Picture this: you, lingering in the skin and beauty aisle of your favourite grocery store, holding a few different cleansers, moisturisers, or shower gels, trying to figure out which one is the right one for you. Sounds oh so familiar, doesn’t it?

The sheer number of skincare products available in both physical and online shops can make this particular decision-making quite intimidating and time-consuming. If you haven’t done your homework, that is.

So, how to know what to look for when it comes to skincare products? The following dermatologist-backed guidelines can help you pick the ideal ones for your skin or at least narrow down your choices. All right, let’s get started.

#1: Know your skin type

Although it might take a little extra time, an individualised approach (as opposed to following the popularity vote) will help you find the right skincare products with the right ingredients for your skin.

It goes without saying that knowing your skin type is the key piece of this puzzle. In case you’re not 100% sure what skin type you have, consider visiting a dermatologist to confirm. Trust me, it’ll make selecting shower-time cleansers, body creams, and other skincare products so much easier.

Woman holding a skincare product looking at herself in the mirror

Oily Skin

According to numerous dermatologists, people with oily skin can handle a wide range of ingredients that can sometimes irritate or trigger breakouts to other skin types. If you’re one of them, you should look for ingredients that can control excess sebum production such as alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid or salicylic acid) and benzoyl peroxide. Hyaluronic acid is your ally as well as it will produce hydration only where needed.

When it comes to bath products, it’s important to know that many cleansers are formulated specifically for individual skin types. However, your skin type can change slightly throughout the year as a result of the current season and the frequency of your showers.

Both cold weather and frequent bathing can dry out your skin, which is why you may need to start using a more moisturising cleanser. A good hydrating body wash is necessary also because the further away you get from your face, the drier your skin gets.

If your skin tends to get really oily, both shower gels and bar soaps can work in your favour. This is so because these bath and shower products are usually not full of oil-based ingredients like super hydrating washes are.

If you want to go with a cleansing bar, make sure the one you choose doesn’t contain lye because it tends to strip the skin’s oils without replacing them.

Skincare products

Dry Skin

Shea butter and lactic acid can do wonders for people with dry and flaky skin. Experts say that these ingredients provide hydration and mild exfoliation. If your skin is desperate for moisture, it’s smart to opt for bath products that can soothe its dryness like creamy washes and nourishing body lotions.

When it comes to choosing healthy moisturisers for your dry skin, bear in mind that it may take a bit of trial and error to find the most suitable one.

However, dermatologists say that products that contain at least some of the following ingredients should definitely be on your to-consider list: hyaluronic acid, phytoceramides (a fancy term for plant ceramides), glycerin, antioxidants, aquaporins, plant butters and oils, and salicylic acid.

To get the most out of your moisturisers, you might want to apply them when your skin is still a little damp after your shower or bath. Also, try to moisturise twice a day or more frequently if your skin is extremely dry, avoid extra hot water for showers, and buy from a reputable brand.

Sensitive Skin

Aloe vera, oatmeal, and shea butter – these are some of the ingredients you ought to look for if you skin breaks out easily. The more sensitive your skin is, the less fragranced your skincare products should be.

Many skincare experts recommend looking for formulas that are both hypoallergenic and free of potential irritants, including parfum and alcohol. Also, scanning product packaging for keywords and key phrases like “soothing”, “calming”, “redness-reducing”, “anti-redness”, and “for sensitive skin” is an easy way to single out the most suitable skincare products for people with reactive skin types.

Dermalogica products

#2: Don’t buy into the hype

We’ve all been there: a friend or a colleague can’t stop talking about their new favourite makeup remover, body wash, or moisturiser, advising us to give it a try. No, no, no. Don’t do it. At least not until you learn more about it.

Buying a skincare product just because it’s popular and/or has many positive reviews can turn out to be a huge mistake, one that can lead to serious adverse reactions. Which is precisely why you need to check the ingredients list. Always. Speaking of which…

#3: Don’t ignore the order of ingredients

Yes, the content of skincare products is immensely important, but in order to get the full picture, it’s crucial to pay attention to both the ingredients and their order. This is so because the first five ingredients usually account for about 80% of the product’s makeup.

Knowing that ingredients are listed in order of highest to lowest concentration can help you pick the right products for you. So, if you’re inclined to purchase a certain product because it contains ingredients that are good for your skin type, but they are listed at the end, it’s smart to not spend your money on it because chances are you won’t experience the desired benefits.

Also, don’t fear long ingredients lists. It doesn’t always mean that the product is filled with dangerous stuff. Instead, search the meaning of the ingredients you’ve never heard about before or simply consult with your dermatologist.

#4: Remember: natural doesn’t always mean better

Unfortunately, this is true. Although there are many safe and skin-friendly natural ingredients, there are also some that we should definitely avoid. For example, poison ivy is indeed a natural oil, but you definitely wouldn’t want to put it on your skin.

There are essential oils as well. Many of them can cause allergic reactions, so it’s necessary to do some research before rubbing them on your body.

Product labels must be mentioned here as well. We’ve all seen skincare products with the term “natural” on them, but that doesn’t say much because it can refer to only a few of the ingredients the product contains.

Skincare products

#5: Try to avoid generally harmful ingredients

This may not always be possible or easy, but you should definitely give your best to steer clear of parfum, sulfates, parabens, and formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers when shopping for bath and body products.

As mentioned above, fragrance can cause skin allergies and irritation. Sulfates are cleansing agents, commonly used in body washes. They are a big no-no because they strip the skin of its natural oil and often cause irritation.

Parabens, used as a chemical preservative to prevent bacterial growth, can disrupt hormone function and lead to hormonal disbalance due to their ability to mimic estrogen. People at risk of breast cancer as well as young children are strongly advised to avoid them.

Last but definitely not least, look out for formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers. The former is a known carcinogen, whereas the latter is a number of chemicals (quanterium-15, diazolinge urea, imidazolidinge urea – to name a few) that release formaldehyde over time.


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