THE BLEMISH BUSTER
What is it? Derived from willow bark, salicylic is an oil-soluble beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that can penetrate your skin’s surface.
What are the benefits? “Salicylic acid can exfoliate dead skin cells within your pores,” explains Dr Murad. “Blemishes may be most visible on the surface of the skin, but they actually form beneath the skin, inside hair follicles. In order to treat and reduce breakouts, you need to use blemish-treatment products that will penetrate the skin.” Salicylic acid gives your pores a deep cleanse and helps to banish excess oil.
Who’s it good for? Whether you suffer with hormonal breakouts or just the odd sore, angry spot, everyone should have a salicylic treatment in their bathroom cabinets. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, it’s worth incorporating the BHA into your daily routine.
How do you use it? Depending on your skin type, you can use salicylic acid every day, twice a week or whenever you feel a breakout coming on. Dr Murad recommends combining it with AHAs for best results: “Clearing away the dead and dry skin on the surface allows salicylic acid to operate more effectively in clearing clogged pores, keeping oil at bay and preventing blemishes.”
Our Head of Education, Niamh Butler’s insider tip: “Don’t be tempted to dry out your red, angry blemish, as this will only make it worse. Instead, daub Votary Blemish Rescue Oil – Tamanu and Salicylic, £35 – onto the area before you go to bed.”
THE BRIGHTENING BOOSTER
What are the benefits? The repair vitamin is a skincare powerhouse with multiple benefits. “It is a potent antioxidant with the ability to neutralise free radicals, especially those induced by excessive UV exposure,” says Prudvi Kaka, Chief Scientific Officer at DECIEM. “It also plays a major role in recycling antioxidants that are naturally present in skin, such as vitamin E and glutathione (an antioxidant that helps to lighten dark spots).” Plus, it is necessary for collagen production.
Who’s it good for? “Given its multi-functionality, vitamin C can be used by a wide range of skin types,” says Prudvi. “Those with younger skin can use it as a preventative measure from the damaging effects of oxidative stress and UV rays, while for anyone concerned with visible signs of ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles, it is a great ingredient to tackle uneven tone and texture.”
How do you use it? Your vitamin C serum or moisturiser can be worn every day under SPF or overnight to brighten and protect skin. Avoid formulas in clear packaging though – this ingredient can degrade if it’s exposed to too much light.
Niamh’s insider tip: “Oskia Super C Smart Nutrient Beauty Capsules, £68 are ideal if you struggle to know how much product to use – one capsule is the perfect amount.”
THE PIGMENTATION PREVENTER
What is it? Vitamin B3, or niacinamide, is water-soluble, which means our body doesn’t store it, and so we have to eat or apply it regularly.
What are the benefits? “Niacinamide is one of the most potent anti-inflammatories in skincare,” says Daniel Isaacs, Director of Research at Medik8. “It also helps to encourage the production of ceramides and can block the transfer of melanin pigments, which helps to slow down the process leading to pigmentation.” If that wasn’t enough, niacinamide is also good at strengthening your skin’s barrier, locking in hydration and nutrients, as well as refining your pores.
Who’s it good for? Its calming powers make it ideal for those with dry or sensitive skin. If you have congested, oily or acne-prone skin, you’ll also benefit from using it, as will those concerned with dark spots and pigmentation.
How do you use it? Niacinamide can be used daily and is ideally applied as the last serum before your moisturiser and SPF. If you’re using it for pigmentation, try pairing it with alpha arbutin for the best results.
Niamh’s insider tip: “If you battle with blemishes, The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, £5.6 is the one for you as zinc helps to soothe and calm inflammation too.”
THE HYDRATING HEAVYWEIGHT
What is it? Don’t be misled by the ‘acid’ in its name: hyaluronic doesn’t exfoliate. It’s actually the humectant kingpin, working as a moisture magnet for your skin.
What are the benefits? “Hyaluronic acid (HA) can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, so is excellent for plumping the skin from within,” says Prudvi. Keeping your skin’s hydration levels topped up with HA also smoothes out fine lines, increases firmness and gives you that healthy glow you’ve been pining for.
Who’s it good for? Regardless of your age, skin type or tone, incorporating an HA serum into your routine is a wise decision. “As we age, the amount of HA our bodies naturally make depletes. Therefore, we need to replenish this to help skin retain moisture,” explains Prudvi. It can be used by anyone, but if you have dehydrated skin, you’ll notice the biggest difference.
How do you use it? The beauty of HA is that you can use it in the mornings and evenings every day, and with every type of ingredient. If your skin is feeling particularly parched, add a couple of drops of HA into your foundation.
Niamh’s insider tip: “Paula's Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster, £36 is great for HA newbies as you can add a pump into your existing cream or base.”
THE SURFACE SMOOTHER
What is it? Of all the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), glycolic is easily the most talked about exfoliating acid. “It’s primarily derived from sugar cane, but it can also be extracted from cantaloupe and pineapple,” says the dermatologist and brand founder, Dr Howard Murad.
What are the benefits? While sloughing away dead skin on the topmost layer is what it’s famous for, glycolic has several uses. It has a small molecular weight, so it can penetrate deeper into skin and turbocharge collagen production, offering firmer, plumper results. “Glycolic acid increases cell turnover to help reduce wrinkles and fade age spots,” says Dr Murad. “It accelerates the movement of fuller, hydrated cells to the surface, replacing the drier ones. When used with vitamin C, it increases the speed at which the newer skin makes its way to the surface.”
Who’s it good for? Whether you want a smoother texture or brighter, firmer skin, employing a glycolic acid-based product could help speed up the process. However, if you’re new to exfoliating acids or have sensitive skin, start with lactic or mandelic acids, as these are gentler.
How do you use it? Don’t be tempted to overuse glycolic acid – stick to three times a week (unless it states otherwise on the instructions).
Niamh’s insider tip: If you’ve used AHAs before and are looking to upgrade, Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, £76 has a 12% AHA concentration. Don’t forget SPF though!”