We curlies are sticklers for silicones and sulfates in our hair products, but have you ever read what is actually in your favorite skincare products?

Sometimes it can be totally confusing—even the "all natural" ingredients can seem foreign. So RealBeauty asked top cosmetic physician and skincare expert Dr. Mitchell Chasin to break down the most common ingredients in skincare and tell us straight up: which ones are bad, and which ones are good.

Ingredients to Avoid

  • Parabens: Although these preservatives are FDA approved, they have been found to mimic estrogen, which can lead to breast cancer. "Though parabens have not been proven to cause breast cancer," says Chasin. "It’s better to play it safe and stick to paraben-free products."
  • Artificial Fragrances: "Many skincare products simply list the generic term 'fragrance' as an ingredient," explains Chasin. "[Fragrance] can be made up of hundreds of synthetic chemicals that you should be avoiding—they often contain toxins linked to cancer and can result in hormone disruption.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol: This ingredient is used in a wide variety of skincare products, yet it dries out the skin and can irritate it very easily. All alcohol-based ingredients should be avoided when possible.
  • Petroleum-Based Ingredients: Petroleum can leave a plastic-like film which prevents nutrients from being soaked in—this can suffocate the skin and leave it looking dull.
  • Synthetic Colors: "This ingredient can contain carcinogens and deposit toxins into the skin," says Chasin. "Any ingredient labeled as FD&C or D&C followed by a number is a synthetic color and should be avoided."

Ingredients You Want

  • Retinol: Most anti-aging products carry this ingredient, which helps to improve skin’s elasticity and reverse sun damage, says Chasin. It's also an exfoliant that promotes the shedding of dead skin cells, revealing the more youthful skin underneath.
  • Hyaluronic Acid: This substance is naturally occurring in the body, but decreases with age. Using products made with it can help to reverse the natural loss of collagen.
  • Peptides: These molecular links of amino acids help your skin produce collagen. "They are the wonder protein that prevents wrinkles and keeps skin looking young," says Chasin.
  • Vitamin C: This nutrient naturally brightens skin and prevents a dull, worn out look. It also helps lighten brown spots and prevents hyperpigmentation.
  • AHAs: "Alpha Hydronic Acids naturally exfoliate skin and makes it smoother," says Chasin. "This helps nourishing products sink deeper into the skin, where they are available to be absorbed for a longer period."
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