MISTR's grooming glossary: What's in your skincare?

Get to know your skincare.

Have you ever reached for your moisturiser and wondered “what in the hell is actually in this thing”? and upon reading the list of ingredients promptly put the tube or tub down, happy to live in blissful ignorance...

There's a lot to learn about skincare and what makes up its parts. And while it may seem like learning a whole new language, it will behoove you to read on. After all, If a moisturiser says it’s moisturising, you’d think that, well, you’re getting a product the moisturises…right?

Not all skincare is made equal, and when shopping for new items, it will serve you to employ a discerning eye and a (at least) periphery knowledge of what it is you’re actually buying. You are, after all, going to be using this product every day and in most cases, it's going to cost you a pretty penny.

Here is a list of MISTR’s critical ingredients to keep an eye out for and just what they can do for you.

AHA

This is one of those buzzwordy, TikTok worthy nonsense sounding acronyms that seem to be all the rage in skincare for teens, but trust us, you want to look out for AHA’s in your skincare.

AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acids which are essentially exfoliating agents derived primarily from sugary fruits. AHA’s work to gently peel away the top layer of skin and help even out skin tone. They’re also great for shrinking large pores and lessening fine lines.

AHA represents a variety of different acids, so keep an eye out for lactic acid, malic acid and glycolic acid as these will be the most common.

The percentage of AHA’s in skincare varies from product to product of course, so a trial may be necessary first if you have sensitive skin. If irritation occurs, move on to a lesser percentage. If the acid element turns you off, just know that there will never be enough to do any damage.

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Vitamin A

All vitamins used in skincare act as antioxidants, which rid our skin of free radicals that speed up the ageing process. However, there are subtle shifts to how each vitamin functions in our skincare and their myriad benefits.

Vitamin A is kind of a miracle for anti-ageing and those prone to breakouts. By speeding up our skin’s cellular reproduction and function, vitamin A can help improve our complexion overall. It’s not exactly unlike an exfoliant actually, however this is probably not the best descriptor. Vitamin A also helps keep sebum production in check, which is responsible for outbreaks of the dreaded acne.

There is one major caveat to using vitamin A and that is it can make your dermis much more sensitive to UVA and UVB rays. Make sure you pack in a SPF50+

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BHA

Not unlike AHA’s, BHA’s are also basking in the notoriety the internet has provided. BHA stands for Beta Hydroxy Acid and work in a similar way to AHA’s, only where AHA”s are water soluble, BHA’s are oil based.

BHA’s are used in skincare to provide chemical exfoliation, albeit packing a little more punch than AHA's, able to penetrate right into the pore and clean them out from the inside.

BHA's represent a variety of different acids, the most popular of which is salicylic acid.

Using a BHA more than twice a week is not recommended due to their strength. BHA’s are also great for treating acne and reducing skin inflammation and redness.

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Vitamin c

Before you ask, no, squeezing orange juice on your face is not going to cut it.

Vitamin C is almost (ALMOST) the perfect skincare product. Being an antioxidant, vitamin C fights free radicals in the skin to improve cell regeneration. That’s a given. Where vitamin C shines is in its ability to even out skin tone, smooth rough skin and assist in the reduction of acne scars.

Vitamin C also acts to boost our skins collagen production which is essential for keeping our skin plump and youthful.

The only thing to keep in mind with vitamin C is that it is highly unstable in skincare, so it’s often packaged with ingredients like silicone to keep it stable and effective. It can also make our skin more sensitive, so avoid other strong acids if you are including in your skincare routine.

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caffiene

Please refer to my point above about tipping a morning beverage on your face and apply here.

Caffeine is included in skincare to provide a soothing effect and is useful in de-puffing the dermis. Look out for caffeine in your eye creams to help waken up (heh) the under-eye area.

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vitamin e

A little less ingrained in the skincare zeitgeist as vitamin C, vitamin E is nonetheless useful when applied topically.

You will be getting all the free radical fighting properties of other antioxidants like vitamin A and C, but where vitamin E shines is in its ability to moisturise and protect the outer layer of the skin, especially in regard to sun protection. Now, I’m not suggesting swapping out a vitamin E for and SPF, but every little bit helps.

Vitamin E is also great for helping to reduce scaring.

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glycerine

Glycerine’s inclusion in skincare is manifoldly beneficial and should be the first thing you look for if you’ve got dry skin. Glycerine in skincare helps to draw out moisture from our deeper skin layers to the skin surface and in the retention of moisture that we apply topically, which for you, means no more dry skin.

Glycerine also helps improve our skins natural barrier against harmful irritants.

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hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid has been enjoying a well-earned spot at the top of every skin care lovers list for some time now and it would seem that this fad is going nowhere. But what does it actually do?

Hyaluronic acid has a similar effect to glycerine in that it helps our skin retain moisture, keeping our skin plump and fresh, which is what you want by the way. While hyaluronic acid is produced naturally in the body, applying HA topically is wildly beneficial for reversing a dry complexion when used in conjunction with a moisturiser.

Hyaluronic acid is also great for reversing the signs fine lines for exactly this reason.

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Jojoba oil

Jojoba, pronounced ho-ho-ba (I know, crazy) is a pretty common ingredient found in a lot of skincare, but its benefits are often overlooked. Chiefly among its benefits is its ability to deeply moisturise, so keep an eye out if your skin is a little parched. With a viscosity less than that of most face oils, jojoba goes on to the skin easily and absorbs super quickly, making it a great choice for those worried about adding more oil to an already oily complexion.

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lanolin

Lanolin has had a bad rap historically but let us set the record straight. Lanolin is a heavy-duty work horse in skin care and hair care, acting dually to protect and lock in moisture. Derived from the wool of sheep, lanolin is similar to hyaluronic in its ability to retain a great deal of moisture in the skin.

Word to the wise, err to the more premium side when looking for concoctions with lanolin. As the purification process requires a little more heft, requiring chemical intervention, the less expensive variants often cut corners with cheap chemicals which irritate the skin.

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niacinimide

A personal favourite at MISTR, niacinamide is found in a majority of topical skin care treatments these days. Close to a cure-all, niacinamide can be used for a host of different skin conditions ranging from hyperpigmentation to acne. Dark spots be gone!

Applied topically, niacinamide is also great at keeping the skin healthy and moisturised when used in conjunction with a moisturiser.

One of the major benefits of niacinamide is its suitability for most skin types with extremely low irritation risk.

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peptides

It sounds cool and all, applying a peptide to the skin, but what do they do?

Peptides are naturally occurring protein ‘building blocks’ which form the basis of other naturally occurring healthy skin essentials like collagen. Peptides are necessary for healthy skin function and without them, we start ageing very quickly. The best use of a peptide is in wrinkle prevention and an improvement in skin firmness and elasticity. Look out for peptides if anti-ageing is something that gets you jazzed.

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prickly pear seed oil

This one might sound a little woo woo, but trust us, prickly pear seed oil is a gift from the skincare gods. Fast absorbing and extremely light, prickly pear seed oil wears extremely well for those averse to other face oils for their greasy feeling. Prickly pear as an emollient is also extremely effective, and with its packed in nutrients like vitamin E and K, you’re also soothing and protecting the dermis. Prickly pear is a new favourite among anti-ageing enthusiasts for its ability to refine fine lines and stimulate cell regeneration.

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squalane/squalene

Which is which? Who’s who? Well, technically, squalane is a derivative of squalene, so let’s start with squalene.

Squalene, like collagen, is naturally occurring in the skin and acts as a natural moisturiser. Neat! Like collagen though, squalene production lessens as we age so it becomes more and more important to put the moisture back on. This is where a product with squalane (the stable variant used in skincare) comes in so handy. Skincare that utilises squalane is able to mimic our skins natural esters for a much gentler absorption making it the perfect choice for those with sensitive skin. Moisture up!

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zinc

You’ve probably been using this since you were a kid anyway, but with our sun, this one bears a refresher course.

Zinc is a mineral that is found in abundance in the body, especially in our skin cells, and is required for a number of skin functions. Adding zinc as a topical treatment will provide the obvious benefit of sun protection, but it can also be used to soothe the skin. Zinc is great at warding off potential acne flare ups by regulating the inflammation in that area and increasing cell production and turnover for overall less oil. Cool, huh?

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