Skincare fiends all have a few types of products overcrowding their medicine cabinets: The One You Bought Strictly for the Chic Packaging. The One You Really Want to Love, But That's Just Not Working. The One You're Saving For If Your Skin Type Somehow, Magically Changes. (Can you tell we can relate?)
Yep, we skincare people will find just about any reason to keep a cool new formula around. But then there's another section of our medicine cabinets, one for the standbys. The products that always work—and work well. (To put it another way, if someone tried to snatch one of these bottles, there would be an.... altercation.) These products are powered by extremely potent active ingredients that are scientifically proven to dramatically improve your complexion. If you're looking for results, you seek out these ingredients. How many do you have in your rotation?
Retinol is the gold standard anti-aging ingredient for a reason. As we age, our complexion's renewal process—in which our skin sloughs away dead skin cells to reveal younger, more radiant skin beneath—starts to slow down. The same is true of collagen production. Retinol works to speed up that process, resulting in smoother fine lines and wrinkles, fewer age spots, and decreased dullness.
If retinol tends to make your skin dry or irritated (or you'd prefer a more natural option), studies show bakuchiol, an ingredient derived form the babchi plant, shows comparable results to retinol with fewer side effects.
Some skincare ingredients (like retinol, above) work to reverse damage. Others, like the antioxidant vitamin C, actively prevent further damage from happening. Though vitamin C does offer compelling brightening and tone-evening benefits, we swear by it for its ability to neutralize free radicals, extremely damaging molecules that attack skin cells during and after UV ray and pollution exposure. Apply it daily under your sunscreen to block both signs of aging and precancerous changes within the skin.
Oh, niacinamide, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways: Otherwise known as vitamin B3, you strengthen our skin's barrier—its first line of defense—helping to reduce environmental damage and prohibit moisture loss. You help normalize the substances in the lining of our pores, preventing them from becoming enlarged and even clogged. You even make skin look brighter and tighter, all while playing nicely with our other favorite ingredients on this list.
ALPHA AND BETA HYDROXY ACIDS
Quick recap: The most common alpha hydroxy acids include glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, mandelic acid, and tartaric acid. Meanwhile, there's only one beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid. (We feature its natural cousin, willowbark extract, in our H2Glow Serum.) AHAs do it all, from sloughing away surface dead skin and brightening dark spots to refining pores and smoothing fine lines. Salicylic acid, on the other hand, is a superstar for anyone struggling with acne. Because it's drawn to oils, it penetrates deep into your pores to eliminate clogging material that could lead to whiteheads and blackhead.
One of our very favorite ingredients for giving the complexion some much-needed moisture. Human skin naturally produces squalene (with an extra “e”) to moisturize the skin, but as we grow older, we make less and less of it. The hydrogenated version, called squalane (with an “a”) can be applied topically to nourish your complexion and lock in hydration. And because it’s very unlikely to irritate your skin, it’s even a great fit for those with sensitivities.