In a world where most of us want beauty that’s pure, simple and stripped-back, ingredients lists can sometimes read like a foreign language. From the ingredients and treatments you should be using, to those to avoid at all costs, consider this your ultimate skincare cheat sheet...
A is for... AHAs
AHAs – also known as alpha hydroxyl acids – are chemicals that loosen the bonds between surface skin cells. When applied topically to the skin, AHAs allow dead skin cells to be whisked away. Look out for AHAs in anti-ageing creams and cleansers for glow-giving results.
FIND IT IN: Pixi Glow Tonic, £18
B is for... BHAs
BHA – also known as salicylic acid – stands for beta hydroxyl acid and is a derivative of aspirin. Since it has the ability to penetrate the skin, it offers deep pore exfoliation as well as acting on the skin’s surface to reduce inflammation and fight bacteria. Because it's oil-soluble, BHA is great at clearing pores of sebum and dirt without manual exfoliation, making it ideal for tackling acne.
FIND IT IN: Trish McEvoy Even Skin Beta Hydroxy Pads, £45
C is for... Copper
Copper peptides are found naturally in the human body – they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and can promote wound healing and collagen stimulation. In skincare, copper is used primarily as an anti-ageing ingredient and can help to refine texture and reduce scars. Copper peptides perform best in serums, concentrates and creams as opposed to wash-off formulas.
FIND IT IN... Niod Copper Amino Isolate Serum, £38
D is for... Derma-Rolling
When done by a professional in-salon, derma rolling (also known as microneedling) tricks your skin into thinking it’s been wounded. Tiny needles are pushed or rolled over the face and neck to create controlled punctures, which supercharges collagen production. In short, the skin is forced to repair itself, leading to healthier, glowier skin the long run.
TRY IT AT... EF Medispa, where prices start from £325 for a single treatment.
E is for... Expiry Dates
When it comes to expensive skincare products, it’s easy to justify the cost by thinking they’ll last you forever. The truth is – they won’t. Every skincare or make-up product you buy has a little symbol on it indicating how long it’ll last once you’ve opened it. If it says 6m, you should use it within six months of opening; if it says 24m, you’ve got two years.
GOLDEN RULE... Learn to look out for these symbols and take notice of them to prevent your skincare from going off.
F is for... Ferulic Acid
A powerhouse antioxidant, ferulic acid can help slow the ageing process by reducing the effects of damaging free radicals on the skin. It’s also thought to protect against sun damage, as well as regenerating damaged skin. It’s best avoided by very sensitive skin types and best applied directly to the skin in a serum.
FIND IT IN... Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum, £129
G is For... Greens
Packed with vitamins A, C, E and B as well as iron, the likes of spinach, cabbage, watercress and kale are essentials for glowing skin. A diet rich in greens can also help blemish-prone skin as vitamin A can normalise the production of oil.
TRY... Correxiko Skin Supplement, £69.95, is packed with everything your skin needs for optimal health.
H is For... Hyaluronic Acid
This naturally occurring molecule is right up there in the anti-ageing stakes – it works to lubricate the connective tissues in your skin, keeping pores plump and hydrated. Our own reserves reduce as we age so applying this ingredient topically is vital for preserving a youthful glow.
Find It In... The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid, £5.90.
I is For... Inflammation
Symptoms of inflammation in the body can be numerous and vague – ranging from fatigue to headaches – and your skin is no exception. Triggered by poor nutrition, pollution, sunlight and stress, dermatologists agree inflammation is the real culprit behind pretty much every skin issue, including wrinkles.
FIGHT IT... What you eat really does matter – gluten, dairy and processed foods as well as excessive sugar and alcohol are the biggest offenders. Book in for a food intolerance test; unless you know what foods to remove from your diet, they’ll continue to inflame your body.
J is For... Jojoba Oil
Similar in structure to the skin’s natural oil, jojoba oil penetrates skin deeply to hydrate without clogging pores. If you struggle with blemishes and acne, make a bee-line for jojoba oil which, by mimicking the skin’s natural sebum, tricks it into stopping oil overproduction. It can even help to heal acne scars, too.
FIND IT IN... MV Organic Skincare Pure Jojoba, £30
K Is For... Kaolin
A claylike mineral that absorbs excess oil, kaolin tends to be white in colour and is a great way to calm oily skin and deep cleanse the complexion. Kaolin tends to be gentler than other types of clay, making it a good choice for sensitive skin, though – as with all clays – overuse can lead to dry skin. Try incorporating it into your skincare regime once a week in the form of a mask.
FIND IT IN... Anne Semonin Exfoliating Mask, £43
L Is For... L-Absorbic Acid
We all know vitamin C is a skin saviour thanks to its antioxidant properties, but did you know l-absorbic acid is the most easily absorbed form? Particularly powerful when paired with hyaluronic acid (which boosts penetration), it’s one to look out for in anti-ageing formulas.
FIND IT IN... Obagi Professional-C 10% Serum, £57.74
M Is For... Microdermabrasion
Best performed by a dermatologist, microdermabrasion is all about dead skin cell removal. The top layer of the skin is exfoliated by using a wand to spray on, and then vacuum off, extremely fine aluminium-oxide crystals. A newer form of the technology uses a vibrating diamond tip in place of the crystals – book in for a Crystal Clear facial treatment (available nationwide) to see results and then some.
TRY IT AT HOME... PMD’s Personal Microderm tool, £135, replicates the treatment given by the pros for impressive results.
N Is For... Niacinamide
A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide helps to strengthen the skin’s outer layers, improve elasticity and curb redness and irritation. Those with acne-prone skin should seek it out, as well as those concerned with anti-ageing as it has been shown to boost levels of plumping fatty acids in the skin.
FIND IT IN... La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo, £16
O Is For... Oils
Facial oils are a great way to achieve smoother, softer skin and even those with oilier complexions can benefit – the skin’s over-production of oil is actually a sign your skin is lacking in oils to keep it hydrated. If you typically steer clear of oils thinking they’ll cause breakouts, seek out the right blends. Drier and more sensitive skins can get away with heavier blends.
P is For... Parabens
Parabens have gained a bad rap in recent years after research revealed a potential link to breast cancer, although the risk has yet to be fully proven. They remain the most commonly used preservative in the beauty industry, so if you want to avoid them, make sure your label doesn’t contain any of the following: methylparaben, propylparaben and ehtylparaben.
TRY... Brands such as Oskia, REN, Omorovicza and Tata Harper are renowned for their paraben-free skincare.
Q is For... Quick Fix
Even those with the perfect skincare regime should be armed with some quality quick fixes for when they're tired or on-the-go. Arm yourself with Sudocream to tackle breakouts, E45 for skin reactions and Lanolips Golden Ointment to soothe chapped patches.
OUR TOP TIP... Keep two spoons in the fridge at all times – when your eyes and face are feeling puffy, simply glide over the face to brighten and wake up the complexion.
R Is For... Retinoid
Retinol is a potent derivative of vitamin A, often found in anti-ageing formulas. Not only does it boost cell production in the top layer of the skin but also helps improve collagen production and can reduce the appearance of pigmentation. While many people are sensitive to retinol, retinoids – also called retinyl palmitate – are known to cause the fewest side effects.
FIND IT IN... Pestle & Mortar Superstar Night Oil, £63
S Is For... Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Found in the majority of beauty products – from shower gels to toothpastes – SLS is used primarily for its ability to create a lather when it comes into contact with water. If you suffer from sensitive skin, you may want to avoid SLS, which can cause irritation, including dryness, redness and eye irritation.
TOP TIP... For those who like their products to lather, SLS provides a deep clean although SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) is a gentler alternative.
T Is For... Tea Tree Oil
Despite being toxic when ingested orally, when applied topically tea tree oil has reported antimicrobial properties. Most commonly found in anti-blemish products, the likes of tea tree oils, treatments and cleansers are a quick and effective way to treat spots.
FIND IT IN... The Body Shop Tea Tree Anti-Imperfection Night Mask, £12
U is For... UVA & UVB
The two ultraviolet rays that reach from the sun to the earth’s surface, UVA and UVB rays are bad news for your skin. Over-exposure can lead to photo-damage and sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer. At the same time, UV radiation can trigger a loss of skin elasticity, thinner skin, wrinkles, dry skin, broken capillaries, freckles and liver spots.
TAKE ACTION... It’s nothing new, but wear an SPF daily to safeguard your skin.
V is for... Vitamin C
A supercharged antioxidant proven to boost collagen production, which is crucial for a youthful complexion, vitamin C can help to defend against free radicals (the particles found in pollution, smoke and UV rays, which are damaging to the skin). Dermatologists say we should be using a vitamin C serum from our early 20s – while it can’t protect like an SPF, it can help to minimise the damage deep down that you can’t see, making it a powerful preventative ingredient.
FIND IT IN... Lixir Vitamin C Paste, £32
W is for... Water
Making up almost two thirds of our body, water plays a vital role in everything from regulating body temperature to keeping our skin and digestion healthy. And when it comes to skin health, drinking at least two litres is essential for a youthful complexion.
TRY... Keep your face hydrated throughout the day – especially if you work in an airconditioned office – with a plumping face mist. We love Balance Me’s new Hyaluronic Plumping Mist, £12.50.
X, Y and Zzzz...
Make an effort to get your beauty sleep – when we sleep, our skin goes into rest mode, repairing damage caused by the sun’s rays and harmful pollution. Adequate sleep will restore luminosity to the skin while improving tone and texture – there’s a reason beauty experts call it the best-kept anti-ageing secret.