The discussion surrounding the ‘R’ word is a frenzied one. Retinoids (the umbrella term for retinol products) are powerful enough to improve skin texture, pigmentation, and tone in just a few drops of a retinol serum or dollops of cream. The transformative effects on your skin are due to very potent formulations, which have caused retinols to garner a lot of differing opinions — and even more questions. When should you use them (along with when should you definitely steer clear of them)? How do the formulas work? Are they compatible with sensitive skin? And even, how do you refer to them? Are they retinols? And what’s retin-A? These questions and more have confused many a skin-care fanatic.
With plenty of false information floating around about retinoids, below are 11 myths about retinols and the truth behind them.
All these ingredients starting with ‘R’ (Retinol, Retinoic Acid) basically do the same thing.
Yes and no. Prescription formulas contain retinoic acid, the magic ingredient that fights visible signs of aging; nonprescription alternatives need to be converted into retinoic acid by the skin at the cellular level. “In off-the-shelf formulas, the ingredient called retinol is the only derivative of vitamin A worth using,” says Dana Sachs, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “There’s a lot of literature showing that while retinol is more gentle than retinoic acid, biochemically it does exactly the same thing — it may just take longer to see results.” The same can’t be said for the derivatives called pro-retinols (aka, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate), which are the most gentle — but weaker, too. Of these formulas, Retin-A requires a prescription, but others are available over the counter.
For a simple yet potent shot of rejuvenating power in the form of 0.3% pure retinol, try the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum, shown below. Another option: Incorporate it into your routine with a moisturizer, like Skinceuticals’s Retinol 0.5. or the Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream (which contains a less irritating form of vitamin A known as retinyl propionate).
Retinoids work by exfoliating your skin.
“There’s often peeling and redness, but that’s a side effect of the irritation, not a true and even exfoliation like the one you get from an ingredient like glycolic acid,” says Sachs. “The peeling is certainly not why people start looking better. In fact, it’s why most people give it up.” Retinoids work at a much more profound level by affecting gene expression and causing enhanced collagen production, skin smoothing, and an evening of pigmentation.
You shouldn’t wear retinoids during the day because they increase your risk of sunburn.
“This is one of the biggest myths out there,” says Sachs. It’s true that retinoids break down in sunlight, which is why they are bottled in opaque packaging and are still best worn at night to make sure they aren’t rendered inactive. However, they do not make the skin more prone to sunburn. “This misconception came about because in some early studies, people described putting on a retinoid, walking into the sun, and immediately burning. But that redness is likely related to heat exposure,” says Sachs. “Clinical studies have shown pretty definitively that retinoids do not lower the MED — or minimal erythemal dos — of human skin, which is the amount of UV light you can take before the skin burns.”
You should always apply retinoids to dry skin.
Sometimes, even doctors break the rules: “I know the instructions on the box often recommend waiting until your face is completely dry before applying a retinoid,” says Sachs. “But there’s no evidence in the scientific literature I’ve seen that shows damp or wet skin exacerbates sensitivity.” And while we’re on the topic, applying a retinoid to damp skin doesn’t maximize its potency, either. “Nothing having to do with application decides how much of the retinol is converted into retinoic acid, the form of vitamin A that actually repairs skin,” Sachs says. “That’s solely related to your skin’s chemistry and retinoid receptors.”
You’ll need to wait four to six weeks for your retinoid to really work.
Turns out it’ll be double — or even triple — that amount of time, according to Gary Fisher, a professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “Many over-the-counter formulas claim you’ll see results within weeks,” says Fisher. “But in my experience, it takes an average of 12 weeks for retinoic acid to produce noticeable changes in the skin. So stick with it for at least that long to see the benefits.”
Gentle retinoids can be just as effective as stronger ones.
“The words ‘sensitive skin’ on a label (such as on RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream shown here) are often code for a low concentration of active ingredients,” says Sachs. However, dermatologists still recommend them because these lower concentrations (and soothing supplemental ingredients) make them the perfect gateway retinoid. “Once a patient with sensitive skin has tolerated a tube of that over a period of several weeks, we can then graduate to a stronger retinoid knowing the skin cells are now better adapted to handle it,” says Jonathan Weiss, an Atlanta-based dermatologist.
You should stop applying retinoid if your skin gets irritated.
Irritation that flares up after adding vitamin A to your regimen is “all part of the process,” says Weiss. “We’ve seen clinically that after two or three weeks the skin cells adapt to the retinoic acid and begin to tolerate the ingredient.” The caveat: We’re talking about reasonably flushed, drier-than-usual, lightly peeling skin. “If the discomfort is prolonged or very uncomfortable, use it once a week or switch to a weaker formula,” says Sachs.
You can’t take your retinoid on vacation.
“A change in climate won’t suddenly make your skin react to a retinoid you were tolerating a few days earlier at home,” says Weiss. Once skin cells have adapted to the strength of the retinoid you’re applying, any irritation (called retinoid dermatitis) generally stops. “It’s unlikely to flare up again until you switch to something stronger,” says Weiss. Still, if you’re jumping on a long-haul flight or going skiing, it’s a good idea to layer a heavier moisturizer over your retinoid to avoid dryness, which makes skin more susceptible to irritation in general.
OK, but you shouldn’t take it with you on yourbeach vacation.
I’m still processing the fact that retinoids don’t increase the risk of sunburn, too. But get this: Combining retinoids with island hopping may even be a good thing. They not only boost collagen production, but may also have the potential to stop photoaging before it starts. “They’ve been shown to prevent the rise of collagenase — the enzyme that breaks down collagen — after UV exposure,” says Sachs.
Don’t put retinoids around your eyes. The skin there is too sensitive.
Not only can you, you really should — that’s where most of the damage shows up, says Weiss. “Studies have shown that people who apply retinoids right up to the eyes get the best results.” And if you get it in your eye? “It may sting a little, but it won’t do any harm,” says Weiss, and the skin there is no more likely to get red or flaky than anywhere else on the face.
The skin-smoothing benefits of retinoids plateau after six months.
“Several clinical studies have shown that prescription retinoids will significantly improve skin for over a year,” says Weiss — and Johnson & Johnson recently completed a trial demonstrating that over-the-counter retinol smooths wrinkles and fades blotches over 12 months, too. OK, so what are you supposed to do after the year is up? The answer isn’t to rush off and embrace a new ingredient (peptides, anyone?). Your skin may just be ready for a stronger prescription retinoid, says Weiss.
The vitamin that makes orange juice so nutritious also happens to be one the the most powerful players in skincare. Obviously, we’re talking vitamin C.
Apart from being your saving grace during a cold that just won’t quit, the vitamin can help brighten dark spots, even out skin tone, and support collagen production. In other words, there’s a reason why there are so many serums with Vitamin C — it’s a versatile ingredient that can work wonders for the skin.
Whether your dermatologist recommended adding one to your routine, or your friend is swearing by their vitamin C splurge and you want in on the hype, here are a few of the best out right now.
No7 Youthful Vitamin C Fresh Radiance Essence
At less than $30, you can’t really beat the price of this radiance-boosting vitamin C-based serum, which promises results in two weeks.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare C + Collagen Brighten & Firm Serum
Your secret to curing dull winter skin? This serum, which not only helps prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, but evens out your skin tone and gives it that healthy glow you’ve been missing since August.
This L-ascorbic acid-based serum delivers on warding off free radicals and the signs of aging, but it’s also made with pumpkin ferment extract and pomegranate enzyme to exfoliate dead skin cells sitting on the surface of your skin.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum
Now this is a powerful one. It’s made with vitamin C and E, as well as ferulic acid to help those two components do their jobs of neutralizing free radicals and improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles way better. It also keeps working on your skin for 72 hours.
Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum
Sunday Riley’s 15 percent vitamin C serum delivers all the anti-aging benefits you’d hope for, while reducing redness and gently exfoliating the surface of your skin.
DIOR Capture Youth Glow Booster Age-Delay Illuminating Serum
Dior just one-upped your glass of orange juice with a serum that’s made with murunga plum, a fruit that the brand claims is 100 times more concentrated in vitamin C than oranges. That, combined with AHAs and antioxidant-rich ingredients, makes this glow-boosting tonic a must-have for winter.
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.
Yes to Avocado Hand Cream
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.
Mario Badescu Caffeine Eye Cream
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 Neck Fit Contour Serum
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.
Simple Instant Glow Cleansing Wipes
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.
$5 for 25 wipes (Shop)
The Inkey List Succinic Acid Acne Treatment
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.
Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray
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.
Holifrog Halo AHA + BHA Evening Serum
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.
Nothing has impressed me until I tried the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Sheet Mask. It has the same hydrogel material I loved about prestige brands I’ve tried prior, which is thicker than traditional paper sheet masks, adheres better to my skin, and resists drying out so that you get more serum out of it (a hyaluronic acid-based serum, in this case).
Shop now: $3; walmart.com
I find that this gel-like mask really helps to seal in moisture better than others I’ve used, providing a barrier between my skin and the environment and allowing the serum to deeply penetrate. After using it, my skin is soft, smooth, and glowing — even in the dead of winter, when it’s at its most dry.
Maybe my favorite part, though, is the sheet mask’s design. It comes in two separate pieces, one for the top half of the face and one for the bottom. Speaking as someone with a small face, the two-part design helps adjust the mask to fit my face better than traditional single-piece masks. With a mask that fits, it can deliver hydration where I actually need it — not in my hairline or over my eyelids.
In addition to the sheet mask, you’re also getting a little extra serum left over in the packaging. There’s usually enough left to squeeze into a bottle, which I use on days I’m not masking. It works just as well as other hydrating serums I’ve tried, and it’s essentially an entirely new product that comes free with the purchase of the mask.
I’m not the only one who’s obsessed with the mask’s skin-quenching powers. Brand ambassador Jennifer Garner loves it so much, she has everyone in her house giving it a try. And Walmart shoppers who’ve reviewed it say that it’s among the best sheet masks they’ve tried, soothing everything from dry skin to eczema to sunburns. One reviewer said that after using the mask once, they immediately ordered 10 more. With Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Sheet Mask, available for just $3 at Walmart, you’ll never feel guilty about a weekly skincare treat again.
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.
No more excuses for skipping sunscreen!
Wearing a bra, pants, or even a T-shirt without holes in it are all optional when working from home, but sunscreen should be non-negotiable.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Why do I need SPF if I’m inside?” Well, if you have windows in your house, then it’s possible for UVA rays to penetrate through the glass and onto your skin.
My skincare routine since the beginning of COVID-19 in March 2020 has fluctuated: from being neglected to super intense. I’ve stripped the products I use every day down to the essentials (including SPF!), but I jump at an easy way out. That’s where hybrid products like Supergoop!’s Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF enter the conversation.
Daily Dose is the first serum to combine vitamin C with SPF. Here’s how it works: the formula contains a stable form of vitamin C (10% 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid) to tackle dark spots, plus additional radiance-boosting ingredients such as niacinamide, and kakadu plum extract. Because mineral sunscreen operates at a different pH level than vitamin C, Supergoop! has included an oxybenzone-free chemical SPF 40 in the serum. There’s also marine extract to protect skin against blue light, another cause of hyperpigmentation.
Skin cancer and sun damage are the two most important reasons for wearing sunscreen despite spending most of your time social distancing at home. But if the focus of your skincare routine is hyperpigmentation, acne, uneven texture, or all of the above, you’re wasting your money buying expensive products with active ingredients if you’re not topping off your routine with sunscreen to prevent further damage.
That’s why, as someone who has become somewhat lazy with their skincare, replacing my vitamin C serum and SPF with Daily Dose was a no-brainer.
If you’re using the serum in lieu of a traditional SPF, Daily Dose should be the last step in your morning skincare routine. However, you can add another SPF over top for an extra layer of protection, or you can finish things off with your favorite moisturizer, which won’t disrupt SPF filter.
While serum comes out of the bottle with a thin gel-like texture, it gets thicker like a traditional SPF when you apply it. However, the white cast goes away with a bit of massaging and it doesn’t feel heavy under any moisturizer or make it pill.
The verdict is still out whether the vitamin C is doing anything to get rid of dark spots. But reviews are being patient. And in the meantime, its glow-boosting ingredients gives an instantly dewy look.
Plus, I like the convenience of having two important skincare steps in one product!
Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick
This squalane-based balm not only nourishes dry under-eyes, but it also is packed with concentrated encapsulated retinol (which is more gentle on the sensitives skin region) to smooth the look of fine lines.
Maybelline New York Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara
This magical tube of mascara went viral on TikTok right after it hit stores thanks to its ability to transform stubby lashes in a few swipes — and believe us, it really does live up to the hype.
Living Proof Curl Elongator
From the brand’s first foray into the curly hair category, this cloud-like cream — designed for type 4A, 4B and 4C coils — gives game-changing definition. It also contains a Healthy Curl Complex, which provides a protective, strengthening barrier around each strand.
Supergoop! Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF 40
Combining the two most important A.M. skincare steps, the first-ever hybrid Vitamin C and SPF lotion gives you no excuse to say you forgot either one.
Sol de Janeiro Triple Brazilian Butter Hair Repair Treatment
This mask’s three Brazilian butters deeply nourish damaged ends. The best part? The warm, tropical scent makes you feel like you’re on vacation, which we’re all craving right now.
Caudalie Resveratrol-Lift Serum
Besides looking oh-so gorgeous on your vanity, this pretty pink potion really does pack a punch. The eco-conscious brand (this packaging is 100% recyclable through Terracycle) partnered with Harvard University to develop a patent-pending booster that’s proven to pump up your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid and collagen.
Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide24 Moisturizer
The fragrance-free cream contains peptides that penetrate deep to perk up your complexion. Bonus: The texture feels just as luxurious as fancy formulas.
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 some days and for some people, foundations and concealers just feel like way too much work — and way too much coverage. While there’s certainly a time and a place for a full-coverage face, there’s no denying the effortless and hydrating properties of a tinted moisturizer. But although the concept of a tinted moisturizer sounds pretty simple, there are tons of specific ingredients that make the difference between an OK tinted moisturizer and an amazing one. And by “amazing tinted moisturizer,” I really mean one that actually — well, you know… moisturizes.
So ALLURE editors asked makeup artists and cosmetic chemists to break down what they think are the best tinted moisturizers out there. If you love makeup that comes with added skincare benefits for plump, dewy, and hydrated skin, try one of these picks.
Whether you end up loving an older staple from a brand like Laura Mercier or an experimentative new take like Ilia Beauty’s pigmented serum, you’ll find your skin is in much better shape for it.
BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream
Many tinted moisturizers have powder pigments that soak up skin’s oils, zapping some of the natural moisture from your face. To fix this, BareMinerals coated its pigments in lauroyl lysine, an amino acid derived from coconuts.
“Because the pigments are cocooned, they won’t dry out your skin. Instead, the formula feels very soft and silky,” says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson. When you mix those pigments with glycerin and squalane, you get a formula that “actively promotes hydration.” In addition to containing moisturizing ingredients, the light, cooling gel evens out skin tone and minimizes redness, which means all you’re left with is a soft, dewy glow.
$33 (Shop Now)
Tarte Maracuja Tinted Hydrator
Tarte’s tinted moisturizers have always been an Allure editor favorite, and its latest version is no different. The Maracuja Tinted Hydrator combines the skin-nourishing properties of maracuja oil with plumping hyaluronic acid and collagen, plus brightening turmeric, for skin that glows well after you’ve taken this off.
$29 (Shop Now)
Ilia Beauty Super Serum Skin Tint
Squalane, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide join forces for Ilia’s Super Serum Skin Tint. With the added benefit of sun-protective SPF 40, this thick, hydrating serum offers up light but buildable coverage you can rub in quickly and easily with your fingertips.
$46 (Shop Now)
Erborian BB Cream Tinted Moisturizer
Even though its only available in a few light shades, Allure associate beauty director Sarah Kinonen loves this BB Cream Tinted Moisturizer for its hydrating ginseng and brightening fruit extracts. For those who are extra prone to redness, you can also turn to the brand’s Best of Beauty-winning CC Red Correct.
$39 (Shop Now)
Burt’s Bees Goodness Glows Tinted Moisturizer
With its pH-balancing glycerin, squalene, and sunflower seed oil, it’s clear to see why Burt’s Bees Goodness Glows has such high ratings online. What’s more: It contains antioxidant green tea extract that reduces redness, leaving behind a calm, even base for its sheer pigments.
$12 (Shop Now)
Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer
This tinted moisturizer is free of pthalates, parabens, and 1,500 other ingredients that the cruelty-free brand has identified as potentially harmful or irritating, so you’re left with only tried-and-true elements, like glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.
“Both of these ingredients are humectants, meaning they draw moisture to the surface of the skin to keep cells hydrated,” says Wilson. The creamy formula is more pigmented than most tinted moisturizers, so it does a great job of covering imperfections. One catch: Its thick consistency makes it a little difficult to spread, so you’ll likely end up using more product than usual.
$45 (Shop Now)
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector
Ask any beauty fan and they’ll likely tell you that Laura Mercier’s is the first tinted moisturizer they ever used — and fell in love with. With its sheer, buildable coverage and moisture-packed formula, there’s a reason this product is a cult favorite and four-time Allure Best of Beauty winner.It’s noncomedogenic, but those with acne-prone or oily skin may benefit even more from the upgraded oil-free version of the formula.
$47 (Shop Now)
Chanel Les Beiges All-In-One Healthy Glow Fluid
For skin that needs a hefty dose of hydration, this illuminating tinted moisturizer packs a major punch. It contains glycerin, which leaves skin feeling soft and plump while dimethicone wards off dryness throughout the day.
“Dimethicone reduces transepidermal water loss, which is when water escapes through the skin and into the atmosphere, so it works long-term to increase skin’s hydration,” explains Wilson. And thanks to the smallest, tiniest shimmery gold particles, you’re left with a natural, allover glow that will have people asking if you just got back from vacation.
$40 (Shop Now)
Clinique Moisture Surge Sheertint Hydrator
Just like Clinique’s beloved Moisture Surge cream, the Sheertint Hydrator penetrates deep beneath the skin to hydrate and calm the skin — that’s thanks to its strong concentration of cucumber extract, aloe, and hyaluronic acid.
$39 (Shop Now)
Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer Tinted SPF 47 Protect + Perfect
Josie Maran’s Protect + Perfect is less of a tinted moisturizer and more of a tinted sunscreen, and we’ll take all the sun protection we can get. Alongside its SPF 47, this formula is very lightly tinted with pigments in one tan shade, giving it just enough color to mask slight skin imperfections and give its wearer and warm, sun-tanned look.
$34 (Shop Now)
L’Oréal Paris Visible Lift Luminous Serum Tinted Moisturizer
Consider L’Oréal’s Visible Lift Luminous Serum the perfect solution to skin that needs an extra boost of shimmer for radiance. Available in five warm shades, this tinted moisturizer acts more like a highlighter than your average formula, so feel free to pat a little extra on all the high points of your face.
$15 (Shop Now)
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Radiant Tinted Moisturizer
It’s not shocking at all that a brand that Neutrogena could deliver one of the best tinted moisturizer formulas out there with ingredients like vitamins A, C, and E. On top of all those antioxidants, Healthy Skin Tinted Moisturizer also contains small pearlescent pigment that provide a glowing, dewy sheen.
$13 (Shop Now)
Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer
Sensitive-skinned girls, Nars has got one just for you. The silky-smooth Radian Tinted Moisturizer has a formula that’s both oil-free and made without parabens or synthetic fragrances, so you won’t have to worry about irritation or clogged pores.
“This is a really great product to apply with your fingertips; it’s super sheer and easy to blend,” says makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci. “Or you can tap it on with a sponge to build subtle coverage.” Its barely-there coverage might be a little too light for those with post-breakout redness or discoloration, though, so have a concealer on hand for touch-ups.
$45 (Shop Now)
No7 City Light Tinted Moisturizer
This highly rated tinted moisturizer formula from No7 is a fan-favorite for low-effort application and comfortable light coverage. Although it contains SPF 15 for sun protection, we still recommend wearing an SPF 30 or higher underneath it, especially if you plan to go outside.
$15 (Shop Now)
Philosophy Renewed Hope in a Jar Skin Tint
This thick and creamy skin tint from Philosophy has slightly higher coverage than other tinted moisturizer, according to Dall’Asen. But you can still apply it directly with the fingers just like you would your favorite moisturizer for effortless all-over coverage with a slightly matte finish.
$40 (Shop Now)