7 trending ingredients your skin wishes you had learnt about in biology class
Level up with our expert guide
Skincare became a hobby when things around me seemed out of control. No matter what happened during the day, there was a consistent 5-step routine to end it with. That anchor gave me stability when a crabby boss decided to change a project 30 minutes before submission and the seepage in the corner of my bedroom made a comeback.
When your brain’s buzzing with the day’s events, just focussing on your skin alone, the textures of the products, the slight pressure of your fingers massaging your cheekbones, helps you to practice mindfulness. And just a few minutes of that can help our brains “unhook from less healthy, spiralling thinking patterns,” according to psychotherapist and psychodermatologist Matt Traube, noting a 2019 study of 1,100 adults.
Now that the world is gradually limping back to normal, with the doodhwala ringing the doorbell at 6am on Sunday mornings, and Google maps reclaiming their status, the skincare routines that went back to basics are getting more experimental, to be more efficient. We’re going to be showing our faces in public again, and the pimple that’s called your forehead home for two weeks is getting an eviction notice.
In that pursuit, you may have tried to get back into a multi-step, exciting skincare routine — adding a slew of products with the latest trending skincare ingredients and tools. But that can end up being disastrous when you don’t know how to pronounce the star ingredient, let alone figure out how exactly it works.
Fret not, as I’ve sought the guidance of an expert to help us decode the trending skincare ingredients that have popped up in every product as we re-enter the skincare world. Whether you’re re-starting a multi-step practice or just want to try out something new, save this as your reference.
Trending skincare ingredients to try out
Bakuchiol is the exotic ‘natural retinol’ filling the bottles of many global beauty brands before making its way to the Indian market. It sounds like a Bengali sweet dish, and you’re not too far off the mark. It’s not something you’ll find at the moira, but an ingredient that’s derived from a native Indian plant called babchi.
I get the hype around bakuchiol, I’ve tried it too. But having used retinoids/retinol, which are vitamin A derivatives, for acne and to undo the oxidative damage of years of smoking, there’s no comparing the two, especially if you want fast results. It’s not vitamin A, which celebrity dermatologist Dr Niketa Sonavane says is the “gold standard in medical science to reverse signs of ageing”.
If you can get through at least six to eight months with bakuchiol you will see results. Bakuchiol has been found to have similar properties of retinol in terms of anti-ageing, but it’s also an anti-bacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory addition to any product.
“You won’t get the same results as retinol. You also won’t get the irritation that retinol gives, which makes it a more viable option for long-term use. I consider bakuchiol a great alternative for those who have sensitive skin. It is also perfect for those who have increased outdoor exposure and are more likely to develop side effects to retinol,” says Sonavane.
From the list of trending skincare ingredients, this one has a great backstory. Tranexamic acid traditionally was used to treat blood loss in patients during open-heart surgery and those with menorrhagia, very heavy menstrual bleeding. During this time, they realised that it ended up treating any skin discolouration the patients had as well.
For a melanin-heavy race prone to hyperpigmentation, you’d think tranexamic acid wouldn’t be a new player in the market. The cosmetic industry adopted it from the arsenal of gynaecologists and cardiologists and formulated it to treat our skin. “It works by reducing melanin production and breaking up melanin which is already formed. It is one of the few ingredients that work effectively on hormonal pigmentation or melasma, which is otherwise difficult to treat,” explains Sonavane.
It’s still difficult to get your hands on it, but you’ll find it in a couple of pharmaceutical products at the local chemist which are aimed at treating melasma, usually mixed in with ingredients like kojic acid and arbutin. And unlike a lot of other ‘acids’, skincare enthusiasts may already be familiar that this one doesn’t exfoliate the skin by speeding up cell turnover. So even if you have sensitive skin, it’s safe to add to your routines.
You can spot panthenol, also known as pro-vitamin B5, on your ingredient lists most commonly as D-panthenol or dexpanthenol. It’s a multitasker, working as a humectant as well as an emollient. It holds on to water from the air and traps it in, making it a great ingredient for people with very dry skin.
Sonavane explains that as it hydrates the skin, it eases inflammation and boosts the skin’s ability to heal wounds. So if you’re suffering from acne, it may be worth adding to your routines to help soothe those angry red breakouts and repair leftover scars.
“Not just that, panthenol stimulates fibroblast cells which means plumper skin with more collagen, tighter pores and fewer fine lines.”
If you’ve been a member of the over-exfoliation nation like me after trying out too many products at one go, then panthenol is a real skin saviour to help repair your skin.
You may have already spotted a microcurrent facial massager in your favourite celebrity and beauty influencer’s lockdown routines. Nu Face, one of the most popular micro current massagers in the West, quickly knocked gua sha and jade rollers from their spot on the beauty shelves. But getting your hands on a Nu Face device was hard and given the current world scenario, Manoj chacha isn’t taking a US trip anytime soon (hopefully). House of Beauty (HOB) released their own microcurrent device to tickle the fancy of Indian skincare enthusiasts interested in elaborate routines and facial tools.
Microcurrent facial massagers like the one by HOB target multiple smaller muscles in the face. The device’s small electrical stimulations can strengthen and tighten the muscles along our jawline, cheeks, neck, eyes and brows a lift in a non-invasive manner at home. It can potentially stimulate collagen production, improve blood circulation, and wound healing.
“It’s a full-blown face workout session in 10 mins. The advanced tech reduces free radicals that make skin age, targets loose nerve fibres and closes enlarged pores. Stimulating every facial muscle, I could do it in the car, home or office and it tightens my face instantly and helps my skin glow,” says HOB founder and facial yoga expert Vibhuti Arora.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘microcurrent’ sounds like you’re giving yourself electric shocks, but it’s completely safe and not painful to use. HOB’s product comes with a collagen serum to apply before using the device and some experts have said that if it runs out, you can use simple ultrasound gel as well. With the kind of positive effects it’s been having for people, you’re going to see a lot more of such devices on the market soon.
You may be cutting out some fats from your diet but there’s one you’re going to want to keep in your skincare routine – ceramides. We naturally have ceramides in our skin, made up of long-chain fatty acids which help create our skin barrier. They help lock in all the goodness – moisture and hydration while preventing irritation and dryness. “Well-hydrated skin is less vulnerable to environmental damage and ageing,” says Sonavane.
Ceramides may be the hot new thing in trending skincare ingredients but according to Sonavane, we’ve been adding them to our routines without even realising. Jojoba oil, for example, she says is 96% ceramides and is a part of many product formulations.
Sonavane suggests using a product with ceramides as protection, before your treatment step (exfoliation etc). Exfoliating ingredients like glycolic acid, lactic acid and retinol “negatively affect the skin barrier while they are working, this is what causes dryness, rashes and reactions.”
If you’re an impatient amma then you’ll love ceramide-rich products. It takes less than a week for you to see their impact. Looking back at you in the mirror will be a chaand sa roshan chehera and within a month, your skin will feel plumper and even see a reduction in fine lines.
By now, we know our AHAs and BHAs like the back of our hand. Glycolic is going to slough the roughness away and good ol’ salicylic acid always knows what to do when that period pimple pops out at the worst possible moment. Now make way for polyhydroxy acids (PHAs).
PHAs like gluconolactone and lactobionic acid are similar to AHAs. Both work to exfoliate and increase skin cell turnover to reveal the baby softness underneath.
But unlike AHAs, Sonavane explains that PHAs have a larger molecule. This means that they don’t penetrate very deep into the layers of our skin. This doesn’t make them less effective, but reduces the chances of irritation and sensitisation that can come with other chemical exfoliating ingredients.
Not just that, turns out these class-toppers are humectants, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in nature as well. *Sniff* Mama would be so proud.
Step away from the Yakult, we’re not doing a weird DIY here. Probiotics are making their way from our plates to our cosmetics as our attention shifts to our skin’s microbiome. There are a variety of micro-organisms that inhabit our skin, some good that protect our skin and others that like to stir up rebellions.
“Prebiotics are the food that these microbes need to grow and flourish. Probiotics are skin-friendly microbes that help restore your natural skin microbiome,” explains Sonavane.
Just like our gut, our skin’s microbiome can get disrupted by stress and a poor lifestyle. This imbalance in the previously blissful microcosm of skin bacteria can lead to inflammatory skin problems like acne, eczema and rosacea.
Trending skincare ingredients like probiotics in our serums and creams can bring this inflammation down. Fermented ingredients, which became famous when K-beauty took over the world, offer a potent supply of probiotics. They can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. Helping calm down acne, rosacea and atopic dermatitis. “In addition to this probiotics also help in restoring the natural ceramides of your skin, making it stronger and more resilient to inflammation.”