Skincare ingredients explained…

Baffled by scientific skincare jargon? Don’t know your AHAs from your BHAs?! Nervous about using Retinol?! Well, we’re here to help! Here are our Verymakeupmad definitions and explanations of some of the most common (and often misunderstood) ingredients used in skincare.

AHAs – Alpha Hydroxy Acids, such as citric acid, lactic acid and most notably, glycolic acid, work to chemically exfoliate (as opposed to manually exfoliate) the skin as they gently dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells. They don’t penetrate deep below the surface of the skin, but AHA products will brighten your complexion, repair ageing skin, fade sun spots, work on breakouts and improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Always use an SPF when using acids. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: Pixi Glow Tonic, from £10

BHAs – there’s actually only one BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid), and it’s more commonly known as salicylic acid. Unlike its AHA cousins, this acid can penetrate further into the skin, and works to reduce oiliness and excess sebum production. Making it a great ingredient for spot/acne prone skin! Plus, it’s less irritating than AHAs, if you suffer from sensitivity. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: Murad Age Reform AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser, £38


CBD – CBD (Cannabidoil) is definitely having a moment. This non-psychoactive compound is derived from the Cannabis plant and has been proven to heal, rejuvenate, and calm skin, as well as boost moisture levels and control sebum. There’s no skin it can’t help. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: MGC Derma Moisturizing Day Cream SPF30, £65

CERAMIDES – these are lipids that hold skin cells together, forming the skin’s protective barrier and helping skin to retain moisture. They’re an important ingredient in helping your skin look and feel its best and defending it against pollution and UV rays. If you have dry, rough, irritated or eczema prone skin, ceramides will quickly become your best friends. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: Cerave Hydrating Cleanser, £9

HYALURONIC ACID – this ingredient has become a buzzword in skincare in recent years. It occurs naturally in the skin and has the ability to draw in and retain water (a single molecule can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water). As we age, hyaluronic acid levels deplete and skin becomes drier. Therefore, introducing it to your skincare will result in plumped up, hydrated, smooth skin with less signs of dehydration or fine lines. Yes please! VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK : The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5 Hydration Support Formula, £5.90


NIACINAMIDE – Otherwise known as Vitamin B3, niacinamide is something of a multi-tasker, getting to work on lots of skincare woes. A water-soluble vitamin, it reduces inflammation and redness, visibly improves and diminishes enlarged pores, smooths the skin’s surface and evens out skin tone, fading sun spots and hyperpigmentation. Use twice a day for best results. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: Glossier Super Pure, £24

PEPTIDES – these are fragments of proteins that send signals to the proteins naturally occurring in the skin (such as collagen and elastin) to be reinforced and to produce more. So if you’re concerned about loss of firmness and want supple skin with more ‘bounce’, then try a peptide product. There are countless peptides in skincare… look out for ingredients that end with “peptide” or start with “palmitoyl”. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster,£47

RETINOL – Don’t underestimate the power of retinol. This Vitamin A derivative is the ultimate anti-aging ingredient, resurfacing the skin by speeding up cell turnover and enhancing collagen production. It tackles lines and wrinkles like no other ingredient and acne, scars and dark spots can also be dramatically improved. Be careful when using retinol as it’s extremely potent and can result in dryness and irritation… and some sensitive skins can’t tolerate it at all. We suggest you start with a product with 0.3% concentration a few times a week and build up to a higher amount. Apply to cleansed skin at night before your moisturiser and ALWAYS use an SPF when using retinol products. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: Skinceuticals 0.3, £65


SPF – When choosing your sun protection factor, be sure to cover all bases with a Broad Spectrum that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays (think A-geing) can penetrate deep into the thickest layer of our skin, causing permanent damage, wrinkles, loss of elasticity and premature ageing. UVB rays (think B-urn) are far shorter and responsible for redness and sunburn and play a key role in the development of skin cancer. The SPF number is an indication of how long the product will protect you for. So wearing SPF30, it will take you 30 times longer to burn than if you were wearing no sunscreen at all. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: Heliocare Fluid Cream, £27

VITAMIN C – This powerful antioxidant (also known as Ascorbic Acid) protects and detoxifies the skin and is an anti-ageing powerhouse. It boosts collagen production (hello plumper, firmer skin!) and improves signs of sun damage and ageing while protecting against further damage. Using Vitamin C in your skincare will brighten the skin to restore its youthful glow and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. Use it daily, under your moisturiser and always wear SPF too. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: Lixirskin Vitamin C Paste, £32

VITAMIN F – Otherwise known as linoleic acid, this is an essential fatty acid that strengthens and restores the barrier function of the skin. Find it in essential oils such as chia, argan and rosehip. In skincare, vitamin F nourishes stressed, dry skin, is an anti-inflammatory and can also help to reduce breakouts. VERYMAKEUPMAD TOP PICK: Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil, £24

As always, please get in touch for bespoke beauty advice and recommendations. If you fancy introducing any of these ingredients into your skincare routine, we can suggest the right products for you.

Love and great skin always,

Vikki & Mala xx

PS. Don’t forget, if you’re shopping on LookFantastic to use our 20% discount code VERYMAKEUP20 at checkout.

With any new skincare products, always remember to patch test first!

3 Comments
  1. Incredible read!
    Feel like I need to reread at least 3 times for it to actually sink in, however, fantastic explanation as always.
    You two truly are a Godsend.

    Thank you a million times.

    ♥️ VeryMaskeupMad♥️💄🥂😘

    1. Hi Carla
      Thank you so much for the lovely comment. As always our shared love of beauty brings us together and we love how ingredients make the products… so let’s get choosing the right products for our specific skins
      Love and brilliant ingredients
      M & V xx

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