The Vanity Chest

8 Common Beauty Ingredients – Decoded

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Arwa-DoriwalaArwa Doriwala is a full time digital marketing professional, who makes time to double up as a passionate blogger. Arwa and her husband started Slice of Dubai to explore their individual goals in this ‘city of gold’ – and hence gives its readers a holistic view of the latest in fashion, food, beauty and events around town.

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Ever wonder what those ingredients are on the back of your favorite beauty product?

You’re not alone. Gone are the days when any face wash would do. Since all we used it for, was to wash our faces with it, it didn’t really matter which brand. Generic shampoos of the yore were simple to choose between – “I like the smell of this one” and that’s it. It was added to the shopping cart.

You might have read an interesting piece written a few issues ago, by a fellow blogger and columnist that was intriguingly titled – Are you Normal? It spoke about how there are so many shampoos now available for people with specific needs (dry hair, frizzy hair, oily hair), that brands have somewhere forgotten to cater to people with ‘Normal Hair’.

And if like me, you too are taken back to your memories of that loathed chemistry class every time you read the back of your beauty products – here’s making life a little simple for you. There are better things to worry about really! So, here goes!

Glycolic Acid Glycolic-Acid

Most commonly found in:
Face washes Something about reading the word ‘acid’ in the ingredients section is rather unsettling. However, this is an acid that does wonders for your skin. Glycolic acid is the best way to gently exfoliate the skin, and suits even those with sensitive skin type. It exfoliates the upper layer of the skin to reveal new, glowing skin beneath. Its fine molecules deeply penetrate the skin to reduce and prevent fine lines and wrinkles, thereby delaying the ageing process.

Hyaluronic Acid

Most commonly found in: Moisturizing creams and lotions
Hyaluronic acid, often promoted as a “fountain of youth” helps to retain over a 1000 times its weight in water within the cells of skin, making it an excellent moisturizer. In fact, no other biological substance can retain as much water as Hyaluronic acid resulting in increased smoothness, softening and decreased wrinkles. Equally important is its ability to remove waste matter from cells including those where there is little blood circulation. Today, hyaluronic acid is considered equally important, if not more important, than collagen.


Most commonly found in: Soaps, shampoos, body washes, detergents
SLS is a foaming/cleaning agent. It gives products that gentle, foaming quality. SLS is present in most foaming products such as face washes, body washes and shampoos. Research has proved that SLS is a skin irritant and can cause dry, cracked skin and make the skin more sensitive to other chemicals. Also bad news for your hair, it can cause it to thin or fall out! As awareness increases about the harmful effect of SLS – more brands are now bringing in SLS-free variants of their products at a more premium price point.


MicaMost commonly found in: Foundations, eyeshadows, lip glosses, lipsticks, blushes, etc.

Mica is a mineral mined from the Earth and is included in products to give them sparkle and shine. The level and look of shine that mica provides depends on the color and how finely it’s milled for use in liquid, cream, or powder products. Prolonged exposure to Mica is known to have caused scarring, inflammation and lung disease in people who are exposed to it often – such as miners. No studies yet show the same dangers for cosmetics, but Cosmetics Database website lists mica as moderately hazardous. Hence, one must use mica based products sparingly.

Micro Beads

Most commonly found in: Exfoliating facewashes, scrubs, body washes, soaps and even toothpastesMicro
Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic found in exfoliating body washes and facial scrubs. Since their introduction in 1972, they have made their way into more than 100 personal care products. Organic materials such as ground walnut shells or apricot seeds can do the job equally well, but a lot of mass brands opt for micro-beads as they are easier to produce. But there’s mounting evidence that these beads— while great at scraping dead dermis—are equally adept at killing marine life and bringing harmful chemicals into the food chain. Recognizing the hazards and the potential links to diseases such as cancer, many countries are now banning microbeads in their products. If the list at the back of your pack includes polyethylene or polypropylene, it contains micro-beads.


Most commonly found in: Soaps, shampoos, body washes, detergents
SLES is a foaming and cleaning agent – similar to SLS. Due to the hype associated with SLS, a lot of companies now use this ingredient, since it causes less irritation. It has also been shown that SLES causes eye or skin irritation in experiments done.


GlycerinMost commonly found in: soaps, body lotions and moisturizers, body scrubs, face packs and face masks, as well as hair shampoos and conditioners.

Glycerin is a skinidentical and skinrepairing ingredient. The glycerin used in beauty products is a compound that can be made from natural products such as vegetable oil, or can be synthesized from propylene alcohol. Humectants in glycerin attract water from air and help in retaining water in the skin. It hence acts as an excellent moisturizer. It also helps treating extremely dry skin and conditions like psoriasis. The effects of glycerin on skin are a healthier, more natural looking appearance.


KeratinMost commonly found in: Shampoos and conditioners
Keratin is a protein naturally found in the flat cells of hairs. It keeps them strong, elastic and healthy.
When the amount of it in the cells diminishes, the hairs get brittle and dry. They are more prone to damage and breakage.

A keratin shampoo will work to supply sufficient amounts of this protein to your hair. As you use the product, the amount of keratin in your hair will increase naturally. As a result, you will enjoy stronger and more elastic hair and will get rid of split ends.

However it is important to ensure that your keratin shampoo is free form sulfates such as the ones mentioned earlier. Else, the results will be counter-productive. Also, just as anything in excess is bad – do not leave the keratin shampoo, conditioner or mask in your hair for any longer than mentioned on the pack – as too much of protein can do more harm than good.

Are there any more ingredients you’d like to know about?
Is there any topic that you would want me to explore in the next issue? Drop me a line at and I will be happy to chat!