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The Ingredients To Look For In Your Skincare To Make Sure The Magic Happens

Reading the ingredients on the back of your skincare can be like trying to understand a different language.

We’ve all seen the words we can’t pronounce and the names of ingredients that give no indication of what they do for your skin or even what they are.

Our faces can be prone to spots and scarring as well as being oily or dry. Sometimes you just can’t seem to catch a break.

This means it is so important to know exactly what each ingredient is doing to your skin and if it’s right for you.

We asked Dr Anjali Mahto about all the magic words to look for on that packaging to make sure you’re getting bang for your buck.

Now you can buy with confidence, knowing what exactly each ingredient is doing to your face.


This is a common ingredient found in skincare and depending on formulation can act as a humectant (binds water, i.e. hydrating), protecting and conditioning the skin. It is also very well tolerated by all skin types.




Liquorice root extract

Liquorice is mainly used in products as an anti-pigmentation ingredient, so it’s really good at diminishing marks.

It’s very good at evening skin tone if you’ve got discoloration. It will help to shift marks and pigmentation if you’re using it on a daily basis, but ultimately the best approach to get rid of the marks is stopping the reason why they developed in the first place.

But it can help tackle marks that have already happened too.


Zinc is an anti-inflammatory. It’s sometimes recommended as an oral supplement for acne as well as topicals.


Squalane is a moisturising agent that’s very similar to natural moisturising lipids produced by healthy skin.

It’s very good for all skin types and doesn’t really block pores, so it’s helpful to repairing and strengthening the skin barrier.


Allantoin is a protective and conditioning ingredient that can help soothe the skin again and nourish the skin barrier.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It depends on the concentration whether it’s being used as an antioxidant or as a moisturising agent.

It would depend on the formulation of the product, but if it’s being used as an antioxidant, then it can help to neutralise any potential damage caused by free radicals generated by dirt, sweat, pollution, and UV that skin is exposed to.

Gluconolactone (a Polyhydroxy Acid –PHA)

This is a PHA (a form of alpha hydroxy acid) and acts as a chemical exfoliant without causing irritation in the way traditional AHAs do; may also have some anti-acne benefits.


Niacinamide has lots of benefits for the skin. It’s anti-inflammatory and it can act as an antioxidant, and it can also be an anti-pigmentation agent.

Data shows it can also regulate oil production, so it’s a good ingredient to have for acne prone skin.

Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid and essentially removes the upper layer of dead skin cells. This helps remove and improve skin cell turnover in the stratum corneum.

Salicylic acid

2% is the highest strength salicylic acid you can get in a cosmetic skincare product in the UK.

In theory, 2% will be stronger than a 0.5%. However, with efficacy, it does also come down to the overall formulation and the pH of the salicylic acid being used.

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is not an exfoliating acid and is in fact a moisturising agent, despite the fact that it has ‘acid’ at the end of it.

It’s known as a humectant ingredient, so binds water in the skin. It’s really good at plumping the skin and improving the appearance of lines or dehydrated skin.

The amount of HA found naturally in the skin decreases with age.

You no longer need to feel overwhelmed when looking at the ingredients (Picture: Getty Images)© Provided by Metro

Retinol/Retinoid (Retinaldehyde)

Retinoids are an umbrella term for all vitamin A products, so retinol, retinaldehyde, and retinoids all technically fall under the retinoid category.

Retinols are probably where people tend to start. They come in varying strengths, but most people will probably start on at 0.1% to a 0.3%. You can go all the way up to 1% strength

All retinoids work by improving skin cell turnover; they’re also good at removing pigmentation, so they’re often used in products for acne. They’re also used in products for anti-aging as well.

Some retinoids are prescription only.


Ceramides are moisturising ingredients, they are naturally found as part of the skin barrier.

They can be very good at moisturising the skin, so cleansers and moisturisers are normally where you’d find them.

So now you’re all clued up you can manage your skin properly and tailor your skin routine to suit your every need!

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