Hadrian Miguel, Lifestyle & Beauty Director
Every beauty product has a star ingredient that sets it apart and makes it special, and often— it’s those unique, defining and signature ingredients that mean the difference between a product you really love and one quite simply that you cannot live without.
Here are some of the top, powerful, and hard-hitting beauty ingredients worth exploring and using to get fast results. Using a combination of these active ingredients is essential and a skin care must-have for awesome, gorgeous, and better looking skin.
Some of the ingredients I’ve listed are well-known beauty staples, while others may be new to you or new to skincare. So let’s take a look at some of the ABC’s of skincare ingredients.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Also known as: Lipoic Acid, Thioctic Acid
Good For: All skin types, Sun Damage and Aging, except very sensitive skin.
How It Works: Alpha Lipoic Acid is known as a universal antioxidant because it protects both water and fat soluble cell structures from free radical damage. It helps to decrease skin roughness and wrinkles as well as, helps with exfoliation and the stimulation of collagen, which may lead to a smoother appearance of the skin.
Alpha Lipoic Acid is an anti-glycation ingredient. Glycation is a natural process where excess sugar sticks to protein fibers binding them together causing fibers to become dry and brittle. As a result, skin loses it’s elasticity and becomes more vulnerable to wrinkling, sagging and UV damage.
Since it’s a powerful exfoliator, avoid it if your skin is sensitive or prone to redness.
Best Buys: Alba Sea Plus Renewal Cream, $14.95 / Aubrey Rosa Marqueta Night Creme With Alpha Lipoic Acid, $16.50
Also Known As: Acetyl Hexapeptide-3, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8
Good For: Sun-damaged, aging, and mature skin
How It Works: Argireline, a neuropeptide and hexapeptide, prohibits muscles from contracting and also reduces the degree and depth of wrinkles. When applied to the skin, Argireline helps to relax facial tension resulting in a reduction of fine lines and wrinkles. Kinda works similarly to Botox, just without the injection or the Botulinum Toxin.
Best Buys: Derma E Peptides Plus Wrinkle Reverse Creme, $38.50 / DDF Wrinkle Relax, $88
Also known as: 3,3′-Dihydroxy-b,b-carotene-4,4′-dione
Recommended for: All skin, especially Aging, and Sun-Damage skin
How it works: Harvested from micro-algae and responsible for the pink color in shrimp and lobster, salmon, and flamingos, astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant. An amazing ingredient that has been found to be 500 times more powerful than Vitamin E in neutralizing free radicals and 1000 times more effective than both Beta-Carotene and Lutein in protecting the skin from exposure to UV light. Its antioxidant properties help to reduce inflammation, normalize skin function and enhance the skin’s defense system, and protects the skin cells when applied topically.
Best Buy: Derma E Age-Defying Day Creme with Astaxanthin & Pycnogenol, $39.50
Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)
Also known as: Salicylic Acid, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract
Good for: Normal, Oily, Acne-prone skin
How it works: Salicylic acid clears skin and prevents future breakouts, and can penetrate the sebum that clogs pores, clearing blackheads. When used on a regular basis, it can decrease the frequency and severity of acne eruptions.
It’s best to avoid this ingredient if you have dry or sensitive skin, or an allergy to aspirin (it’s in the same family as aspirin, the pain reliever).
Best Buys: Murad Clarifying Cleanser, $26 / Origins Out of Trouble 10 Minute Mask, $21
Also Known As: Beta-alanyl-L-histidine
Good For: Normal, Aging, Mature, and Sun-Damage skin.
How it works: Carnosine is an anti-glycation molecule that acts like a magnet by attracting sugar molecules to itself instead of to collagen fibers, thus helping to prevent the skin’s matrix from stiffening and maintaining skin’s suppleness.
Anti-glycation products are one of the newest frontiers in skincare. Glycation—when sugar molecules naturally present in the skin adhere to collagen and elastin fibers, creating rigid bridges between fibers known advanced glycation end products (AGEs)—as a major cause of skin aging.
Carnosine is one of the only agents that addresses all three processes leading to aging — oxidation, inflammation and glycation.
Best Buy: La Roche-Posay Derm AOX Serum, $55.
Also known as: Theobroma Grandiflorum
Good For: Dry, Normal, Sun Damage, Aging and Sensitive skin.
How It Works: Cupuaçu is a superfruit from the cocoa family native to the Brazilian Amazon rain forest. Inside the pulp, the seeds contain a vegetable butter of premium quality that contains antioxidants, protein, and high linoleic acid concentrations
Cupuaçu is capable of absorbing more than 4 times its volume of water. A rich emollient with excellent hydrating power, it has soothing and unheard-of moisturizing properties to treat dry & sensitive skins. Its major ability to retain water prevents dehydration and water loss. Cupuaçu also helps restore softness and moisture balance to skin and hair.
Best Buy: Alba Botanica Cupuaçu Deep Hydration Body Lotion, $10.95.
Also known as: Tensin, ElemiPFA
Good For: Sun Damage, Aging, and Mature skin.
How it works: The Elemi tree is native to the Philippines and helps boost the production of Tensin. Tensin is an age-defying protein that helps anchor and connect cells to the skin’s dermal network. By restoring and elevating Tensin levels of the skin, the collagen and elastin synthesis is intensified, ultimately fortifying, tightening, lifting, toning, and improving the tension of the skin.
Best Buy: Chanel Ultra Correction Lift Total Eye Lift, $100
Also Known As: 4-hydroxy-3-methoxycinnamic acid.
Good For: Dry, Normal, Sun Damage, and Aging skin.
How it works: Works synergistically when combined with Vitamins C and E because ferulic acid helps stabilize them. This doubles their power as sun-protective agents and boosts their ability to neutralize free radicals. Ferulic acid help to protect skin from environmental aggressors, pollution, ozone, and light damage.
Best Buys: JabaLabs CE Ferulic Acid, $79 / Skyn Iceland Stress Defense Cream with Biospheric Complex, $100
Also Known As: C60, Radical Sponge, Oxofulleram
Good For: All skin, especially Sun Damage, Aging, and Sagging/Mature skin
How It Works: Direct from Asia, Fullerene is a carbon allotrope – a molecule consisting of a single element – that acts as a powerful free radical scavenger. Fullerenes are known to act like a sponge to absorb, neutralize, and eliminate free radicals stopping their destructive action and detoxifying the substances, therefore prolonging cell life. With the power to control free radicals, Fullerene prolongs the health of collagen and elastin and has the ability to effectively diminish UV damage.
Best Buy: Dr. Brandt Lineless Cream, $100.
Also known as: Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)
Good for: All skin, including Sun Damage, Aging, and Mature skin.
How it works: Glycolic acid is an AHA derived from sugar cane that exfoliates dead skin cells that clog pores which impedes moisturization, and can make skin look dull and lifeless. It reduces fine lines and wrinkles while softening the skin.
Since it’s a powerful exfoliator, avoid it if your skin is sensitive or prone to redness. AHA’s can make the skin more sensitive to harmful UV rays, so slather on some sunscreen when stepping out into day & sunlight.
Best Buys: Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic Acid 10% Moisturizer, $45 / Murad AHA BHA Cleanser, $35
Also known as: Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
Good for: All skin types especially Sun Damaged, Irritated, and Aging skin.
How it works: Green Tea calms and comforts irritated skin and is one of the most potent forms of photo-protection, which means that it protects against sun damage and reduces the number of sunburned cells. And, when it is combined with other antioxidants along with & prior to a sunscreen, Green Tea helps to increase sun protection.
Best Buy: Aubrey Green Tea & Gingko Moisturizer SPF 15, $16.28.
Also Known As: Sodium Hyaluronate.
Good For: All skin types, especially Dry and Aging skin.
How it works: Hyaluronic acid is known as a premier moisture magnet because it attracts and seals water into the skin. With age, the body’s ability to produce its own hyaluronic acid diminishes and topical application helps replenish the skin, and most importantly, fine lines, wrinkles, and dryness are less noticeable when skin is moist, plump, and smooth.
It’s best to avoid hyaluronic acid if you live in a low-humidity climate because it can sit unabsorbed on the surface of the skin and may actually dehydrate it, drawing out moisture.
Best Buy: Derma E Hyaluronic Hydrating Mist, $13.50
Also Known As: a synthetic analog of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
Good For: All skin, including Sun Damage, Irritation, and Aging skin.
How It Works: In the early 1990′s a group of German scientists researched Ibedenone’s ability as an antioxidant when topically applied to the skin. In comparing the size of Ibedenone to Coenzyme to Q10, Ibedenone is 60% and because of its small size it has a more potent protective and revitalizing effect in the fight against aging.
Idebenone embeds itself in skin membranes and then it has a double action; blocking and scavenging environmentally generated free radicals, and penetrating and neutralizing internally generated free radicals.
Idebenone is one of the strongest antioxidants contained in beauty that firms, tones, and evens out skin. It’s also known for its anti-inflammatory properties which helps to preserve collagen and elastin resulting in firmer, more resilient skin. Idebenone corrects and protects skin cells, improves fine lines and wrinkles, and texture.
Best Buy: Nourish Idebenone Antioxidant Skin Cream, $29.95
Also known as: The combination of Palmitoyl Oligopeptide and Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7
Good For: All skin, but especially Sun Damage, and Aging skin.
How it works: Matrixyl 3000 is a collagen boosting dual peptide to soften, smooth, and firm skin. Matrixyl 3000 is a scientifically proven anti-wrinkle agent capable of reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and boosting the dermal repair mechanism.
Best Buys: Kinerase Photo Facials Sun Damage Reversal System Night Moisturizer, $88
Also known as: Nicotinamide, Vitamin B3
Good for: Dry, Sun Damage, Irritated, Redness-prone and Aging skin.
How it works: Niacinamide stimulates microcirculation and prevents water loss in the skin which provides moisture, hydration, and a healthy glow. It also strengthens the stratum corneum by increasing surface skin renewal and improving the moisture barrier to help reverse the appearance of past skin damage.
In addition to its skin barrier function, it also has anti-inflammatory and anti-redness properties
Best Buy: Olay Pro-X Hydra Firming Cream, $41.50.
Also known as: Maritime Bark or Maritime Pine extract
Recommended for: All skin, especially Aging, Sensitive, and Redness-prone skin.
What it’s good for: Pycnogenol, extracted from the French Maritime Pine bark, has antioxidant action that has been shown to be 50 times more powerful than Vitamin E and 20 times greater than that of Vitamin C. It has been scientifically proven to reduce oxidative stress by 49%, it neutralizes free radicals and helps protect skin cells from damage.
It’s anti-inflammatory properties helps to stabilize the capillary system, improve circulation and increase the skin’s resistance to inflammation, making it an ideal ingredient for those who have sensitive skin or who suffer from rosacea and other inflammatory skin conditions.
Best Buys: Derma E Organic Expressions Brighter Eye Creme, $19.50 / Zirh Protect, $32.50 / La Roche-Posay Derm AOX Serum, $55.
Also Known As: Retinoic Acid, Retinyl Palmitate, Vitamin A.
Good For: Normal, Oily, Sun Damage, Acne, and Aging skin.
How It Works: Retinol is the mild over-the-counter form of retinoids (which are found in Retin-A and Renova). It has been proven to stimulate the production of collagen, and improve the the skin’s elasticity, tone and texture. Over time this improves appearance of fune lines and wrinkles and prevents new ones. Through the process of cell renewal and exfoliation, Vitamin A helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and skin irregularities.
Retinol can make the skin more sensitive to harmful UV rays, so slather on some sunscreen when stepping out into day & sunlight. Since Retinol can be powerful and irritating, avoid it if you have sensitive skin, rosacea, eczema, or skin prone to redness.
Best Buys: Aubrey Lumessence Rejuvenating Eye Cream with Liposomes, $23.50 / Philosophy Save Me, $60
Also known as: Glycine Soja, Soybean
Good for: All skin.
How it works: Soybean extract is a protein that protects the skin and improves texture and resiliency. Soybeans provide amino acids that are essential in helping moisture retention, elasticity, firmness and a smooth appearance. Soy contain a high concentration of isoflavonoids, a type of polyphenol that has antioxidant properties. It also helps to even out skin tone.
Best Buys: Carole’s Daughter Face Butter, $10.50 /Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, 1.7 oz. $15 / Derma E Papaya & Soy Refreshing Skin Toner, $10.95
Also known as: Curcuma Longa
Good for: All skin especially Dry, Aging, Sun-Damaged skin.
How it works: Traditionally known in the eastern cultures of India, China, and other parts of Asia for its healing, and purifying properties, Turmeric contains curcuminoids, which are phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and brightening benefits in skincare.
Turmeric helps to lighten pigmentation by destroying melanocytes (pigment producing cells). Along with diminishing and brightening spots, Turmeric has been found to be an excellent skin exfoliator. Turmeric also contains antioxidants that helps to fight off those pesky free radicals that make us age.
Best Buy: Jurlique Daily Exfoliating Cream, $25 / DDF Advanced Moisture Defense, $105
Also known as: Ascorbic Acid, L-ascorbic Acid, Ascorbate, Ester C, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ascorbyl Palmitate.
Good for: All skin types, including Sun Damage, Aging, and Uneven skin, except very sensitive skin.
How it works: An antioxidant and collagen booster, Vitamin C protects the water-soluble structures of the skin from free radical damage and aids in protecting the cell membranes by recycling Vitamin E. Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals, which form when the skin is exposed to sun, pollution, cigarette smoke, and other harmful elements. vitamin C helps to maintain, even out, and improve skin tone, as well as helps with the complexion’s firmness, flexibility, and elasticity.
Best Buy: Kiss My Face C The Change Ester C Serum, $21.
So as you can see from our essential list of skincare ABC’s, these 20 ingredients are some of the most practical and innovative topical ingredients in skin care today. These beauty agents are the best this planet has to offer and will undoubtedly keep you looking fresh, youthful, and healthy.