Your skin’s needs can change in a variety of ways over the course of your life. Contributing factors are age (obviously), environmental elements such as temperature and humidity, the water in your house you use to shower with, the products in your skincare routine, and so on. It’s important to figure out what works best for you. Unfortunately, the only real way to do that is through trial and error. The good news is, we’re here to help.
Four Heavy Hitters
Over the years, I have experienced a merry-go-round of various skin care routines, using both natural and store-bought ingredients—and I have done a lot of research in the process. Here are four heavy-hitter ingredients—both natural and synthetic—that come highly recommended for promoting healthy skin.
Our skin naturally contains thick cells called ceramides. Ceramides are what hold our skin cells together and they form a protective layer that plumps the skin and allows it to retain moisture. Over time, the skin can become dry and irritated due to ceramide depletion. Therefore, maintaining proper hydration is important. If you’re interested in revamping your skincare routine, start with two moisturizers for AM use and PM use—the PM lotion hydrates skin while you sleep and the AM lotion provides moisture during the day with broad spectrum SPF 30 sun protection.
2. Hyaluronic Acid
Although it doesn’t sound like it, hyaluronic acid is a beneficial chemical to have in your skincare products. It’s a naturally occurring substance in the body that regulates cell renewal, lubricates the connective tissue and helps to maintain skin’s elasticity. When applied directly to the skin, it helps to create a moisture barrier that makes the skin more smooth and soft. Hyaluronic acid is able to hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, benefitting dehydrated skin. It’s a bonus that because this ingredient already exists in the body, it is a safe alternative to harsh ingredients.
You’ve probably heard this word thrown around in the various anti-aging ads and commercials. That’s because retinol really can be a powerful anti-aging agent. Retinols are an active form of vitamin A and are powerful exfoliants of dead skin cells and other problematic layers of skin—allowing for a faster cell turnover rate. That’s why it has the power to produce younger cells and younger looking skin. In addition, retinol A can increase the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen, allowing the skin to become more supple, firm, heal sun damage, treat acne by reducing hyperpigmentation, dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles.
4. Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C plays a key role in how the skin creates collagen. Although there hasn’t been a great deal of formal research on the effects of vitamin C on the skin’s health, what we do know has led skincare experts to recommend it for its ability to prevent and fight damage from UV rays. (It’s important to note, though, that vitamin C is not a sunscreen.) Additionally, its antioxidant properties help to fight free-radical damage from pollutants in the environment. Current research also suggests that vitamin C can help treat dry skin and may support wound healing. But the best part is, when added to other nutrients like vitamin E and zinc, its positive effects are enhanced. You can find affordable vitamin C serums, but keep in mind that to be effective, the product must be in a container that light and oxygen cannot penetrate. To get the best results, choose vitamin C serums that come in opaque packaging and tubes or pumps that restrict air.
More Ingredients to Seek Out for Skincare
Those are just four heavy-hitters of highly-beneficial skincare ingredients. Of course, there are many more, such as products that contain peptides (promotes skin elasticity) or AHA/BHA (alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid, which act as exfoliants). There are also many natural, organic ingredients you can use to supplement your skincare routine with beneficial ingredients such as clay, seaweed, oats, coconut oil, honey, olive oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, jojoba oil, aloe vera, and vitamin E.
It’s just as important to understand what you shouldn’t put on your skin. There are many skin-aggravating agents that can cause skin to breakdown, putting its ability to renew itself at risk. For example, fragrances and essential oils are notorious for this, particularly if your skin’s moisture barrier has already been compromised due to conditions like rosacea, eczema or acne. If you suspect you have sensitive skin or are prone to breakouts, it’s always a good idea to patch test new products. Even if a product claims that it’s “non-comedogenic,” it can still cause you to break out or have a reaction. The phrase is not a regulated term, so any company can slap it on their product labels and use it as a marketing buzzword in the same way that “all-natural” and “organic” are misused on food packaging labels.
Here are three good rules of thumb:
- Seek out light serums or thin lotions that won’t cause your skin to feel greasy and heavy.
- Avoid harsh ingredients like menthol, peppermint, alcohol, or citrus fruit juice.
- Avoid abrasive scrubs or brushes that can cause micro-tears in the surface of your skin.
Lastly, one of the most important things you can do is to continue to research and experiment. You’ll be able to curate a skincare routine that works best for your body chemistry.