leaves to protect more catechin, thus it’s the richest in catechin content. You can find lot of anti-wrinkle products containing green tea or white tea and you can also freeze green tea ice cubes and apply them directly to your skin( after thawing), it will fight bacteria, reduce pore size and soothe irritated skin.

white tea


  • Grape seed extract-Contains oligomeric proanthocyanidins, according to studies it helps in strengthening and production of collagen.
grape seed extract
  • All berries– Acai berries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are full of antioxidants called anthocyanidins, include them in your diet as well as skin care products.
  • Pomegranate– They contain three times more antioxidants than green tea, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron, copper, potassium and zinc. This delicious fruit provides lot of skin benefits like hydration, collagen production and reduction in acne breakouts. It is a very popular ingredient in anti-aging creams.
pomegranate extract
  • Watermelon extract– Watermelon contain Lycopene, 95% water, Vitamin C and antioxidants that hydrate skin, protect against sun damage and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
watermelon extract


Flax seeds/chia seeds/sunflower seeds/pumpkin seeds 

They are rich source of protein, calcium, vitamin E, essential fatty acids such as omega 3, fiber and antioxidants. Their extract is found in anti-aging treatments. Add two tablespoon of any of these seeds in your diet for healthy skin from inside out.



Algae extract - The benefits of Algae in skin care products depend on what type of algae extract is used and how it’s processed, for example red algae helps skin’s ability to retain moisture leading to better hydration. Brown algae helps in collagen production. Micro algae fight against sun damage and support cell regeneration but blue-green algae can be skin irritants. 

algae extracts

Most products mention which type of algae is being used in the ingredients, choose according to your skin’s need. You might hate this slimy looking thing but your skin might love it!

Oat beat gluten - Oats not only possess lot of health benefits, they also have amazing skin correcting qualities. Since it’s considered to be an anti-irritant, oats can be used for dry- sensitive skin as well. Oat beta gluten or glucen can be found in many creams or cleansers. You can also make DIY facial masks once a week.


Turmeric - turmeric has antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties. Many dermatologist recommend turmeric supplements for collagen synthesis and reducing fine lines and wrinkles. A pinch of turmeric in facial masks work well for me.


Glycerin, Shea butter, Chamomile, Honey and aloe Vera are some other wonderful ingredients for skin care. I have not mentioned vitamins and minerals in this list as previous chapters are elaborately dedicated to them.

Harmful ingredients:

Watch out for the natural and synthetic ingredients mentioned below as they are skin irritants.

  • Acetic acid
  • Anise
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    Clove oil
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    Eucalyptus extract or oil
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    Ginger oil
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    Hydrogen Peroxide
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    Sodium carbonate
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    Sodium lauryl sulphate
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    Sodium Silicate
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    Zinc sulphate
  • Witch hazel

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