MISTR's Grooming Glossary: What's In Your Skincare?

Get to know your skincare.

When it comes to skincare and its attendant parts, there’s a lot to learn. While it might seem like there’s an entirely new language to learn should you be new to skincare, an understanding of its foundations will put you in good stead to take care of your one and only mug for years to come.

Not all skincare is created equally, so when shopping for new items, it will serve you well to employ a discerning eye and – at the very least – a foundational knowledge of what it is you’re actually buying.

Here is a list of MISTR’s critical ingredients to keep an eye out for.

AHA

While it may sound like a buzzword, AHAs are anything but a TikTok trend. Alpha Hydroxy Acids are essentially exfoliating agents primarily derived from sugary fruits. AHAs work to gently peel away the top layer of skin, helping to even out skin tone. AHAs are also great for reducing pore size and flattening fine lines.

AHAs encompass a variety of different acids: lactic acid, malic acid and glycolic acid are some of the most common. The percentage of an AHA ingredient will vary between products, so a word of warning for those with sensitive skin. If irritation occurs, opt for a product with a lower percentage.

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VITAMIN A

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

Vitamin A is particularly effective for those looking to harness its anti-ageing or anti-breakout benefits. By quickening our skin’s cellular reproduction and function, vitamin A can help improve our complexion overall. Vitamin A also helps keep sebum production in check - the skin’s naturally occurring oil, which can cause outbreaks.

There is one major caveat to using vitamin A. It can make your skin much more sensitive to UVA and UVB rays, so make sure you pack in a SPF50+.

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BHA

Not unlike AHAs, BHAs are also basking in the halo effect of internet buzz. BHA stands for Beta Hydroxy Acid and it works in a similar way to AHA. Where AHAs are water-soluble, BHAs are oil-based.

BHAs are used in skincare to provide chemical exfoliation, albeit with a little more punch than AHAs; BHAs are able to penetrate right into the pore and clean them out from the inside. BHAs are also great for treating acne and reducing skin inflammation and redness. BHAs represent a variety of different acids, the most popular of which is salicylic acid.

Using a BHA any more than twice a week is not recommended due to their strength.

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VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is almost the perfect skincare product. As an antioxidant, vitamin C fights free radicals in the skin to improve cell regeneration. 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 skin's collagen production, which is essential for keeping our skin plump.

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 it in your skincare routine.

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CAFFEINE

Caffeine is included in skincare to provide a soothing effect; it’s also useful in depuffing areas of the skin sensitive to inflammation. Look out for caffeine in your eye creams to help awaken the under-eye area.

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VITAMIN E

A little less ingrained in the skincare zeitgeist than vitamin C is, vitamin E is no less useful when applied topically. Vitamin E gives you all the free radical fighting properties of other antioxidants, but where it really shines is in its ability to moisturise and protect the outer layer of the skin, especially in regard to sun protection. We’re not suggesting swapping out a vitamin E for SPF, but every little bit helps. Vitamin E is also great for helping to reduce scarring.

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GLYCERINE

If you have dry skin, glycerine should be one of the first ingredients you look for in a product. Its inclusion will signal manifold potential benefits, as glycerine helps to draw out moisture from our skin’s deeper skin to the surface. It also aids in the retention of moisture that is applied topically, and also helps improve our skin's natural barrier against harmful irritants.

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HYALURONIC ACID

Hyaluronic acid has been enjoying a well-earned top spot on every skincare lover’s list for some time now and shows no signs of abating any time soon. Hyaluronic acid has a similar effect to glycerine in that it helps our skin retain moisture, keeping our skin plump and fresh.

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 moisturiser. Hyaluronic acid is also great for reversing the appearance of fine lines.

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JOJOBA OIL

Jojoba – pronounced ho-ho-ba– is a common ingredient found in many skincare products, but its benefits are often overlooked. Chiefly among them is its ability to deeply moisturise, so keep an eye out if your skin is a little parched. Less viscous than many face oils, jojoba is quickly and easily applied to and absorbed by the skin, 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 allow us to set the record straight. Lanolin is a heavy-duty workhorse in skin and hair care, acting to protect and lock in moisture. Derived from sheep's wool, lanolin is similar to hyaluronic acid in its ability to retain a great deal of moisture in the skin.

A word to the wise: err on the premium side when looking for concoctions with lanolin as an ingredient. The purification process requires a little more heft and chemical intervention, so less expensive variants often cut corners with abrasive chemicals which can irritate the skin.

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NIACINAMIDE

Niacinamide is found in a majority of topical skincare treatments these days. Close to a cure-all, niacinamide can be used for a host of different skin conditions ranging from hyperpigmentation to acne. Applied topically, niacinamide is also great for keeping the skin healthy and moisturized when used in conjunction with a moisturiser. One of the major benefits of niacinamide is its suitability for most skin types with low irritation risk.

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PEPTIDES

Peptides are naturally occurring proteins - ‘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 showing signs of ageing very quickly. Peptides are best used for wrinkle prevention and to improve skin firmness and elasticity.

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PRICKLY PEAR SEED OIL

Fast absorbing and extremely light, prickly pear seed oil wears extremely well for those who are averse to other face oils’ for their unctuous properties. Prickly pear is also an effective emollient, as it’s packed with nutrients like vitamin E and K that’ll soften the skin and protect it at the same time. Prickly pear is a favourite among anti-ageing enthusiasts for its ability to refine fine lines and stimulate cell regeneration.

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SQUALANE AND SQUALENE

Which is which? 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. Like collagen though, squalene production lessens as we age, when it becomes more and more important to restore and retain moisture.

This is where a product with squalane (the stable variant used in skincare) comes in handy. Skincare that utilises squalane is able to mimic our skin's natural esters for much gentler absorption, making it the perfect choice for those with sensitive skin.

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ZINC

Zinc is a mineral found in abundance in the body, especially in our skin cells, and it’s required for a number of skin functions. Adding zinc as a topical treatment will not only 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.

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