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Top Skin Care Ingredients to Know

When you're just starting your training to become an esthetician, you might look at a list of skincare ingredients and feel overwhelmed. What does each one do and how will you know which ones to recommend to or use with your clients?

When it comes to skincare, some ingredients are better than others and are more commonly used than others. Whether you're looking to treat the signs of aging or fight acne, here are the top ingredients to know.

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA)

Skincare products with AHA are available over-the-counter or at a professional spa. Usually, the difference between over-the-counter products and professional ones with AHA is the strength of the acid. The stronger the acid, the more effective it will be but more care needs to be used when applying it to prevent irritation or side effects.

Ascorbic Acid

Sometimes labeled as L-ascorbic acid on ingredients lists, ascorbic acid is vitamin C, a type of antioxidant. When applied to the skin, L-ascorbic acid works to increase the production of the protein collagen, which can help reduce the appearance of lines and scars on the skin. Vitamin C in skin care products can help to reduce damage caused by the sun and can help to fade dark spots, too.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is often the active ingredient in cleanser and lotions designed to treat acne. The ingredient helps to fight acne in two ways. First, it's an antibacterial ingredient. Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that cause many types of acne.

Second, it helps to clean the pores on your skin, removing dead skin cells and oil that can clog the pores and lead to pimples.

Creams and cleansers that contain benzoyl peroxide often contain a concentration of the ingredient ranging from 2.5% to 10%. Many people see an improvement in their acne after using a product with a 2.5% concentration. The lower the concentration of benzoyl peroxide, the less skin irritation is likely to develop.

Hyaluronic Acid

Funnily enough, although it has the word "acid" in its name, hyaluronic acid is one ingredient on this list that isn't actually an acid. It's a carbohydrate that the body naturally makes. Hyaluronic acid provides cushioning and lubrication to the joints, eyes, and skin. As people get older, production of it decreases, which can lead to signs of aging such as thinner-looking skin and wrinkles.

Hyaluronic acid is often the main ingredient in dermal fillers, which plump up lines and wrinkles or restore lost volume to the cheeks and lips. The ingredient is also used in topical products to increase the hydrating and moisturizing effects of those products.


Retinoids are forms of vitamin A. They also happen to be the ingredients with the most scientific backing behind them. Retinoids can help treat acne, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, and wrinkles. Retinol is a type of retinoid that is often found in over-the-counter moisturizers and serums that promise to fight the signs of aging. Other types of retinoids are available by prescription to treat a variety of skin concerns.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a type of beta-hydroxy acid. It's found in cleansers and lotions that help to treat acne. Since it helps to exfoliate the skin, it's also used in products designed to make the skin look brighter and more refreshed. Some people find that salicylic acid is less irritating to their skin compared to AHAs.

As a licensed esthetician, you'll be able to recommend the right skincare products and the right ingredients to help your clients reach their goals. To learn more about becoming an esthetician, contact Cortiva Institute Massage Therapy and Skin Care Schools to get information today.


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