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This Is What the Beauty Ingredients in Your Products Actually Do

True beauty junkies find deep thrills in bringing home bags of swag from their favourite shops. But for many of us, the fun stops when we rotate the box for inspection. What exactly are these ingredients in here, anyway? Tocopherol? Sodium hyaluronate? And are they safe? We took a closer look at some of the most commonly found ingredients and deciphered them for you so you can get your shop on with confidence.

Good Ingredients
Word on the Box Translation Definition
Retinyl Palmitate Vitamin A This is a form of vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that stimulates cellular turnover and slows collagen breakdown. This makes the ingredient perfect for fighting wrinkles and other signs of ageing. Since vitamin A comes in many forms with different strength levels, you might also find it listed as retinol or retinoic acid.
Ascorbyl Palmitate Vitamin C Vitamin C is a regenerative antioxidant that has skin-brightening effects. If this is one of the first ingredients listed on the box, use this product at night!
Tocopherol Vitamin E One of the best and most powerful antioxidants, vitamin E prevents dryness and signs of ageing, as well as fades scars and stretch marks.
Sodium Hyaluronate Hyaluronic Acid This ingredient can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, making it a popular ingredient for moisturising products. By hydrating your skin, hyaluronic acid can reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Camellia Sinensis Extract Green Tea Extract Green tea is a soothing, antioxidant-rich ingredient that can reduce the effects of sun damage.
Hamamelis Virginiana Extract Witch Hazel Extract This gentle astringent absorbs excess oil, tightens pores, and soothes skin.
Ubiquinone Coenzyme Q10 Ubiquinone is an antioxidant that regenerates collagen, smoothing fine lines, wrinkles, and creases.
Dimethicone Silicone-based polymer Any superslick primer you've ever used features this ingredient. It fills enlarged pores and wrinkles so your foundation can glide smoothly onto the skin's surface, resulting in an airbrushed effect.
Questionable Ingredients
Word on the Box Translation Definition
Methylparaben Preservative You'll find parabens in many of your beauty products to prevent them from spoiling. Studies on parabens remain murky, but they have been shown to have oestrogen-disrupting properties, which are linked to breast cancer. No concrete proof yet, but stay aware!
Dibutyl Phthalate Flexibility enhancer Phthalates add softness and shine to nail polish, hair sprays, and other products. Like parabens, phthalates have shown oestrogen-disrupting properties. Avoid these ingredients if you wish.
Fragrance Scent The FDA exempts this category from specificity, so there could be thousands of synthetic or allergy-provoking ingredients all grouped under the umbrella of fragrance. Beware if your skin is easily irritated or if you are allergy prone!
Benzoyl Peroxide Topical acne treatment BP is a very strong antibacterial ingredient. It is effective on blemishes, but can dry out skin and leave you raw, red, and flaky. It can also bleach your towels! Start any BP treatment at a low concentration, then work your way up to a higher dose.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate Surfactant (foaming agent) This ingredient is not majorly harmful, as many people believe. It can be irritating to the skin and eyes, however. Because it is a powerful cleansing ingredient, it thoroughly removes oils from hair. If you're concerned about stripping, consider an alternative product.
Aluminium Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly Antiperspirant This ingredient is in your deodorant and prevents excessive sweating by plugging the pores. There have been connections among aluminium, breast cancer, and Alzheimer's disease, but there is no conclusive evidence yet.
Propylene Glycol Stabiliser Propylene glycol prevents your products from melting or freezing when they're subjected to extreme temperatures. It also acts as a humectant to prevent moisture from evaporating off your skin. That said, it has been linked to irritation and allergies, so use items with this ingredient at your discretion.
Ingredients to Avoid
Word on the Box Translation Definition
Toluene Solvent Toluene acts as a thinner in many nail lacquers and can cause reproductive harm. That said, you need to be exposed to a lot of this ingredient to be at risk, but it's not worth the danger!
Methylene Glycol Formaldehyde This toxic ingredient can be found in hair treatments and irritates the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. It's also used to embalm corpses . . .
Mercurous Chloride Mercury This dangerous heavy metal can sometimes be found in skin care products from overseas, especially skin-lightening treatments. Mercury is extremely poisonous.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Mark Popovich
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