The chemistry behind beauty – Part 1


As and when I express my passion for skincare with my girl-friends, I realise that they have a hard time figuring out the intricacies, the jargon or the method to its madness. Personally, when it comes to skincare, I believe that knowledge is empowering. Which is why, I’m going to share with you TOP TEN BEAUTY BUZZ WORDS over the course of two weeks, that can help you in making a call the next time you’re on the look out for a new skincare routine.

Retin A & Retinol

These two get intertwined A LOT. First thing you ought to know is that Retinol is a natural form of vitamin A, whilst Retin-A is a derivative of retinoic acid, a synthetic by-product of vitamin A, and considered pharmaceutical and available only on prescription. Retinol is specifically used in low quantities (Not more than 0.075-1%) in skincare to tackle anti-ageing and improve collagen production. On the other hand, Retin-A is available pharmaceutically for serious skin issues like acne. If you’re only purpose is to aid your skin’s natural cell renewal process, I’d reckon to start using Retinol every other night, it can be drying, but the results are evident in a month or two. Always consult a dermatologist if you’re suitable for Retin-A or not.

Suitability: All skin types except sensitive

Hyaluronic Acid

Dreaming of nourished and plump skin? Well, this is your miracle worker. Hyaluronic Acid is all about that moisture and in reality not acidic at all. In fact, this acid is already present in our joints, nerves, hair and eyes as a moderating and lubricating agent. However, as we grow old our body’s ability to rejuvenate its Hyaluronic supply reduces and thus dry, crackly skin is the result. In skincare, this acid really aids to lock in the moisture and keep the skin soft, supple and intensely fed. One myth that follows this ingredient is that it holds anti-ageing properties. IT DOES NOT. The only thing it can do with fine lines and wrinkles is to keep them hydrated and nothing more.

Suitability: All skin types except oily skin.

Salicylic Acid

If you have suffered with acne, chances are, this product is very familiar to you. With this one a lot can go wrong if not used sparingly. It works by increasing the moisture in the skin and melting the material that causes the skin cells to stick together ensuring they shed (including blemishes, warts and acne). Which is why it is preferred to use this ingredient after a consultation, but, if you were nosy to try out, I’d reckon going for a product that has minimal quantities, enough to work but not enough to cause a reaction.

Suitability: Acne prone skin/ problematic skin

AHAs & BHAs: Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acids are both chemical exfoliants commonly used in skincare. The only difference in two is that AHAs are only water soluble, thus they lay on the skin and do not penetrate through the pores; BHAs on the other hand are lipid soluble and require fat (including oil) to melt into the skin and thus can exfoliate inside out. BHAs are efficient for oily skin, blackheads and whiteheads, whilst, AHAs help in dealing with sun damage proficiently.

Suitability: All skin types with specific problems mentioned above.

Glycol Lactic Acid

This one is an extension of AHAs and is again very useful in chemical peels. Because of its penetration properties, it is used in a lot of specialised as well as at-home skincare products to help flake away dry skin and keep the outer layer smooth and radiant. It is specifically used to tackle wrinkles, scarring and hyperpigmentation. Once applied, glycolic acid instantaneously reacts with the top layer of the epidermis, weakening the binding properties of the lipids that hold the dead skin cells together, exposing living skin cells only.

Suitability: All skin types except sensitive skin

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Published by

Heena Mak

I believe in changing mindsets, changing the world, not with the power of a sword, but with the power of a word...

4 thoughts on “The chemistry behind beauty – Part 1”

  1. Loved this! Since I started using moisturizers with hyaluronic acid for my face and eye area (all from Cerave, very affordable), my skin is so much better. I also use salicylic acid lightly for my acne and it has been a miracle.

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