It’s been called “herbal Botox” and a “natural retinol” — but does it actually work?
Bakuchiol (pronounced “buh-KOO-chee-all”) is a “naturally occurring antioxidant found in the seeds of Psoralea Corylifolia, a plant found in Eastern Asia,” explains Jesse Werner, founder of Whish, one of the first brands to incorporate the ingredient into its product offerings.
I’ve heard bakuchiol described as a “natural version of retinol” or an “herbal Botox,” so editors asked Werner if there was any truth to those claims. His answer made my highly-sensitive skin positively tingle with anticipation: “Clinical studies have confirmed that bakuchiol is a true retinol-like functional compound without the negative effects of retinol.” In other words, bakuchiol is a potential game-changer for those who struggle with sensitive or reactive skin and aren’t confident in the risk-to-reward ratio of retinol.
First, a quick refresher on retinol: A member of the retinoid family, which includes all vitamin A derivatives, it’s considered a Holy Grail ingredient for all things anti-aging and anti-acne; but even though it’s derived from natural vitamin A, the majority of retinoids are synthesized in some way. Retinol is commonly found in over-the-counter anti-aging products, and can be prescribed in higher concentrations by a dermatologist.
When applied to the skin, retinol “interacts with special retinoic acid receptors” and “initiates a biochemical cascade that leads to activation of certain genes that control collagen production, and reduction of the release of inflammatory mediators,” says Dr. Neil Sadick of Sadick Dermatology in New York City. The result? Smoother, clearer, younger-looking skin.
Oh, and potentially a whole lot of irritation.
Nearly all retinol users go through something called retinization: a period of about four weeks when redness, inflammation, dryness and even peeling occur while the skin adjusts to the medication. Dermatologists largely recognize this phase as temporary and safe, which is why retinol is so popular. But for some skin types, the “it-gets-worse-before-it-gets-better” functionality of retinol often ends at “it-gets-worse”. In addition to retinization, a small percentage of retinol users contract a red, scaly, itchy rash known as retinoid dermatitis.
While naturally derived ingredients aren’t always less-irritating than synthetics, the notion that bakuchiol may be a less-harsh anti-aging option is certainly an appealing one. “We were looking for the most effective ingredients to prevent and repair wrinkles, sagging skin and overall skin health. We kept coming back to retinol,” remembers Werner. “However, retinol is not natural, it’s very harsh on the skin, and it is very unstable. We searched the globe for an effective and natural retinol-like ingredient and we finally found bakuchiol.”
Bakuchiol doesn’t function in quite the same way that retinol does, but here’s the amazing thing: It offers similar results. “In one third party, 12-week clinical study, the conclusion was that retinol and bakuchiol do not have close structural similarities, yet they exhibit a similar gene expression profile especially on key anti-aging genes and proteins, which is remarkable,” explains Werner. In layman’s terms, bakuchiol visibly reduces fine lines, wrinkles and acne, and is considered a functional analog of retinol.
What’s more, the ingredient actually has some advantages over retinol, aside from simply being a natural alternative. Dr. Sadick confirms that it can be used “without any harsh side effects like irritation, flakiness and redness.” It also has photostability on its side; ulike retinol, which can break down and become less effective, it remains active even in direct sunlight.
It should be noted that bakuchi seed powder, sometimes called babchi seed powder, isn’t the same thing as bakuchiol – bakuchiol is the “compound extracted from the seeds using a solvent,” says cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski, who adds that “there’s not likely to be a downside to adding bakuchi powder to a facial mask.” He notes that “no topical treatment would compare to Botox,” but can’t deny that bakuchiol has all the makings of a natural alternative to retinol.
Bakhuchiol is actually becoming much more common at beauty retailers of late. The ingredient first started popping up in skin-care formulations back in 2014, and its popularity has only grown since then, though it’s remained somewhat under the radar and is still far from ubiquitous. If you’re curious to try out the natural alternative to retinol for yourself — and honestly, you should be — scroll through the gallery below to see some of fan-favorite formulas.
Ole Henriksen Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum
An all-in-one skin-perfecting day serum made with a natural retinol alternative that targets fine lines, wrinkles, pores, and dark spots, while instantly brightening.
Biossance Squalane & Phyto-Retinol Serum
A serum with backuchiol, a plant-derived retinol alternative, that targets the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage and works on sensitive skin.
REN Bio Retinoid Anti-Ageing Cream
REN Clean Skincare’s Bio Retinoid™ Anti-Ageing Cream minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for firmer skin. Its bio extracts moisturize your skin and help repair damaged cells. Rich in antioxidants that protect from free radicals, the formula leaves your skin looking younger and smoother.
Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer
Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer contains PlantGenius, a proprietary complex of wildcrafted and hand-cultivated botanicals grown at elevation in the mountains surrounding Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This all natural, super-hydrator melts into skin leaving a fresh, velvety finish. Ceramides and squalane help fortify the moisture barrier; vitamin C helps brighten and support skin against environmental stressors; a non-irritating bio-available retinol diminishes the appearance of fine lines. Wild actives nourish with essential vitamins and fatty acids.
Strivectin S.T.A.R. Light Retinol Night Oil
First of its kind, ultra-lightweight oil corrects the look of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone & texture. This advanced formula combines three separate but synergistic Retinol technologies, including naturally-derived Biomimetic Retinol – which mimics skin’s natural processes to better receive the benefits of Retinol ¿ with nourishing Squalane Oil and patented NIA-114 technology to limit sensitivity. Plant-derived Squalane & Chia Seed oils moisturize and replenished skin with essential fatty acids. Astaxanthin & Pro-anthocyanidins, two of the most powerful antioxidants, soothe and protect dry skin.
With the weather constantly fluctuating from mild to freezing and the air getting increasingly drier, my skin has been in major crisis mode. My hands, in particular, have been next-level dry.
A miracle moisturizer known as Eau Thermale Avène’s Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream came into my life, and it made a massive difference in my skin in just a few days.
To be totally honest, I’m not sure how this is the first time I’m trying the French pharmacy brand’s heavy-duty moisturizer — especially considering Allure named it one of the best products for relieving dryness and itchiness from eczema this year.
In regards to how, well, it’s likely the combination of the brand’s famous thermal spring water (known for its hydrating and soothing properties) and what’s called “C+ Restoretm,” which is a postbiotic ingredient that works to repair and preserve the skin barrier. As if that wasn’t enough, it also contains moisturizing beeswax, hydrating glycerin, and a copper-zinc sulfate complex that helps support a healthy skin environment.
After slathering on the thick white cream several times a day for the first few days, I started to notice a major improvement in my hands. The redness faded, the itchiness subsided, and the painful cracks began to close and heal. By the third day, my hands looked (and felt) almost as good as new. Since then, I’ve been using the rich formula anywhere that my skin needs some extra TLC – such as on my feet, and on my neck and undereyes where the skin is thinner.
I really can’t recommend this moisturizer enough to anyone suffering from aggressively dry skin this season — or any time of year, for that matter. You can shop it now for $28 on dermstore.com.
Ah yes, it’s winter again. Forget your bones, you can probably feel it on your face, now home to dry, flaky skin. Seeking solace in a favourite face oil or moisturiser might seem like the only answer (and they can help, more on this later), but there are a number of other things to be aware of when it comes to your winter skincare regime. If you refuse to let your skin suffer as a result of plummeting temperatures this year, read British Vogue’s seven rules of winter skincare – they’re simpler than you might think.
Keep your skin barrier strong
“As we move into winter, our skin is exposed to variations in temperature and humidity, as well as wind and rain, which can place stress on our delicate skin barrier. It’s the perfect time to rethink your skincare routine to battle environmental stresses,” explains consultant dermatologist Dr Thivi Maruthappu. The key indicators of skin barrier disruption are tight, irritated, itchy, and dehydrated skin.
Even in the months when the weather is less temperamental, our skin barrier is subject to disruption – excess use of stripping skincare products and external aggressors like pollution can all affect it – but it’s especially important it’s looked after in winter. Look for skincare that contains ingredients like niacinamide (try Paula’s Choice Clinical 20% Niacinamide Treatment), which “increases ceramide production in the skin, is anti-inflammatory and fights uneven pigmentation”, explains Maruthappu, as well as ceramides themselves (check out CeraVe), lipids, and richer creams that lock moisture in.
Medik8’s new H.E.O. Mask is exactly the tonic for winter skin, as it contains humectants, emollients and occlusives in optimal ratios, to first deeply hydrate, and then lock in moisture. Use it once or twice a week to tackle dehydration and dryness. Maruthappu is also keen to point out that upping your intake of healthy fats helps moisturise the skin from within – look to her Instagram page for sources of barrier-boosting fatty acids. “Look after your skin barrier and it looks after you,” she says simply.
Nail your nighttime regime
It’s at night that our skin goes into repair and restore mode, so it’s key to get your evening skincare routine in check. Facialist Debbie Thomas recommends cleansing with a non-drying acid cleanser – “look for polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), as they are the kinder cousins of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)” – like Exuviance’s Gentle Cream Cleanser, and then following up with an active product. “I alternate retinol with peptides, which are the second most proven ingredient when it comes to skin health and regeneration after retinol, and then apply a ceramide-rich hydrator to seal in the actives and protect the skin,” she explains.
Thomas is quick to warn about retinol, however, and says that though you might assume winter is the best time to start using it, the skin is already prone to becoming irritated and dry in the cooler months, so it’s important to tread carefully. “It can take several weeks for the skin to acclimatise to retinol use – it’s common to experience some dryness and redness – so if your skin already goes this way in winter, the combination of both could be unbearable and difficult to deal with. My main advice is not to overdo it.” Those already using retinol can continue as normal.
Dial down the exfoliation
When flakes strike, sometimes it feels like the only route is to exfoliate them away. Actually, this can further impair the skin barrier, leading to more skin issues. “I tend to advise reducing the frequency of exfoliation to once or twice a week,” says Maruthappu, “And avoid combining physical exfoliants, like grainy scrubs, with chemical exfoliants, like alpha or beta hydroxy acids, as this can lead to redness and irritation – particularly if you are also using a retinoid product.” The secret? Don’t overdo it with your skincare – less (and gentle) is more.
Load up on antioxidants
One of the biggest challenges for our skin in winter is the constant changes in temperature – moving from the heat to the cold outside wreaks havoc on our skin. Spending time inside with less fresh air also has its issues: “Recycled air has more toxins in it and central heating removes water from the atmosphere, which in turn removes water from the skin,” explains Thomas, who is a big fan of keeping an air purifier in the room you spend the most time in to promote healthy skin.
Antioxidant-rich skincare is also important, as it helps defend the skin against micro-toxins caused by recycled air, as well as those from pollution, UV and blue light damage, all of which are very much real, even in the depths of winter. Look for ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E, resveratrol and niacinamide.
Avoid oils if you’re oily
Don’t assume that the cold months mean you have to switch your favourite moisturisers for face oils. While drier skin types can benefit, oilier ones should steer clear. “I generally recommend face oils for those with dry skin, as oils tend to sit on the skin surface and prevent further moisture loss,” says Maruthappu. “But the added benefit of a separate moisturiser can help to moisturise deeper layers of the skin. I tend to advise against oils in oily or acne-prone skin, as this can trigger breakouts by causing further congestion.” Those with oily skins should instead stick to non-comedogenic formulas that contain ingredients like dimethicone, ceramides or hyaluronic acid.
Heavier isn’t necessarily better
Just as with oils, thick and heavy formulas aren’t always best for the skin – although they do have their place in some skincare regimes. Thick, nourishing balm cleansers are a wonderful way to treat skin to some pamper time – try Chantecaille Rose De Mai Cleansing Balm – but they won’t necessarily hydrate skin. “If you apply a lot of heavy products to the surface, your skin’s sensors read this as not requiring true hydration, so they won’t absorb the required water into the deeper layers of skin,” explains Thomas. “After a time, the deeper layers become lazy and unhealthy, which eventually means more dryness and more irritation on the upper layers.” To remedy this, look to lots of hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid (a popular one is Oskia’s Isotonic Hydra Serum), and squalane, and simply seal them in with good hydrators, as mentioned earlier. “The best way to hydrate your skin is from within, so drink lots of water too,” advises Thomas.
Vitamin D supplements are a must
If you’re already an avid British Vogue reader, you’ll know the importance of taking a vitamin D supplement in winter; most in the UK aren’t getting enough year-round, let alone in the colder months when the days are shorter and darker. It’s important for our skin, too. “Vitamin D is key for the skin’s defences,” says Thomas. “Inflammatory conditions, like acne, rosacea, and eczema often flare up when we are deficient in it.” On top of that, a lack of it can negatively affect our mood, causing further hormonal imbalances, and meaning our skin is infinitely more likely to misbehave.
So, you’re new to skincare. Or, maybe you’ve decided it’s time to take your routine to the next level with more than just a simple cleanser and moisturizer. Either way, you’ve done the research, read some online reviews, and stocked up on products in your budget that will treat your main areas of concern. Now, you just need to figure out whether the ingredients in all of these creams, serums, and masks work harmoniously.
Welcome to skincare mixology 101. Second to picking formulas for your skin type and issues, it’s important that all of the products in your routine compliment one another so you can actually see results. “Mixing ingredients without proper knowledge of how these ingredients work and what other ingredients they may interact with will be not only a waste of money, but also time. It can also lead to frustration if less than expected results are seen (or if the skin becomes irritated),” says Dr. Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
Skin irritation is another big factor to consider when curating the product lineup in your skincare routine. “Your skincare routine should include products that complement each other in order to avoid over-drying, over-exfoliating, or irritating the skin,” adds Dr. David Lortscher, board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology. “More is not always better.”
With the help of both dermatologists, INSTYLE editors have put together a complete guide of the dos and don’ts of mixing and matching the most popular skincare ingredients found in products.
Ah, retinol. It’s one of the most revered skincare ingredients that dermatologists love to recommend. Also known as vitamin A, what makes retinol so great is that it promotes skin cell turnover, which can help improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin texture, dark spots, and acne. The only catch? Retinol can be extremely irritating. “Retinol is an effective anti-aging ingredient, but can exacerbate skin dryness,” explains Dr. Lortscher.
Do Mix: Retinol with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides as well as SPF.
“Make sure to moisturize; humectant ingredients like hyaluronic acid can draw and hold water molecules to the surface layers of your skin, while oil-based emollient ingredients help seal in moisture.” It’s also important to keep in mind that retinol can make you more sensitive to the sun.
“SPF should be worn religiously every day of the year, not only to prevent skin cancers, wrinkles and sun spots, but because many other ingredients we apply to our skin including retinol and retinoids can make the skin more sensitive to the sun,” says Dr. Marchbein.
Don’t Mix: Retinol with vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, and AHA/BHA acids.
AHA and BHA acids are exfoliating, which can dry out skin and cause further irritation if your skincare routine already includes retinol.
As for benzoyl peroxide and retinol, they cancel each other out. “It is not recommended to use benzoyl peroxide and retinoids together as they can literally cancel each other out rendering them less effective,” explains Dr. Marchbein.
“Vitamin C protects the skin from oxidative free radical damage and works best in the morning,” says Dr. Marchbein. This ingredient also brightens the skin and can even lighten dark spots.
Do Mix: Vitamin C with antioxidants and SPF.
When vitamin C is used with other antioxidants like vitamin E, it can boost results and efficiency. The same goes for wearing vitamin C under sunscreen. “Vitamin C serums should always be layered under sunscreen because they compliment one another and will protect skin against UV damage,” explains Dr. Marchbein.
Don’t Mix: Vitamin C with retinol.
In contrast to vitamin C, retinol and retinoids build collagen and help repair the skin, so they’re best used overnight. Since vitamin C thrives in the daytime, it’s best to keep these ingredients separate from each other because they have such different functions.
Salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids are all effective exfoliants that can improve skin texture, tone, and in the case of SA, treat acne. That being said, all three of these acids can dehydrate and irritate skin. The bottom line: When using products with AHA or BHA acids, follow up with a hydrating product.
Do Mix: AHA/BHA acids with moisturizing ingredients and SPF.
“Moisturizing after applying AHA and BHA is extremely important so as to limit irritation. Look for ceramides, petrolatum, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin to hydrate and soothe skin,” says Dr. Marchbein. Using a product that combines multiple low-level AHA and BHA acids can be an extremely effective way to exfoliate and unclog pores.
Like retinol, AHA/BHA acids can cause sun sensitivity. While you should be wearing sunscreen every day regardless of what products are in your skincare routine, it’s extra important to not skip this step when you’re using these ingredients.
Don’t Mix: AHA/BHA acids with retinol.
“I strongly caution those also using retinoids for acne or anti-aging as the combination with various acids may cause excessive skin sensitivity, irritation, and redness. In fact, AHA and BHA should not typically be used together with retinoids on the same day,” explains Dr. Marchbein. “Also, be careful combining various acids or even physical and chemical exfoliants, as this can lead to irritation and even eczema.”
Benzoyl peroxide can be a game-changing addition to your skincare routine if you have acne-prone skin. The caveat? It’s another drying ingredient. “Because acne treatments in general can cause dryness and irritation of the skin, combining them together needs to be done with caution and every other part of the skincare routine (i.e. cleanser and moisturizers) need to be extremely gentle and ultra hydrating, respectively,” explains Dr. Marchbein.
Do Mix: Benzoyl Peroxide with gentle hydrating ingredients, SPF, and topical antibiotics.
Along with moisturizing ingredients that can buffer the dehydrating effects of benzoyl peroxide, the acne-fighting component can be used in conjunction with prescription topical treatments like clindamycin. SPF should also be worn every day.
Don’t Mix: Benzoyl peroxide with retinol, acne prescription tretinoin with caution.
As previously mentioned, benzoyl peroxide and retinol can deactivate one another when used together. While prescription acne treatments can be used with BP, tretinoin requires extra care.
Dr. Lortscher explains: “Depending upon how the product is formulated, benzoyl peroxide may inactivate tretinoin somewhat if they are mixed together in the same bottle. They do appear to work just fine in our experience, when applied to the skin one after the other — and it does not matter in which order, just rub one product in gently and completely before applying the other,” he says. “If you want to minimize any chance of interaction if you are using tretinoin, apply the tretinoin-containing formulation in the PM, and use your benzoyl peroxide in the AM, or use a wash-off benzoyl peroxide cleanser rather than layering a leave-on benzoyl peroxide.”
Otherwise known as vitamin B3, this antioxidant is an anti-inflammatory that can brighten skin and even out discoloration.
Do Mix: Niacinamide with (almost) every ingredient in your skincare routine.
“Because niacinamide is anti-inflammatory, the skin reacts very minimally to it, and side effects such as irritation are unusual,” Dr. Lortscher explains. “It should be compatible with most other skincare products, and for best results, use a leave-on product such as a moisturizer.”
Don’t Mix: Niacinamide and vitamin C.
Although they’re both antioxidants, vitamin C is one ingredient that’s not compatible with niacinamide. “Both are very common antioxidants used in a variety of skincare products, but they should not be used one right after the other,” says Dr. Marchbein. “Their potency is significantly diminished when used together, unless application is spaced by at least 10 minutes between each serum.”
If you’re going to use one skincare product, make it SPF. It’s the only way to effectively protect skin from cancer and environmental aggressors, which can lead to premature signs of aging. Given its importance, SPF can be layered over any skincare ingredient.
Do Mix: SPF can (and should) be used in any and every skincare routine.
Don’t Mix: SPF with makeup or moisturizers.
Yes, SPF can feel like an extra step in an already-extensive skincare routine, but don’t try to take shortcuts. “Don’t mix your sunscreen with your makeup or moisturizer and apply as one—sunscreen should be applied as a single layer to preserve the protection factors,” says Dr. Lortscher.
It’s a tale as old as time for anyone with sensitive skin: One of your favorite brands has come out with a new moisturizer. The ingredient list? Intriguing and full of potential benefits for your skin. The packaging? Ridiculously cute and would look great alongside the products in your medicine cabinet. So, you add it to your cart.
For sensitive skin, finding staple products for your routine that are effective, fun to use, and non-irritating can feel like an impossible feat — especially since sensitivity manifests itself in a few different ways and there are multiple causes of it.
Dr. Morgan Rabach, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical in New York City, says “skin that reacts strongly to most stimui, including environmental and temperature, products, skin with a decreased barrier function, and allergic skin (like ezcema which also has a decreased barrier function),” can all be categorized as sensitive skin.
To top it off, not all skincare products are created equal. But figuring out what type of sensitive skin you have is the first step to finding a moisturizer that won’t result in instant irritation such as redness, burning, itching, which can be followed by peeling or a breakout.
“Look for a moisturizer with few ingredients and with active ones including ceramides, which help seal the outer layers of skin, and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Rabach.
She also recommends avoiding formulas with fragrance, preservatives, and dyes, which are all common triggers for sensitive skin. Isopropyl alcohol, exfoliants like AHA acids, retinol, and added sunscreens (especially chemical ones) can also cause irritation.
With so many potentially irritating ingredients to look out for, finding a moisturizer that isn’t going to piss off sensitive skin can feel like a full-time job.
Here are 8 super hydrating moisturizers that are gentle enough for sensitive, reactive skin.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Ultra-Gentle Facial Moisturizer
This wildly affordable, gentle moisturizer is safe for reactive skin, and anyone who prefers a lotion over a cream. With zero fragrance, oil, and alcohol in the formula, there’s no need to stress over potential irritation or greasy residue.
Kiehl’s Dermatologist Solutions Centella Cica-Cream
Don’t underestimate this little tube, it packs a serious dose of moisture. In addition to leaving the surface of the skin soft and smooth, Kiehl’s hypoallergenic, fragrance, and alcohol-free moisturizer repairs the skin barrier to prevent future dryness and helps reduce visible redness and fine lines.
Obagi Hydrate Facial Moisturizer
With an allergy-tested formula, Obagi’s Hydrate Facial Moisturizer is even less likely to cause irritation. Powered by hydromanil, a super nourishing plant-based ingredient, this moisturizer retains hydration while simultaneously improving the appearance of hyperpigmentation and wrinkles.
Shani Darden Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer
For oily, acne-prone skin that also leans on the sensitive side, opt for a lightweight oil-free moisturizer that won’t further clog your pores or leave a greasy film on your face. Shani Darden’s fragrance-free, oil-free moisturizer has a silky serum-like texture that quickly absorbs into skin with a shine-free finish.
Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer
While retinol is commonly touted as *the* holy grail of anti-aging ingredients, the skin-renewing ingredient can be too harsh for reactive skin, and those with conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. That’s where peptides, the hero ingredient of Drunk Elephant’s rich moisturizer, enter the picture. Peptides are the building blocks of proteins, such as collagen and keratin, which help keep skin firm and smooth. Plant-derived antioxidants and nutrients round out the formula to improve skin texture and tone.
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Don’t want to spend a ton of money on a moisturizer that won’t set off your sensitive skin? Look no further than CeraVe’s tried-and-true cream, available at any drugstore. Formulated with hydrating hyaluronic acid and skin barrier-strengthening ceramides, it seals in moisture, which is key for preventing reactions and flareups of skin conditions such as eczema. No wonder this moisturizer has earned the National Eczema association’s seal of approval.
EltaMD Intense Moisturizer
Most heavy-duty moisturizers are thick, rich creams that never fully absorb into skin — meet the exception. Known the “melting moisturizer,” this EltaMD formula soaks into skin and maintains hydration for up to 12 hours, plus it relieves redness and irritation. Consider it a foolproof pick for sensitive skin types that also suffer from excessive dryness.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer
On top of hydrating skin with a mix of nourishing and soothing colloidal oatmeal, avocado oil, and shea butter, this lightweight moisturizer leaves skin smooth like a primer, which makes it ideal for wearing under makeup.
The musician offered Allure exclusive details on the brand’s first three products and what prompted him to get into the beauty business. And, of course, when and where you can get your hands on them. Welcome to Artist Spotlight #27 series on my blog.
“Sometimes you need to cleanse your spirit. Sometimes you just need to cleanse your mind. Sometimes you’ve just got to get rid of some dead skin.” Pharrell William’s voice washes over its listener clean and cool, like himself. “Sometimes you’ve got to get rid of some bad habits. Sometimes you just need to be humidified, brought to life. Sometimes your spirit needs that.”
What our spirits might also need, Williams suggests, is three skincare products — cleanser, an exfoliant, and a moisturizer — from his forthcoming line, Humanrace, which launched November 25 on a website of the same name.
Williams is famous for many reasons. Chief among them: his talent as a hitmaking producer and recording artist, able to unite the nation’s club revelers and six-year-old Despicable Me fans under one enchanting bass line. But his celebrity has also been accompanied with public fascination about his good looks, which have been on display for decades and somehow have not changed, unless they have somehow gotten more imperceptibly handsome with time?
Williams credits this to a love of skin care he has been cultivating since his mid-20s. On set, early in his career, he’d chat up models about the kinds of products they used, and he eventually sought out a dermatologist, Elena Jones, who has treated him since and who consulted on the line.
“What struck me most about my first meeting with him was how committed to his skin and health he was at his age,” Jones tells Allure over the phone. “He wanted a routine to follow, and he’s dedicated to a skin-care regimen. He wanted explanations for everything.”
In Jones’ words, the three Humanrace products endeavour to fulfill the most basic requirements of a skin-care routine: prepare, repair, protect.
To prepare your face to receive skin care, you wash it. Jones and Williams created Humanrace’s Rice Powder Cleanser, which arrives dry. A dime-sized dusting of the stuff, mixed with water, produces a milky, lightweight emulsion that gently exfoliates using fruit alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) — compounds that dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells until they can flutter away like snowflakes into a passing breeze. (More of these to come later). Over half of the cleanser formula is kaolin clay, a common skin detoxifier mined for centuries for the manufacture of porcelain.
To repair your face from all of the general damage it experiences, you exfoliate, using a chemical peel like the Lotus Enzyme Exfoliant. Formulated foremost with glycolic acid — a favourite ingredient of Williams’ — at the relatively high concentration of 8%, the cream invites new and fresh cells to the skin’s surface.
The last product, the Humidifying Cream, is inspired by the downy atmospheres of the places Williams has lived and loved — his hometown of Virginia Beach, his now home of Miami, the mist-covered Japanese archipelago. It’s a dense and creamy blanket of moisture, formulated foremost with snow mushroom extract, a moisture-binding organic ingredient with roots in Chinese medicine that behaves similarly to hyaluronic acid. (According to board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, however, the snow mushroom particle size is much smaller than that of HA, allowing it to absorb into the skin’s layers more easily.) And anyway, the cream has HA, too, plus soothing rice water and niacinamide. Williams is also preparing to launch a sunscreen!
A review of the full ingredients list for each product by an impartial cosmetic chemist reveals: They are formulated beautifully.
The packaging is grass-green in color and grass-green in sustainability: 50% of the plastic used to house Humanrace’s products comes from post-consumer recycled plastic, with only a small amount of virgin plastic used — and each product has a removable inner chamber that can be exchanged for a refill. The cap is embossed with a raised logo that is nice to run your fingers across — making it easy to ‘read’ in Braille.
To Williams, a skincare line is more than popping cheekbones and acid-based exfoliation: it’s a small, three-minute gesture of self-compassion.
The Humanrace skincare line, including the Rice Powder Cleanser ($32), Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator ($46), Humidifying Cream ($48), and Routine Pack ($100), are available at humanrace.com.
It’s difficult to articulate exactly what makes a universally beloved beauty product, but whatever it is, skincare brand CeraVe has it. Having launched in 2006 in the US, few faces that have tried a CeraVe product have not liked it. Now, it’s the fastest growing brand in health and beauty, with a total estimated retail value of over £31 million.
Over Zoom, one of the founders of the brand, Tom Allison, explains that a big clue to its success is in plain view on the utilitarian packaging. “Under the CeraVe logo, it says ‘developed by dermatologists,’” he says. “In 2004, we brought together a panel of dermatologists who are considered the world experts in ingredient formulation design and asked them what they would create were they to start a skincare brand themselves. They pointed us to ingredients called ceramides.”
At the time, skincare fell into one of two camps: so gentle it wouldn’t disrupt sensitive skin, or so thick and occlusive that skin had no option but to not dry out. Ceramides, which had been extensively researched and scientifically supported by clinical papers, offered a solution to these two extremes, and one that would work for all skin types. “If you imagine the skin is a brick wall, skin cells stack up on top of each other like bricks, and there is mortar that holds the cells together. Half of that mortar substance in skin is comprised of ceramides,” explains Allison. “Put simply, you don’t lose water through the skin cells themselves, but rather through the cracks between them – also known as barrier dysfunction.”
The CeraVe range is built on ceramides, which explains where the “Cera” in its moniker came from. The “Ve”, meanwhile, comes from MultiVesicular Emulsion (MVE), a clever delivery technology in each formula that escorts ingredients to exactly where they need to be within the skin – no mean feat given our skin is a defence machine that doesn’t let any old thing through its walls. “It delivers six times the amount of active ingredient to skin, in comparison to an identical formulation without MVE – and it’s patented and exclusive to us. [Skincare] brands that just have water as an ingredient in their dropper bottle formulations? There’s no thought into the actual delivery of the ingredients into the skin,” Allison says.
Allison and his team understand that today’s customers can see through a poor formulation. In this hyper-connected age, we are more skin-savvy, understand the specific benefits of each and every ingredient, and know what the skin needs. As a result, transparency is king. “Our product development process gives us a leg up, since the dermatologists we partner with are considered subject matter experts when it comes to ingredient and formulation designs,” says Allison. “Transparency drives trust with the consumer.”
Since a lot of skincare now comes with a lofty price tag – and sometimes for dubious formulas – CeraVe’s affordable, efficacious (and luxurious) formulas are refreshing. All products – even the jumbo sizes – cost less than £20, with the bestselling Hydrating Cleanser a steal at £15 for a large 473ml bottle. “CeraVe delivers performance while still driving accessibility,” adds Allison. “We define accessibility in two ways: easy to find at your local store or e-commerce site, as well as value for formulation design and size of format.” Big tick on both counts.
Since the brand puts an onus on creating a product that appeals to dermatologists – its “most important customer” – it’s not just the formulas that are important, but how easily their clients can get hold of them. If a dermatologist is to recommend a product to a client to use consistently, they need to know it’s affordable and easy to find – especially since most clients are paying to visit the dermatologist in the first place, and will often be forking out for prescriptions, too. Accessibility also comes from the fact that there is a formula for every skin type, race and age.
The brand can afford to sell its excellent formulations at a great price because it forgoes the big budget celebrity advertising and paid influencer posts that so many brands subscribe to. Instead, it lets the products speak for themselves, and ultimately, word of mouth is the biggest driver of sales. You only have to take a quick glance at TiKTok to see thousands of videos offering organic testimonials and before-and-after photographs featuring the brand’s products. “We are not making as much money as other skincare brands, and L’Oréal [which bought the brand in 2017] knows that, but it’s okay because we perform and that’s really all that matters,” says Allison.
So, what to try first from the brilliant budget brand beauty editors can’t get enough of? The Hydrating Cleanser is an excellent all-rounder that effectively and gently removes make-up and grime, leaving all skin types happy and hydrated. The recently-launched Hydrating Cream-to-Foam cleanser, meanwhile, is designed for those who like the sensation of a foaming formula, but with the sensibility of the hydrating cleanser – it uses amino acids, rather than surfactants, so won’t strip the skin like most foaming formulas do. Oily skin types will love the SA Smoothing Cleanser thanks to the 0.5 per cent concentration of salicylic acid, which gently exfoliates clogged pores.
The rest of the range is brilliant, too. Everyone should have a Facial Moisturising Lotion in their repertoire, whether their skin is acneic, and even the Salicylic Acid Foot Cream is a must-buy.
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
Enhanced with a non-foaming gel texture, the silky face cleanser gently lifts away debris and impurities from the skin’s surface. The CeraVe hydrating cleanser resists feelings of dryness or tightness as it effectively freshens the complexion. Suitable for dehydrated and normal to dry skin types, this product is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic to avoid clogging the pores.
CeraVe Smoothing Cream
Designed to combat a variety of skin concerns, including unwanted bumps, scaliness and extreme dryness. Replenishing and non-irritating, the rich cream is packed with essential ingredients to benefit both face and body.
CeraVe Moisturising Cream
Cocooning yet non-greasy, the moisturising cream contains three essential Ceramides and Hyaluronic Acid that work in synergy to moisture and protect skin’s natural barrier. Locking in moisture for all-day hydration, it utilises MVE® Delivery Technology, which ensures controlled release of ingredients for 24 hour hydration. Gentle on skin, it leaves itchy, uncomfortable patches feeling soft and replenished. Developed by dermatologists.
Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser
Suitable for normal to dry skin types, the luxurious formula boasts a rich, creamy texture that transforms into a luxurious foam. 3 Essential Ceramides harmonise to reinforce the surface barrier, restoring vital moisture to thirsty areas of skin. Amino Acids work to preserve complexions from environmental aggressors, supporting a hydrated, healthy-looking finish.
CeraVe Smoothing Cleanser
A 0.5% concentration of Salicylic acid allows the cleansing formula to perform a chemical exfoliation, gently dissolving dead skin and pore-clogging impurities to reveal a smoothed surface, without disrupting skin’s microbiome.
Heat, humidity and sweat; three of make-up’s biggest enemies. Or so you might think. It doesn’t have to be that way, since nifty products and clever application techniques can help your make-up stay put through thick and thin – and that’s with a mask on, too. Here find five make-up artist-approved tips to harness when it’s hot.
Prep the skin
How you tend to your skin before you apply make-up is key to enhancing the longevity of base formulas. “Cleanse and then apply a good serum and moisturiser,” says make-up artist Cher Webb. “Then use a primer. It makes a huge difference and will keep your base on for longer.” Look to lightweight, antioxidant-rich moisturisers like QMS Medicosmetics Epigen Pollution Defence Day Cream, a good summer option, then ensure you apply an SPF, like Beauty Pie’s Featherlight SPF 50. As for primer, look no further than Elemis’s new Superfood Glow Priming Moisturiser, which imparts a radiant sheen over skin while also keeping subsequent base products in place.
Choose the right foundation
Finding the right foundation is essential if you want to wear it all day – and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Those who prefer a barely-there finish should opt for BB or CC creams – Kevyn Aucoin’s Stripped Nude Skin Tint is second to none for a glowy summer finish. For those who like medium coverage and upwards, look for products labelled “long wear”. “These will have been tested by a panel of people to ensure they can perform in such a manner,” says Debbie Finnegan, MAC’s global senior artist. MAC’s Studio Fix Foundation is one such formula and promises to last for up to 24 hours on skin. Meanwhile, Laura Mercier’s Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Foundation and Urban Decay’s Stay Naked 24-Hour Foundation are both excellent options when temperatures rise.
Set your base
Whether you use a spray or a powder, setting your make-up is key. “The Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray has been one of my make-up kit essentials for so many years now, as it sets and holds make-up in place for up to 16 hours,” says Webb. “It prevents make-up melting with its built-in temperature control formula, and I also spray it on top my brushes before make-up application for added longevity.” Mists are a great option during summer (we also love Charlotte Tilbury’s Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray), since they also hydrate and refresh the face – needed when temperatures are sky high – but powders are particularly good for those with oily skin. Look for finely-milled, translucent formulas, like Morphe’s Bake And Set Powder.
Consistency is key
To heat-proof your make-up look, switch creamy consistencies for powder textures instead. “In the heat, I would recommend making the most of your eye make-up, and add a matte bronzer and powder blush as these will last the duration,” advises Webb. “Cream and gel textures may move slightly over time, so go for matte products.” You’ll love getting Gucci Beauté’s Éclat Soleil Bronzing Powder out of your bag, such is its beautiful packaging and flattering matte bronze, while Chanel’s Joues Contraste Powder Blush comes in an array of flattering hues, ideal for sun-flushed skin.
Waterproof your eyes
If the heat all gets a bit much and your mascara simply won’t stay put, swap your normal mascara for a waterproof number. Rimmel’s Scandaleyes Volume on Demand Waterproof Mascara delivers a full and fluttery finish that stays put, no matter what you throw at it.
As a working makeup artist, I usually prefer palettes with multiple shades and finishes that I can use on different clients. But I also do know people who just enjoy having a variety of shades for themselves.
The palettes shown below contain highlighting and contouring/bronzing shades only; you can expect a post about all-included (bronzer, blush, highlight) palettes soon!
Some of my favourites are:
Anastasia Beverly Hills Cream Contour Kit (I also love their powder contour kit)
Makeup Revolution Ultra Contour Palette
NYX Highlight & Contour Pro Palette
Tarte Tarteist™ PRO Glow Highlight & Contour Palette
MAC Studio Fix Sculpt and Shade Contour Palette
What are your favourite contour palettes? Do you use them at all? Let me know in the comments below!