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8 Best skin care ingredients that really work!

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Parsing through the beauty aisle or reviewing skin care ingredients lists can be incredibly confusing if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. Without consulting an expert, you might be hesitant to add a new product to your routine—fearing it won’t work for you, or even worse, irritate the skin.

To help you navigate the complicated beauty marketplace, we saw it best to detail the most popular skin care ingredients you’ve been thinking about—consulting with five dermatologists on how to incorporate them into your skincare routine and what’s worth your buy.

The Ultimate Guide to Skin Care Ingredients That Really Work - Discover the Secrets to Healthy, Glowing Skin

“What ingredients you add to your routine depends on the needs of your skin and what goals you’re trying to achieve,” 

explains Dr. Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. 

While many of us are eager to try as many products as possible, he considers himself a minimalist when it comes to skincare because incorporating too many different products can be redundant or counterproductive. Emphasizing the need for consistency in your routine in order to see results, he advises clients to “find the things that are going to get you to the goals you’re trying to achieve and stick with it.” Basically, about three weeks to start the habit.

But even for those embracing simplicity, Hartman says everyone’s routine should consist of what he calls the “holy trinity” of skin care: a sunscreen, an antioxidant, and a retinol. Additionally, New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss describes that the efficacy of a product goes beyond just a featured ingredient—it’s about the full picture of a product. She says to consider formulation and how an ingredient is delivered in said formula when selecting products, as well as how it can supplement your regimen.


So, what exactly should we be looking for when choosing skin care? What are the holy grail ingredients that will give us the healthiest, most youthful, skin of our lives?

I set out to make a list of the best ingredients for great skin and narrowed down to these 8 skin care ingredients. This list is your workhorses, your powerhouses, your skin care genies in a bottle that will grant you smaller pores, more even skin tone, less oil, clearer skin and – of course – slower signs of aging.

After all – why not slow down the clock if you can. Or, hell, crush it to pieces and give aging the fight of its life. That’s my goal.

Let’s check them out

Nu skin skin care ingredient philosophy

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All of Nuskin ingredients go through the 6S Quality process designed to provide you with the safest and highest quality ingredients out there. We know our ingredients are great but we want you to know it too.

It’s important to understand what you’re putting in and on your body. At Nu Skin, we take ingredient transparency seriously and invite you to research our ingredient dictionary below to learn more about the ingredients in your products and why they are there.


Founded on the guiding principle, "All of the good," Nu Skin has distinguished itself from other companies by focusing on finding the best ingredients possible for its products and avoiding harmful fillers. Since 1984, Nu Skin has produced the highest quality personal care products using a winning combination of natural ingredients and innovative technology.

Combining science and nature: Nature provides healthy and beneficial ingredients for Nu Skin formulas, while science opens the door of innovation in active ingredient delivery and profound product effectiveness. With changing technologies and trends, the focus of "All of the good" has shifted to emphasizing the beneficial ingredients within our formulations. Nu Skin uses cutting edge technologies and ingredients at effective levels. Our philosophy is backed by Nu Skin's expert Anti-Aging Scientific Advisory Board comprised of dermatologists and leading scientists in many areas of expertise and our research partnerships.

Nu Skin's use of botanicals: Over 100 different botanicals that perform a variety of functions—including antioxidants, cleansing agents, emollients, humectants, skin conditioning agents, skin protectors, and skin soothing agents—are used in Nu Skin® products.

The Nu Skin® Epoch® line offers a combination of proven ethnobotanical ingredients from indigenous cultures and modern cosmetic science to create products using the wisdom of ages.

Each product is formulated with botanical ingredients derived from renewable resources using the most innovative skin care technology.

Botanical ingredients found in Epoch® products:

  • Hibiscus flower extract is used by Southeast Asian and Central American traditional cultures to cleanse and moisturize skin and hair.
  • Ava Puhi Moni® extract is squeezed from the nectar of the ava puhi flower bulb by Polynesians to condition, smooth, and enhance hair.
  • Allspice berry has been used for centuries by the indigenous tribes of Central America to relieve persistent dry, cracking, red skin on heels, toes, and sides of feet.
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Nutricentials™ are key nutrient building blocks derived from foods and plants and are formulated for topical application in skin care products. These ingredients are in their purest and most concentrated forms to enhance the healthy appearance of skin.

  • Soy, rich in isoflavones and protein, helps protect and moisturize the skin.
  • Colorless carotenoids are activated by UV light and provide powerful antioxidant protection against the environment.
  • Strawberry extract (polyphenols) diminishes the appearance of pores and balances pH levels in the skin.
  • Extra virgin olive oil (polyphenol hydroxytyrosol) is a well-known antioxidant used for protecting organs.
  • Brown seaweed, rich in minerals and antioxidants, helps absorb and maintain moisture.

Many other natural ingredients are used to create Nu Skin's patented formulas:

  • Tegreen 97®, derived from green tea, provides powerful antioxidants to help protect the body against free radicals and is used in both Pharmanex® and Nu Skin® products.
  • IBR-Dormin™ is a natural compound derived from narcissus bulbs that has been scientifically shown to protect skin and enhance cellular durability, improving the skin's natural defense against environmental aggressors. This ingredient is used in Perennial® Intense Body Moisturizer.

Other Nu Skin® products make use of grapefruit extract, kelp, ginkgo biloba, pea extract, bamboo extract, and many other botanical ingredients.

"All natural": Some companies market and position their products as "all natural." This term can be misleading to consumers. It conveys the bias that any natural ingredient is good and all synthetic ingredients are bad—even though many synthetic ingredients can be more effective and safer than comparable botanicals. "Synthetic" simply means that the ingredients are not derived directly from a plant, but are created in a laboratory and manufactured as a raw material. Whether natural or synthetic, ingredients in Nu Skin® products are carefully selected and then tested to ensure the best benefits, efficacy, and safety.

Using science for all of the good: Science is an essential element in Nu Skin's commitment to creating products with "all of the good." Through careful research and testing, Nu Skin scientists combine the best natural and synthetic ingredients for our skin care products. While nature provides many healthful ingredients, science provides complementary ingredients such as pro-collagen peptides, sodium PCA (humectant), tocopherol (vitamin E), alphahydroxy and polyhydroxy acids, and Parsol® 1789 (sunscreen for UV rays). Without these ingredients, Nu

Skin® products could not provide their proven, full range of cosmetic benefits and protection.

Other ingredients, like preservatives, provide important antimicrobial properties to maintain product quality, safety, and efficacy.

Conclusion: Each product formulation focuses on the inclusion of key ingredients and is guided by Nu Skin's founding vision and finalized with the latest innovations in cosmetic chemistry, dermatology, nutrition, and ethnobotany.

8 best skincare ingredients that really work

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I created this little infographic to make it easy to see all 8 skin care ingredients at a glance. Scroll down for more details and incredible product recommendations that I either have tried or continue to use. Given the amount of products I try, narrowing down this list was a challenge. Affiliate links are used for products I trust and highly recommend.

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1. get even with vitamin c

I love Vitamin C and I try to use products with it several times a week and every day if I’m dealing with particular skin unevenness from being out in the sun.

I used to use much harsher ingredients to correct hormonal/pregnancy melasma, but have since learned that a steady stream of Vitamin C usually holds such things at bay (oh, and not having any more kids helps, too…).

Some Vitamin C products used to be so highly concentrated, they could cause a little sensitivity. The products I prefer are gentler and you can use them more often. Of course, always make sure using sunscreen every day (here’s my favorite) to help prevent skin discoloration – and protect skin from Vitamin C related photosensitivity.

  • Best Vitamin C face wash
  • Best clean Vitamin C serum – love this one!
  • This Vitamin C serum adds turmeric for a unique, anti-inflammatory experience

2. plump it up with hyaluronic acid

Easily my favorite skin care ingredient because it gets me RESULTS. You’ll see dewier, plumper, more hydrated skin very quickly and if you load up on a night cream with hyaluronic acid or just mix in pure hyaluronic acid into any moisturizer you use, you’ll wake up looking awake and refreshed, no matter how little those kids let you actually sleep.

I am a huge, huge fan of hyaluronic acid. It’s super gentle and really effective. Here are my favorite products with hyaluronic acid

  • Best straight hyaluronic acid – and really affordable!
  • Best clean beauty hyaluronic acid night moisturizer
  • Best drugstore moisturizer with hyaluronic acid
  • Best high-end hyaluronic acid serum

3. Clear it up with salicylic acid


I have used salicylic acid for spot treatments for yeeaaaarrrs and I have no intentions of slowing down! I did stop using it while pregnant, but after that – it was business as usual. Why? Because it’s great for sensitive skin, but works.

If I use harsher treatments for breakouts, I see drier skin. I’ve seen dry skin age a 20-year-old model at least a decade – so keep those spot treatments gentle and be patient.

Check out my post on what to do about breakouts and treat acne from the inside out.

Until then, check out these spot treatments and kiss zits goodbye:

  • Affordable salicylic spot treatment – do not use all over your face
  • Anti-aging salicylic acid serum – AMAZING
  • Probiotic anti-aging, anti-acne serum – LOVE

4. Just exfoliate with glycolic acid


I loooove me some glycolic acid. Talk about getting major bang for your buck. Glycolic Acid DELIVERS, baby, and hands you that smoother, more even skin you’re craving on a silver platter.

This overnight resurfacing peel is the kind of thing that sort of blows your mind. I’d heard it was good, but when I finally tried it – I fell in love immediately. This is my smooth skin, anti-aging fairy godmother! It’s pricey – but it works – and it’s cheaper than botox. You know what I’m saying’?

That product is my #1 recommendation for smoothing and resurfacing skin, while reducing signs of aging. I use two pumps all over my face and neck every other night and alternate with a Vitamin C serum/hyaluronic acid moisturizer combo. I’m really loving the results so far and highly recommend.

Here are a few more suggestions if you want to dip your toe in the glycolic acid pool:

decode-your-skincare-ingredients
  • An Affordable Renew & Smooth Serum that WORKS
  • Glyolic acid pads that give you a 2-minute facial
  • Super clean overnight glycolic acid treatment – HUGE fan of this brand!

5. Get lucky with lactic acid


Ready to really roll back the clock? Lactic acid is amaaaaazing. The first time I used a product with lactic acid, it tingled a little bit – which I was prepared for – and it smelled a little tiny bit funny (which I wasn’t prepared for). But, I woke up with noticeable rejuvenated skin. I call that a win.

I started with a deluxe sample of one of the most talked about lactic acid products on the market and have found it to be very effective. Of course, that led me on the hunt for more lactic acid products with equally mesmerizing results.

This new overnight resurfacing serum from Honest is not messing around – loaded with a blend of glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid and tartaric alpha hydroxy acids – plus a nice punch of hyaluronic acid, this will cost you less than a tank of gas and GET. YOU. RESULTS. BAM.

In fact, it has a somewhat similar ingredient list to the glycolic acid serum I mentioned above. Hmmm.

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6. Cozy up with ceramides


Ceramides are newer to me and I am feeling them big-time. I started using this incredible Ceramidin cream by Dr. Jart, who makes some face masks that are incredible, and I LOVE this cream! Not only does it have a slight tint which gives your skin instant glow, but the ceramides are are super-hydrators that protect skin from environmental and free radical damage, among many other things. They basically act like a barrier that seals in moisture and keeps out damage.

As much as I have fallen in love with the Dr. Jart cream, don’t discount drugstore creams like this one, loaded with 3 essential ceramides that restore and protect our skin’s protective layer.

Also, look for face masks that can give your skin a super boost of ceramides, too.

7. Get nice skin with niacinamide


Give your skin a treat, with products powered by niacinamide. Particularly excellent for undereye areas, as it can also have a brightening effect, niacinamide helps skin retain moisture, reduces redness, shrinks pores and much more.

Niacinamide can be in any kind of skin care product, from serums to moisturizers, and plays really well with others – so feel free to layer with your other skin care ingredients. If you’re looking to really see results in stubborn sun spots or bumps from oily skin – look for a product with a higher concentration of niacinamide.

  • Clean eye cream with niacinamide for brightening undereyes
  • Super affordable niacinamide and zinc serum
  • Excellent face cream for stressed skin

8. Give your skin some tlc with vitamin e

My stepmom used to use straight Vitamin C on her skin and she has aged better than almost anyone I’ve ever met – no fillers, no surgeries. She also eats incredibly clean, too, which always helps.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and, luckily, you can get Vitamin E really affordably. In fact, if you’re close to Trader Joe’s, they have a great one. Check out my post on what else to grab in the skin care aisle of Trader Joe’s.

Vitami E has even been known to help heal skin conditions like Eczema, too, so if you’re experiencing skin inflammation, you may really want to reach for products like these:

  • Burt’s Bees Firming Moisturizing Cream
  • Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster – also has Vitamin E!
  • Sunday Riley Vitamin C + E Cleansing Oil

If you’re having a hard time deciding – the good news is you don’t have to! Not only can you usually get several of these great ingredients in one product, but you can mix and match them into different skin care products to get the benefits of all of them.

Can you tell I’m obsessed with skin care? If you are too, you might also love these posts on the correct order to apply your skincare and the strangest, most effective face mask I’ve ever tried.

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