The skincare ingredients I use the most

[AD info: This is not a paid post. The products included are gifted press samples.]

In the past year or so I’ve become far more conscious of what I put on my skin. I used to follow the latest trends and choose skincare based on what had the best immediate effect, but I realised that wasn’t necessarily what was best for my skin in the long term. In fact, some of the things I thought were benefiting me because I seemed to be glowing immediately afterwards were actually doing the opposite – leaving my skin tired and dehydrated.

So I started to choose skincare in the same way I choose what I put into my body. As a beauty and grooming writer, I get sent so many products to test, so I’ve been able to try things quite liberally and really get to know what works for me. Anyway, I started to make decisions based on how my skin reacted, and found that – although I was trying different products – it was the same staple ingredients I was going back to over and over again.

Disclaimer: Before I get shot down, I’m not saying these products will work for everyone, but they’re the ones I’ve found suit my skin the best and have served me well in the long term. They also cover a broad range of problems and complaints, and are fairly adaptable to any kind of routine of lifestyle – so if you’re looking for something you can slot into your existing routine easily, these will probably fit quite nicely.

Anyway, leave me a comment in the comment box below with your skincare saviours, and let me any questions you have about the products I talk about here and I’ll try my best to answer.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is bloody marvellous. I wish I’d discovered it when I was at uni and could have done with something to refresh my skin every morning. I mean, even now I’ll take anything I can get to perk me up – but back then it would have been even more of a godsend!

When I have an early start, vitamin C is my go-to. It’s one of the strongest antioxidants, and right up there when it comes to anti pollution; fighting off free radical damage from the environment. It’s gentle, but it’s also incredibly nourishing and brightening, so if your skin is starting to look dull and you want to inject some life into it fast, this is the way forward.

I’m not using a vitamin C product across my whole face at the minute, but I have been using the C-VIT Eye Contour Cream from Sesderma for a couple of weeks now, and it really has done wonders for my dark circles – which have been an ongoing battle, believe me. I’m not the best sleeper on a good day, and the fact that I’m usually up around 5:30am means that, come Friday, I look like I’ve been mugged. After using this for a couple of days, the shadows practically disappeared – which only ever really happened after an intensive eye treatment before.

Vitamin C is brilliant for anyone – but if you’re looking to get a foot on the ladder when it comes to skincare, this is the place to start.

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is the body’s natural lubricant (if you laugh at the word lubricant, you’re a fool – just saying), with the highest concentrations found in the skin, eyes and connective tissues. The skin contains the highest concentration overall – over 50% of the body’s entire composition – where it binds to water to help retain moisture and keep skin hydrated. And although it’s widely taken as an ingestible supplement, topical hyaluronic can also be used to enhance the effects of moisturisers and serums.

As we age, hyaluronic production deteriorates, and environmental factors like pollution and sun damage also decrease the amounts in the skin. Incorporating products rich in hyaluronic into your skincare routine from an early age – late teens/early 20s ideally – will help top up your body’s natural production and keep skin hydrated.

When it comes to skincare, we often make the mistake of thinking a moisturiser is enough and, although they’re great for hydrating the surface of the skin, they don’t go deep enough to have a significant effect – unlike serums. So don’t be fooled by the price/per difference between the two – you need a hell of a lot more moisturiser to do what a serum does (and even then it’ll never quite cut it).

I was recently sent this Hydrating H Serum from DAYTOX, and I’ve been using it everyday since. Its such a lovely formula that’s absorbed so well, and has an immediate tightening effect, which is so refreshing first thing in the morning. It’s also packed with anti pollution properties which, if you live in a city and can feel the air crippling your skin whenever you step out, is a great added bonus.

Obviously, I’m not saying don’t use a moisturiser at all – but if you’re looking to invest, go for a well formulated serum and a cheaper, more basic moisturiser.

Glycolic acid

Abrasive scrubs are a big no no, and they’ve quickly been overtaken by chemical exfoliants. There are two kinds that you should know about; alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxyl acids (BHAs).

Glycolic is the smallest AHA. It’s water soluble, so it only works on the surface of the skin, where it dissolve bonds between dead cells. Once cleansed away, fresh skin is revealed, giving you a more even, radiant complexion. The key to chemical exfoliants is they don’t affect healthy skin; they’re only strong enough to work on cells that are on their way out. So you can leave it on for as long as you like to work its wonders, and not put your skin at risk.

A lot of people like to use chemical exfoliants fairly regularly, but I find they can dry my skin out if I over use them. Instead, I do an intensive glycolic mask once a week to rejuvenate my skin, and follow it mid-week with another less intense treatment.

I’ve found the Blue Techni Liss Week-End mask from PAYOT to be one of my favourites. Each mask contains 8% glycolic, which is significant, so I wouldn’t leave it on for longer than 15 minutes at a time (unlike some glycolic solutions, which can be left on overnight). I think using this mask any more than once a week would be too much – or perhaps unnecessary? I don’t feel like I need it. Anyway, I tend to use the masks right before bed and, when I wake up the next morning, my skin is so clear.

If you have sensitive skin, go for a low concentration and always do a patch test first. If it aggravates your skin, either try again with another product lower in dosage, or go for a more gentle exfoliant…

Salicylic acid

…which leads me on nicely.

The other exfoliant I use in my skincare routine is salicylic acid, which is a BHA. BHAs are oil soluble, so they also work deep inside pores, helping to relieve congestion and freshen things up at a deeper level. They also have natural calming properties, so they’re usually preferred for more sensitive skin types, and are a great way to exfoliate if your skin’s going through a problematic patch.

I get sent so many products to try, from drug store brands to beauty counter options that cost – to be honest – ridiculous amounts, and still I always go back to this mask every week. It’s the Super Facialist Salicylic Acid Pore Purifying Clay Mask, and its great. It also contains Niacin – Vitamin B3 – and oil-absorbing Dead Sea Mud, and honestly just leaves the skin feeling clear, bright and refreshed.

I only use this mask once a week, and see it as a pick-me-up in between more intensive treatments. But if you’re going to use it as your only chemical exfoliant, I’d do 2 or 3 applications over a week. However, its not too harsh, and it dries really fast – like 10 minutes max – so it’s fairly adaptable for busy lifestyles. The price is also very nice, and each tube lasts forever – I’m sure I’m only on number 3 and I’ve been using it for around 4 years now.

I should also point out that Super Facialist do a full salicylic range, which includes a cleanser and a serum, which are both really nice, affordable products, and again worth a try if you’re looking to spruce up your skincare routine. You can find the full range here.

Retinol (Vitamin A)

I feel like retinol has become such a buzzword lately, and lots of people are using it without really knowing what it does. In the US, it’s been relied on for years, but in the UK it’s only really become a thing in the past 12 months. But, there’s a reason retinol’s on every beauty shelf in LA – because its such a game-changer.

Retinol is one of the only products that can be advertised as anti ageing in the US. It increases the appearance of firmness, diminishes fine lines and wrinkles, significantly improves uneven skin tone, and smooths the surface of the skin – basically all the things anti ageing creams claim to do, but it actually works.

Retinol works by increasing cell turnover, stimulating collagen and elastin production. It can combat a number of signs of ageing, and also helps clarify skin tone. From the late 20s onwards, collagen production decreases – for women its a gradual decline, whereas for men it usually happens in late 30s/early 40s, and is a more noticeable drop – so it’s usually recommended you start using retinols in your 20s for the best effect.

There are some things to remember: start with a low concentration and build up your skin’s tolerance, and always pair with an SPF. Retinol can cause dryness, and if you have sensitive skin its likely you’ll want to start with the lowest possible dosage – and even then it’ll take time to adjust. Skin Doctors’ Potent Vit. A Ampoules contain .15% pure retinol, and are literally weightless, making them the perfect overnight treatment. There’s a lot of debate surrounding using retinol during the day, with research finding it breaks down in sunlight and becomes less effective. It also makes skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays, so SPF is a must (30+ ideally).

Personally, I also tend to prefer retinols that come in opaque packaging (bear with me, there’s a reason). I’m not sure whether there’s actually any research into this, but if retinol breaks down in sunlight on the skin then I’m sure there must be something going on if its left exposed in a bright place. Or maybe I’m totally wrong… Anyway, while the option’s there I’ll take it.


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