14 Bizarre Skin Care Ingredients That Are Actually Amazing

BY Marilyn Oliveira · October 24, 2016

Weird Skin Care Ingredients - DermStore

The adage warned that “beauty is pain,” but it didn’t say anything about it being absurd. Perhaps that’s because some of the most peculiar ingredients in skin care today are wildly beneficial and not really as ridiculous as they seem. Check out 14 of the most shocking things you can find in common products, and embrace the weirdness along with the benefits.


1. Bee Venom, aka Melittin

Find it in: Rodial Bee Venom Moisturiser

While you probably associate bee venom with teeth-gnashing pain, but it’s the nonpainful effects that are behind its use as an ingredient in eye creams, lip plumpers and skin-firming moisturizers. As venom-related swelling plumps wrinkles away, the accompanying rush of blood stimulates production of elastin and collagen—completely sting- and agony-free.

2. Bone Marrow, aka Glucosamine

Find it in: Dermalogica AGE Smart Power Rich

Flush with beneficial acids and anti-inflammatory properties, the oil found in bone marrow penetrates skin easily and forms a protective barrier that keeps nourishing moisture in. Chicken bones contain the marrow of choice for face creams and moisturizers, though glucosamine can be derived from other sources as well.

3. Snail Mucus, aka Mucin

Find it in: Biopelle Tensage Intensive Serum 40

That slime snails leave behind in trails on the sidewalk? It’s actually a protein-rich, antioxidant-filled secretion that protects their little bodies and is chock-full of elastin and glycolic acid—everything a skin care product needs to slough off dead skin cells, reduce the effects of photoaging, smooth out scars and stimulate collagen. Gross? Maybe. Effective? You bet.

4. Dragon's Bloood, aka Croton Lechleri

Find it in: Rodial Dragon’s Blood Sculpting Gel

Don’t mistake this for the kind of blood used in vampire facials. In fact, it’s not even blood at all. Dragon’s blood is a bright red resin obtained from different species of a number of distinct plant genera, and its medicinal use has been well documented since the ancient times. Also called sangre de grado in Spanish, it was used internally and externally to stop bleeding, help heal wounds and treat intestinal problems. Today, it is used in skin care products to calm inflammation, reduce redness and irritation and protect against external stressors.

5. Cochineal Beetles, aka Carmine/ Carminic Acid

Find it in: bareMinerals Blush

If you’re a fan of red lipstick or pink-tinged body lotion, you’ve almost certainly smoothed some powdered beetle remains somewhere across your person—and that’s not a bad thing. Carminic acid, derived from the crushed, dried bodies of cochineal beetles, is the key ingredient in one of the most popular red dyes in the world and comes with the excellent benefit of being chemical-free.

6. Dynamite, aka Diatomaceous Earth/Diatornite

Find it in: Diatomamus Earth Mask

While there are no actual explosives masquerading as eye cream, diatomaceous earth (DE) is one of the two primary components of dynamite; however, the food-grade version makes for a safe, natural additive to skin products. The substance’s inherent absorbency allows it to attract oil and trap bacteria when added to face masks, and its gentle granular quality makes it a desirable component of facial scrubs and cleansers.

7. Fish Scales, aka Guanine

Find it in: butter LONDON Nail Lacquer

The pearlescent effect of many a coveted lip gloss and nail polish comes courtesy of crushed fish scales. (Yes, fish scales.) Readily available and completely natural and nontoxic, the scales inherently reflect light from multiple angles for a sheen that has now become popular in face creams and shimmery body lotions.

8. Pepper Spray, aka Oleoresin Capsicum/Capsaicin

Find it in: Vichy Neovadiol Magistral Elixir

The chemical derived from chilies that gives pepper spray its burn also has the benefit of increasing blood flow to the skin—an effect that promotes healthy skin and pouty lips when delivered through face creams and lip-plumping treatments and glosses.

9. Placenta, aka Placental Extract

Find it in: EMK Beverly Hills Wrinkle Relaxing Toner

As the source of hyaluronic acid as well as estrogen and progesterone production, placentas are packed with hormones related to tissue development and smooth, beautiful skin. Topical creams and serums containing placental extract are being used to diminish wrinkles and stimulate collagen production, with sources ranging from plants to sheep to humans.

10. Sheep Sebum, aka Lanolin

Find it in: Murad Age Reform Soothing Skin and Lip Care

If the term “sebum” conjures images of oily skin and acne, you should know that the sheep version is what lubricates and waterproofs lambskin. A top ingredient in lip and body lotions, balms, butters and creams, lanolin is associated with soft, moisturized skin—and the fact that it’s derived naturally is a definite plus.

11. Caffeine, aka Caffeine Anhydrous

Find it in: 100% Pure Caffeine Mask

Absorbing caffeine rather than drinking it? Absolutely. This antioxidant-filled natural diuretic is a top ingredient in anti-cellulite cream because it is said to dehydrate fat cells to create a temporarily smoother look. It’s also believed to constrict blood vessels, making it a vital component in products designed to reduce dermal redness and under-eye puffiness.

12. Urea, aka Hydroxyethyl/Hydrovance

Find it in: DERMAdoctor KP Duty Dermatologist Formulated AHA Moisturizing Therapy for Dry Skin

This ingredient sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. Created in a laboratory (rather than a urinary tract), product-grade urea composed of ammonia and carbon dioxide serves as both a powerful humectant and a gentle exfoliant. It can also increase the penetrability of other skin care ingredients, earning it the title of a performance-enhancing compound in cleansers, creams, lotions and more.

13. Yeast, aka Yeast Extract/Beta Glucan

Find it in: Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment

Best known for making bread rise, yeast also happens to be an excellent source of fibroblasts, the same type of cells that generate collagen. Add to that yeast’s inherent richness of antioxidants, B vitamins, proteins and minerals, and you’ve got an ingredient that does everything from firming skin to calming irritation to correcting hyperpigmentation.

14. Charcoal, aka Carbon

Find it in: GlamGlow SUPERMUD Clearing Treatment

Long used to absorb poisons from the body before they can enter the bloodstream (think of it as a clever alternative to stomach pumping), charcoal is enjoying a renaissance as a toxin-absorbing, oil-napping, dirt-grabbing ingredient in an array of face masks and cleansers. By drawing out impurities and gripping them like a magnet until they’re washed away in the rinse, charcoal clears and brightens oily and acne-prone skin beautifully.

Marilyn Oliveira

Marilyn is a writer, editor and content creator whose work has ranged from editing Inside Weddings magazine to launching the content section of Evite.com. A California native and UCLA Bruin, Marilyn loves seeing live theatre and attending ou... Read More >

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