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Top 5 Cosmetic Ingredients You Need in Your Skincare Routine

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

When shopping for new cosmetic products, it's good to keep in mind some key cosmetic ingredients to look out for. Everyone has different skincare needs, so below I have listed the best 5 ingredients you should consider in your skincare routine. Not all of them may be suitable or needed for your needs, but please do your research if you are considering new ingredients.

Vitamin C

L-ascorbic acid, or better known as vitamin C - is an antioxidant.

Free radicals are lone, un-bonded electrons which can cause damage in a cell. Free radicals usually come around when photons (from the sun through UVA and UVB radiation) un-stabilise a bond, causing the two electrons in a covalent bond to split. Antioxidants work by accepting free radicals from molecules, making them stable again.

We can say that vitamin C 'mops up' free radicals, which prevent damage from the sun.

Vitamin C has a unique property of stimulating collagen production in the skin, as well as inhibiting the breakdown of collagen. This makes it an amazing anti-ageing ingredient by keeping your skin plump and bouncy.

Anti-pigmentation is another one of vitamin C's amazing properties. It interacts with the enzyme tyrosinase by interfering with it's binding site - this leads to enzyme inhibition which means that less pigments are deposited in areas of the skin. Overall, this reduces the appearances of sun-spots and other forms of pigmentation.

However, one of the most difficult challenges cosmetic formulators face, is implementing the active form of l-ascorbic acid (which is the only clinically tried vitamin C) whilst still keeping it stable.

Our skin naturally contains vitamin C and can also be absorbed as part of your diet.

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is an amazing cosmetic ingredient to use, as it help with all aspects of ageing.

Hyaluronic acid:

  1. Improves texture of the epidermis

  2. Skin tone

  3. Volume and elasticity

Fundamentally, it is a humectant - which helps retain water in the skin. It also reduces inflammation which can help with acne and other forms of inflammation.

Hyaluronic acid increases the penetration of other actives into the dermis such as:

  • Retinol

  • Nianacamide (Vitaamin B3)

  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

However, as this is a natural product our skin makes, it also has enzyme correspondents which break them down on our skin. Hyaluronidase is the enzyme which breaks down hyaluronic acid, therefore it needs to be re-applied ever 24 to 36 hours.


Retinol, (Vitamin A) is a retinoid.

Retinoids work by increasing cell turn over. Usually, your skin would take approximately 30 days per skin cycle (being produced in the dermis and moving up through the epidermis until it is shed). However, retinoids speed up this process, meaning that a full skin cycle could take as little as 14-21 days.

Retinol also:

  1. Decreases sebum (oil) production

  2. Decrease inflammation

  3. Kills P.acnes

  4. Unclogs pores

  5. Reduces pigmentation

  6. Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

  7. Smoothes over textured skin

  8. Reduces pore signs

Beware: sensitisation and irritation are very common when using retinoids (trust me, I am feeling the effects as I am writing this). So take it easy. You don't need to start using retinoids until you are in your mid 20s - but it is recommended to people who may suffer with acne.

paula's choice 1% retinol

Retinol 0.5% in Squalane


Ceramides are fundamental in making up the skin structure.

The skin follows a 'brick and mortar' structure which helps it retain its shape, elasticity and most importantly: keeping the good molecules in, and the bad molecules out.

Ceramides make up the 'mortar' or lipid bi-layer of the skin.

Ceramide concentrations in the skin dramatically decrease as you age. As much as 40% of the ceramides present in your skin will be gone by the time you reach 30.

You may think that this ingredient doesn't have anything to do with acne - however you'd be surprised. Low levels of hydration and a weak lipid bi-layer cause hyperkeratosis* which leads to comedogenesis (clogging of pores) which causes acne breakouts.

*Hyperkeratosis is the thickening of the outer layer of the skin.


Niacinamide is the active form of Vitamin B3 in skincare

This ingredient can help with:

  • Pigmentation

  • Managing acne prone skin

  • Anti-ageing

Niacinamide increases the production of cermaides in the skin (as described above).

It reduces pigmentation by reducing the transfer of melanin produced by melanocytes in your skin, making blemishes and sun-spots less visible. Niacinamide is also an anti-inflammatory ingredient, so can reduce acne.

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