Need some help when it comes to skincare ingredients?
Welcome to the age of the “Skintellectual”. With the industry and its consumers increasingly putting skincare ingredients and formulations under a critical magnifying glass, gone are the days where if a product looks pretty, smells pretty or is expensive, it is believed to be the best. But making informed choices about what you should and shouldn’t be putting on your face isn’t always simple.
Sometimes you might feel like you need a PHD to understand the list of ingredients on your day cream, especially when the chemical names for natural products are used. For example, would you welcome Tocopheryl Acetate in your moisturiser? Well, you might want to as its common name is Vitamin E. It’s important to understand that there is no single miracle element. It takes a combination of powerhouse ingredients to evoke change and promote our skin’s health. So to help you decipher what you may want to include in your daily routine, and drawing on my beauty industry expertise, here are my five key skincare ingredient picks.
1. Vitamin A
What is it: For centuries it was known as the “skin vitamin”, so it’s only recently that Vitamin A’s reputation has shifted to being a “normaliser” of skin. It’s crucial for the maintenance of a healthy glow and it works best alongside antioxidants.
What you need to know before using: Retinyl Palmitate (ester form) is the safest and most common form of stored Vitamin A in the body and, when applied topically, will be converted to a version of Vitamin A that affects cellular activity. You do need to be mindful of the percentage contained in the product you are using – it’s powerful, so start low and build up slowly to avoid reactions.
What benefits can you expect to see: An even skin tone and overall anti-ageing, which are signs that under the surface cell renewal, stimulation of the fibroblasts, skin immunity, and barrier function is being improved.
2. Vitamin C
What is it: Vitamin C has always been recognised in skin care for its defence against free-radical damage and photo-ageing.
What you need to know before using: Vitamin C is a wonder ingredient for the skin. Different forms offer varying levels of stability which is key to their activity. For example, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is an ester (oil), which means it is very stable – giving it a longer shelf life, enhanced absorption, less irritation, and therefore better results. There’s also Ascorbic Acid, but it is very unstable so becomes inactive quickly, so you should mix and use straight away. For best results, Vitamin C should be combined with Vitamin E.
What benefits can you expect to see: Skin lightening, improved hydration, and anti-ageing thanks to the promotion of collagen synthesis and UV protection.
3. Hyaluronic Acid
What is it: Hyaluronic Acid, one of the most sought-after cosmetic ingredients today, is a “super moisturiser” for the skin.
What you need to know before using: It is naturally found in the skin, where it maintains youthfulness, hydration, and overall function. When applied topically, its superpower comes from its ability to hold 1,000 times its own weight in water, boosting the skin’s moisture levels while supporting its natural protective barrier and reducing sensitivity.
What benefits can you expect to see: Anti-ageing, firming, plumping and increased hydration (for a luminous glow on the skin).
What is it: Peptides are the all-important building blocks for collagen.
What you need to know before using: Superfood for the skin, peptides are chains of amino acids that act as communicators at an intercellular level between cell membrane receptors. Without peptides, there is no collagen. There are many combinations of peptides, but the most proven and researched to look out for are Dermaxyl®, Matrixyl® 3000 and Argireline® (registered names used in skincare formulations).
What benefits can you expect to see: Firmer texture, reduced lines, plumper, smoother and more radiant skin.
5. Vitamin B5
What is it: Vitamin B5, also known as Pantothenic acid, is a healer and protector for the skin, and is great for all skin types.
What you need to know before using: Vitamin B5 stabilises the skin barrier, which reduces the amount of water that is lost (dehydration) through the skin, helping to maintain moisture levels and protection.
What benefits can you expect to see: Vitamin B5 aids healing, softening and moisturising the skin while strengthening it to help in the fight against environmental toxins.