For decades, South Korea has been famous for innovative beauty exports like cushion-compact foundation, BB cream, and sheet masks. Known for their “skin first” approach, K-beauty brands like Belif, Peach & Lily, and Glow Recipe have become staples for skincare obsessives who want quality ingredients and packaging at an affordable price point.
From cleansing micellar water to hydrating essence, here are the best K-beauty products to try now.
Everyday Essence Face Serum
Packed with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and minerals, this gel-like essence quickly absorbs into skin to deliver deep hydration.
As we say “so long!” to the winter and enter the spring, it’s time to switch up our skincare routine because when the months change, your regimen should too. So, to help you out, I’m going to keep on sharing the newness that I know you’ll love so much.
SK-II Skinpower Airy Milky Lotion
SK-II’s Skinpower Airy Milky Lotion is an airy, lightweight moisturizer that will plump up your skin as it’s hydrating it. Inside the little red jar, you’ll find a formula filled with calla lily extract, dokudami extract, and peony extract, which work together to give skin a bouncy, healthy look and feel.
If your skin is looking tired or dull, try the Versed Auto-Save Advanced Restoring Serum. Its formula has ferulic acid to diminish dark spots and shea butter to moisturize. Not to mention, there’s also microalgae in the mix, which will assist in brightening.
Elizabeth Arden Visible Brightening CicaGlow Concentrate
Ready to glow? Elizabeth Arden has you covered with the new Visible Brightening CicaGlow Concentrate. This treatment is made with niacinamide and cica to help diminish hyperpigmentation and soothe skin. The top green liquid is loaded with vitamin C to brighten, while the orangey bottom has all the exfoliants in it, like chestnut extract. Shake them together, and say hello luminosity.
Clark’s Botanical Jasmine Vital Oil is made with a fast-drying, non-greasy formula that features virgin hemp and cottonseed oils to give skin a dewy, hydrated finish. Pat on a dropper-full of this oil before makeup, and you’ll have that glow-from-within vibe within seconds of applying.
Pimples can be a pain, but let’s not forget the dark spots that come after a breakout, too. With Dermalogica’s PowerBright Dark Spot Serum, you can diminish that hyperpigmentation in no time. Its ingredient list features niacinamide and shiitake mushroom, which will help brighten that unwanted discoloration (while simultaneously hydrating it) in no time.
Chapstick Total Hydration Sea Minerals Exfoliator Lip Balm
Chapstick’s Total Hydration Sea Minerals Exfoliator Lip Balm features shea butter to moisturize and sea salt extract to buff away dead skin. This stick formula is also super convenient — the sleek, compact tube is tiny enough to go just about anywhere with you.
When you apply Isle of Paradise’s Self-Tanning Butter before you go to bed, you’ll wake up with the most natural-looking tan. The gradual formula has a faint green hue that works as a color corrector, so not only will you look bronze, but your tone will be nice and even.
Dial’s Clean Gentle Body Wash comes in three scents: Fragrance-Free, Waterlily, and Aloe. It’s a vegan formula that leaves skin feeling hydrated, soft, and silky (thanks to the flower oil on the ingredient list) as it cleanses.
Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser With Goji Berry Extract
If you love Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser, you’re going to adore this limited-edition version. Like the original, this wash has meadowfoam seed oil, which melts away leftover debris and makeup, as well as goji berry extract, a Chinese fruit known to be a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation.
Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel es Créme
Ole Henriksen’s latest eye cream, Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Créme, is — you guessed it — made with bakuchiol, a natural alternative to retinol. The pretty lavender formula also has orchid stem cell to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
When you mix one pump of Curél’s Makeup Cleansing Oil with water you get a milky texture that instantly lifts makeup and even stubborn waterproof mascara. For that, you can thank the castor oil in the formula, which also leaves the skin feeling soft and looking dewy.
Founded by model Emily DiDonato, new skincare brand Covey launched with three products in its collection, including the First of All Cleanser. It’s made with hydrating ingredients like aloe leaf juice and babassu oil to remove all dirt and makeup effortlessly without stripping skin.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream
Made with colloidal oatmeal to calm the skin and niacinamide to reduce redness, First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream is a dream for eczema- and acne-prone skin. Not to mention its thick texture is perfect for what’s left of these dry, winter days.
Elemis just launched its first-ever essence: the Pro-Collagen Marine Moisture. It’s made a hydrating blend of hyaluronic acid and sea spring water to plump skin and diminish dryness. Gently pat the treatment into your skin after cleansing and instantly reveal glowiness.
Join me in welcoming Peace Out’s first cleanser: the Blemish Balm. Work this exfoliating formula into your skin in the morning and at night, and you’ll start to notice a clearer complexion, thanks to its salicylic acid. Plus, this jar also has hydrating hyaluronic acid in it, so don’t worry about drying your skin out.
Kate Somerville’s Kateceuticals Total Repair Cream is formulated with hyaluronic acid and squalane to hydrate and a powerful blend of ceramides and peptides to smooth out any fine lines. Consider it a one-stop shop for softer, plumper skin.
Get ready to scrub all of your skin concerns away with Thrive Causemetics’ Smart Microdermabrasion 2-in-1 Instant Facial. It’s made with a blend of alpha hydroxy acids to exfoliate and beta hydroxy acids to reduce the appearance of acne and enlarged pores. Use this treatment twice a week to reveal your softest, brightest skin.
These days, masks are as ubiquitous as hair tools and CBD-spiked skin care. Not surprisingly then, there’s been an influx of options hitting the mask market made specifically for your lips. Ahead, find 18 amazing lip masks of every variety — balms, gels, and sheets. Slather them on while you sleep, mid-commute, or before swiping on a bold lip you need to last all night. Get ready for smoother, softer-looking lips.
Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm
Summer Fridays’ Lip Butter Balm isn’t technically called a mask, but it sure feels like one. The ultra-rich consistency coats lips in a blanket of soothing butters, including shea and murumuru, which are known to nourish dry skin. It also contains vegan waxes that make the formula extra thick and satisfying to use — especially if you’re struggling with severely dry or cracked lips. The subtle vanilla flavor definitely doesn’t hurt either.
Available in three lip-enhancing hues, Tarte’s Sea Jelly Glaze Anytime Lip Mask is perfect for anyone who loves a little tint to their lips. Infused with hyaluronic acid to quench dry lips, along with avocado, jojoba, and argan oils to lock in moisture, it leaves lip supple, soft, and smelling sweet.
Milk Makeup’s Melatonin Overnight Lip Mask features hyaluronic acid and a blend of goji, acai, blueberry, and blackberry extracts for their powerful antioxidant benefits. It not only smells sublime, but makes lips look plumper, softer, and smoother after just one use.
Henné’s Organics Lip Mask is made with ultra-nourishing oils like rosehip, avocado, sweet orange peel, and jojoba (that’s four of many) and comes from a brand fully devoted to lip care, so you know it’s legit. Its light, citrus-and-vanilla scent sends it over the edge. The best part? Leave it on as you choose — lip masks like this one don’t have a limit since their sole purpose is to soothe, plump, and moisturize.
Sara Happ is renowned for her sublime lip treatments and The Sweet Clay Lip Mask is no exception. Comprised of deep-cleansing bentonite clay, nourishing shea butter, and an Ayurvedic herb known as Swertiamarin sourced from the Himalayas, this mask means business. Its bubblegum-pink hue will makes your lips look like you’ve caked them in icing while you wear it, but that’s a bonus if you ask me. Apply it weekly — or nightly — for soft and supple lips that appear visibly smoother after one use.
Thick, luxurious, and super hydrating, this clear, jelly-like balm is like a deep conditioning treatment for your lips: Agave nectar and lanolin provide a dose of long-lasting moisture, while a hefty dose of antioxidants (literally three times the amount found in a serving of red wine) protect your pout from the elements. It’s best worn as an overnight mask, but the formula also comes in two super-pretty sheer, glossy shades (a gold-flecked rose and a cool, pinkish red) for daytime wear.
Klavuu’s Nourishing Care Lip Sleeping Pack comes highly recommended by Allure’s digital reporter Devon Abelman, who lauds it for its weightless formula and ability to bring dry, dehydrated lips back to a happy and balanced state. Enriched with avocado, sweet almond, and apricot seed oils, this Korean beauty treatment leaves lips looking and feeling instantly more moisturized after a mere five minutes.
For less than a Lincoln you can score the Burt’s Bees Lip Treatment Lip Mask, which soothes and hydrates with meadowfoam and sweet almond oils. It’s also 100 percent natural for those of you who prefer a green option.
Laneige’s Lip Sleeping Mask is an all-time Allure editor favorite. Its über-thick formula falls somewhere between a balm and a cream, and works its magic by slowly melting into your lips overnight. Come morning, lips look and feel soft, bouncy, and supple as ever. It also comes in a vanilla version, if that’s more up your alley.
While Jouer isn’t typically known for skin-care offerings, its new Overnight Conditioning & Repairing Lip Mask is a true standout I couldn’t not mention. Jam-packed with ingredients like vitamin E, shea butter, and jojoba oil, as well as hyaluronic acid to help lock in moisture, lips feel quenched for days after using it. Leave it on while you snooze for kitten-soft lips when you wake — or use in place of an ultra-thick balm for the ultimate luxury lip-care experience.
KNC Beauty’s All Natural Collagen Infused Lip Mask contains vitamin E, rose oil, and hydrating cherry extract to help plump fine lines and deeply moisturize the lips. You might remember Emma Stone’s pre-Globes selfie wearing the jelly-like lip patch, which was recommended by her makeup artist Rachel Goodwin, in order to prep the actor’s lips for the big night. Needless to say, if it’s approved by Emma and her MUA, you can bet it won’t be a letdown.
Patchology’s FlashPatch Lip Gels are similar to that of KNC’s in that they adhere to your lips, feel cool to the touch, and look slightly sheet mask-esque. The biodegradable patches feature soothing green tea extract, redness-reducing niacinamide, and peptides to help enhance elasticity and promote collagen production.
Flower Beauty’s Petal Pout Lip Mask, which just launched, is already a fast favorite. It’s portable, affordable, and, most importantly, infused with decadent mango and coconut butters to repair chapped and flaking lips.
Clinique’s Pep-Start Pout Restoring Night Mask not only comes in this unarguably cute, millennial-pink tube, but it also works like a charm on winter-worn lips. Moisturizing ingredients, like murumuru seed butter, hydrogenated castor oil, and sea whip extract go the extra mile to hydrate and simultaneously plump lips while you sleep.
Kiehl’s Buttermask for Lips is as delicious as its name implies. Chock full of nourishing ingredients like mango butter, coconut oil, and cocoa, with a creamy (not sticky!) consistency, it’s worth the splurge. Blanket your lips with a hefty coat of the stuff before bed and come morning, you’ll wake with supple, hydrated lips.
Kaplan MD’s Perfect Pout Duo feels like a dream on lips. The pillow-like balm is whipped to a dreamy, gel-cream consistency and is made of reparative ingredients like seabuckthorn berry extract and sunflower seed wax to nourish lips while you snooze.
Starskin DreamKiss Plumping and Hydrating Bio-Cellulose Lip Mask
Starskin’s DreamKiss Plumping and Hydrating Bio-Cellulose Lip Mask utilizes an innovative, coconut juice-derived, bio-cellulose technology that adheres to the lips seamlessly and feels similar in texture to Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Sheet Mask. Each one is submerged in a tropical-scented bath, which leaves lips looking and feeling juicier after just 15 minutes.
Before you scoff at the price of 111Skin Meso Infusion Lip Mask and Plumping Duo, allow me to explain why it’s worth the hefty price tag. For starters, the tiniest amount goes a long way (we’re talking the size of a pea or less here). It has also been scientifically tested (and proven effective) to give the illusion of having thicker, suppler lips after just a few uses. What’s more: It contains exfoliating ingredients, like lemon and orange peel oils, which naturally shed the top layer of skin to create an even-toned, softer surface.
Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide24 Hydrating Moisturizer
For plump skin, try Olay’s Collagen Peptide24 Moisturizer. Its lightweight formula has vitamin B3 to brighten your complexion and collagen-boosting peptides to firm skin and diminish fine lines. When the two work together, you’re looking at a hydrated, smooth complexion.
If there’s anything 2020 taught us, it’s that we need to wash our hands all the time. With hand-washing comes dry skin and the Yes to Avocado Hand Cream will fix those dehydrated, cracked hands right up. The avocado-based formula replenishes skin, and hyaluronic acid will maintain hydration.
If you didn’t get enough sleep, that’s OK because Mario Badescu’s Caffeine Eye Cream will make you look like you got a full night’s rest. The moisturizer in this tub is filled with caffeine for brightness, hyaluronic acid for hydration, and jojoba oil to help treat dryness.
Dermalogica’s Neck Fit Contour Serum is filled with firming ingredients to give you a tight, line-free neck. The list includes rye seed extract, which smooths skin, and resurrection plant to strengthen the area. It’s applied with the built-in roller bar that also gives a cooling effect.
Clinique Smart Night Clinical MD Multi-Dimensional Repair Treatment Retinol
The Clinique Smart Night Clinical MD Multi-Dimensional Repair Treatment Retinol flattens out fine lines with the power of retinol. Plus, it also has hyaluronic acid and squalane to give you a boost of hydration while you sleep.
The new Simple Instant Glow Cleansing Wipes do way more than flawlessly take off stubborn makeup. Each cloth is made with niacinamide to brighten skin and glycerin to moisturize. So once your skin is clean, it’s also glowing.
Meet the Inkey List’s first spot treatment: Succinic Acid Acne. This magical little tube is loaded with succinic acid, an anti-inflammatory ingredient that helps to reduce oil levels in your skin, as well as salicylic acid to exfoliate, sulfur powder to unclog pores, and hyaluronic acid to ensure skin stays hydrated.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t bronze up your complexion. The L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops give fairer skin tones a subtle glow when you mix five drops of this serum made with dihydroxyacetone (a sugar that when mixed with proteins on your skin makes it tan) and hydrating hyaluronic acid with your favorite moisturizer.
Your skin’s about to be drunk in love with Drunk Elephant’s Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray. It’s a cocktail of coconut water, vitamin F, and sake extract to calm redness and hydrate the skin. Use it as a step in your skincare routine after cleansing or as a refresher during the day.
The blend of alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids in the HoliFrog Halo AHA + BHA Evening Serum is going to give you clearer skin once you start using it for a few weeks. Not to mention, this formula is packed with moisturizing oils like that of rosehip and prickly pear, so no need to worry about all of those acids drying your skin out.
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.
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 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.
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.
Blame it on Zoom or spending a significantly increased amount of time at home, 2020 saw our interest in all things skincare peak to new heights. Frantically Googling the best skincare formulas to slather on our skin, we became a nation obsessed with the hardworking ingredients that promised to boost glow, plump, firm and smooth. So, what ingredients should we be looking out for in 2021? Here, find the top five skincare buzzwords we’re touting as big news in the new year.
Forget salicylic and glycolic, there’s a new acid in town: succinic. Perfect for those with spots, it’s a gentle exfoliator that helps peel dead skin cells from pores while also preventing them from clogging again. Naturally found in amber, succinic acid has antimicrobial properties and recent studies have shown it’s also excellent at defending the skin against external aggressors, thanks to its antioxidant properties. Keep an eye out for The Inkey List’s Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment which launches in January (join the Cult Beauty waitlist here). But for now, you can also find it in Zelens’s Z Hyaluron Hyaluronic Acid Complex Serum Drops and Elemis’s Pro-Collagen Energising Marine Cleanser.
While you might occasionally enjoy a glass of milk to keep your bones strong, did you know that calcium is also important for the skin? “The skin has what we call a ‘calcium gradient’ which plays an important role in creating a strong skin barrier,” explains Dr Ellie Bradley, a senior scientist at Boots. “The calcium gradient is lost with age, meaning skin renewal becomes thinner as you get older. By adding calcium to the top outer layer of the skin, it helps support optimal skin renewal and strengthening of the skin.” Get your fill via L’Oréal Paris’s Calcium Day Cream,Vichy’s Neovadiol Rose Platinum Night Cream or Herbivore’s Orchid Youth Preserving Facial Oil.
We all know that collagen is one of the building blocks of healthy, firm skin but 2021 will see more of an onus on applying it topically. “It’s a great ingredient to incorporate into your skincare regime if you want plump, smooth skin, plus it helps reduce the appearance of lines,” explains Dr Bradley. Alexia Inge, founder of Cult Beauty, also believes that marine collagen, in particular, will be big in 2021 thanks to the beauty industry’s obsession with ingredients found in our oceans. Boots will launch its Collagen Youth Activating Day and Night Creams in January and Dr Dennis Gross’s Hyaluronic Marine Collagen Lip Cushion is the ultimate lip product, working to deeply hydrate and plump.
Bright skin is always in, and for that liquorice root can help. An extract from the root of the liquorice plant, it’s also a potent antioxidant and helps soothe the skin, making it perfect for sensitive, red or blemish-prone skin. “Due to its brightening abilities, this is the ultimate skincare ingredient for those who want glowy skin,” says Dr Bradley. Find it in No7 Laboratories Clearing Skin Paste and 111 Skin’s luxurious Celestial Black Diamond Cream.
One of K-beauty’s most beloved ingredients isn’t going anywhere for 2021. In fact, it’s getting a luxe makeover in the form of Dior’s must-try Cica Recovery Balm, which promises to soothe, soften and revitalise skin for up to 72 hours. Meanwhile, Dr Jart+ is relaunching in the UK in the new year, with its bestselling and ultra-effective Cicapair Tiger Grass range in tow.
For plumper, dewier skin, dermatologists recommend adding hyaluronic acid to your skincare routine.
Hyaluronic acid. Although somewhat difficult to say (and even harder to spell), the skincare ingredient, commonly found in your favorite serums, sheet masks, and moisturizers, is an important addition to your daily skincare regimen. That’s because the ingredient, a molecule that occurs naturally in the skin, binds to water to plump up your skin and give it that dewy, glowy effect. But hyaluronic acid does so much more than boost skin’s moisture levels, which is described by skincare experts to better explain the benefits of the ingredient.
What is hyaluronic acid?
“Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule that occurs naturally in the skin, [and] it helps to bind water to collagen, trapping it in the skin, so that skin can appear plumper, dewier, and more hydrated,” explains Tsippora Shainhouse, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, California.
Basically, hyaluronic acid increases hydration in the skin, which can keep your skin looking fresh, full, and bouncy. “The collagen in our dermis forms the structure of the skin,” Shainhouse says. “Natural hyaluronic acid is bound to collagen on one side and links to water molecules on the other, giving skin its plumpness.”
Why is hyaluronic acid so important?
As we age, we lose collagen and hyaluronic acid naturally, so the skin becomes dehydrated more easily. Also, harsh weather, heaters during the wintertime, certain skincare products, and underlying skin conditions can cause tiny breaks in the protective skin barrier, allowing water to escape. That’s why creating a tailored skincare regimen with moisturizing products can be extra beneficial.
“Hydrating skincare ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, glycerin, colloidal oatmeal, urea, propylene glycol, and sorbitol all act as ‘humectants’ that attract water to the skin in an effort to hydrate it,” Shainhouse says. These ingredients are widely used in products, such as moisturizers, eye creams, and serums, says cosmetic chemist Sandra Bontempo.
By using these products, like the Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster, you’ll firm the skin around the eye area, increase moisture to get rid of puffiness, and soften fine lines on the rest of the face, says Bontempo. “Hyaluronic acid penetrates easily, which is why it works so well when applied topically,” she says. “Our skin is the largest organ in the body and absorbs up to 60 percent of nutrients we apply to it.”
Additional perks of hyaluronic acid include its lightweight, watery nature, and ability to lock in moisture from the environment and deeper dermis to fully hydrate the skin, Shainhouse says.
Who should use hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is great for all skin types, says Shainhouse. In general, “[the ingredient] is nonirritating and does not trigger acne, rosacea, or allergic skin reactions,” she says. There is, however, a small chance of any adverse side effects.
Those with dry and/or more mature skin will benefit the most from using hyaluronic acid, says Bontempo. “As we age, our bodies produce less of it, so replacing hyaluronic acid topically will make the most impact on those of us who are middle-aged and older,” she explains.
Hyaluronic acid has the word “acid” in its name, but there’s no reason for sensitive skin types to tread lightly — it’s safe for everyone. “There are no known side effects of utilizing hyaluronic acid, as again, it’s produced in our bodies,” says Bontempo. “Definitely talk to your doctor if you do experience side effects from a product that contains it — it could be due to another active or inactive ingredient.”
There’s also an injectable version.
Hyaluronic acid also comes in the form of an injectable. “In dermal fillers, hyaluronic acid presents as a gel-like product that, once injected, attracts water to regenerate volume and recreate lost structure,” explains Shereene Idriss, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “This, in turn, helps reduce the overall sunken or sagging appearance of the face, and softens the overall look of lines and wrinkles.”
Currently, the only Food and Drug Administration-approved hyaluronic acid fillers are Restylane, Restylane Silk, Restylane Lyft, Restylane Refyne, Restylane Defyne, Belotero, Juvederm, Voluma, Volbella, and Vollure. These fillers can be used for nasolabial folds, marionette lines (folds that run vertically from the corners of the mouth down to the chin), cheek augmentation, undereyes, lips, and dorsal hands, says Idriss.
Fillers can vary, so it’s important to discuss your options with your dermatologist to make sure you get the right one for you. “The different types of hyaluronic acid fillers are to a cosmetic dermatologist what the various types of paintbrushes are to a painter,” explains Idriss. “They are made up of the same ingredient, but depending on the size of the formulas’ molecules and how they are strung together, they vary in density, lift-ability and longevity.”
And it’s reversible.
Just because it’s injected into your face, doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Hyaluronic acid fillers are reversible, so if you’re not happy with the results, or a blood vessel has been blocked during the injection process, your dermatologist can insert the enzyme hyaluronidase to dissolve the filler within a matter of minutes.
“The enzyme works quickly — the material starts to dissolve immediately, and is completely done within 24 to 48 hours,” Min S. Ahn, a Boston-based facial plastic surgeon, previously told Allure. However, he warns, those with bee allergies should use caution — and talk with a dermatologist — before signing up for a hyaluronidase-based procedure, as the enzyme is highly prevalent in bee venom.
Hyaluronic acid fillers aren’t for everyone, though.
Hyaluronic acid fillers are for most, except those who are pregnant. There isn’t much data surrounding pregnancy and fillers, but dermatologists tend to avoid injecting those expecting for fear of the unknown. Also, skip these fillers if you have an active skin infection. First, treat the infection, and then proceed with your appointment once you’ve been cleared by your dermatologist.
Therearerisks with injectable hyaluronic acid.
If you’re considering getting hyaluronic fillers, there are a few minor risks to keep in mind. “With any injectable treatment, bruising and swelling are the most common side effects,” says Idriss. “The good news is that these shortcomings are just that — short-lived.” Any tenderness should resolve over a few days.
You can reduce the likelihood of bruising by avoiding blood-thinning agents, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and red wine a week or so before treatment. In addition, agents, such as arnica and bromelin, may help decrease swelling and bruising, too. The biggest worry is the unintentional injection into a blood vessel, which may result in tissue death, scabbing, and scarring, says Idriss, but your dermatologist will be able to treat it to prevent damage.
Dermatologists consider retinol the holy grail of noninvasive wrinkle-prevention. When applied topically, this vitamin A derivative stimulates collagen production and cell turnover, which reduces the appearance of fine lines, evens out complexion, and unclogs pores.
That said, retinol does have its drawbacks. Side effects can include dryness, peeling, and skin irritation, and some people may see their acne flare up. So before you start slathering these products on your face and neck, you’ll want to keep a few tips in mind.
“To reduce irritation, start every other night with the product and move up to every night only when tolerated,” says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and assistant clinical professor at the George Washington University Medical Center. “Add extra moisturizer when using, and use only a very mild, creamy cleanser to compensate for the extra dryness.” You’ll also want to guard your skin with SPF 30—retinol may make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Though you can ask your doc for a prescription-strength retinoid—which is a much stronger version of what you can buy over the counter—the derms we spoke to said drugstore and beauty counter brands do the same thing, and that it just may take longer to see results. Read on for the retinol recommendations from Dr. Tanzi and other top skin doctors.
Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle Moisture, Night
“I recommend this product to my patients all the time because Neutrogena is a reliable company and the products are easy to find in any drugstore. The ingredients are of good quality and I have never had anyone complain about any skin reaction or difficulty managing this retinol.” —Jessica KrantMD, board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of NY and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate
“This is a great intro-to-retinol product because if features microencapsulated retinol complex, which delivers results without the irritation and drying.” —Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City
Neocutis Nouvelle Plus Retinol Correction Intensive Anti-Aging Cream
“One of my favorite retinols utilizes only 0.6% retinol in a special microbead formulation that helps penetrate the skin deeper with less skin irritation and less flaking. As an added bonus, it contains melaplex, a hydroquinone-free skin-brightening complex, that diminishes the appearance of dark spots and evens out skin tone. We recommend our patients start applying retinol two to three times a week, just before bedtime and slowly progress to nightly as tolerated.” ––Ulysses Scarpidis, New York City plastic surgeon, Scarpidis Aesthetics
“A key goal within any retinol skin care program is maximum retinol effectiveness with minimized potential for irritation. Because of this, high potency nano-encapsulated retinol formulations such as Amarte Wonder Cream (which also contains multiple potent natural antioxidant ingredients) are ideal. They will ensure maximized retinol efficacy with a virtually non-existent potential for irritation.” ––Craig Kraffert, MD, Redding Derm
“I love recommending the HydroPeptide Anti-Wrinkle Polish & Plump Peel to clients as it’s an extremely effective over-the-counter option for brightening skin and tightening pores. Instead of retinol, which can be irritating to sensitive skin types, it actually utilizes Retinyl Palmitate—an ester of Vitamin A that’s converted to retinoic acid once absorbed by the skin. I use it weekly, on Sundays, (which is my pampering day!), to ensure my skin always has a healthy glow.” –– Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, MPhil, Vibrant Dermatology
“One of my favorite OTC retinoids is Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer SPF 30. It works against fine lines during the day with a unique sunscreen and moisturizer hybrid. A glucose derivative is combined with this retinol formula to help brighten discoloration. I especially like that it contains hyaluronic acid which holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water.” ––Jeanette Jacknin M.D. and Brand Ambassador for ZSS Skincare Solutions
“When patients want a particularly gentle formulation, I like SkinMedica Retinol Complex .25. It is one of the mildest non-prescription retinols available and is in an elegant moisturizing formulation.” —Dr. Krant