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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Effective ingredients for beauty products

8 tried-and-tested ingredients in your beauty products
The Straits Times - March 9, 2012
By: Karen Tee
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Effective ingredients for beauty products -- PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

There may have been a slew of health scares related to beauty products and ingredients, but some have been proven to work. Here are eight tried-and-tested ingredients that address various needs.


This is a form of vitamin A that is medically proven to stimulate cell renewal and result in younger-looking skin.

It improves skin tone and reduces the appearance of pigmentation spots. It is also commonly used to treat acne-prone skin as it encourages cell turnover.

Doctors may prescribe tretinoin, which is a stronger form of retinol. It is a prescription cream because it may cause redness and peeling in some patients.


Ceramides are naturally occurring fatty substances, called lipids, that form part of the structure of the skin's surface.

They help retain moisture in the skin and keep it smooth and glowing.

Ceramides in creams are absorbed by the skin to replace the depleted ceramides in the skin's structure, thus helping to repair the skin.

They are used to soothe and heal dry, damaged and sensitive skin.

They can be used to relieve the itch caused by eczema, but those with acne-prone skin should avoid them as they may be too rich.


Antioxidants are the molecules that neutralise free radicals, naturally occurring particles that are one of the major causes of DNA damage.

DNA damage results in the signs of skin ageing, which include wrinkles, pigmentation, skin discoloration and sagging skin.

Antioxidants form a protective barrier on the skin's surface to neutralise free radicals before they cause damage to the skin's cells.

Common antioxidants used in skincare products include vitamins C and E, idebenone, coenzyme Q10, niacinamide and green tea extract.

Hyaluronic acid

This gelatinous substance is a humectant, which absorbs and binds to water molecules, hence boosting the skin's moisture levels.

It sits on the surface of the skin to lock moisture in.

This film also helps to give the appearance of firmer, line-free skin.

When applied, it imparts a refreshing sensation to the skin, which makes it a popular ingredient in serums and moisturisers.

It is suitable for all skin types.

Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)

This is a naturally occurring acid found in plants, fruits and animals.

AHAs include citric, glycolic, malic and tartaric acids.

They are applied to the skin to dissolve the top layers of the skin to reveal younger looking skin.

The skin is stimulated to produce new skin cells in this way.

They are used to remove blemishes and pigmentation on the surface of the skin, and also reduce the appearance of pores and wrinkles.

Off-the-shelf exfoliators typically contain AHA in weak enough concentrations to be tolerated by most skin types, although those with sensitive skin should avoid these products.

A doctor can also perform a peel using a higher concentration of AHA.


These are short chains of amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of proteins.

They are small enough to be absorbed by the skin and can trigger cells into action.

Although peptides have many functions, the ones used in skincare activate the cells into producing collagen.

Collagen is a protein found in the skin that helps it maintain its plumpness for a wrinkle-free appearance.

Salicylic acid

This acid is commonly used to treat mild acne.

It works by exfoliating the top layers of the skin's cells to promote cell turnover, similar to the way AHAs work.

It is not as strong as benzoyl peroxide, which makes it suitable for milder cases of acne.

It can also be applied to patches of skin which are plagued with small bumps.

Benzoyl peroxide

The exact action of benzoyl peroxide is not known but it is believed to have antiseptic properties, that is, it kills bacteria.

It also helps to dry out acne pustules.

As it is a stronger chemical compared to salicylic acid, it should be used only on more stubborn bumps.

Over-the-counter creams are generally well tolerated by most skin types, but doctors can prescribe stronger formulations.

Use this only for spot treatment, instead of spreading it over a patch, as it can irritate the skin.



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