17 Oct 2017

Skincare ingredients that really work

As you might expect of a female Consultant Dermatologist, I am frequently asked for skincare product suggestions. Indeed, this is part of the service I provide for new patients to the clinic when we are planning their skin treatment; incorporating a combination of prescriptions, procedures and skincare products to create a programme that will deliver the best outcomes.

BBC News recently asked me to help break this down into my top skincare ingredients for those who are navigating the beauty aisles on their own and don't know where to start. So here you go... these are my top skincare ingredient suggestions for healthier, brighter and more youthful-looking skin. You definitely don't need to go out and buy all of them at once. Start with one or two and add sequentially as needed, and as tolerated by your skin.


1. SPF (sun protection factor). Pick a broad spectrum UVA/ UVB sun protection product with SPF 30 or higher. These reduce the risks of skin cancer and premature skin ageing e.g. dark spots and wrinkle formation.

2. Antioxidants. Examples include vitamin C serums. These neutralise free radicals generated by UV rays and city pollution that degrade collagen leading to loss of firmness and elasticity. Vitamin C antioxidants can also help diminish the appearance of uneven skin tone.

3. Retinol and retinoids. These are vitamin A derivatives that boost collagen and promote cell renewal. When applied regularly to the skin, they improve skin texture and tone, tighten pores, reduce breakouts and minimises fine lines leading to smoother, firmer and brighter skin. They should be applied at night to reduce photosensitivity (sensitivity to the sun) and need to be introduced gradually to reduce side effects e.g. dryness, tightness, peeling or irritation. A pea-sized quantity is sufficient for the face. Add more if you are treating your neck and decollete too.

4. AHAs (alpha hydroxyacids). These prevent the build-up of dead skin cells (essentially providing chemical exfoliation) which increases radiance and gives a brighter, more even skin tone. They can also reduce oiliness and decongest the skin so are great for controlling excess shine and preventing breakouts.

5. Peptides e.g. matrixyl. These stimulate new collagen synthesis (collagen production falls by 1% every year after the age of 25!). A great ingredient to look for in eye creams instead of retinol if not tolerated in the delicate eye area.

6. Hyaluronic acid. This is a powerful humectant, meaning it is capable of holding up to 1000 times it's weight in water molecules so great for plumping dry, coarse, crepey skin. Given its soothing and hydrating abilities, it may also improve tolerability of ingredients like retinol or AHAs which can cause dryness and peeling when first introduced. A great ingredient to look for in your night cream.

Make sure your products contain ingredients that are proven to work rather than falling for marketing hype. Try a little exercise for me next time you’re browsing the aisles in a beauty store. Check the package label and see if you can identify any of the ingredients listed above. If not, think twice before parting with your pennies.

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