A good skincare routine is generally made up of two elements: a personalised approach (based on knowing what your skin likes, not just what's going viral on TikTok) and a reliable, tried-and-true product lineup. But just because you've found your stalwarts doesn't mean you can't make room for new products, especially when they're multitasking takes on your current staples (like a dewy moisturiser that moonlights as sunscreen) or something completely novel to the category (like a French pharmacy-inspired "first-aid kit" to help you treat skin issues fast and without a prescription).
Whether or not you're in the market for something new at this very moment, understanding the overarching trends can make future shopping experiences a little less daunting. Here, we're breaking down some of the latest trends in ingredients and products so you can stay in-the-know as you scroll.
Mandelic acid is not a new ingredient by any means, but few brands were utilising it to the fullest — until now. What makes this alpha-hydroxy acid so special is that it's larger in molecular size and weight than many of its counterparts, like glycolic and salicylic acids, which penetrate deeper and more quickly into the skin, and are thus easier to overuse. London-based dermatologist Dr Elif Benar recently told Refinery29 that mandelic acid can be used by nearly all skin types, including sensitive skin.
How to use it: Mandelic acid works best as in your evening skincare routine. "Apply mandelic acid to clean and dry skin after cleansing and before moisturising," Dr Benar advised. "It is better as one of the first layers of skincare, followed by a cream. Simply pat it into the skin gently." You can find mandelic acid in The Ordinary 10% Mandelic Acid + HA, £6.50, The Inkey List's Mandelic Acid Treatment, £10.99, and Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum, £89.
New Retinol Alternatives
Retinol is one of the most well-researched and ubiquitous ingredients in skincare. Derived from vitamin A, it can deliver glowing, smooth skin, but it also comes with drawbacks: It can be irritating, and it's not suitable for anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding.
Maybe you've heard of bakuchiol, a plant-based alternative to retinol that's been touted as gentler and all-around safer. But board certified dermatologist Anna Karp, says that many of her patients experience irritation with bakuchiol as well. "People ask about it because they know it as the only retinol alternative," Dr Karp explains, "but some people don't tolerate it."
Instead of bakuchiol, Dr Karp has been suggesting the brand-new Tatcha The Silk Serum. The brand's scientists tested the formula's Retinol Alternative Duo, a combination of up-cycled cranberry extract and sea fennel, on human skin cells in-vitro, against a stabilised retinol. Working similarly to retinol, it triggers collagen production in the skin. "Compared to the highest percentage of retinol that you can get over the counter, this shows the same efficacy as far as increasing collagen," says Dr Karp. "It has the added benefit of preventing collagen degradation, which we don't see in retinol studies."
How to use it: Unlike retinol, this serum doesn't require a ramp-up period or a strict skin-cycling routine to avoid overuse and irritation. I use it every morning and every night underneath moisturiser, and my sensitive skin feels firmer and looks brighter, without any redness.
Specific Treatment Serums
Targeted skincare serums might not be for everyone — for example, if you want a one-and-done product, or don't feel qualified to decide what your skin needs at any given time — but this skincare concept has a lot of people excited. The famously chic French makeup artist Violette recently expanded her eponymous beauty label, Violette_FR, to include the Sérum Superlatif Set. Think of it like a first-aid kit for your face, with a different serum for each specific skin need (namely, barrier repair, blemishes, irritation, UV damage, and dullness). Beauty editor and brand consultant Katie Jane Becker mentions she's been using the Blemish Rescue with "great results," and plans to use Reactive Skin Rescue during allergy season. "I just love this whole concept," she says.
How to use it: Adding multiple new serums to your routine at once might seem like a recipe for disaster, but you use exactly what you need when you need it, not as a foundational product in your regimen. Think about your current routine, what you might be missing, and which ingredients you want to add in — then find a specific serum that pinpoints that need. Violette says that she uses her first-aid kit as targeted support for when her skin feels out of balance.
Skin Barrier Moisturisers
There's been a significant focus on barrier-repair skincare for the past few years, likely as a response to the boom of acids that compromised our barriers in the first place. Ask a dermatologist which ingredients help to restore the skin's natural moisture balance, and they'll likely point to ceramides.
"Ceramides in skincare have proven to be essential in maintaining a healthy skin barrier, which in turn supports homeostasis [the production of new skin cells] and optimal function of the skin," says dermatologist Rebecca Marcus, MD, FAAD. Dry skin typically lacks ceramides. "In addition, in atopic dermatitis, decreased levels of ceramides in the skin are associated with increased transepidermal water loss [when water evaporates through the skin] which exacerbates the condition."
For people looking for barrier support, whether to treat dryness, redness, itchiness, or irritation, dermatologist Joyce Park, MD recommends the newly reformulated Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream, a deceptively lightweight formula that contains five ceramides to support a strong barrier. Dr Park says she uses it morning and night, and advises even oil-prone patients to do the same.
How to use it: No matter the cause (over-exfoliating, seasonal dryness, or an allergic skin reaction), ceramide cream is great to have on hand for when you experience sudden dryness or irritation and need relief. With this cream in particular I often 'spot moisturise' around my nose and cheeks, which tend to be a bit drier, especially during the winter and early spring.
We recently tested out the brand-new Byoma Moisturizing Gel-Cream SPF 30 and unanimously agreed that the formula doesn't even feel like sunscreen — in a good way. It hits on a trend that we've been seeing in the sun-care space: new formulations that are actually comfortable to wear and feel more moisturising than the chalky options of yesteryear. If you're looking for something similar, but with a higher SPF, try Starface Clear As Day SPF 46 or L'Oréal Revitalift Clinical Vitamin C SPF 50+ Daily Anti-UV Fluid, £19.99.
How to use it: As with any sunscreen, you want to be using this every morning. Every dermatologist will tell you to find a sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) that you like and use it liberally every day. With a sunscreen that feels like skincare, you're more likely to commit it to routine.
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