10 Fermented Skin Care Products to Try in 2023 for Hydration, Exfoliation, and More

From slugging to squalane, we love a skin care trend that actually delivers. That’s one reason why we’ve turned our attention to fermented skin care products. If you have images of sauerkraut- and kimchi-infused serums dancing through your mind, these products aren’t quite so literal—but they do rely on the same process that blesses us with those tasty fermented foods. So, we set out to learn more about the fermentation process behind these products, what sets them apart from other treatments on the market, and whether they’re worth a try if you’re thinking about shaking up your skin care routine.

What is fermented skin care, anyway?

Lately, you’ll see skin care products with all sorts of fermented ingredients on the label, including soy, kelp, rice water, various botanicals, and even active ingredients we know and love like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and more.

When it comes to making fermented skin care ingredients, we have good old bacteria to thank, board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, tells SELF. Essentially, fermented ingredients have been exposed to microorganisms. These beneficial bugs break down the ingredients into smaller molecules, Dr. Garshick explains. The smaller the molecule size is, the easier it is for an ingredient to penetrate the skin more deeply, she says.

It’s not far off from what happens when yeast is added to grapes to produce wine, board-certified dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, MD, tells SELF. Using fermentation in skin care may also help “enhance [the] potency” of certain ingredients, she says, which, in theory, should lead to better results.

What are the benefits of using products with fermented ingredients?

It all comes back to that smaller molecule size, Dr. Garshick says. She explains that your skin barrier is protective by design, so ingredients that can be absorbed more easily stand a better chance of having substantial effects. For example, hyaluronic acid—a beloved humectant that helps draw water to the surface of the skin—is a fairly large molecule, which makes it harder for the skin to absorb. When hyaluronic acid is fermented, it can sink deeper into the skin and work its hydrating magic more thoroughly, Dr. Garshick says. In other words, it’s possible that fermenting ingredients that we already know to be helpful in addressing common concerns like dryness, acne, dullness, and fine lines, may increase their capacity to deliver the results you want. On the flipside, because products containing fermented ingredients tend to be more potent, they could potentially cause a reaction in sensitive skin (similar to chemical exfoliants), so they should be used with some caution. If they’re more potent, they could be more irritating.

Despite its promise (and derms’ interest in it) as a trend, fermented skin care is a fairly new concept, so there isn’t a ton of specific research on it at the moment. That makes the full breadth of its effects (and possible benefits) a bit murky. Dr. Garschick points to a couple of small studies (one on animals and one on humans) that suggest certain fermented ingredients, including red ginseng and a barley and soybean formula, showed some potential in boosting skin hydration and fighting signs of aging, but they’re far from conclusive. Larger studies on diverse groups of people need to be done to better understand the possibilities of these ingredients. Ultimately, Dr. Garshick says we still have more to learn about this trend (and the skin’s microbiome in general).

This is a valuable reminder to take claims around any emerging beauty trend with a grain of salt. As Dr. Shirazi puts it: “There are potential benefits, but there’s not a lot of research on their effectiveness. So I don’t consider it the holy grail of skin care just yet.”

Who should try fermented skin care products?

While further research is needed, fermented ingredients are thought to be safe, so if someone is interested, it is reasonable to try,” Dr. Garshick says. Just make sure to note the ingredients before you apply them and avoid any known irritants; a patch test is never a bad idea, especially if you’re trying a product that has multiple active ingredients in it. Apply a dime-size amount of the product on the inside of your elbow or on your neck and check on it a day later. If you don’t see any irritation or feel itchy, you’re probably good to go.

Now that you’re a bit more familiar with fermentation skin care, here are some standout products that employ the process to potentially boost the effects of hydration, exfoliation, brightening, and more.

Ferver Fermented Enzyme Radiance Face Mask

Dr. Garshick recommends using this fermented enzyme mask from buzzy brand Ferver once a week, explaining that it exfoliates the skin without being too harsh, leaving it softer and brighter. “It also delivers antioxidant benefits as it contains red algae and helps to reduce inflammation through turmeric,” she says.

Layers Probiotic Serum

This serum uses lactic acid to gently exfoliate in combination with meadowfoam oil, which helps to lock in moisture,” Dr. Garshick says. Made with the probiotic ingredient lactobacillus ferment, it aims to support and strengthen the skin barrier while promoting an overall glowy appearance.

Sunday Riley Pink Drink Skin Firming Resurfacing Essence Face Mist

Sunday Riley, a cult-fave brand around here, reaps the benefits of fermentation in this delightfully pink treatment essence. Dr. Garshick explains that it contains a potent combination of peptides (chains of amino acids that provide the building blocks for collagen), fermented honey, pink yeast filtrate, and kelp, which work in tandem to soothe, moisturize, and restore skin. “It is also rich in antioxidants to protect against free radical damage,” she says.

Bliss Mighty Biome Ultra-Hydrating Moisturizer Concentrate

Nourishing yet lightweight, this moisturizer “uses prebiotic beta-glucan to attract water and boost moisture, as well as the postbiotic lactococcus ferment lysate to help stimulate cell renewal,” Dr. Garshick says, referring to those beneficial bugs we mentioned earlier. She explains that prebiotic and postbiotic ingredients, when used topically, may help maintain a healthy skin barrier and reduce inflammation.

Vichy Minéral 89 Prebiotic Recovery & Defense Concentrate

The experts we spoke to recommended this Vichy serum that contains niacinamide “to help calm inflammation and regulate oil production,” Dr. Shirazi says. Not only does this ingredient offer a host of benefits for people concerned about fine lines and dullness, but it’s also useful for those with acne-prone skin. In other words, it’s a great entry point into the world of fermented skin care, regardless of your skin type.

Andalou Naturals Deep Hydration Multi Correcting Cream

The vegan collagen in this face cream is made via plant-based fermentation, while the hyaluronic acid is made with wheat and plant fermentation. “Together, these ingredients help to boost hydration while plumping the skin,” Dr. Garshick says. Plus, the cream is intensely moisturizing without feeling remotely heavy or greasy.

Venn Advanced Multi-Perfecting Red Oil Serum

The main ingredients in this vegan, top-rated face oil from K-beauty brand Venn are fermented root extracts that increase the skin’s radiance while retaining moisture for as long as 24 hours after applying.

Neogen Real Ferment Micro Essence

This brightening essence from Korean skin care brand Neogen is known to appear in beauty experts’ skin care routines for its ultra-lightweight consistency, which makes it a breeze to apply. It contains several fermented ingredients, including bifida ferment lysate and saccharomyces ferment filtrate, which can moisturize the skin and make it appear more supple. And, for those who want to avoid possible irritants, this product is fragrance-free.

Ferver Fermented Ginseng Eye Cream

Another option from Ferver, this eye cream can help thwart fatigued skin and dark circles. It soothes, brightens, and de-puffs the delicate skin around your eyes with the help of fermented ginseng, as well as our go-to brightening active ingredient vitamin C.

Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray

Drunk Elephant’s refreshing, antioxidant-rich facial spray has a foundation of fermented ingredients (including kombucha and fermented rice water) that create a veritable cocktail of benefits: “This product incorporates amino acids, fatty acids, electrolytes, and ceramides, which work to hydrate and refresh the skin, while helping to support a healthy microbiome,” Dr. Garshick says.

SELF

How To Incorporate Glycolic Acid Into Your Skincare Regime, According To Dermatologists

Famed for its ability to brighten and refine skin texture and tone – as well as reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, breakouts and blemishes – glycolic acid is a routine essential, and with good reason. That said, as an active ingredient, a little bit of homework before you introduce it into your regime is a must. Here’s what you need to know.

What is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant that belongs to a family of acids known as alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs – a term you’ve probably heard being bandied about in skincare circles. Widely used and derived from sugar cane, other AHAs include lactic, citric and mandelic acids.

What is glycolic acid used for?

Glycolic acid works as an exfoliator by loosening the glue that holds dead cells to the skin’s outer surface, the stratum corneum, helping to reveal the younger, fresher cells underneath. “Exfoliation should be a regular part of your skincare routine,” advises consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. “It gives an instant improvement to the appearance of skin by removing the dull, dry layer of upper skin cells. Superficial exfoliation will not only make the texture of the skin look better, but will also improve age spots and uneven skin tone, as well as allowing better penetration of your serum or moisturiser.” Possessing the smallest size molecules of all the AHAs means that glycolic acid is easily able to penetrate into the skin, so it’s a hugely effective way to improve cellular turnover. Thanks to its ability to penetrate the dermis – the layer of skin beneath the epidermis where collagen is secreted by fibroblast cells – it helps promote collagen synthesis too.

Is glycolic acid suitable for all skin types?

Glycolic acid is effective when used on normal, combination and oily skin, but sensitive skins should be wary of diving straight in, as it can cause irritation. Just as you’d use retinol sparingly to start with, exercise caution when it comes to trying glycolic for the first time. “Start with a low concentration once per week and gradually build up frequency, then build up concentration slowly depending on skin needs and tolerability,” advises consultant dermatologist Dr Zainab Laftah at HCA The Shard

Seasonality can also impact how well it’s tolerated. “As [glycolic acid] is effectively stripping away the upper layers of skin cells it can make your skin more sensitive to sunshine; using sunscreen is therefore essential,” warns Dr Mahto. Happily, for those trying to navigate the confusing world of pregnancy-safe skincare, glycolic acid (in low concentrations) is on the accepted list of ingredients to use – particularly welcome news if you’re experiencing hormonal dullness or breakouts. If you do find yourself unable to tolerate it, all is not lost: “Lactic acid is a mild gentle chemical exfoliant and a good alternative for those who are unable to tolerate glycolic acid, or have a history of sensitive or dry skin types,” notes Dr Laftah.

What’s the best form of glycolic acid to use?

If you’re new to this AHA, an easy way to incorporate it into your routine is through a cleanser, which won’t come into contact with skin for too long and is quickly washed off. It’s also a good litmus test for sensitivity as glycolic acid is immediately neutralised on contact with water. Once you’ve acclimatised you can move on to leave-on formulations including toners, serums and moisturisers, where concentration will be a little higher. “The ideal concentration used at home is between 8 to 15%,” advises Dr Laftah. 

While products like cleansers and toners that contain small amounts can be used daily, most people find once or twice week is sufficient when using anything stronger. Higher concentrations of glycolic acid will naturally yield more intensive results and offer an instant skin glow, but these should only be used by professionals. “Glycolic acid can also be used as a medical-grade chemical peel, only available in clinic, in higher concentrations of 30-70%,” adds Dr Mahto. “It should ideally be started at low concentrations and built up to avoid skin irritation, particularly in pigmented skin.” As well as the concentration, pay attention to the pH of your chosen product; those formulated with a higher pH are done so in order to weaken the acid’s strength, and therefore minimise potential irritation to the skin. If the pH of your product sits between three and four then it is guaranteed that the strength of glycolic is as it is stated on the bottle.

Are there any ingredients you should avoid while using glycolic acid?

Although it can be used seamlessly with other AHAs and BHAs, including pore-refining salicylic acid, there are some standout skincare ingredients that should be avoided while you use glycolic. “Due to the increased risk of skin dryness and inflammation glycolic acid and retinoids should not be used simultaneously,” warns Dr Laftah. If you’re desperate to reap the skin-boosting benefits of both, start using one and work up to tolerance gradually. Once you’ve established that, introduce the other slowly and only use them on alternate days. The two used together at the same time is a recipe for serious irritation, no matter how robust you think your skin is.

Can glycolic acid harm the skin?

Although it’s a gentle exfoliant, as with anything active, overuse can cause damage, particularly to the skin barrier, the skin’s first line of defence against harmful pollutants and pathogens. In the winter months particularly, the skin barrier is often compromised by colder temperatures and fluctuating central heating anyway, so caution against being too overzealous with your glycolic, especially if trying it for the first time. If you have overdone it, you’re likely to experience dryness, flakiness, redness and irritation. “The good news is [that] this is reversible,” says Dr Laftah. “By stopping the chemical exfoliant, hydrating the skin and treating any active inflammation, the skin barrier can be restored.

The best glycolic acid products to try

VOGUE

9 Things To Know About Marilyn Monroe’s Beauty Regime

From the bee-stung red lips to her trademark platinum curls, Marilyn Monroe was – and still is – the ultimate bombshell and beauty icon, who had a penchant for glamour that resonates with so many of us today. As the Marilyn biopic Blonde divides opinion on Netflix, British Vogue takes a look at the star’s Old Hollywood beauty routine. 

She stayed out of the sun

I’m personally opposed to a deep tan because I like to feel blonde all over,” explained Monroe of why she stayed out of the sun – despite the fact it was in “vogue in California”. Forget the bronzers and fake tans many of us swear by today, she was all about the alabaster look.

She liked a very specific shade of blonde

If you’ve ever wondered what hair hue Monroe requested when she graced the colourist’s chair, you probably wouldn’t guess it was “pillow case white”. According to the author Pamela Keogh, Monroe had her hair bleached every three weeks with a roster of hairstylists including Pearl Porterfield (who also tended to Jean Harlow’s pale blonde hair) and Kenneth Battelle. To avoid washing it too much (which can affect the colour), she swore by a makeshift dry shampoo – Johnson’s Baby Powder – applying every two days to keep her hair looking fresh.

A nifty make-up artist’s trick for plump lips

How to create the full, pouty lips Marilyn was so well known for? A clever use of lipsticks, no less. Her make-up artist would apply up to five different red hues – darker, plummy reds on the outside, and lighter towards the inside – to create the illusion of dimension and plumpness. A clever tip that many make-up artists still use today.

She knew the importance of sleep

A woman who enjoyed her sleep, Monroe took between five and 10 hours of shut-eye a night in a wide single bed. On Sunday? “[It’s] my one day of total leisure. I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness,” she said in an interview with Pageant magazine.

What she wore to bed

Monroe famously didn’t wear clothes to bed, stating that pyjamas and “creepy nightgowns” disturbed her sleep. What she did wear, however, was five drops of Chanel No.5, a perfume that she is also said to have added into her ice baths. 

Yes… ice baths

While Wim Hof and numerous athletes have since popularised ice-cold showers and baths, Marilyn was well ahead of the curve. It is said that she used to take ice-cold baths to keep her skin firm and tight.

How she looked after her skin

Monroe joined the likes of Audrey Hepburn in regularly seeing Hungarian dermatologist, Erno Laszlo. Suffering from dry skin (she is rumoured to have obsessively washed her face up to five times a day to ward off breakouts), Laszlo prescribed the actress a rigorous skincare routine, which differed depending on the time of day and occasion. Her evening skincare routine began with an oil cleanse, using the Erno Laszlo Active Phelityl Oil, then she applied the Active Phelityl Cream and washed it off. She finished with the Controlling Lotion. All of these products are still available today.

Get the Monroe glow

While today we go wild for highlighter, Monroe got her glow in another, perhaps less tempting, way. Deploying the K-beauty trend for “slugging”, she would apply layers of Vaseline under her foundation to help skin catch the light. She was also a fan of cold cream, like Pond’s, and other iconic products we still use today, including Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream and Nivea Creme, and even olive oil, which she also reportedly applied to her skin to offset dryness.

She wasn’t a natural exercise fanatic

I don’t count rhythmically like the exercise people on the radio; I couldn’t stand exercise if I had to feel regimented about it,” said Monroe about her approach to working out. Many of us will relate. Instead, she enjoyed a “simple bust-firming routine” which involved lifting two, five-pound weights above her head 15 times, moving from a “spread-eagle arm position”. She would do it bedside until she was tired each morning.

VOGUE

Skin Cycling Is the TikTok Trend That Dermatologists Actually Approve Of

Skin cycling is the latest beauty trend to take over TikTok. With a cool 3.5 billion views on the hashtag, the skin cycling trend is far from being a weird and wacky method (as is often the case on the Gen-Z-led platform). In fact, it actually has legs according to a number of skin experts and dermatologists. But what is it, exactly?

The concept of skin cycling applies to a nighttime skincare routine, which involves using active ingredients only on certain days, and following them with ‘rest’ days,” explains Dr. Alexis Granite. “A four-day cycle is the most popular, which typically comprises using active ingredients for two nights of the week, followed by two nights of rest—and repeating.”

The idea is that adopting a skin cycling routine can help prevent the skin barrier from being compromised due to overuse of active ingredients—plus, it’s a great way to create a consistent and effective routine that helps the skin work optimally. The New York-based dermatologist behind the concept is Dr. Whitney Bowe, who shared her vision for the ultimate skin cycling routine on TikTok.

Night One: Exfoliation

You want to cleanse [the skin], pat dry, then put on an exfoliating product,” explains Dr. Bowe, who recommends using a leave-on product over something that’s wash-off, like a cleanser. Seek out chemical exfoliators, which contain ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs, instead of physical scrubs because they’re better for the skin barrier and more effective.

Night Two: Retinoid

On day two, apply a retinoid after cleansing. If you’re new to retinoids and skin cycling in general, begin by applying a hydrating cream to the sensitive areas of the face—under the eyes, around the corners of the nose, and on the marionette lines—to act as a buffer and prevent dryness and irritation. Then, apply your retinoid over the whole face, down the neck, and across the décolletage.

Nights Three and Four: Repair and Recovery

It’s time to look after the skin barrier and ensure the skin is adequately hydrated. Dr. Bowe recommends cleansing, leaving the skin damp, and then applying a serum that contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and/or niacinamide. Follow with a moisturizer: “Choose a formula that’s really nourishing which will support the skin barrier,” says Dr. Bowe. “If the skin is really dry, apply rosehip or squalane oil onto the cheeks.”

VOGUE

The 9 Best Eye Creams for Dry Skin

Contrary to popular belief, eye creams are not a scam. In fact, they’re an essential part of any healthy skincare routine.

Eye creams are specifically designed to use on the skin around the eyes to address common concerns such as dark circles, puffiness, and fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell – New York Presbyterian Medical Center, previously told InStyle. “Because the skin around the eye is thin and delicate, it can be especially important to use products that are gentle on the skin and intended for the eyelid area.”

That said, it’s important for these formulas to also be ultra-nourishing to ensure they’re helping to hydrate the skin and keep it moisturized all day and night.

With colder weather on the way, you’re probably looking for the best eye cream — and I’ve got you covered. Discover the top nine picks, ahead.

Olay Hyaluronic + Peptide 24 Hydrating Eye Gel 

To shop: $40; ulta.com

While there are dozens of products on the market to choose from these days, you can never go wrong with an old reliable — namely Olay. The fragrance-free formula offers a mix of peptides and hyaluronic acid help to keep skin well quenched for 24 hours, plus it will give you an instant cooling sensation. Expect to see smoother skin after two weeks of consistent use.

Kiehl’s Super Multi-Corrective Anti-Aging Eye Cream 

To shop: $55; sephora.com

A blend of niacinamide and peptides work together to smooth out fine lines, wrinkles, and support collagen production around the brow bone, eyelid, outer corner, and under-eye. Plus, it’s lightweight and fast-absorbing formula is surprisingly hydrating.

Valmont V-Firm Eye Firming Eye Care 

To shop: $290; saksfifthavenue.com

Yes, this product is a splurge, but if you’ve got the cash, it’s worth it — trust me. I first tested the formula when I got to experience Valmont’s signature facial at The Carlyle. As soon as I got home, I put the V-Firm Eye Firming Eye Care in my bathroom cabinet and have been using it ever since. I really appreciate the gel-like formula that gives you the satisfaction and moisturizing benefits of slugging, but without the clammy or heavy feel.

Sunday Riley 5 Stars Retinol + Niacinamide Eye Serum

To shop: $65; sephora.com

We’re all aware of the perks of retinol when it comes to reducing the signs of aging. But on the flip side, it’s also known to wreak havoc on skin — especially for new users. Thankfully, Sunday Riley found a way to incorporate the superstar ingredient into an eye cream that won’t dry out this delicate area. Retinoid ester and liposome-encapsulated retinol work to support collagen production, while the brand’s moisturizing complex of ceramides and olive oil keep the skin barrier thriving. The formula is rounded out with niacinamide, which not only brightens discoloration, but also helps to reduce the look of wrinkles.

StriVectin Peptight™ 360˚ Tightening Eye Serum 

To shop: $72; sephora.com

StriVectin is one of those brands that consistently understands the assignment — and the Tighten & Life Peptight Eye Serum is no exception. The brand’s triple peptide blend of oligopeptide, dipeptide, and tetrapeptide work alongside caffeine and kakudu plum extract to hydrate, support collagen production, and help to give skin a firmer appearance.

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Gel-Cream 

To shop: $70; sephora.com

Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Eye is supercharged, indeed. The silky formula boasts a mix of hyaluronic acid to keep skin hydrated, along with vitamin E to fight free radicals, and the brand’s FR-Defense™ technology, which protects against environmental stressors.

Youth To The People Superfood Hydrate + Firm Peptide Eye Cream 

To shop: $35; sephora.com

This cult-favorite, clean, and planet-positive eye cream checks all the boxes. Formulated for all skin types, expect this mix of proprietary superfood blend, peptides, sunflower oil, and aloe to leave your skin feeling instantly soothed and hydrated.

Drunk Elephant Ceramighty™ AF Eye Cream with Ceramides 

To shop: $60; sephora.com

If your eyes are seriously quenched, this is the eye balm you need to reach for. Formulated with a three percent ceramide blend and 10% plant omega-lipid complex, rich in fatty acids, this product not only supports the skin barrier, but it will also soften skin with regular use.

TULA Eye Recharge + Replenish Pro-Ferm™ Overnight Eye Cream 

To shop: $56; sephora.com

Cult-favorite brand Tula wasn’t joking around when they named this product. Expect star ingredients like chamomile and green algae to help soothe and keep skin moist.

INSTYLE

Why Squalane and Hyaluronic Acid Are a Match Made in Anti-Aging Skincare Heaven

What Are the Main Benefits of Squalane? 

Squalane — which is the vegan version of squalene — has wonderful hydrating properties and maintains our skin’s own moisture barrier,” triple board-certified dermatologist and Terasana Clinical‘s Skintellectual Dr. Mamina Turegano shares with InStyle. Our skin naturally produces squalene (with an “e”), but production decreases as we age.

Fortunately, squalane (with an “a”) absorbs well into the skin and helps to replenish lipids with no side effects. Plus, it’s non-comedogenic and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and microbiome-nourishing properties, according to Dr. Turegano.

What Are the Main Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid? 

Ever been out all day in the summer, on a blazing hot day, then come back home and thanked God you stored a few water bottles in the fridge the night before so you can feel alive again? Think of hyaluronic acid as that same type of water storage — but for your skin.

Hyaluronic acid is important for moisturizing and maintaining elasticity in the skin,” explains Dr. Turegano. “Our skin also naturally has hyaluronic acid. It serves as a humectant, meaning that it pulls in water or moisture in skin cells, which allows the skin to feel more hydrated and ‘plump.’ This not only gives your skin moisture and glow, but it can also diminish fine lines in the skin.”

Why Should I Pair These Two Ingredients Together? 

Simple: the two work together as a team to help draw in moisture, then lock it in.

While hyaluronic acid pulls in water to hydrate the cells, the squalane serves more to build the moisture barrier and keep the hydration in the skin, as opposed to evaporating,” Dr. Turegano shares. “I recommend using a hyaluronic acid serum, then layering the squalane on top of that.”

What Type of Skin Ailments Can Hyaluronic Acid and Squalane Relieve? 

Pretty much anything that has to do with, or stems from, dryness. Dr. Turegano adds that squalane itself can help to soothe sunburns, treat acne (because of its anti-inflammatory properties), and can even be used for dry cuticles and nails. Hyaluronic acid, on the other hand, can help with wound healing.

Both ingredients can also be used to hydrate dry hair.

Which Skin Types Are These Ingredients Most Beneficial For? 

Any and everyone who can get their hands on them, pretty much.

Even acne-prone, oily, or sensitive skin would benefit from squalane and hyaluronic acid,” the derm shares, adding that it’s also helpful for anti-aging. “There are serums that make higher concentrations of hyaluronic acid that would be more helpful with advancing age to help replenish the natural hyaluronic acid that we naturally lose with age and to help diminish the appearance of fine.”

Is There a Catch? 

Nope! It’s really not too good to be true — unless you’re just not a fan of oils in the case of squalane. But luckily, you’ll still have options.

There are still plenty of creams, lotions, or gel-based moisturizers that incorporate squalene into the product,” says Dr. Turegano. “But not all squalane is also created equal. I would look for squalane derived from sugar cane — as opposed to olives or sharks — since it is more consistent in quality and is more sustainable. With hyaluronic acid, I do recommend adding a separate occlusive moisturizer layer over the hyaluronic acid product, which allows it to keep the moisture in place. This is more important for those with dry skin.”

Another plus? Both of these ingredients are non-irritating, even if you have sensitive skin.

INSTYLE

The Best Gentle Retinol Alternatives for a Skin Reboot

Among the many skin-care ingredients on the shelves, few have attained the hero status of retinoids. That’s the umbrella term for all forms of vitamin A, which include prescription-strength tretinoin along with over-the-counter derivatives. The very word retinol stirs a certain reverence, given its proven efficacy in minimizing wrinkles, speeding cell turnover, and clearing up acne—and that’s despite a well-known drawback. “Retinoids are very irritating to the skin,” says New Jersey dermatologist Naana Boayke, MD. It’s a testament to retinol’s abilities that many users have the patience to tolerate the mild discomfort, which often appears as redness, dryness, and occasional flaky skin.

But for some, retinol is simply too harsh. Plus, the ingredient can pose a challenge in the summer, given that it increases sun sensitivity, thereby making skin particularly prone to redness and burns. (SPF is a must.) That’s where retinol alternatives can be advantageous. These new, up-and-coming actives tout results comparable to retinol, but without the telltale side effects.

Mineral-, marine-, and plant-derived ingredients have been found to have retinol-like biological pathways,” says Marisa Plescia, a research scientist at clean retailer NakedPoppy. Those shared effects range from stimulated cellular renewal to collagen synthesis, she points out.

Chief among these gentler substitutes is bakuchiol, which is derived from the babchi seed. “It’s a ‘functional analog’ to retinol, meaning it has similar chemical, physical, biochemical, or pharmacological properties,” Plescia says, noting a study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Another promising ingredient is rambutan, which, she says, supports natural collagen synthesis through a mechanism similar to retinol and bakuchiol. “We are seeing this with other botanical sources, such as moth bean extract and certain algaes,” she adds.

They’ve proven so appealing that some products even pair actual retinol with retinol alternatives, such as Dr. Dennis Gross’s Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Intense Wrinkle Cream, which offers a skin-renewing trio of rambutan, bakuchiol, and retinol. While the evidence behind retinol alternatives is still growing, there’s enough promise to make such a product worth incorporating into your routine.

Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum

As the delicate neck and décolletage areas are particularly vulnerable to the effects of sunlight, this formula takes a strategic approach. Not only does it combine peptides and rambutan to smooth lines (a sign of the aptly named tech neck) and address discoloration, but it also features a dedicated Flex Lift Contour technology, which creates a mesh-like network on skin to lift and tighten.

Herbivore Botanicals Moon Fruit Serum

Herbivore isn’t new to the world of retinol alternatives, but this addition to its portfolio is a welcome one. The formula pairs bakuchiol with plant-based peptides that help to further firm skin, and simultaneously hydrates to give skin a touch of radiance. Its fruity scent has proven polarizing, but early reviews suggest that it’s worth it.

The Outset Restorative Niacinamide Night Cream

One of the mainstays of Scarlett Johansson’s new, minimalist-minded skin-care line, this velvety night cream pairs bakuchiol with a proprietary Hyaluroset complex—a plant-based alternative to hyaluronic acid that deeply hydrates skin—giving it the power of a serum and moisturizer in one.

Elemis Pro-Collagen Renewal Serum

As Plescia mentioned, marine ingredients can often replicate the effects of retinol—as is the case with this serum, which is anchored in red algae, alfalfa, and stevia extracts. It’s designed to target signs of sun damage in particular, such as uneven tone and fine lines.

Tula Skincare Wrinkle Treatment Drops Retinol Alternative Serum

Delivered in an appealing dry-oil texture, which leaves behind no greasy or slick feel, this serum combines bakuchiol, alfalfa sprouts, and stevia to spur cellular turnover. Meanwhile, probiotic and prebiotic extracts (a hallmark of the brand) bring balance to the skin barrier.

Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum

Powered by bakuchiol, this elegant serum is ideal for more sensitive types: The blend of sugarcane-derived squalane and niacinamide work in equal measure to soothe skin, keeping it calm and comfortable.

Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Crème

One of the first brands to debut bakuchiol in skin care, Ole Henriksen has come to showcase the ingredient across its offerings. In this lightweight eye cream in particular, it works alongside orchid-derived stem cells to firm and brighten around the eyes, minimizing both crows’ feet and dark circles at once.

True Botanicals Phyto-Retinol Vitamin A Booster Serum

Encased in vegan capsules to guarantee freshness (and therefore efficacy), this serum offers a blend of vitamin A–rich botanical extracts, such as buriti and carrot root oils, which skin then converts into retinoic acid upon application. In other words, the formula works in concert with the skin’s natural processes.

Keys Soulcare Skin Transformation Cream

Formulated with guidance from a dermatologist rooted in clean beauty, this staple in singer Alicia Keys’s skin-care line delivers radiant skin with a blend of bakuchiol and ceramides. In keeping with the brand’s ritual-minded ethos, it also contains malachite, a stone that signifies transformation.

VANITY FAIR

The 7 Questions Dermatologists Get Asked All The Time – And Their Answers

From acne and rosacea to simply not knowing where to start with a good skincare routine, we turn to dermatologists for all manner of skincare concerns. Given that they have seen, done and experienced it all when it comes to the skin, what are the questions they get asked most often? And what advice do they give? British Vogue sat down with three experts to find out.

Does your diet affect acne?

For the vast majority of people, acne purely comes down to your hormones and genetics,” says Dr Anjali Mahto. “That said, there is a small, select group of people that may be sensitive to dairy and refined sugars. I don’t recommend people cut things out of their diet at random because I think that can lead to issues around food restriction and disordered eating. But if you are noticing that your skin is breaking out when you eat dairy – and I’m not talking about a splash in your coffee, but huge amounts or taking whey protein supplements – there is probably some benefit in switching to a plant-based alternative that’s got a low GI index. Think unsweetened soy milk or almond milk, which are both better than oat milk.” Dr Justine Kluk agrees, stating that dietary changes alone are not enough to control acne. “They can form part of the management approach alongside prescription treatment, but don’t replace it in most cases,” she says.

Is the SPF in moisturiser equivalent to the one in sunscreen?

The SPF in your moisturiser is tested the same way as an SPF in sunscreen, so an SPF 30 moisturiser should provide an SPF of 30,” explains Dr Justine Kluk. “The main issue is that these formulas are less likely to be rub and water resistant and may be applied a lot more thinly than sunscreen. It’s for this reason that they may not offer the same level of protection. It is also worth noting that moisturisers containing an SPF may not contain any UVA protection and, as a result, will not protect against UV ageing.”

Do collagen supplements actually work?

If you look at the majority of data, at this moment in time, there isn’t any really good evidence that collagen supplements actually work,” says Dr Mahto. “That’s essentially because collagen is a protein – just like eating a piece of steak or tofu is protein. All that will happen is your gut breaks it down into constituent amino acids and doesn’t think, ‘I need to send it to the skin’, so it gets passed around the body. Also, if you’ve got enough expendable cash to be buying collagen supplements – they’re not cheap – you’re probably also the kind of person who is wearing sunscreen and following a good, healthy diet and using a retinol, so it becomes tricky to figure out whether it’s the collagen supplement working or the other things. I’m sceptical, but if you can show me good data that works, I’m willing to change my position on it.

Will my breakouts ever go away?

They might, but the reality for many women is that they often continue into the thirties and beyond,” says Dr Sam Bunting. “The good news is that the right anti-acne skincare routine will often be a highly effective plan for tackling premature ageing too, so your skin may well look better and better as time goes on.

What is the right age to start having injectables?

Lots of people ask if they’re too young or too old for injectables,” says Dr Mahto. “Generally, people that are in their mid-thirties onwards have figured out whether it’s a reasonable time to get started. Usually what I say in this scenario, is that it’s not actually about your age, it’s more about how your skin is ageing. That depends on your individual genetics – how your parents age – as well as how much sun exposure you’ve had, your diet, how stressed out you are and how you sleep. You can have somebody in their late twenties who’s had very little sun and their skin is ageing beautifully and they don’t need any injectable treatments. On the other hand, you could have a 28-year-old who has a really expressive face, they’ve enjoyed sunny holidays and outdoor sport, and they’re starting to get lines when their forehead is at rest or noticing a loss of volume in fat in their face. For someone like that, it might be a reasonable time to start. Different ethnic groups also age differently – somebody who has really fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes will start to get wrinkles more quickly than somebody who has Asian or Black skin, because their melanin will protect them. The flip-side is that those with Asian and Black skin tend to start losing volume in their faces more quickly, so they tend to need filler before they need Botox.”

Is my skincare routine working?

I think there is still a basic lack of understanding around what you actually need in a skincare routine and what you don’t,” Dr Mahto says. “People buy into the buzz about the latest ingredients – whether that’s niacinamide or tranexamic acid – but actually the average person does not need to be using every single one of those ingredients. What you’re trying to do is use as little as possible on your skin, and to look for ingredients that target multiple things. Vitamin A is anti-ageing, good for acne and pigmentation – so why use niacinamide and tranexamic acid and retinol when you’ve got one ingredient that will do a really good job of that? I spend a lot of time stripping back people’s routines, rather than adding things in.” 

Will anyone be able to tell if I’ve had Botox?

Not if it’s done well,” points out Dr Bunting. “I talk to patients about softening strong expression lines and releasing the tension from the face nowadays – it’s a far cry from the frozen faces of the ’90s. Microdosing means no one else ever has to know.”

VOGUE

This $19 Drugstore Face Oil Leaves Crow’s Feet “Almost Completely Gone”

It’s been a pleasant phenomenon over the past few years to see celebrities champion cleaner beauty products. The evidence on endocrine-disrupting chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and PFAS is there, thanks to research over the last two decades — so to see figures like Jennifer Garner, Brooke Shields, and Scarlett Johansson discuss their favorite clean products is wonderful. The downside: Many cost a significant chunk of change. But drugstore brands like Cocokind and Acure offer smart, safe products for less money, as does OG player Burt’s Bees. And according to shoppers, the latter sells a rosehip Facial Oil that leaves wrinkles “almost completely gone.”

The minimalist vial of golden oil calls in a mix of ingredients to help skin look its best, with rose seed extract at top billing. Jojoba oil, borage oil, and vitamin E make up a supporting cast of smoothing moisturizers, and bakuchiol lends an anti-aging angle. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Melanie Palm, MD, previously told InStyle that bakuchiol helps improve the appearance of skin texture, photo-aging, and wrinkles, and rejuvenates the expression of collagen in the skin — essentially handing you many of the end goals of retinol without the irritation.

Shop now: $19 (Originally $20); amazon.com and ulta.com

With just a single drop of the oil nightly, one Amazon reviewer saw the frown line on their forehead smooth out, and their laugh lines turn less pronounced — plus, the moisturized look “lasts for days” rather than dissipating as you blink. A 44-year-old said two weeks of use likewise left their wrinkles smoother and face clearer, and a third person recognized a difference immediately. “The small wrinkles around my eyes were almost completely gone,” they wrote. “People cannot believe my age.”

Per the same thrilled reviewer, the under-$20 face oil rivals “very expensive” products’ effect on crow’s feet. Fans report its brightening power is just as excellent: A 36-year-old who “smoked for many years” wrote that the oil has “changed [their] life” — it toned down their persistent dark circles to such a degree, they said they’d give it 10 stars if they could.

A final 69-year-old commented that there’s “simply no comparison” for soft, supple, pliable skin. Between the results, ingredients, and price, it seems like Burt’s Bees Facial Oil is a velvet hammer that does no wrong. Get it for $19 at Amazon or Ulta Beauty.

INSTYLE

Your Complete Guide to HydraFacials: Steps, Cost, and Benefits

Nothing compares to the sheer joy one feels when it’s time to lay down under steam for a facial. Of course, that relaxation only takes place after long hours of researching and scrolling through the facial services menu to determine what treatment is worth the money and the hour-long block in your day. Allow me to help make your search easier: Get a HydraFacial. 

Apparently this magical 30- to 60-minute treatment tackles everything from dehydration to discoloration, aging to acne, and uneven skin texture. Ready to book? Honestly same. But here’s a brief explainer on everything to know before your first HydraFacial.

What is a HydraFacial?

According to board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Ariel Ostad, “The HydraFacial is the only hydra-dermabrasion procedure that uses patented technology to cleanse, extract, and hydrate.” And yes, HydraFacial is a branded experience. Spas have to be registered and licensed to market themselves as offering HydraFacials. 

The 60-minute treatment is divided into three key sections, the first being Cleanse + Peel. “HydraFacial uncovers a new layer of skin with gentle exfoliation and relaxing resurfacing. The Activ-4™ serum removes dead skin cells to reveal healthy skin and the GlySal™, a mixture of glycolic and salicylic acids, delivers the benefits of a peel without post-peel scaling,” he explains.

The second step is to Extract + Hydrate. The HydraFacial removes debris from pores with painless suction and nourishes with intense moisturizers that quench skin. “The patented, automated vortex suction painlessly cleans out pores with the exclusive Beta-HD™ serum and Antiox+™ serum nourishes and protects with antioxidants, peptides, and hyaluronic acid,” Ostad continues.

And finally, the third step is to Fuse + Protect. “A HydraFacial saturates the skin’s surface with antioxidants and peptides to maximize your glow. Targeted, proprietary skin solutions are delivered to address specific skin concerns. Patients maintain results at home with Daily Essentials™ featuring the same ingredients used in the treatments,” he adds. 

What do HydraFacials do for your face?

For those who wear makeup a lot or simply want a deeper clean than usual, HydraFacials are a great way to cleanse the skin. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anthony Rossi Jr., “facials such as HydraFacials are a way to remove the buildup of sebum and debris that cover the top of our skin. It helps to loosen and unclog pores, and combines an exfoliation process of removing the top layer of dead skin cells, the stratum corneum, with hydration and cleansing of water.”

HydraFacials help to brighten the skin. “After treatments like [HydraFacial] or any that help to exfoliate the top layer, skincare will penetrate better and makeup will be applied easier. The stratum corneum is the epidermis’ layer of protection and one of the main barriers to the penetration of topicals,” he adds. 

How does a HydraFacial differ from microdermabrasion or a traditional chemical facial peel?

There are a few key differences. For example, microdermabrasion treatments use manual extractions, while a HydraFacial uses a vacuum-like tip to cleanse deeper down than traditional extraction. Additionally, chemical peels use acids and are most effective on lighter skin tones, whereas HydraFacials can be used on all shades.

[The treatment] takes its name from the root word hydrate—this ability to moisturize the skin separates the HydraFacial™ from all other skin resurfacing procedures,” explains Boston-based, board-certified dermatopathologist Dr. Gretchen Frieling. “The treatment is soothing, refreshing, non-irritating, and immediately effective.” 

Do HydraFacials hurt?

HydraFacials shouldn’t be painful. Essentially, the machine’s handpiece holds spiralized treatment tips with vortex technology which, as acts like a mini vacuum on your skin. The most uncomfortable part of the treatment is definitely the exfoliation in section one. Camkiran likened the feeling to a “cat licking my face.” That’s a cute way of saying it was sandpapery, but not excruciating. 

Despite the official website’s claim that “patients compare the sensation to a light massage,” I would say it’s a bit more like a dental cleansing for your skin (and p.s. I love the dentist). Somewhere between not painful and not pleasant lies the HydraFacial. However, this is an active facial, meaning in the words of another prominent beauty editor, Deanna Pai: “The HydraFacial device is a huge machine with various attachments that whirr and suck and spin.” In summary, it’s noisy—and if you fall asleep during this treatment you are on a different level of zen that I definitely envy. 

Is it safe for all skin types? 

HydraFacials can be performed on most skin types, including very sensitive complexions. But, those with active rashes, sunburns, or rosacea should abstain from HydraFacials, which can cause further damage or flare ups. “You also should not do this if you have open wounds or excoriated areas. These areas are already prone to inflammation,” Dr. Rossi adds. Also, pregnant woman should always consult with their doctor first. “Some of the ingredients used during the HydraFacial, such as salicylic acid, haven’t been tested or proven safe during pregnancy,” adds Frieling. 

Can you customize your treatment?

The treatment is highly customizable,” explains Ostad. “Your skincare professional will work with you to understand your unique skin concerns and recommend a personalized treatment for you.” An aesthetician can use the exfoliator at varying intensities, and leave acids on the face for differing durations.

How many treatments do I need to see results?

Many patients report seeing visible skin refinement and an even, radiant skin tone after just one treatment,” explains Frieling. And yes, I co-sign this. My skin has receipts. 60-minutes and change later I emerged a glow-ier, dewier version of myself that lasted into the latter half of the week.

The good news? The smooth results and hydration may last five to seven days or even longer. The bad news? One treatment per month is recommended for improving the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots, oily and congested skin…which ain’t cheap people! 

Are HydraFacials worth the money?

With a price tag ranging from $199-$300, it’s certainly an investment. It’s wise to book a treatment before a big event or quarterly to reset your skin after a seasonal change. But if you have the bread, ball out because your skin will look lovely.

ELLE