Natural Skincare Ingredients 101


The following post was written by Alanna, the founder of natural beauty boutique Marine Flora.

Skincare. Am I the only one who feels this is a topic that becomes more confusing the more you become immersed in it?

The skincare of our youth–acid- and peroxide-filled, 3-step routines that our parents forced on us (anyone else?)–has given way to shelfies and flatlays from Instagram accounts devoted solely to photographing skincare products, and 15-step routines that have your brain (and your bank account) cowering in fright. 

So I’m just going to give it to you straight, because, contrary to popular belief, skincare is not an all or nothing pursuit, and just like no hair, beauty product, or supplement is going to change your genetics or your biology, no skin care product will, either.

That being said, the right regimen that incorporates the perfect blend of active ingredients for your skin type, lifestyle, and season might just be the cherry to top of that inner glow you’ve been cultivating.

No matter who you are or what you think is “wrong” or right with your skin, every skin type can benefit from a simple daily routine: daily cleanser, toner, serum/moisturizer. Consistency is more important than how many products you use, if you’re starting from nothing or you want to take it slow, find a gentle cleanser and moisturizer to use morning and night, and an exfoliant or a mask to use as needed. Using two products every day will leave much better results than using 20 products twice a week, I promise.

Now let’s dive in to some nourishing active ingredients, what type of products you should find them in, and how they benefit the skin

Anti-Microbial Ingredients

Honey, tea tree, peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus–these ingredients are naturally anti-microbial/anti-septic and purifying for the skin, making them ideal components for facial cleansers. Look for them high on the ingredient list, and avoid harsh soaps or sulfates as they can disrupt the pH and oil balance of your skin.


Witch hazel, aloe vera juice, floral water/hydrosol, fruit enzymes/AHA–these are your toner building blocks. Astringent/purifying, hydrating, purifying, resurfacing (respectively), this group is the most diverse in function and why toner is such a game changing step in a routine. Look for a well-balanced ingredient list free of alcohol and too many unpronounceable chemicals. Toners are available at literally every price point, leaving no excuse to skip it!

Humectant Hydrators

Aloe vera gel, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, seaweed, kelp, algae–some of my favorites, these actives are humectant hydrators, pulling water molecules into the skin to hydrate (skin dehydration being rampant these days) and momentarily plump the skin. Most humectant molecules, such as aloe and sea vegetables, also have the benefit of being cooling and anti-inflammatory. This group of ingredients are your go-to building blocks when choosing a serum. Avoid products with silicone (aka dimethicone) too high on the ingredient list, which gives the illusion of hydration without actually penetrating or benefitting the skin.


Butters, oils, beeswax/vegetable wax, Vitamin E/tocopherol–these are your emollient ingredients, AKA, skin conditioning, protecting, moisture-sealing powerhouses that should make up your moisturizer. A good general rule is to look for creams/oils that are a balanced blend of heavier oils and butters (coconut, shea, cocoa, sunflower) with more lightweight, nutrient oils (argan, jojoba, prickly pear, rosehip seed, camellia, helichrysum, carrot seed). 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the skincare industry’s favorite all-purpose vitamin. Healing, clearing, brightening, and collagen-enhancing, Vitamin C can be included in any (or every) step of your routine–but mostly, you should aim to include this antioxidant in your serum or moisturizer, looking for stable forms of the vitamin (magnesium ascorbyl-phosphate or sodium ascorbyl-phosphate over ascorbic acid) which will not degrade from oxygen exposure.

Bottom line, you don’t need 20 products to have “good” skin–just a selection of active ingredients housed in a handful of products that make your skin (and your soul) happy.

Founder, Marine Flora

Visit Alanna's site and get in on all the natural ingredient action here.