The rise of expert skincare

Many of us happily plunged into the never-ending reel of skincare Tik Tok in lockdown and were enthusiastically recommended serums, creams and cleansers by ‘skincare experts’, beauticians, influencers and dermatologists. For those of us on a quest for glowing, clear skin it seems for many, including myself, that we are constantly trying to create that delicate balance of lotions and potions to achieve a perceived perfection. With the rise of brands such as The Ordinary and CeraVe, high quality, technical, skincare has never been more accessible or affordable – no longer are students shut out of the effective skincare club. But with this overall positive progress, the sheer volume of ‘actives’ – very pure and powerful skincare products – on the market can be overwhelming and at times, fairly problematic for your skin when used incorrectly. 

 With my bathroom cabinet looking somewhat like a new-age apothecary chest, I have trialled (spent) my way through bottles and tubes containing chemicals promising a panacea for all my skincare ailments. From one non-chemistry student to another, I attempt to explain 5 of the big names of skincare ingredients in 2020.


What it does: Hailed as the serum that is great for all skin types, niacinamide has many benefits. It reduces blackheads and may help minimise the appearance of large pores. Niacinamide can help with regulating oil production and protecting the skin barrier and is therefore good for both dry and oily skin, although those with dry skin would perhaps, it has been suggested, be better off with using lower percentages of niacinamide.

How to use: Use a drop after cleansing and before heavier creams or lotions. Can be used both in the day and at night.

Retinol (Retinoid)

What it does: The most coveted anti-aging skincare ingredient, the retinoid family includes retinol, which is an over-the-counter, therefore weaker kind of retinoid which converts to retinoic acid on the skin which can help to clear acne, exfoliate the skin and boost collagen production. It therefore helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and although is not necessarily an essential part of a student’s skincare routine, introducing a weak retinol a few times a week into your nighttime skincare routine can be effective in helping with premature signs of aging.

How to use: Use a drop after cleansing and before heavier creams or lotions. Only use in the evenings and although you should be wearing a broad spectrum SPF everyday, it is crucial to use high SPF in the day when using retinoids at night. Do not use after strong exfoliating treatments.

Vitamin C

What it does: Brightens and evens skin tone, scavenges free radicals from the environment (e.g. protects your skin from pollution). It can be safely used along with other active ingredients. As with all actives, Vitamin C can irritate the skin (it irritated mine) so if you have sensitive skin, make sure to use a stable form of Vitamin C and if irritation occurs review your usage of the active.

How to use: Use a drop after cleansing and before heavier creams or lotions. Most effetively used in the day, but can be used at night.

Hyaluronic Acid

What it does: Hydrates your skin! If you have dry skin, this could be a welcome relief. Noted to be a ‘magnet for moisture’ hyaluronic acid draws in moisture from the air into your skin – one gram of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six litres of water, leading to plumper, more radiant skin.

How to use: Use a drop after cleansing and before heavier creams or lotions – but make sure that you are not combining hyaluronic acid serums with moisturisers containing the active already as this will be too much for your skin.

Salicylic Acid

What it does: Amazing as an acne treatment, it exfoliates the skin and clears pores. I notice my skin looking and feeling smooth and bright quite instantly, whereas other products I have mentioned will show their benefits in the long term.

How to use: In serum form use a drop after cleansing and before heavier creams or lotions and in mask form use as directed.

And remember… wear sunscreen everyday!


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