Choose Your Fighter: Skincare Ingredients to Combat Every Skin Concern
Navigating skincare labels can be super tricky, especially when the ingredient list reads like a science chart you should have memorised back in seventh grade — salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, squalane, retinol. However, once you understand these ingredients and what they do for your skin, you can pretty much treat any and all your skin concerns.
Below we break it down for you by skin concern and give you a very shoppable list of products to add to your skincare line up so you can get your skin up to scratch before you emerge from iso.
If You've Got Thirsty (Read: Dehydrated) Skin
Repeat after me: Happy skin is hydrated skin. I cannot stress this enough. So many of our skin concerns could be minimised if we maximised our hydration, especially as we age. You want to look for ingredients that keep your skin looking and feeling hydrated while helping to protect your skin barrier, 'cause when that barrier breaks is when your problems start. We'd recommend thirst quenching ingredients like hyaluronic acid and squalane as well as resurfacing ingredients like AHA/BHA's.
Choose Your Fighter: (A bit dramatic? Yes, but let me have it OK.)
Hyaluronic acid: First let's talk about hyaluronic acid, easily the most buzz-worthy ingredient to come out of skincare in the last decade. It's good for a myriad of reasons and for thirsty skin, it's a must. Naturally our bodies do produce a certain amount of hyaluronic acid, however it lasts less than one day in the skin so we are parched, people, and that's where the topical products come in. When applied topically, hyaluronic acid helps to deliver a much needed boost of moisture, locks in hydration and plumps up our skin. It should be applied before all your other active ingredients so that it can be fully absorbed into your skin.
Squalane: Squalane is a relatively 'new' skincare ingredient that's drawing a lot of well-earned hype. It's full of natural moisturising factors that closely mimic our skin's natural oils, so it delivers a very effortless and easily absorbed dose of hydration. It locks moisture into the skin without leaving a greasy residue or feeling heavy and is suitable for all skin types.
AHA/BHA: Tired, dehydrated skin often needs a little more TLC and using a AHA (alpha hydroxy acids — glycolic and lactic) or BHA (salicylic acid) based product in your line up will do just that. AHA products work to get rid of any dead skin cells, dirt and oil build up that might be stopping your active ingredients from getting deep into the skin and working their magic. While your BHAs products can help boost hydration and even out skin tone, giving you that effortless glow we're all obsessed with.
If You've Got Acne Prone Skin
Breakouts and congested skin can be super frustrating to treat, especially as an adult, but once you can identify the cause of your spots, the right ingredients and products can clear it right up and help prevent future breakouts. You'll want to look for products that contain exfoliating acids like AHA/BHAs, hydrators like squalane and hyaluronic acid and if your skin's ready for it, retinol.
Choose Your Fighter:
AHA/BHAs: When it comes to treating congested or acne-prone skin, an AHA or BHA product should be one of your first go-to's. AHA/BHAs help promote cellular turnover and breaking down congestion on the surface of the skin that causes blocked pores, blackheads and pimples. Your AHA-based products contain acids like glycolic and lactic acid that help visibly improve skin tone and texture, as well as reducing the appearance of dark spots. While your BHA products reduce the appearance of blemishes and unclogs pores.
Hydrators: Our two heroes, squalane and hyaluronic acid. It's commonly assumed that if you have oily, acne prone skin that you should back off heavily hydrating products like serums, oils and gels. However, hydration is your friend when it comes to avoiding those pesky breakouts. Look for light weight hydrators that are non-comedogenic (pore blocking) and contain ingredients like squalane or hyaluronic acid. Both ingredients are oil balancing and work to lock moisture into the skin meaning they protect it from drying out, becoming damaged and forming breakouts.
Retinol: When it comes to treating congestion and breakouts, retinol can be what I like to call a skincare one-two punch. Not only will it help to improve skin texture, it's also a great for preventing acne. However, retinol doesn't like to necessarily play well with some of our other favourite skincare ingredients (glycolic and salicylic acids) so to avoid any irritations you should use them on alternate days/nights to be on the safe side.
If You've Got Sun Damaged Skin or Pigmentation
Ahh sun damage, also known as hyperpigmentation or sunspots, while easy to prevent (wear SPF every day, folks!) can be super difficult to treat. We recommend wearing sunscreen (not just relying on the SPF in your base products) rain, hail and especially shine, as it helps new pigmentation from forming and old pigmentation from getting worse. And when you're not in the sun, look to work in some brightening ingredients like vitamin C, AHA and BHA into your routine. It's also important to note that some hyperpigmentation, mainly around the chin, cheeks and upper lip, can be hormonal (often comes with pregnancy) and can be a little trickier to treat. We'd recommend seeing a dermatologist to talk through treatment if that's the case.
Choose Your Fighter:
Vitamin C: When it comes to evening out skin tone (read: minimising dark spots and discolouration), vitamin C should be your go-to. It not only helps to treat the appearance of existing hyperpigmentation but doubles as another preventative measure as well.
AHA/BHAs: By now you're probably catching on just how good these little acid combos are for your skin. AHA/BHAs help to remove dead skin cells, oil and dirt build up to reveal fresh, more even looking skin. Working these into your skincare routine via a night time serum (not to be layered with a retinol) long term can help reverse pigmentation caused by sun damage.
Retinol: If you really suffer from pigmentation, retinol is going to be your go-to as it has the ability to penetrate the skin deeply enough that it actually helps to interfere with pigment production, treating those deeper, more stubborn areas of hyperpigmentation. It also boosts collagen production and speeds up skin cell turnover so topically it helps to reduce discolouration too.
If You've Got Fine Lines and Wrinkles
When it comes to minimising the signs of ageing, (read: fine lines and wrinkles) there are a few skincare ingredients you can arm yourself with, and by now these anti-ageing bad boys need no introduction, but I'm going to anyway — AHA/BHAs, vitamin C and retinol.
Choose Your Fighter:
AHA/BHAs: You've probably seen these acronyms on plenty of exfoliants, gels and creams in more recent years as they've fast become buzz worthy ingredients in the battle against ageing. If it's coming in the form of creams and serums, it's likely to help stimulate collagen production and promote surface hydration while reenforcing the skin's natural barrier. If it's in an exfoliant, it's looking to assist with cellular turnover — which, along with collagen production, can be among the first things to slow down as we age.
Vitamin C: Before reaching for a retinol, we'd suggest working a vitamin C based product into your routine. Vitamin C is perfect for protecting your skin from free-radicals like UV rays, pollution and other environmental aggressors, while helping to boost the skin's natural collagen production abilities. And as previously mentioned, it also works as a great preventative for hyperpigmentation.
Retinol: Retinol is a tricky one to start working into your routine as there is much debate among derms as to the right age to start using it. They say it's best to start using it in your '30s, which is generally when the skin starts to age. Retinol is clinically proven to speed-up cellular turnover, while slowing down the breakdown of collagen in the skin, which is one of the main causes of fine lines and wrinkles. It can also improve the appearance of sun damage as it helps to even out the skin's overall look and texture.
If You've Got Dull, Uneven Skin
Most of us immediately associate bright, healthy, glowing skin with youth, hence why we're all chasing it. To avoid dull, uneven skin, you can't really go past (you probably guess it) AHA/BHAs and vitamin C.
And if you don't know why these ingredients are good by now I'm 100 percent getting fired.
Choose Your Fighter:
AHA/BHA: AHA and BHA (or a combination of both) is bomb for skin cell turnover and evening out the skin's texture. They prep your skin so all your delicious active ingredients like the ones mentioned above can sink into the deepest layers of your skin and do their thang.
Vitamin C: Quick recap on all the benefits of Vitamin C as mentioned above: It's an excellent brightening ingredient and protector from free radicals, while helping to minimise hyperpigmentation (the main cause of dull, uneven skin).