Skin Care Products for Men: A Comprehensive Glossary of Ingredients
Shopping for men’s skin care products? Check the ingredients with our comprehensive glossary!
Shopping for men’s skin care products should be its own sport. Before you begin your search, you need to put together a strategy of what you’re searching for in a moisturizer, face wash, face scrub—you get the idea.
To avoid putting the wrong things on your face, it’s essential that you have a cursory knowledge of each skin care ingredient. We’ve whipped up a comprehensive glossary of skin care ingredients and terms that will hopefully make things easier the next time you buy.
Quickly, here are three things you ought to know about skin care ingredients:
- Stay away from sulfates, phthalates and other skin-irritating ingredients.
- Keep in mind that acne-prone skin needs hydration, too.
- Although checking the ingredients on your skin care products takes time, it’s worth it for healthy, vibrant skin.
Aqua—Another name for water, usually used for consistency and to help deliver other ingredients to different areas on the skin.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)—A class of naturally- and synthetically-occurring compounds which exfoliate the top layers of the skin to make it appear smoother and more hydrated. AHAs are water soluble and can’t get as deep into the pores of the skin as beta hydroxy acids.
Argireline—A peptide commonly marketed as “Botox in a Jar” due to its anti-aging abilities. According to a 2018 study published in Scientific Reports, Argireline is effective at reducing wrinkles and is generally safer than Botox (see claim: “…found to be safer than Botox and effective in reducing wrinkles…”)
Benzoyl Peroxide (BP)—A medication used to reduce acne lesions by reducing the number of acne-causing bacteria. Although considered effective on mild to moderate acne, BP can cause excessive dryness and irritation of the skin.
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)—Unlike AHAs, beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble, which allows them to penetrate the natural oils of the skin for more effective results. Given that men generally have thicker, oilier skin, BHAs are extremely popular for use in men’s skin care products.
Caffeine—An alkaloid which is used in men’s eye creams for its ability to penetrate the skin barrier and reduce the appearance of bags, wrinkles and fine lines. According to a 2013 study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, caffeine has potent antioxidant properties and can stimulate microcirculation in the blood for a more even complexion (see claim: “…caffeine contained in cosmetics increases the microcirculation of blood in the skin…”)
Cetyl/Cetearyl Alcohol—Cetyl alcohol and its derivative, cetearyl alcohol, are fatty alcohols (the good alcohols) which are used as thickening agents in skin creams and moisturizers. They are non-irritating and can help deliver ingredients to the skin.
Comedogenic—Although not a skin care ingredient, the term “comedogenic” comes up often enough that every man should know what it means. Comedogenic refers to an ingredient’s susceptibility to cause blackheads and whiteheads (which are called comedones) by blocking pores of the skin.
Collagen—An essential protein consisting of amino acids that provide the skin with structure and strength. Degradation of collagen is often associated with wrinkles and fine lines.
Dimethicone—A form of silicone often used in oil-free moisturizers. Dimethicone is well known for its hydrating and protective abilities.
Elastin—An elastic protein found in connective tissue which allows the skin to return to its original shape after it has been stretched or contracted.
Flavonoids—A group of phytochemicals that are most commonly found in richly pigmented fruits and vegetables, as well as some nuts and seeds.
Fragrance—Be wary of this ingredient in skin care products. While synthetic fragrances are usually fine for sensitive skin, artificial fragrances have been known to cause allergic reactions.
Glycerin—A colorless, odorless liquid compound used for its hydrating properties. This beneficial skin care ingredient can attract moisture to the skin for maximum hydration.
Hyaluronic Acid (HA)—HA is a sugar molecule occurring naturally in the skin. This potent skin care ingredient is found in many hydrating moisturizers due to its role as a humectant (see “humectant” below.)
Humectant—An ingredient which can attract moisture to the skin, reducing trans-epidermal moisture loss.
Jojoba Oil—A natural oil which closely resembles human sebum (oil). It’s used to treat all skin types and is well known for its anti-inflammatory abilities.
Marula Oil—Oil derived from the fruit of the African marula tree, this skin care ingredient is rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Used to treat dry skin disorders, marula oil can also reduce the appearance of some scars.
Menthol—Derived from the oils of mint plants, menthol is a waxy substance that is often used as a cooling agent in skin care ingredients such as lip balms and shave gels.
Niacinamide—A form of Vitamin B3 which is used to improve skin tone, reduce signs of sun damage and reduce red blotchiness.Take the skin care quiz
Parabens—A group of p-hydroxybenzoic acid esters used in cosmetics as preservatives. Parabens are controversial due to potential hormone-disrupting abilities. Common parabens include the following: Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben and Isobutylparaben.
Peptides—Short chain amino acids which link together to form the basis for protein. One of the most common proteins in the skin care industry is collagen (see above).
Phthalates—A group of chemicals that are commonly used as plasticizers in cosmetics. They are considered controversial due to studies suggesting their potential endocrine-disrupting effects.
Retinoids—A class of chemical compounds derived from Vitamin A. Retinoids (such as Retin-A and Retinyl Palmitate) have shown promise in treating moderate to severe acne, as well as fine lines and wrinkles.
Salicylic Acid—A beta hydroxy acid derived from the bark of a willow tree. Often used in acne creams and cleansers, Salicylic Acid helps prevent acne by exfoliating the skin and reducing clogged pores.
Sulfates—A group of cleansing agents which are used to create a lather which effectively removes dirt and oil from the body. Although they are often found in many facial cleansers and shampoos, they are considered highly controversial and may cause skin irritation.
While we can’t list every possible skin care ingredient here, we can do our best to expand your knowledge slightly. Have any questions about skin care ingredients? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer!