A good skin-care routine is generally made up of two elements: a personalized 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 moisturizer 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.
When skin care-obsessed New Yorkers learned that celebrity facialist and esthetician Sofie Pavitt, known in insider circles as "the acne whisperer," would be launching a namesake line, Sofie Pavitt Face, the buzz among group chats was palpable. The single ingredient at the forefront of Pavitt's debut product? Mandelic acid, which the pro has been recommending to her clients for years.
Mandelic acid is not a new ingredient by any means, but few brands were utilizing 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.
You can also find mandelic acid in Youth To The People Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant and The Ordinary 10% Mandelic Acid + HA, though this bright yellow bottle of Sofie Pavitt Face Mandelic Clearing Serum is the current top pick among acne-prone, in-the-know New Yorkers.
How to use it: Beauty editor and expert Rachel Krause uses Sofie Pavitt Face Mandelic Clearing Serum every night after cleansing and toning, and before moisturizer. "I have sensitive, reactive skin that can't handle glycolic acid, but I get a lot of clogged pores, uneven texture, and the occasional breakout," she says. "After a few weeks of using the serum, my skin is overall less congested, more even-toned, and smoother to the touch. I also haven't experienced any irritation whatsoever, which is unheard of for me. I've had numerous friends and acquaintances — including those who aren't 'beauty people' — ask me about the product. I've recommended it to each and every one of them without hesitation."
New Retinol Alternatives
Retinol is one of the most well-researched and ubiquitous ingredients in skin care. 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, DO, 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 upcycled cranberry extract and sea fennel, on human skin cells in-vitro, against a stabilized retinol. They found that, similarly to retinol, the blend 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.
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 moisturizer, and my sensitive skin feels firmer and looks brighter, without any redness.
Specific Treatment Serums
Targeted skin-care 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 skin-care 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.
Kiehl's put its own spin on the idea by launching a trio of serums with a single hero ingredient to target different skin concerns: niacinamide for reducing shine and redness, glycolic acid to smooth uneven texture and reduce the appearance of pores, and hyaluronic acid for dryness and dehydration, each sold separately.
How to use it: Adding multiple new serums to your routine at once might seem like a recipe for disaster, but the idea is that 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.
There's been a significant focus on barrier-repair skin care 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 skin care 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 moisturize" 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 moisturizing 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 Krave Beauty Beet The Sun SPF 40.
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 skin care, you're more likely to commit it to routine.
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