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What’s Black and Sooty and Good for Your Face?
You want me to put what I use on the backyard grill on my face? Surprisingly, yes! Charcoal is supremely effective, both at clearing away bacteria and oil without drying out skin and at de-gunking pores without any irritation. We took a trip back to chemistry class to find out exactly how this all-natural purifier works.
Here’s everything you need to know about charcoal.

What’s Black and Sooty and Good for Your Face?

You want me to put what I use on the backyard grill on my face? Surprisingly, yes! Charcoal is supremely effective, both at clearing away bacteria and oil without drying out skin and at de-gunking pores without any irritation. We took a trip back to chemistry class to find out exactly how this all-natural purifier works.

Here’s everything you need to know about charcoal.

Ingredient Decoder: Retinol

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Anyone who’s ever fought the good fight against acne has probably encountered some form of retinoids—and likely has terrible memories of irritated, angry, red complexions and unsightly peeling skin. But thanks to some major cosmeceutical advancements, retinoids—in the form of retinol—are making a serious comeback as one of skincare’s most in-demand ingredients.

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Ingredient Decoder: Is Talc Safe?

In the world of beauty, it can be hard to distinguish between fancy advertising and real results. But when all’s said and done, it all boils down to one thing: the ingredients. Every week, our resident science buff Mai will be separating the good from the bad, explaining how products work, and sharing her latest discoveries.

Photo: Fab Sugar

When you think of baby powder, the first things that come to mind are probably changing tables and giggling Gerber babies. What you might not know is that the familiar white powder is made with talc, which also happens to be the number one ingredient in many blushes and shadows. What’s the big deal, you ask? You should know that talc is one of the most hotly debated ingredients out there. Learn why after the jump!

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Why Algae Can Save Your Skin: Ingredient Decoder

In the world of skincare, it can be hard to distinguish between fancy advertising and real results. But when all’s said and done, it all boils down to one thing: the ingredients. Every week, our resident skincare buff Mai will be separating the good from the bad, explaining how products work, and sharing her latest discoveries.

Photo: Algenist

Lately, beauty insiders have been raving about a wonder ingredient derived from an unexpected source: microalgae. It may sound bizarre at first, but Algenist, a newly launched brand, has figured out a way to harness these single-celled organisms for the good of your skin. Click through to learn how microalgae works!

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Rice Starch: Ingredient Decoder

While most people identify themselves as omnivores or herbivores, I consider myself a rice-atarian. Growing up in a Chinese household, I ate rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and my diet hasn’t changed much now that I’m an adult. But I had no idea that the main grain in my life could also be good for my skin until I started doing a little research. It turns out that legions of Asian women have been using homemade rice powder as a beauty treatment for centuries. Nowadays, things have gotten a bit more refined, but the basic skin benefits of rice remain the same. Click through to learn how rice can change your skin!

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Lactic Acid: Ingredient Decoder

Pop quiz: What do your muscles, sour milk, and pickles have in common? Answer: they’re all sources of lactic acid. As you may know, your body makes lactic acid as your muscles burn energy during grueling gym workouts, and it’s also a product of food fermentation. This naturally occurring ingredient might be the last thing you think to put on your skin, but think again. Lactic acid is actually a great dual exfoliator and moisturizer, and rumor has it that Cleopatra liked to bathe in sour milk to keep her complexion smooth. But before you run to check the expiration date on your gallon of 2%, take a minute to learn how lactic acid really works. Read on to find out how to incorporate lactic acid into your skincare regime!

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Can Lip Balm Be Addictive?

Photo: Drugstore.com

I apply lip balm at least ten times a day. My desk is filled with enough balms to last me until retirement, and I feel naked without at least one coat on my lips. I don’t care whether it’s tinted or clear, flavored or tasteless: if it comes in a tube or jar, I’m happy to smear it on my lips. But lately I learned that much like chocolate or reality TV, lip balm can be downright addictive. In fact, there’s a whole website devoted to the dangers of lip balm abuse along with a new book called Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm?. After reading up on the warnings, I’m now trying to wean myself off the balm. Click through to learn why you should limit your lip balm use!

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Petroleum Jelly: Ingredient Decoder

Photo: Drugstore.com

Many of us think of Vaseline as a bathroom cabinet essential. A tub of the clear jelly only costs a few bucks and seems to last forever. On top of its status as a first aid kit staple, I can’t count the number of times I’ve picked up a magazine and read “insider” beauty tips touting Vaseline as a no-frills moisturizer. I’ve known girls who smear it on their elbows and knees every night to keep roughness at bay, and there was a time I used it regularly as a lip balm. With all the praise it receives, you’d think Vaseline is a true miracle product, right? Well, think again. This is one case where the popular consensus surrounding a product doesn’t necessarily mean it deserves such a glowing reputation. In fact, I’ve come to think of Vaseline as the beauty equivalent of white bread: cheap and widespread but bad for you over the long run.

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Hydroquinone and its Alternatives: Ingredient Decoder

Photo: Elure

If I were to draw a map of my face, the brown spots dotting my features would be the equivalent of capital cities. There’s one on my nose and another beside my lip. Then there’s the Shanghai of all spots: the raised circle above my right eyebrow, which hovers halfway between freckle and mole territory. These so-called beauty marks have always bothered me, and my first recourse was to seek over-the-counter products with hydroquinone. This lightening agent works by inhibiting skin’s melanin production. But as I recently learned, hydroquinone can actually be dangerous for your skin. Learn why after the jump!

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Titanium and Zinc Dioxides: Ingredient Decoder

Ask any beauty editor for her one essential skincare tip, and she’ll tell you to wear SPF every day, come rain, snow, sleet, or the apocalypse. You’ve heard it all before but it bears repeating: UV radiation causes premature aging, and no one wants skin that looks like football leather. But what you might not know is the difference between chemical sunscreens and physical sunblocks. One absorbs UV radiation; the other deflects it. I opt for sunblocks because they have a reduced risk of irritation. Most are made out of a combo of two natural minerals: titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide. Together, these two ingredients form a protective coating on your skin. And unlike sunscreens, which can take up to twenty minutes to kick in, sunblocks start working right away. Click through to learn about my daily SPF ritual!

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