Ingredients Breakdown: Skincare Glossary

It’s all very well splashing out on expensive face creams, cleansers and toners, but how much do you really know about what’s in them? Just like you, I make most of my decisions about skincare based on what works for me, along with what feels and smells good, but it’s important to know just what you’re putting on your skin.

Image Credit @ Camilla Akrans for Vogue China

How many times have you read that a moisturiser is high in hyaluronic acid, or that a new product is paraben-free? Dozens, right? But do you really know what these terms mean? To help you get to grips with the products you’re using, I thought I’d start a skincare glossary, rounding up some of these key terms to help you better understand what you’re buying. We’ll start with five of the most common and go from there…

Image Credit @ Camilla Akrans for Vogue China

Skincare Glossary: 5 Key Terms


One of the absolute most popular ingredients in skincare products, an antioxidant is any ingredient that reduces free radical damage to the skin. Factors such as pollution, UV exposure and chemical exposure all cause free radicals to form in the skin. This can kick off a chain reaction that damages and eventually kills cells, leading to ageing and skin damage. Antioxidants neutralise the free radicals and stop the damage – so you can see why they’re so popular! Common antioxidants include Vitamins C & E.


You know it is one of the most common ways to hit pause on wrinkles, but what is it? Botox is the name given to the botulinum toxin injected into the skin to target facial wrinkles through paralysis of facial muscles. By freezing particular muscles, such as the ones that cause frown lines, wrinkles appear softened or even eliminated.

Image Credit @ Camilla Akrans for Vogue China


One of the biggest misconceptions in skincare is that collagen is an ingredient of some kind. In actual fact, collagen is a protein that makes up roughly 80% of your skin, and it’s what makes your skin appear smooth and firm. As it breaks down over time, the effects of ageing show, by some skincare ingredients such as retinol and peptides (we’ll get to those!) can help stimulate collagen production, thus improving the tone and texture of your skin.


You’ll see this hydrating ingredient in the majority of moisturisers and countless other skincare products. Glycerin is a ‘humectant’ meaning it reduces the loss of moisture by pulling moisture from the atmosphere to hydrate skin. Clever, right? It’s not expensive, so it’s a common choice in lots of creams.

Hyaluronic Acid

Another hydrating hero that you’ll hear being talked about a lot when it comes to luxury skincare products. This acid is found naturally in the skin, and can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, so it increases moisture levels and prevents dehydration.

Stay tuned for more glossary terms and let me know on social media if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to cover!

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