The ABCs of Skincare

Ok, I know we’re all guilty of this but I used to always just buy products just because someone on Instagram, or my friend, told me to—not because of the product’s ingredients.

That was simply because it was easier. I didn’t know what any acids or antioxidants actually did, so why would I care as long as it worked? That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but my skincare was really always in other people’s hands—or trend-based—until I actually took the time to learn the ABC’s of skincare ingredients and discovered what my skin really needed.

My skin is combination skin, which means I need a little bit of everything. Studying these ingredients taught me that if I use a product with retinol the same night as I use a product with AHAs, it’s very likely I’m going to irritate the hell out of my skin. It really helps me pick and choose products based on what ingredients mix well together and, of course, better target my skin’s biggest issues.


Found in Maelove Glow Maker 

Work to protect skin against free radicals and outdoor pollutants. They’re the little guys that fight damages that come from ‘urban air’, sunlight and pollution. These factors normally wreak havoc on your skin’s anti-aging capability and allow fine lines, wrinkles, and dark/age spots to form.


Found in Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

One of my absolute favorite antioxidants that brightens and evens out skin tone. It can prevent and treat sun damage while rebuilding the collagen in your skin. A little word of advice for those that are just learning about vitamin C: It doesn’t typically play very nicely in the sandbox with other acids and antioxidants, so it’s important to wait one-two minutes after applying a vitamin C serum and then continue with the rest of your routine. Vitamin C also is most effective when it’s mixed with vitamin E, which is why you’ll often see the combination of these in your vitamin C product’s ingredients like the cult favorite, Skin Ceuticals C E Ferulic Acid Serum. 


Found in Skinceutical’s C E Ferulic 

Protects your skin against damage from urban air and will regenerate skin that has already been overexposed to damaging outdoor factors like pollutants and sun. It helps to slow the aging process–who doesn’t love that?


 Found in Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinimide Booster 

So for this ingredient, if you try to Google it yourself, you’re bound to find a cluster of answers as to what this miracle-worker actually does. But that’s only because it does a lot! Before I go into it, remember that niacinimide is a form of vitamin B, so when you go to look at the ingredients and it’s not there, try its alias. In short, it helps with skin elasticity and helps improve the overall appearance of your skin. It helps fade the appearance of large pores, reduces redness and brightens skin, all while improving the health of the skin’s barrier. Niacinimide also works well with AHAs/BHAs and retinol, and it’s great for people with rosacea.


Found in Olay Regenerist Whip Light Face Moisturizer 

Signal cells that tell amp up collagen production in your skin. More peptides=more collagen=less wrinkles. 


Found in Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum

Known as the ultimate moisturizer, hyaluronic acid (HA) helps skin attract and retain moisture like a sponge. What sold me? HA is commonly used in fillers in case that gives you any idea of what this plumping acid will do. Kim Zolciak even gets hyaluronic acid injections in her earlobes, I read so at least it’s workin’ for somebody!



Found in Sunday Riley Good Genes

Examples include glycolic, lactic, malic, tartaric, and citric acid. When you think of an AHA, think of it as an exfoliator just to keep it simple. They initiate new cell production and combat wrinkles, fine lines, and pigmentation!

Tip: If you have sensitive skin, look for acids with amino acids as an additional ingredient. Amino acids slow the penetration of acids into the skin to make them gentler.


Found in Pixi Glow Tonic 

You know when people talk about AHAs and you just nod in agreement with no idea what they’re talking about? Well, glycolic acid is one of them. But it shouldn’t be—it’s the superstar of the acids and is probably already in your routine without you even knowing it! The ultimate exfoliator. Glycolic acid helps plump and smooth the skin’s appearance by boosting collagen. It’s one of the smallest molecule of all acids, so it’s most easily absorbed by the skin, which has made it become crazy popular in recent years. If you want glowing skin, you need to have glycolic acid in your routine.

Tip: If glycolic acid is too rough on your skin, try one of its counterpart AHAs like lactic acid because it has a bigger molecule size and doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the skin, which causes less irritation. If you’re pregnant, it’s best to avoid this bad boy. 


Found in Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

Another member of the AHA family, but this acid is gentler than its glycolic counterpart. It’s one of my favorites because it exfoliates the skin while moisturizing, so you get the best of both worlds. This acid greatly helps with discoloration and fine lines, and it balances oily skin.


Found in Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel 

Beta Hydroxy Acid (i.e. Salicylic Acid). It exfoliates dead skin cells and is actually perfect for people with oily skin. These are not safe for pregnancy, though, while AHAs are. BHAs are famous for improving acne-prone skin.


Found in Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Known as acne’s arch nemesis, salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory and an antibacterial chemical exfoliant from the BHA family. It targets and unclogs pores better than anything else. 


Found in Resurface by Shani Darden Retinol Reform Peel  

Encourages cell turnover, helps fine lines/wrinkles, clears pimples, and fade the marks (and any other dark/age spots) they leave behind. Retinol and I have had a very rocky relationship. One minute I loved it, the next I hated it. That’s because every time my skin would get reactive to it—meaning it would start to peel or look really dry—I would stop. But what I later learned is that you’re supposed to power through that crappy time to really see results and reap the benefits of what is considered “gold” in the skincare world. The symptoms I had at first totally went away after using it for about three weeks. Also, retinol will increase your skin’s sun sensitivity, so make sure you’re wearing sunscreen when you use retinol, or avoid using it before you know you’re going in the sun.

Tip: If you’re using a retinol serum a few times a week, alternate days as with any exfoliants—both chemical (AHAs, BHAs, peels, acids) and physical (scrubs)! Definitely avoid if you’re preggo.