A look at the best skincare ingredients to keep your face looking great – from Vitamin C serum to retinol. Even probiotics are great for your skin!
Fact: my skin care routine takes longer than my makeup routine. It’s typically 4-5 steps, and I like to take 1-2 minute breaks between the steps to let the active ingredients soak in. In my mind, it’s all worth a few extra steps to prevent aging and keep me looking my best. This obsession isn’t cheap, but taking care of your skin is an investment. Luckily, many products only need a tiny amount per use, so a small bottle can last months. What I’m spending still works out to be cheaper than trying to undo aging later with lasers, fillers and Botox.
I’m now in my early thirties, and my skin looks better than it did in my twenties. It’s brighter, smoother and I have about the same amount of fine lines. I’m always on the hunt for new skincare ingredients to add to my routine.
Read on for the favorites that have a permanent place in medicine cabinet. I’ve also given product recommendations for each based on what I use myself.
7 Essential Skincare Ingredients for Your Routine
Probiotic Skin Care Products
We use probiotics for so many things, from treating abdominal pain to preventing colds. Now your skin can get in on the myriad of health benefits of probiotics.
To use: After cleansing.
Benefits: Reduced inflammation and redness, strengthen skins natural barrier, improve skins texture, free radical protection
Products: Anything from Tula. Their entire skincare line centers around probiotic technology. Because I’m obsessed with moisturizing my skin, I use their super rich Overnight Skin Rescue Cream in the morning and at night. Their Revitalizing Eye Cream is also a fave.
Vitamin C Serum Skincare
Vitamin C serums have long been shown to brighten skin and fight aging. In fact, I have a pharmacist friend who compounds lab grade vitamin C to make her own serum – the evidence for this stuff is that good!
To use: Morning, after cleansing.
Benefits: Stimulates collagen production, brightens skin and improves luminosity, improves fine lines, protects against free radicals.
Products: MD Sun is my go-to brand for a concentrated vitamin C serum. If your face tends to be oily, try VI Derm, as they make a gel-based product that goes on super smooth and doesn’t leave skin shiny. Both products are pricey, but you only need two drops to cover your whole face.
Retinol or Retin-A
Retinol and retinoid (the active ingredient in Retin-A) are similar compounds, but retinoid is about 100 times stronger. Retin-A is one of the most essential components of my skin care regimen. Out of all of the ingredients here, the retins have the strongest evidence to back up their claims. I run across dermatologists occasionally at the hospital, and I always ask them what skin care tricks they have. The answer is always the same – ‘retin A and sunscreen’. Retins can be drying, but if you’re using moisturizer your skin should get used to it over time.
To use: At bedtime.
Benefits: Repair skin, fight aging, improve skin elasticity, increase cell turnover for better skin texture.
Products: Your doctor will have to prescribe you Retin-A. Start with a lower strength and increase potency as your skin gets used to using it. For an over-the-counter version, try Retinol Renewing Serum by Karyng Make sure you are wearing sunscreen if you add retinol to your skincare regimen. No matter what you’re using one every day!
Charcoal Skin Care for Detoxifying
Fact – We’re exposed to air pollution on a daily basis and it’s super hard on our skin. Soot from automobiles, dust from construction and ash from fires can cause uneven skin tone. Smog depletes natural vitamin levels in skin and pollutants from exhaust accelerate brown spots and wrinkles.
To use: Nighttime, after cleansing.
Benefits: Purifies skin, absorbs toxins
Product: Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant is a superfine powder exfoliant that you use after washing your skin. Activated charcoal helps to get rid of skin-aging pollutants and helps to absorb environmental toxins. Dermalogica also makes a detoxifying charcoal mask that I love.
The great thing about coconut-based products is they last. The rich fats moisturize longer than most products because it soaks deeply into skin. Other products moisturize with water meaning as soon as the water evaporates, so does the moisture. Coconut has fatty acids, antioxidants and proteins that our skin needs to be healthy.
To use: Morning and night.
Benefits: Adds moisture in a natural way, heals small wounds, reduces hair breakage (including eyebrows!).
Product: Anything from Cocokind, but if I had to pick it would be their Facial Repair Serum. It’s all organic, gentle, Fair Trade, and all natural. Their products are so gentle they’re safe for babies.
Hyaluronic Acid for Skin Firming
Despite the name, hyaluronic acid isn’t harsh or skin-stripping. It’s actually a moisture binder that traps moisture in your skin. That makes your skin look smoother and better hydrated. It’s super gentle and occurs naturally in the human body.
To use: Morning.
Benefits: Boosts the moisture from other skin products, immediately makes skin look plumper and firmer.
Product: Dermalogica Extra Firming Booster. You can mix it in with your moisturizer so it doesn’t add a step to your daily routine.
Vitamin B3 Niacinimide in Skincare
Vitamin B3 is one of the best skin brightening agents out there. I’m trying to treat the sun spots I have from my lifeguarding days with creams to save on the cost of laser treatments.
To use: Morning and night.
Benefits: Anti-inflammatory, improves acne, anti-aging, improves skin tone, decreases hyper-pigmentation.
Product: KarynG Revitalizing Eye Cream by Dr. Karyn Grossman, aka Gwyneth Paltrow’s dermatologist. It’s super moisturizing and protects the delicate skin around my eyes. I’m hopeful it’s also decreasing dark circles and puffiness too.
What about you? Any skin care ingredients you can’t live without? Tell me all of your secrets!
Need more skincare tips? Try doing a facial peel at home: