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Hero ingredients: get to know them

A big part of our mission is to empower you all to take better care of your skin by arming yourselves with information. This article is slightly longer, but our goal is to help you help yourselves. If you get to the end, there might be a little treat for you. ;) 

Today’s post will be all about 5 hero ingredients - what are they? will they be good for you? what can they help achieve?

Today’s 5 hero ingredients are:

  1. Coconut oil
  2. Collagen (note: a controversial ingredient!)
  3. Hyaluronic acid
  4. Rose oil
  5. Snail mucin

Before we dive in, here’s a quick 101 on skincare formulations to understand how your skincare products work (it seems like a long read, but this is really a very basic high-level overview of how it all works; it’s worth the full read, though, as we think you’ll come out of this much better educated about your products!).

There are different ways to group ingredients and categorize what is included in formulations, but here’s the best overview we’ve seen at one of the R&D labs that we frequent in Korea.

  • Functional (active, hero) ingredients: these are the ingredients that will actually go to work for your skin and provide a real benefit. These ingredients can include antioxidants, emollients, humectants, lubricants, vitamins, nutrients, metabolites, bioactive agents, etc. – basically, anything that’s supposed to truly benefit the skin in at least one way
  • Claims ingredients: these ingredients are (in our opinion) the “hyped” up ones that are really included for marketing purposes to be able to make a claim, even if it’s included in some very small percentage. 
  • Aesthetics: the ingredients that make the product feel, look, and smell better. Cosmetic raw materials can actually smell quite unpleasant and look unappealing. Think thickeners, natural or artificial fragrances and pearly colorants.
  • Experiential ingredients: these improve the texture break of the product on the skin (“oh, it rubs on in such a silky way” - with the help of surfactants) or for example, can enhance the way a cleanser lathers or enhances delivery of functional ingredients. Skincare is a total sensorial experience, right? And these ingredients deliver that luxurious experience you want, but of course, those functional ingredients remain our top priority.
  • Stabilizers, including preservatives: a lot of formulations include both water and oil, which don’t mix, so a lot of ingredients help stabilize these two things from separating like binding agents or emulsifiers. And preservatives will help keep the formulation from spoiling for a longer period of time - and these preservatives don’t always have to come in the form of parabens. 
  • Diluents: functional ingredients are too strong usually and need to be diluted to apply well and not be too irritating. Usually, water, mineral oil or even talc can be a diluent and can make up the bulk of the formulation.
  • Adjustment agents: raw materials can always vary, so these agents help deliver a consistent batch every time (e.g. the right pH level, viscosity, etc.) every time you open that jar.
  • Production aids: not always included, but these ingredients can help make the 2-ton production happen faster, so that your favorite serum can be churned out quickly and always available for you.

Whew! With that tutorial out of the way, let’s dive into today’s main course: functional (hero) ingredients that we’re loving.

Coconut oil - dermatological studies have shown that virgin coconut oil can rehydrate dry skin and help restore the skin’s barrier by restoring pH levels and even improving atopic dermatitis conditions. Coconut oil also naturally clears away dirt, grime and dead skin cells - it even has antibacterial properties to boot (great, also for oil-pulling, and some studies here about this practice!). Crowd-pleasing cleanser that uses this hero ingredient found in Mother Nature.

Collagen - ok, so this ingredient is a controversial one. It’s common knowledge that we all need these springy amino acid chains for skin firmness and elasticity. However, it’s also (maybe a little less) commonly known that collagen particles are too large to absorb into the skin and mostly sit atop the skin at best filling in fine lines temporarily. So R&D labs started to hydrolyze collagen to make them smaller and more soluble to be able to go past the skin’s surface. There’s some controversy around whether or not these smaller bits of collagen can be used by the skin - many consumer studies (not to be confused with clinical studies) and anecdotal evidence shows that hydrolyzed marine collagen could very well benefit the skin’s firmness. Since collagen is so important to maintain a youthful appearance, we recommend not skimping out on collagen - but to go for the kind that is hydrolyzed, marine-based, and extremely concentrated. Even if a bit of this can be used by the skin, we say it’s worth using this daily as firmness is so hard to regain when lost; and enough people rave after using it, so we err on the side of effort here. We found an uber-concentrated serum with hydrolyzed marine collagen. YES.

Hyaluronic acid - what can we say about this ingredient other than use it? This is a popular humectant (water-loving ingredient that attracts water) because it works. It occurs naturally in your body, and holds up to 1000X its weight in water. Basically, if your skin lacks moisture (and most people don’t hydrate their skin well enough), this is a great solution. And having well hydrated skin is as close to the holy grail of skincare as you can get - well hydrated skin keeps your skin environment healthy and functioning well (i.e. helps prevent premature aging, breakouts, excess sebum production, and so many other bad things!) Here’s a way to get hyaluronic acid to totally pack moisture into your dermis.

Rose oil - ready for this one guys? Let’s see, rose oil has vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that does everything from moisturizing to reduce redness and swelling to providing antiseptic and astringent benefits to acne-prone skin…all while nourishing and strengthening the skin. To boot, apparently, rose oil has aromatherapeutic properties that can help with anxiety and depression. So, there you have it. Roses don’t just make for pretty bouquets. There are a lot of studies out there on rose oil, but the best summary of its benefits is actually from this HuffPo article (trust me, you don’t want to be poring over the other studies)! Here’s our product pick with a healthy dose of rose oil.

Snail mucin - snail enzyme firms, helps regenerate and helps to heal acne scarring including hyperpigmentation, hydrates, and has antimicrobial properties (i.e. helps keep acne at bay). Yes, please, to all of the above. And here’s an awesome write-up we found by the lovely TeawithMD (she’s a dermatologist who explores tons of innovative beauty products) who includes links to great studies on this mucin as well. Here’s our product pick with a huge concentration of this incredible snail secretion filtrate.

If you made it this far, you deserve a treat! To promote empowered and educated consumerism, here’s a coupon code (BEINFORMED32015) for $5 to shop Peach and Lily. It’ll expire by 3/7 midnight!

Cheers to radiance! - Alicia

Posted on July 18, 2015
by Alicia Yoon
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