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Five skincare ingredients you should already be using

Beauty and skincare ingredients can read like another language if you don’t know what you’re dealing with, but it is really important to know what different skincare ingredients do so you can choose the products that best benefit your skin and will give the changes or protection, you’re hoping for.

skincare ingredients checker

Here are the top five skincare ingredients to protect and restore your skin…

Beauty and skincare ingredients can read like another language if you don’t know what you’re dealing with, but it is really important to know what different skincare ingredients do so you can choose the products that best benefit your skin and will give the changes or protection, you’re hoping for.

Best skincare ingredients

In my opinion the very best skincare ingredients are hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, L-ascorbic acid, retinol, chemical exfoliators and SPF.

1. What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a powerful humectant that can hold 1,000 times its own eight in water. So it is wonderfully hydrating and helps to keep skin plump and glowing. It occurs naturally in our skin cells, but it reduces as we age.

Side effects?

Almost none. It is called an ‘acid’, but it is a gentle ingredient. Howeverm because it holds so much water you need to make sure your skin is well hydrated so there is water around for it to grab. Apply to damp skin and make sure you’re not dehydrated.

How do I use it?

Look out for serums that contain it and follow their instructions. Here are a few of my favourites…

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 £5.90

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum £5.99

Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster £34

best skincare products for glowing skin

2. What is niacinamide?

It is a water form of vitamin B3, also known as nicotinic acid. It is something our skin needs but cannot produce itself.

READ ME: What skin type do you have and what does it need?

Niacinamide restores skin after damage and aging — it can plump lines, reduce pores, even skin tone and texture and combat pigmentation. It also prevents loss or moisture, protects from environmental damage and has antibacterial properties.

Side effects?

Seemingly none. There is debate over whether it shouldn’t be used alongside ascorbic acid, but the experts tend to disagree.

How do I use it?

It can be used morning and evening, before moisturiser and SPF or as part of it depending on the product. Most will contain around 5 to 10 per cent. Here are my favourites…

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% £5

The Inkey List Niacinamide £6.99

Alpha-H Vitamin B £24

3. What is retinol

Retinol is derivative of vitamin A (known for immune system boosting properties as well as health skin, bones and vision). It reduces wrinkles, acne and pigmentation — making the face smoother and firmer.

The body turns retinol acidic, this stimulates the cells and encourages renewal as well as the production of collagen and elastin.

Side effects?

Using a product with a high percentage can cause irritation. Start low — as little as 0.1 per cent — and slowly build tolerance. It can also increase photosensitivity, so best to use at night and with SPF usage the next day.

In dark skin tones it can cause inflammation, leading to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Again, start at a very low dose and use just once a week at first.

READ ME: Is bakuchiol better than retinol?

How do I use it?

Start using it in your 20s, once or twice a week and then increase the nights. You can gradually increase this overtime as your skin adapts, otherwise it can cause irritation.

You should have three months on and three months off, as research shows it is only effective for this amount of time. If using other acidic products, make sure to check they can be used together.

The Inkey List Retinol Serum £9.99

GLOW Recipe Avocado Retinol Sleeping Mask £23

Paula’s Choice Anti-Aging 1% Retinol Booster £48

the best skincare ingredients and what they do

4. What is L-ascorbic acid

This is the term for pure vitamin C. It is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce sun damage, protect from pollution, stimulate collagen and is most famous for brightening your complexion.

You will sometime hear people talking of Kakadu Plum (aka Gubinge, Billygoat or Murunga), which is an Australian fruit containing 100 times more vitamin C than oranges.

READ ME: The best vitamins in skincare

Side effects?

It doesn’t go well with dry skin and should be used in a low dosage – products should have no more than 20 per cent and try to keep the pH level below 3.5. Over usage will irritate the skin older.

How do I use it?

It can be used at night but is best used in the morning. It is very popular, so can now be found in many forms — but serum is the best.  Here are my faves…

The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Serum £14.99

La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum £28.50

5. What are AHA & BHAs

Alpha and beta hydroxy acids include some you may have heard of such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid. They are good for treating spots and acne, as the acid eats away at dead skin cells blocking the pores. Overall the help to brighten and even skin tone. They may cause tingling so beware if you have sensitive skin — use at night and make sure to being using SPF daily.

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Side effects?

As with many of these acidic products, don’t dive into everyday use but build up to it.

How do I use it?

It depends on the product. You can use it as part of your cleansing routine, or as an overnight treatment.

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution £6.30

The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Liquid Toner £6.99

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant £10


I guess I don’t need to explain what it is but let me tell you why it is so important.

The British Association of Dermatologists recommend always using a minimum of SPF 30, which blocks 97 per cent of UVB. I have fair, freckly skin and I was advised by a specialist to wear SPF 50 every single day, even during the winter.

UVA penetrates deep into the skin, doing damage that cannot be seen straight away but it will come to light in time. UVB rays are shorter, these are what burn the skin.

READ ME: The ultimate guide to SPF

Over time sun damage causes skin to look dull, lose firmness, wrinkles will develop, and skin may even lose colouring or softness. Pigmentation will develop underneath and make its way to the surface, e.g. freckles and dark patches.

Much of the damage cannot be seen straight away, but shows in time, so SPF should be used daily from your 20s.

Best skincare ingredients

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