On-Trend Ingredient Glossary

The hottest ingredients and what they do.
On-Trend Ingredient Glossary
We see pretty packages staking claims all the time. Adjectives like brightening, evening, smoothing, hydrating, plumping, and exfoliating are all great terms, but how do we know these products do those things, and why?

How do we know our favorite products boost cell turnover, or deeply moisturize without clogging our pores? We created this glossary to break down our top, most-buzziest (and for good reason!) ingredients so you can read labels like a pro, and shop for the results you want.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a building block for collagen production, which is why it’s so important to consume a diet rich in this vitamin. Applied topically, it has an anti-inflammatory response, reducing redness and swelling due to breakouts. 

This magic little ingredient is a hero in our eyes for it’s brightening abilities. It fades hyper-pigmentation, evens us out from sun damage and acne scars, and strengthens the skin’s ability to repair itself. Vitamin C is a must in our routines, all year round.

Hyaluronic Acid

To those less versed (or living under a rock) this ingredient’s name sounds like something we would find in a car battery. But far from it, hyaluronic acid is a staple here to stay in skincare, and trust us when we say it’s golden reputation is well-earned. 

Hyaluronic acid is actually a substance that our bodies produce naturally, but that amount decreases with age and inescapable environmental stressors. When applied topically, it has intensely hydrating effects, making sure to plump the skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles, as well as soothe dryness and rosacea.

To get science-y, HA is a magnet for moisture, and a single gram can hold up to 6 liters of its weight in water. But don’t worry, we aren’t just dousing our skin and drowning them. HA molecules know just how to regulate and distribute this moisture so that things stay juicy, but healthy and functional.


Beta and alpha hydroxy acids are our number one (and two?) gals when it comes to exfoliating and evening out the skin tone. AHA’s are found in natural substances, like fruit juices. They work to break down the substance that holds the top layer of cells together, helping to speed along the natural shedding process. This makes it perfect for routine dullness, light acne scars, or discoloration from sun damage.

BHAs, also known as salicylic acids, go deeper. They are super useful for acne-prone and oily skin, as they penetrate lower than the top layer, dissolving oil and grime within the pores, doing a deeper cleanse and exfoliation. You want to use these in moderation, as the skin’s surface needs time to heal and foster it’s natural protective barrier— over exfoliation can result in irritated, red, angry skin.


Peptides are amino acids, which we know as the core elements of proteins. These are also naturally occurring in the skin, but of course, pesky aging has to insert itself and slow down our production. 

For starters, collagen is a protein built of 3 different types of polypeptides. Collagen itself is too large of a molecule to be absorbed into the skin, but peptides slip right in. They help to rebuild the skin barrier if you’ve, ehem, over-exfoliated. They also ease inflammation, plump fine lines and wrinkles, and boost our skin’s elastin. Because they are smaller and able to penetrate more deeply, we tend to think of them as very important message carriers— they signal our cells to produce more collagen and bouncy structure.


This formulation of vitamin A is a go-to ingredient for age-and-texture-related concerns. It’s a potent ingredient that helps skin turn over cells at an accelerated pace, making way for fresh new skin. This not only reduces fine lines and wrinkles, but also scarring, hyper-pigmentation, blackheads, and breakouts.

It does so by penetrating deep below the epidermis to our middle layer, the dermis. In this middle layer, retinol works to neutralize free radicals, and even promote the secretion of growth factors. The result is plumper skin that masks the appearance of wrinkles and enlarged pores, as well as discourages the development of breakouts. Sign us up.


Jojoba oil is technically a wax, and this oily substance most accurately imitates our skin’s natural sebum. This may sound scary to some— why would we want to smother our faces in more, um, sebum? But the effect is actually very balancing. 

In most cases, excess oil is our skin’s act of defiance against a lack thereof, overproducing it to compensate for the loss. By using serums, moisturizers, or oil cleansers with jojoba, we are helping to regulate our skin’s natural production and balance our protective barrier. Don’t worry— it won’t clog your pores. Skin loves jojoba.

Rich in vitamins A, E, D, and antioxidants and vital fatty acids, one can expect plumped up skin, reduced appearance of large pores and wrinkles, a deep cleanse, a reduction of scars and red spots, and a richly moisturized dermis, without the oily finish.


First, let’s squash the squa-confusion: squalane, with an “a” is different from another ingredient known as squalene. While squalene is an oil pulled from olives or grains like rice bran or amaranth, and in some cases, even shark liver, it is highly unstable. When oxidized, it becomes rancid quickly.

Squalane is a naturally occurring lipid that our cells produce to create our natural lubricating oils. But of course, you guessed it— that dwindles with age. We supplement with it topically due to it’s highly balancing properties and antioxidant power to bring smooth, even hydration to the skin’s surface, while also detoxifying on a cellular level. It’s an excellent, non-pore clogging addition to any moisturizing product.


This form of vitamin B-3 is a powerhouse ingredient, especially for aging or sun-damaged skin. Studies show that it can help our skin grow a ceramide barrier to heal past damage, and protect it from new damage. It also reduces inflammation and redness, preventing and treating active breakouts. 

Due to it’s high antioxidant prowess and healing powers, you’ll notice more even skin and a smoother, brighter, more balanced complexion in a relatively short amount of time with regular use of a product rich in this ingredient. It’s definitely here to stay on the Materiae roster!

Written by Nicole Lesmeister

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