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8 Skin Care Ingredients to Look For

Most skin care products contain an overwhelming list of long, hard-to-pronounce names. It's mind-boggling trying to decipher what is truly effective and what just sounds fancy. Girl, I got you. Here are eight different (and amazing) skin care ingredients, the benefit of each, and—most important—what these ingredients can do for your skin! Read before you buy.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid

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A powerful exfoliant derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that removes dead skin cells and surface discoloration. Often a key ingredient in chemical peels, think of glycolic acid as a resurfacer. Peter Thomas Roth's 10% Glycolic Acid Hydrating Gel is a great way to get that exfoliating power at home, without having to become a red-faced recluse afterward!

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Lactic Acid

Lactic Acid

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Similar to glycolic acid, lactic acid is also an alpha hydroxy acid, or an exfoliant. It dissolves the top layer of dead skin and sloughs off old cells gently. Get your lactic fix from Philosophy's Miracle Worker, a unique lactic acid cleanser and mask.

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Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid

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While you'd never associate the word "acid" with something hydrating, that is precisely what hyaluronic acid is all about. This ingredient helps moisture bind to the skin, keeping it there all day long. Dr. Dennis Gross knows this, putting it in Hyaluronic Moisture Cushion. Look for hyaluronic acid when you want skin to be moisturized—and stay that way!

Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone

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If you have post-acne spots, hyperpigmentation, or sun or age spots, then hydroquinone is what you need. This proven lightener helps break up areas of excess pigmentation. Murad's Rapid Age Spot Pigment Lightning Serum really is rapid, showing results in as little as a week. Plus, it contains the highest level of hydroquinone available in a non-prescription formula. If you stick with it, and use sun protection during the day, it really works.

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Retinol

Retinol

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If I could only use one of these eight skin care ingredients for the rest of my life, this would be it. Retinol is a form of vitamin A and basically addresses every major skin concern. Because retinol speeds up cell turnover, it prevents pores from clogging and clears up existing acne (Retin-A ring a bell?). It helps lighten discoloration over time, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, and improves skin texture and clarity. Algenist Retinol Firming & Lifting Serum is a great "fountain of youth" alternative.

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Beta Glucan

Beta Glucan

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This plant-derived ingredient jump-starts skin into producing immune cells. Simply put, beta glucan gives your skin a smoother appearance with an almost instant rosy glow. Philosophy's wildly popular Hope in a Jar moisturizer contains beta glucan, so it's really no surprise that it's been a must-own by so many beauty junkies!

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Antioxidants

Antioxidants

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Free radicals are huge jerks that wreak havoc on our skin. They result from things like sunlight, pollution, stress, and the like. Antioxidants are one of the best defenders against them. Beta carotene, lycopene, and vitamins C and E are all antioxidants that help prevent and repair damage to cells from free radicals. Dermalogica's Antioxidant Hydramist contains white tea, licorice, and vitamin E to combat all that damage in a refreshing mist.

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Peptides

Peptides

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Peptides are linked amino acids that literally "pep" up the skin and tell it to produce more collagen, making skin look and feel firmer, plumper, and less wrinkled. Neuropeptides can actually relax the facial muscles. Radical Skincare makes Advanced Peptide Antioxidant Serum, a serum supercharged with hexa-peptides and antioxidants.

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