A Beginner’s Guide to Skincare Ingredients

Why This Matters 

We consider skincare a big part of health and wellness. Nobody has perfect skin, especially not in college; but, it is important to educate and empower people to learn more about it. 

We’ve created this article as an ongoing project to compile and list some ingredients that are important to know about when it comes to skincare,. You’ll see these ingredients in everything from cleansers to pill supplements, so staying aware of what all these things are is something we can help you with.

You don’t have to read through this entire list, unless you want to. Consider it a reference guide more than anything. Hope you enjoy!


Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA)

Exfoliating ingredients that help break down dead skin cells to leave the skin brightened. They can be made synthetically or from milk and fruit sugars. AHAs come in different types of products and different forms. So definitely do some research to find what’s right for you.

Sensitizing: No, but can make skin sensitive if used incorrectly

Use: Can be used daily but will need to be added gradually

Form: Topical Application

Benzoyl Peroxide

This is an extremely popular way to treat acne. It is available over the counter to kill bacteria and keep the skin free of acne-inducing bacteria. 

Sensitizing: Yes (But it can depend on concentration)

Use: 1-2 times a day depending on form and your skin’s sensitivity

Form: Topical Application

Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

Salicylic acid is the most well known BHA. These ingredients penetrate pores to clear blackheads and acne. They are also oil-soluble – which means they can only dissolve in oil. So, BHA products are mostly products made with hydrating oils. 

Sensitizing: No

Use: Designed for daily use

Form: Topical Application

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

A naturally produced ingredient that can also be applied topically to have a soothing antioxidant effect. 

Sensitizing: No

Use: Can be used daily

Form: Topical Application


This is a protein that our bodies naturally make and that has been at the center of attention for its supplemental properties. Collagen is said to help lock moisture into the skin and increase skin elasticity. 

So if you’re worried about your skin just tearing like a piece of tissue paper then collagen is for you! Just kidding, skin elasticity is what allows the skin to snap back to its original shape. Moms in Calabasas swear by it. So if they say so, can we even argue?

Note: collagen comes in different forms and making sure you’re buying the right one for your skin is important. Collagen peptides are probably what you’re looking for. Also, they are derived from animals; so if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or eating animal products weirds you out – collagen may not be what you want. 

Sensitizing: No

Use: Can be used daily

Form: Supplement

Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

This is an ingredient that is known to be effective with most skin types to help restore, hydrate and protect the skin. HA is a naturally occurring part of skin tissue, but products that contain HA supplement your existing hyaluronic acid.

Sensitizing: No

Use: Can be used daily

Form: Topical application or Supplement


This is a form of Vitamin B-3 known to help retain moisture in the skin. Retaining moisture is not only beneficial if you have dry skin, but it can also help regulate oil production. It’s an all arounder. 

Sensitizing: No

Use: Can be used daily

Form: Supplement or Topical application (for more direct targeting)


This is a popular ingredient for anti-aging products and to treat acne. It penetrates the middle-layer of the skin and boosts the production of elastin and collagen to reduce the appearance of fine lines (aka wrinkles). This may not matter too much right now, but using retinol could be playing the long game. Additionally, it helps keep pores unclogged to treat acne and scarring. 

Sensitizing: No

Use: Should be used daily for best results

Form: Topical applications

Vitamin C

Vitamin C does a couple things for your skin. First, it “promotes collagen production, which has the potential to thicken the dermis, diminish fine lines, and is essential for firm, youthful skin”. It is also an antioxidant and can help protect from damage.

Sensitizing: No

Use: Can be used daily

Form: Supplement or Topical Application

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