5 Holy Grail Ingredients Dermatologists Swear By For Radiant Skin


Source: Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

As much as we love hearing about new and revolutionary ingredients that will ‘change the face of beauty’ (no pun intended), it makes it increasingly difficult to work out which ones are really worth the hype. So, we spoke to celeb dermatologist, founder of Lancer Skincare, and author of Younger: The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method for Radiant Skin, Dr. Lancer, to find out which ingredients are actually going to make a difference to our skin. We’ve had dermatologists from all over the world recommend these five key ingredients, and now Dr. Lancer has revealed that they’re his secret for giving his A-list clients, like Victoria Beckham, Margot Robbie, and Kim Kardashian, their radiant, glowy skin. Take notes…

1. Hyaluronic Acid

Suitable for: All skin types and all ages.

Dr. Lancer says that whenever dermatologists are “talking about active ingredients to look out for, hyaluronic acid definitely makes the list.” You could, in fact, already be using it, as it’s the hydrating ingredient in SO many beauty products. Dr. Lancer explains that “it’s a sugar produced by the body [that] absorbs water and plumps up skin – it’s what gives babies the bounce in their cheeks.” He explains that “the body’s levels of hyaluronic acid decreases over time with natural aging and due to poor lifestyle habits. So when it’s used as an ingredient in skincare like moisturizers, it helps skin to combat dryness and irritation.” Dr. Lancer also adds that it’s even more effective when combined with another skincare essential on the list, vitamin C. The bottom line is: you need it in your regimen if you want hydrated, dewy, and plumper skin. Find out more about hyaluronic acid and all its uses here.

How to use: You can buy pure hyaluronic acid, and it’s super easy to incorporate into your routine. We like to apply ours after we’ve toned while our skin is still damp. We love Yeouth’s Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $15, which seeps into the skin almost instantly, and The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid + B5, $7.

2. Retinol

Suitable for: Most skin types (except dry, sensitive, and Rosacea-prone skin), age 25+.

Another ingredient you need to have on your skincare shopping list is retinol. Dr. Lancer insists that “retinol is the key when it comes to anti-aging, as it works to improve texture, pigmentation, tone, fine lines, and wrinkles,” and that “your regimen is otherwise lacking without it.” Although he does add that when you first start using retinol, you should “be patient and start slowly to get your skin acclimated.” He also highlights that “a little goes a long way and that you should always “wear SPF (and reapply every two hours)” to prevent it from damaging your skin as it’s a potent ingredient. You can buy any over-the-counter retinol cream at the drugstore; however, once you hit 30, you should look at more potent formulas, like the Lancer Advanced Retinol Treatment, $95.

How to use: Because retinol is so strong, it’s best to start slow – especially if you have rosacea, sensitive or very dry skin (consider consulting with your dermatologist first). For the first two weeks, start using it at nighttime, only once or twice a week. By week three, use it two to three times a week, and after one month, if your skin hasn’t had a reaction (i.e., gotten very dry), you can then try using it every other night. If you’re using AHAs or BHAs anywhere in your skincare routine, these should not be used on the same night you use retinol.

3. Mechanical and Chemical Exfoliants

Suitable for: Normal, combination, and oily skin. Avoid if you have very dry or sensitive skin.
Guidelines: Exfoliate three times per week maximum (unless using an ultra gentle formula).

One thing Dr. Lancer believes is that “exfoliation is critical to skincare,” and it should be incorporated into “the first step of your cleansing routine.” Dr. Lancer advises his clients to use a “polishing product that uses a combination of mechanical and chemical” exfoliators, more specifically sea minerals, as they contain natural exfoliating enzymes (including plant-based types) and fruit-based enzymes. He also believes “if there’s anything you should splurge on, it’s a high-quality polisher with superfine scrubbers and enough emollient.” We’ve got to admit, we’ve been using the Lancer Method: Polish, $75, and it makes our skin feel ah-mazing. We also love the H20+ Elements Fresh Powder Exfoliator, $20, which contains biodegradable exfoliating beads, jojoba, and water lily to soften and nourish the skin.

For a super gentle scrub that can even be used every day, check out the WISHFUL Yo Glow Enzyme Scrub, $39, which uses a trio of enzymes, AHAs and BHAs and cellulose to gently sweep away dead skin and keep pores clear.

4. Vitamin C

Suitable for: All skin types and all ages.
Guidelines: Use a vitamin C serum in the morning to brighter and protect skin from free radical damage.

No ingredient list would be complete without this skin-saving vitamin. Dr. Lancer says vitamin C is “the workhorse of anti-aging ingredients as it has the ability to improve skin’s radiance, even skin tone, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.” However, he does point out the importance of using “adequate amounts and stable forms for it to be effective; look for vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid, which will offer the best anti-aging payoff.”

Something to be cautious of: Avoid using high concentrations of vitamin C with retinol, salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acid. If you’re new to vitamin C serums, don’t start with the most potent formula; instead work your way up to avoid irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, be sure to check the ingredients, as many serums use silicones or active ingredients to stabilize vitamin C, which could make your skin react.

5. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Suitable for: Normal, combo, oily, and acne-prone skin.
Guidelines: Only use one product containing AHAs daily (unless very gentle and your skin is used to AHAs).

For more youthful skin, Dr. Lancer says, “exfoliation is important in your cleansing routine and can further be implemented in advanced treatments.” Dr. Lancer recommends AHAs, which “are exfoliants that remove dead and damaged skin cells, reduce fine lines, age spots, discoloration, and acne scars,” –  more specifically glycolic acid, which “is the original AHA used in skincare products.” However, you shouldn’t go overboard with AHA-containing products in your skincare regimen as they’re also quite potent, so if you use an exfoliator with AHAs, avoid a toner that also has AHAs. We love the gently exfoliatinng Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner that hydrates skin and minimizes the appearance of pores by keeping them clear.

To end off, Dr. Lancer reminds us that “if you are just starting to introduce [these ingredients] into your skincare, you should ease into it.” This means, “you have to introduce new treatments gradually and be diligent with a schedule. Separate day and night-use products, and apply (and reapply) sunscreen throughout the day.”

Check out this skincare routine for more tips and advice.

Let us know if you use any of these in the comments below!

Disclaimer: Every product we review has been independently selected and tested without bias by our editorial team. We never take payment to review products, although some brands allow affiliate links, so we may earn a commission if you purchase a product by clicking on one of our links.