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The world of natural skincare ingredients can be a confusing one to wade through if you’re just getting started. While you might be thinking that going down the natural skincare route will mean blending your own moisturiser from avocado and honey and giving up all active ingredients, you’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of powerful active ingredients that are still on the table.
AHAs, or Alpha Hydroxy Acids, occur naturally in fruit, sugar cane and milk and they work wonders on your face. These guys, including glycolic, lactic and citric acids among others, are natural chemical exfoliants which penetrate the skin and work on clearing up pigmentation and congestion at a deeper level than your standard physical exfoliants.
They can be as gentle or as strong as you need them, but you should always start off with a mild dose before working up to more concentrated acids.
If you’re new to AHAs, start off with Kora Balancing Rose Mist, which has a gentle exfoliant derived from Hibiscus.
If you’re looking for something a little stronger, try the, rich in lactic acid; the Jane Scrivner Skinfoliate or NOTO Resurface scrub – these two have an awesome foursome effect with glycolic, lactic, malic and citric acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks that make up our body’s proteins, including the ever-important collagen. They are naturally present in the skin and are responsible for maintaining hydration, texture, resilience. To put it simply, these are what you need for skin that’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
While you really want to focus on getting these in your diet, when you need a boost, you can add a few natural ingredients to your skincare routine.
Look for things like spirulina, sunflower oil, dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline, marula oil, sea buckthorn, quinoa and prickly pear, to name just a few.
Beta Hydroxy Acids are similar to AHAs in that they exfoliate the skin, but there have a few key differences. While AHAs are water-soluble, BHAs are oil soluble so can be better suited to those with oily and problematic skin. BHAs also have skin-calming properties so can be a godsend for people with rosacea.
BHAs like salicylic acid and white willow park work to slough away those skin cells that are on their way out without drying the skin out.
Ceramides are lipids or fats and they make up about 50% of your skin’s composition. Ceramides are the glue that hold your skin cells together, providing a protective layer, locking in moisture and helping to limit damage from stressors like pollution and UV rays.
Gallic Acid (Like ferulic acid, a phenolic acid) is a type of phytochemical found in plants, particularly in the seeds, skins and leaves of plants like coffee, blueberries, plums, cherries, apples, grapes, kiwis and cereal grains.
Gallic acid minimises redness and inflammation and reduces pigmentation and dark spots, thereby encouraging a bright, even skin tone.
Check out Biologi’s Bd and Bk serums.
Gamma-linolenic acid is an omega 6 fatty acid (more on these later) which is a godsend for those of you with skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and other dry skin conditions. It can be found in plant seed oils like apricot kernel oil and evening primrose oil and is converted by the body into substances which reduce inflammation and cell growth and improve the barrier function of the skin.
Another naturally occurring substance in the skin and connective tissue, hyaluronic acid encourages cell renewal and has the ability to retain water so it will have your skin looking plump and wrinkle free in no time at all.
Look for sodium hyaluronate - the water soluble form of hyaluronic acid - and silver ear mushroom - a bio-hyaluronic.
If you’re looking to fight free radicals, prevent damage from UV rays and boost the effectiveness of the rest of your skin care (particularly Vitamins A, C and E), you’ll want to get some ferulic acid – the main hydroxocinnamic acid in your life.
This amazing little ingredient is a potent antioxidant which naturally occurs in the walls of plant cells as well as seeds of some fruits. Try Biologi Bf Serum - a single plant ingredient extract of finger lime which is a natural source of both ferulic acid and vitamin C.
This little wonder ingredient has been brought to fame in the beauty world recently as the best new ingredient to fight blemishes and inflammation, but it does so much more than that.
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 which encourages ceramide production and strengthens the skin barrier; thereby working on problems like fine lines and wrinkles, redness, oiliness and pigmentation. Try Saya's Super Serum.
Peptides are strings of amino acids in specific formations that work to produce collagen and elastin fibres in your skin. Collagen and elastin are obviously what we want for nice plump skin and to reduce the look of wrinkles and expression lines.
We all know omega acids are important in our diet, but did you know they play a huge role in keeping your skin in shape? Omega 3, 6 (remember our old friend gamma-linolenic acid) and 9, in particular, are the building blocks of the skin’s surface layers, so you want plenty of these for a bright, even complexion. They also reduce flakiness and dehydration, strengthen against environmental damage and deliver a healthy dose of antioxidants to your body.
If you’re not getting a good dose in your diet, look for ingredients like chia seed oil, rosehip oil, sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) oil and pomegranate seed oil in your skin care products.
We recommend Noto's Deep Serum.
Not technically a single ingredient, we know, but we couldn’t put together a list of skincare ingredients without including the most important skincare step there is: sun protection.
You can opt for a physical sunscreen which reflects UV rays, or a chemical sunscreen which absorbs UV rays before they can penetrate the dermis.
If you’re after a physical sunscreen, look for zinc oxide as the active ingredients; try Mother SPF.
If you prefer a chemical sunscreen, keep in mind that a single chemical will generally not be enough to protect from both UVA and UVB rays. Avobenzone and homosalate will absorb both UVA and UVB rays and can be found in Dr Jackson’s 01 Day Cream SPF 30.
Squalene is produced in our sebaceous glands and is one of the main components of sebum, while squalane is the hydrogenated version of it which keeps the ingredient stable in skincare products.
Sebum, and squalene, help to maintain and protect the skin barrier and can squeeze in between skin cells to make your skin feel smoother and softer. It also balances oil production and is a key ingredient to reduce signs of aging.
Ubiquinone is also known as CoQ10 or coenzyme Q. It occurs naturally in the body and helps to neutralise free radicals, encourages cell renewal and promotes collagen and elastin production.
Vitamin A comes in two forms: retinoids and carotenoids, both of which are converted to retinol by the liver. Retinol stimulates new skin cell production and is one of the most powerful skincare ingredients going around, helping to fight ageing, pigmentation, acne, dehydration and more.
It is found naturally in sunflower (helianthus annuus) oil, la odorata (violet) leaf extract, passionfruit seed oil and avocado oil.
While small amounts of vitamin B5 are found in most food, panthenol (or provitamin B5) is the alcohol form which is added to skincare products. It stimulates healing and is extremely moisturing, also helping to control flakiness, redness and inflammation.
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is naturally occurring in plants like bananas, sunflower seeds and chickpeas. It promotes cell renewal and can also help to regulate hormone imbalances to fight acne flare-ups.
It’s found in sunflower (helianthus annuus) oil, wakame and bilberry extract, so try Ere Perez Quandong Green Booster Serum.
Vitamin C is nothing short of a skincare powerhouse. It stimulates collagen production, diminishes fine lines, fights free radicals and is one of the best skin brightening ingredients on the block.
L-ascorbic acid is vitamin C in it’s pure form. The downside of L-ascorbic acid is that some people can find it irritating and it can also be unstable, becoming ineffective if it oxidises. A much more stable version, though less potent, is ascorbyl glucoside, a water soluble derivative, which is found in Kora Bright C Serum.
Apart from ascorbic acid, ascorbyl glucoside, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and glyceryl ascorbate, keep an eye out for ingredients like kakadu plum, davidson plum sunflower (helianthus annuus) oil, passionflower seed oil, desert lime, cranberry seed oil, pitaya, moringa, carrot seed oil, aloe and, of course, orange peel essential oil.
There are around eight kinds of Vitamin E, but tocopherol is the most common kind that you’ll find in your skincare. Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant, protecting skin from environmental stressors like pollution and UV rays. It also promotes cell regeneration so is great for healing scars and stretch marks.
Among many other products, it occurs in Maya Chia The Revitaliser Beautifying Supercritical Body Oil, or Heartwood Indian Sandalwood Face Oil.