Must Have Skincare Ingredients + Notes on Mixing Properly

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I’m not one to say there is a one size fits all skincare routine for everyone or that this or that celebrity’s routine is the “best”. Certainly not. Everyone’s skin type, conditions, and even shades can affect the routine and ingredients their skin can or cannot handle. Here I have some powerhouse ingredients for you to simply take into consideration. I’ve organized them into categories: Protection, Transformation, and Optimization. These are in order of importance, so protection comes first and foremost, while optimization is last. In other words, there is no point in doing anything for your skin if you are not going to protect it! Also, I should mention, always incorporate new products and ingredients slowly into your routine. You don’t want to irritate your skin and not know which new product did it. Feel it out and don’t hurry, it can do more harm than good.

Protection: Shield skin from environmental factors.

Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide: These are physical sunscreen ingredients. Many dermatologists and estheticians prefer physical to chemical sunscreens, as they do not contain hormone disrupting ingredients and are more environmentally friendly. Not to mention they are less irritating to the skin. Make sure yours is UVA and UVB broad spectrum sunscreen, and at least SPF 30. Reapply every 2 hours.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, is your classic antioxidant skincare ingredient. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which have extra unpaired electrons. Instead of your skin cells giving up an electron when they come in contact with free radicals, the antioxidants do. They have extra electrons to give up without becoming destabilized, thereby protecting your skin cells and your DNA. (They pretty much swoop in and save the day.) I recommend a vitamin C in the daytime, to protect from environmental pollutants and even prevent hyperpigmentation.

Transformation: Improve texture, tone, and cell turnover.

Retinol ~ She is the holy grail of skincare ingredients. Aggressive but lovable, retinol and retinoids are the only FDA approved products to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, help clear acne, and even reduce blood vessel size, thereby improving the color of the skin. People who use retinol for years (and properly apply sunscreen every day) do, in fact, look younger than similarly aged non-retinol users. It increases skin cell turnover and stimulates collagen production. It definitely makes you sensitive to sun exposure, so I implore you to apply sunscreen and reapply every two hours every day. Begin by using every couple of days and expect a period of purging if you have acne (in other words, it will get worse before it gets better). On off days, make sure to use an ultra hydrating moisturizer, as it will create dryness.

Glycolic Acid ~ This is one of many Alpha Hydroxy Acids, some of which could work in lieu of glycolic, but I find this to be the most universal and approachable. AHAs act as chemical exfoliants that slough off the outer layer of dead skin cells by breaking the bonds between them, thereby improving skin cell turnover (and therefore reducing fine lines), and revealing a smooth, brightened complexion.

Salicylic Acid ~ This is the only Beta Hydroxy Acid. Instead of working from the top down, like an AHA, salicylic acid works from the bottom up. It is oil soluble, so it dissolves unwanted excess oil in our follicles, thereby clearing congested pores and acne.

*You can use an AHA and BHA in conjunction with one another, should you need it. I do not, however, recommend mixing these with retinol on the same night. It is possible to rotate nights of using one or the other, but for some this can be too aggressive. While retinol is NOT an exfoliant (a common misconception due to the initial side effect of flaking), it can be irritating, so those with sensitive skin should tread lightly between that and acids. If you are not too sensitive though and have built a retinol tolerance, a routine of rotating glycolic and retinol can work wonders, since the increased cell turn over from retinol means more skin cells needing to be exfoliated.

Optimization: Make the most of your skin cell processes.

Hyaluronic Acid ~ Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in our bodies. Despite the name “acid” it is incredibly soothing. It is found in our intercellular matrix between our skin cells and holds 1,000 it’s weight in water. I recommend this for ALL skin types. I use hyaluronic in a serum form and follow with a moisturizer. The properties of the hyaluronic acid allow your skin to absorb much more hydration from your moisturizer than if you had used the moisturizer alone. If you’re looking to achieve that trendy “glass skin” look, you must incorporate hyaluronic into your routine. (For some context, it’s usually the main ingredient in most good quality sheet masks that provides that gorgeous dewy sheen.)

Peptides ~ Peptides are amino acids that stimulate the fibroblasts in our epidermis. Basically they come in and tell your skin “Make more collagen!” A common peptide ingredient is Matrixyl 3000. Neuro-peptides in particular have a botox like effect, in that they inhibit the signal from your brain to the muscles in your face. If you smile for instance and you normally get crows feet around your eyes, with neuro peptides applied to the area, that muscle would be stimulated less, and the wrinkle would be smoother and much less defined. Peptides are great for any age prevention routine, and make skin noticeably more plump.

I hope this helps some of you understand and navigate some of the core active ingredients of skincare products! Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.