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Skincare Ingredients To Know

Feature: Long Read
Words by Olivia de Courcy

In recent years, we’ve seriously boffed up on our skincare ingredient knowledge: what we put on our skin has become just as important as what we put into it. With brands like The Ordinary exploding in popularity thanks to its no-fuss ‘does what is says on the tin’ approach, it’s clear that the skincare ingredient language once reserved for laboratories and those in-the-know is now firmly part of our everydayroutines. Here, we break down 2021’s most searched-for skincare ingredients such as vitamin C, retinol and collagen, and share our editor’s picks of some of the best you’ll find in the Beauty Halls and at H beauty.

DR. BARBARA STURM  The Good C Vitamin C Serum (30ml)

Vitamin C

Coming in at number one is vitamin C – an all-round skincare superstar. Vitamin C is not only an antioxidant, meaning it protects your skin from free radical damage that can lead to early signs of ageing (therefore it’s best used in the AM), but it can also boost collagen production and reduce pigmentation. Try a vitamin C serum for maximum potency. Newbies to the vitamin C crew of note include Dr Barbara Sturm’s The Good C and Kylie Skin by Kylie Jenner's Vitamin C Face Serum.

Shop Vitamin C Skincare

The Acid Alphabet

Hyaluronic, glycolic, lactic, mandelic, polyglutamic, salicylic… yes, there are a lot of acids in the skincare ingredient world, all with very important roles to play to give you the best skin of your life.

  • SUNDAY RILEY  Good Genes Glycolic Acid

    Alpha Hydroxy Acids

    Glycolic, lactic and mandelic are three hero AHAs that resurface and brighten skin. They loosen the dead skin cells sitting on top of our skin to reveal new, healthy skin beneath.

    Shop Sunday Riley Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment
  • PERRICONE MD  Blemish Relief Calming Treatment & Hydrator (59ml)

    Beta Hydroxy Acids

    Salicylic acid and succinic acid are the best known BHAs, which are brilliant for oily or acneic skin as they go deeper than their alpha counterparts to de-clog pores.

    Shop Perricone MD Blemish Relief Calming Treatment & Hydrator
  • CHARLOTTE TILBURY  Super Radiance Resurfacing Facial (50ml)

    Poly Hydroxy Acids

    PHAs are considered cousins of AHAs because of their similar skin-shedding properties, but on a more gentle scale. The most common are gluconolactone and lactobionic acid.

    Shop Charlotte Tilbury Super Radiance Resurfacing Facial
  • ESTÉE LAUDER  Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex Serum (115ml)

    Hyaluronic Acid

    This hydrating acid’s goal is to retain moisture inside the skin – it’s a sugar that holds onto water (up to 1,000 times its own weight, in fact) to keep skin hydrated and plump.

    Shop Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair


Whether you use retinol in your serum, moisturiser or eye cream, one thing’s for sure: it works. It’s the only scientifically proven ingredient to reduce signs of ageing and, in the simplest sense, it’s an antioxidant derived from vitamin A. Retinol is one of a few ‘retinoids’ (other forms include retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate) – so see any of those on the label and you’re on the right track.

For those new on the retinol journey, start with a low percentage and work your way up – as it can cause irritation, including sun sensitivity, so it’s best used in the PM and followed up with a sunscreen the next day. Skinceuticals’ Retinol 0.3 is a favourite among beauty editors, which you can find in the Hair & Beauty Salon, or try Sarah Chapman’s Overnight Facial Deluxe with the Natura Bissé Inhibit Retinol Eye Lift for more oomph.

SARAH CHAPMAN  Overnight Facial Deluxe (30ml)
Shop Retinol


Collagen is what keeps our skin supple, bouncy and ‘plump’, making up 75% of its structure, but depletes at a rather rapid pace as we age – hence wrinkles and ‘sagging’ occur. Keep those levels high (a trend known as ‘collagen banking’) by supplementing regularly and including it in your routine – you’ll find it in lots of skincare including Murad’s Rapid Collagen Infusion Serum, Dr Dennis Gross’ C+ Collagen line and Estée Lauder’s Re-Nutriv Ultimate Diamond Transformative Energy Crème.

Shop Now
ESTÉE LAUDER  Re-Nutriv Ultimate Diamond Transformative Energy Crème (50ml)


Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is a stand-out skincare ingredient for its repairing and skin barrier-bolstering effect that’s a good choice for sensitive skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s often twinned with other ingredients, such as zinc in The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + 1% Zinc, possibly its most cult formula. It’s a known acne-buster too, and in Omorovicza’s Silver Skin Saviour it’s paired with colloidal silver and salicylic acid to reduce pesky breakouts.

Shop Now
THE ORDINARY  Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (60ml)


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