Need Help Understanding Your Skincare Ingredients? We’ve Got You Covered

Ingredient overload no more


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Before such a surge of interest in skincare, we’d buy generic products fr a whole list of things our skin was lacking – like moisture enhancer serum or glow booster. Thanks to so much information readily available on social media and this here magazine, as consumers, we’re now enabled with knowledge that we need certain elements in our routine – like hyaluronic acid (for hydration) and vitamin C (brightening).

Products are more specific but this can leave us panicked we’re not using the right thing or the IT thing everyone else is using.

For instance, I see people rave about niacinamide. I don’t know what it does, what it looks like, never mind the pronunciation. I’d consider myself a middle-of-the-road gal when it comes to skincare. I’m no skincare pantomath but I’m also not completely unaware of the AHA’s and BHAs (Don’t know what they are? No worries, keep scrolling).

Brands are trying to make things easier with scientific clear labels, but sometimes, with so many products for different things, they’re making us more confused. Never fear, STELLAR is here to give you the suss on it all.

Beta Hyrdoxy Acid (BHA)

What is it: an oil-soluble exfoliator best for oily, congested, acne, or rosacea-prone skin. Unlike AHA’s, BHAs can get deeper into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum. They improve blackheads, whiteheads, and have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The best example of a BHA is a salicylic acid – this should be in your cleanser if you’re oily or blemish prone, but make sure to check the ingredients before buying it.

When to use: In your face wash, at least three times a week but more so as you build up tolerance.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)


What is it: Water-soluble acids derived from sugary fruits or a natural substance like sugar cane, milk, or almonds.

What it does: They work by sinking into the skin and pushing dead lifeless cells towards and off the surface of the skin. As we age, our skin’s natural exfoliation process slows down so AHA’s are considered a must-have for most skin types to keep your skin cells regeneration moving. Examples of AHA’s would be Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid, glycolic and acid toners are really big on the market right now.

When to use: Use a glycolic acid toner at night after cleansing. Some use them before makeup either.


What is it: Also known as vitamin B3, this is a multifunctional ingredient. Helps with moisture retention right down to pigmentation.

What it does: Tackels signs of ageing but can also reduce redness in the skin. It can reduce the appearance of large pores and lighted dark spots. Harsh weather like wind or frost can strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it unprotected from transepidermal water loss which can cause the skin to lose moisture and plumpness. A study showed that 2% niacinamide reduced the TEWL by 24% in 4 weeks!


What it is: a natural compound derived from vegetable oils or animal fats. It’s a clear, odorless and syrupy liquid.

What it does: Works as a humectant, a type of moisturising agent that pulls water into the outer layer of your skin from the air to trap moisturise into your skin.

When to use: Glycerin should be in your spritz or moisturiser already. But if not, there are fairly cheap sprays with glycerin in it to spritz before applying your creams and moisturisers, letting them absorb twice as well thanks to the humectant.

Words by Rebecca Keane 


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