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Skin Care Vocabulary: 5 Common Active Ingredients in Skin Care Formulas

Choose our trusted brand.
Choose our trusted brand.

Shopping for skin care products can become a daunting task as you stare at the hundreds of products lining the shelves, their lists of ingredients and the skin health benefits they claim to offer.

But you can sift through the products’ claims, simplify your shopping and find the most effective products for your skin type by educating yourself on what the ingredients are and what they really do when applied to your skin.

Common Skin Care Ingredients

Every company uses a different formula to create its line of skin care products, and there are thousands of ingredients that may go into those formulas. However, there are a number of “staples” used in many skin care products. Understanding how these ingredients are sourced and how they work can help you evaluate whether or not the product is right for you. Some staple ingredients are:

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and there are a number of proteins in the dermal matrix, including collagen and elastin. UV radiation incites oxidative stress, which damages proteins responsible for skin’s tone and texture. A supply of amino acids at the site (i.e. topically applied amino acids) can facilitate quicker skin repair for more noticeable results—improved elasticity and firmness, diminished fine lines and wrinkles.

However, there are hundreds of amino acids. The two most effective for skin care are proline and glycine.

Cetyl or Stearyl Alcohol

This ingredient is a fatty alcohol that has hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties. These properties make it an ideal emulsifier—an agent that keeps ingredients that normally do not “play well” with each other—like oil and water—from separating. It’s water-attracting and repelling properties can also help to draw moisture to the skin (hydration) as well as provide a barrier against it.


Glycerin is a common (and inexpensive) “humectants”—an ingredient that pulls moisture from the atmosphere. Glycerin is often used in moisturizers and other products designed to aid moisture retention.

Salicylic Acid

This ingredient is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) with anti-inflammtory properties. As a BHA, it is lipophilic—it can dissolve in oil, allowing it to penetrate deeper into pores and remove excess oil. It also stimulates skin cell turnover and reduces irritation an redness. As a result, salicylic acid is a common treatment for acne.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

SLS is a detergent (cleaner) and lathering agent. It is often added to shampoos and cleansers to generate foamy bubbles. While consumers generally associate rich lather with a good cleanser, how foamy a product gets is not a good indicator of its effectiveness. SLS is not biodegradable, and there is some speculation about its carcinogenic potential. As a result, sulfate-free cleansers are becoming more popular.

At Hale Cosmeceuticals, we like to educate our customers before they purchase any type of skin care product. If you have questions about our ingredients, please ask. We are happy to provide free samples so that you may test a product before purchasing.

Contact us for a Personal Skin Assessment, product recommendations, free samples or to place your order! 1-800-951-7005.

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