When was the last time you found yourself looking at a shelf of skincare products in total confusion? Deciphering what the various lotions, acids, masks and tonics do and, importantly, whether they are right for your skin can be a difficult task. But, here’s the thing, it shouldn’t be. We firmly believe that skincare should be easy, transparent and, crucially, really deliver results.
To put the ease back into skincare we have rounded-up the key ingredients you should look for in your daily skincare regimen. Any ingredients you use, or treatments or products you incorporate, above and beyond this are a bonus, but nail these basics and you will have yourself a beautifully well-rounded and effective skincare routine.
The first three ingredients are brilliant for all skin tones and types and should form the basis of every skincare routine whether your concern is aging, pigmentation, uneven texture, breakouts or enlarged pores. The final two are your add-on treatments that target specific problems – add them into your regimen as and when you feel your skin will benefit from them. And, it should go without saying, it’s essential to apply a broad-spectrum SPF (such as Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops SPF50) every day if you’re serious about protecting your skin and keeping signs of aging at bay.
Just like every other area of your body, your skin loves a great antioxidant. Antioxidants help to defend against the environment, such as UV and pollution, and they are also great at helping to repair damage in the skin. Vitamin C is a favorite with dermatologists because not only is it one of the most effective antioxidants but it also helps to stimulate collagen production for plumper, smoother skin, and it targets unwanted excess pigmentation to brighten your skin tone and deliver radiance. Sounds great right?
How to use: To do its job vitamin C has to mildly stimulate your skin so if you have sensitivity or an inflammatory condition such as rosacea or psoriasis, you may need to limit your Vitamin C use to just two or three times a week. However, if your skin is tolerant you can apply Vitamin C to your skin in the morning and the evening. Serums are best as the Vitamin C component is likely to be higher and stable, meaning it is as its most potent when you apply it to your skin.
We love a multi-tasking skincare ingredient and Vitamin A is about as multi-tasking as it gets. Also known as Retinol, Vitamin A is an antioxidant and it helps to speed up cell turnover – reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation in the process – and it encourages the skin to produce more collagen which is good news if your skin has started to slacken and show the signs of aging.
How to use: Retinols, or Vitamin A, are very active which means it will likely take your skin some time to adjust. Find it in an oil or serum format and apply it to your skin after cleansing in the evening. You may notice your skin initially becoming a little dry and flaky, don’t panic, this is your cell turnover speeding up and it will settle. Begin using your Retinol just once a week to begin with, as your skin starts to adjust and the shedding subsides, use it twice a week and so-fourth until your skin receives it happily every night. A word of caution, Vitamin A and Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so daily SPF is more important than ever.
No doubt you will have heard about Hyaluronic Acid as it has a stellar reputation and it’s one that it deserves. At its most basic, Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is a molecule that can swell and hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water and it’s a molecule found naturally in the body but one that diminishes with age. What this means for you is this; it swells and locks moisture in the outer layers of your skin, maintaining hydration levels and giving a plump and smooth finish. HA also helps to pull moisture from the environment and into your skin which is key to maintaining moisture throughout the day.
How to use: HA is an easy ingredient to work into your routine. You’ll find it in serums and moisturizers but we like to go one better and layer a HA serum under our regular moisturizer every morning and evening.
Known as a Beta Hydroxy Acid, or BHA, Salicylic Acid delivers a gentle exfoliation which in turn helps to smooth surface texture and, importantly, unclog pores and eliminate acne-causing bacteria. If you have dark skin and you’re worried about using anything harsh should it result in hyper-pigmentation you will love salicylic acid because it’s gentle while packing a punch.
How to use: How you choose to use Salicylic Acid really depends on your skin type and needs. If you have regular breakouts, visibly enlarged pores and a rough texture to your skin, you may find you want to use it once a day, every day. However, if your only concern is the occasional pimple you can use it as a spot treatment as and when it’s needed.
Our skin’s natural protective barrier is often overlooked when it comes to our skincare regimen but if it becomes impaired you may find your skin ages faster, develops more pigmentation and sensitivity and loses moisture rapidly. A healthy skin barrier will hold water within the skin and defend against harmful elements in the environment such as UV and pollution. Look for ingredients like lipids and ceramides which will shore up your skin’s defenses.
Alpha Lipoic Acid is one such ingredient that will help maintain a strong skin barrier. “You will often find Alpha Lipoic Acid formulated with the antioxidant CoQ10,” explains dermatologist and founder of Goldfaden MD, Dr. Gary Goldfaden. “Together they are highly effective in countering the normal decline in mitochondrial energy production that accompanies aging. These nutrients are especially important for aging skin due to their essential role in promoting youthful skin cell structure and function. We use it in our formulations because it may help protect, repair, and strengthen the skin, while lessening the appearance of puffiness, vertical banding in the neck region and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”
How to use: Barrier strengtheners such as lipids, ceramides and Alpha Lipoic Acid are versatile so you can find them in serums, moisturizers and masks making them super easy to slot into your skincare regimen. Plus, they don’t interfere with other ingredients so feel free to layer them in addition to your other skincare products.