Health Topics

Understanding the Ingredients in Skin Care Products

With new skin products introduced daily, the differences among the products can be hard to understand. View the listing below to learn more about the ingredients in your favorite skin products, as well as those that aren’t familiar to you. Always check with your dermatologist before starting a new skincare regimen.

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAS)

  • Over-the-counter skin care products containing alpha-hydroxy acids have become increasingly popular over the last five years. Creams and lotions with alpha-hydroxy acids may help with fine lines, irregular pigmentation and age spots, and may help decrease enlarged pores. Side effects of alpha-hydroxy acids include mild irritation and sun sensitivity.

Beta-Hydroxy Acid (Salicylic Acid)

  • Salicylic acid exfoliates skin and can improve the texture and color of the skin. It penetrates oil-laden hair follicle openings and, as a result, also helps with acne. Studies have shown that salicylic acid is less irritating than skin care products containing alpha-hydroxy acids, while providing similar improvement in skin texture and color.


  • Skin care products containing hydroquinone are popularly referred to as bleaching creams or lightening agents. These skin care products are used to lighten hyperpigmentation, such as age spots and dark spots related to pregnancy or hormone therapy.

Kojic Acid

  • Kojic acid is a more recent remedy for the treatment of pigment problems and age spots. Discovered in 1989, kojic acid has a similar effect as hydroquinone. Kojic acid is derived from a fungus, and studies have shown that it is effective as a lightening agent, inhibiting production of melanin.


  • This is a derivative of vitamin A, and you will see that a lot of skin care products contain retinol. Retinol’s stronger counterpart is tretinoin, which is the active ingredient in Retin-A and Renova. If your skin is too sensitive to use Retin-A, retinol is an excellent alternative. Retinol is proven to improve mottled pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, skin tone and color and your skin’s hydration levels.

L-Ascorbic Acid

  • This is the only form of vitamin C that you should look for in your skin care products. Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that is proven to stimulate the synthesis of collagen as well, which is essential since your body’s natural collagen production decreases as you age.

Hyaluronic Acid

  • Skin care products containing this substance are often used in conjunction with vitamin C products to assist in effective penetration. Hyaluronic acid is often touted for its ability to "reverse" or stop aging. This is because the substance occurs naturally (and quite abundantly) in humans and animals, and is found in young skin, other tissues and joint fluid. Skin care products with hyaluronic acid are most frequently used to treat wrinkled skin.

Copper Peptide

  • Copper peptide is often referred to as the most effective skin regeneration product, even though it’s only been on the market since 1997. Studies have shown that copper peptide promotes collagen and elastin production, and also acts as an antioxidant. Clinical studies have found that copper peptides also remove damaged collagen and elastin from the skin and scar tissue.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

  • Alpha-lipoic acid is a newer, ultra-potent antioxidant that fights future skin damage and helps repair past damage. It is soluble in water and oil. Due to this quality, it is believed that alpha-lipoic acid can provide the greatest protection against damaging free radicals when compared with other antioxidants. Alpha-lipoic acid diminishes fine lines, gives skin a healthy glow and boosts levels of other antioxidants, such as vitamin C.

DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol)

  • DMAE is the reason fish is referred to as brain food. It is present in anchovies, salmon and sardines, boosting the production of acetylcholine, which is important for proper mental functions. DMAE in skin care products shows remarkable effects when applied topically to skin, resulting in the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles.