We know there are a few key skincare ingredients that make a big difference when added to your daily skincare routine, but how do you know if you’re heading in the right direction when it comes to your personal preferences – whether it’s being sustainable, vegan or simply being more aware of what you actually put on your face?
The key is to look for proven superstar ingredients and understanding where those ingredients come from. And before you panic, we’ve done most of the hard work for you. It’s a pleasure.
You would have come across this vegan ingredient in exfoliating cleansers, toners and masks and a lot of professional treatments or peels. Most commonly derived from sugarcane, glycolic acid is a colorless, odorless alpha-hydroxy-acid (or AHA) loved for its absorbability (it is the smallest naturally occurring AHA, allowing it to penetrate the skin easier and deeper than other AHAs) and exfoliating powers. It is super effective at dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells (that leaves you looking ashy and dull) making the process of removing them easier. Your skin feels and looks smoother, plus it will also help with skin concerns like congestion and breakouts.
Know your label: To be effective you want a concentration of between 8% and 30%. As a benchmark, most washes will be around 8% to 10% and creams can be up to 15%.
How and when: It can be used daily, morning and/ or night, after you’ve cleansed your skin and before applying your serum and moisturiser. Glycolic acid should tingle but not burn when applied.
Our go-to: REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask
An absolute powerhouse of an ingredient that should already be in your beauty arsenal because of its pro free radical-neutralising powers, vitamin C is simply one of the most effective topical antioxidants you can get your hands on. Benefits from daily use include treating and preventing hyperpigmentation, inflammation and photoaging. There is also evidence that shows daily use can have a positive impact on collagen production. Oh and, did we mention that it helps protect against the harsh effects of pollution on the skin? We told you, powerhouse.
Know your label: When shopping for vitamin C, you should see the words L-ascorbic acid at the top or very near the top of the ingredients list. That is the only form of vitamin C that is useful for skincare products. For best results look for a formulation that contains a concentration of between 10-20%.
How and when: Apply it after your morning cleanse, before your moisturizer and always follow up with an SPF.
Our go-to: Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
The superhero of the anti-aging skincare brigade, few ingredients are as effective as retinol. A derivative of vitamin A, it works wonders on pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture and hydration, and can also be very effective in treating acne-prone skin.
Retinol can be derived from both animal and plant-based substances. Retinoids are derived from animal sources, think milk and eggs, while carotenoids come from plant sources like carrots. So what makes it so effective? Unlike a lot of ingredients that only really work in the more superficial layers of the skin, topical retinol can penetrate and work in the deeper layers of the skin with the ability to improve collagen and elastin formation that translates to really great results.
Know your label: Percentages are important here. For basic anti-aging benefits you need a concentration percentage of 0.4%. When buying these products they should come in airtight packaging to keep the formulation stable and effective.
How and when: Retinoids and carotenoids can become less effective when exposed to sunlight and air as it causes them to break down and loose their potency. Always use them as part of your night-time routine.
Our go-to: Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum
All or the above mentioned ingredients can cause sun sensitivity and it is important to only use them in combination with an SPF of 30 or higher. Both glycolic acid and retinol can cause skin sensitivity, so introduce them slowly for the first two weeks before using daily.