Look no further than our round-up of 5 power-packed natural ingredients that every skin type, and every age, can use in their daily routine for radiant and resilient skin.
What it does: Packed with over 200 compounds, including polysaccharides and potent antioxidant flavonoids, astragalus is a multi-tasking wonder that’s still not widely used in Western skincare. “The root of the plant, Huang Qi, has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Oriental Medicine to nourish and strengthen. It’s known for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” explains botanical expert Dr Jenelle Kim. “Combined synergistically with ingredients such as ginseng and angelica, astragalus increases collagen production, deeply nourishes and hydrates, improves skin tone, and brightens the complexion.” All in all it contributes to soft, smooth, strong, radiant skin.
And it has an additional benefit that will interest anyone who loves one of the most Googled skincare ingredients of 2020, hyaluronic acid. Applied topically, the humectant found naturally in skin that can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, hydrates and plumps, giving a look of fresh, bouncy, youthful skin. So far, so lovely. But hyaluronic acid molecules are too big to penetrate, so its effects are temporary. The alternative? Increase your body’s own supply of hyaluronic acid in the deepest layer of skin. In studies astragalus has been found to boost levels of naturally-occurring hyaluronic acid in skin cells through an enzyme response.
How to use it: Use morning and evenings in serums and moisturizers.
What it does: Another incredible all-rounder, niacinamide forms part of vitamin B3, and works equally to benefit dry, dull, sensitive, oily and congested skin. Superb for barrier repair, it soothes redness, and helps increase levels of fatty acids and ceramides – the building blocks of skin – to prevent moisture loss. Because of this it can help reduce irritation from other strong ingredients. Stressed, acne-prone complexion? With powerful anti-inflammatory properties niacinamide is a blemish-buster that calms breakouts, helps balance sebum production and improve blackheads. It’s also a potent brightening active, that can significantly fade hyperpigmentation, and is excellent used alongside ingredients such as vitamin C and kojic acid. Recent research has shown that it helps repair damaged DNA, and protect skin against the damaging effects of pollution.
How to use it: Gentle enough for even sensitive skin, niacinamide can be used morning and evening as a stand-alone ingredient layered under moisturizer, or in serums. Safe in pregnancy and during breast-feeding.
3. Vitamin C
What it does: Nothing beats a lit-from-within glow. Enter vitamin C, the gold standard for brighter, smoother skin. This superhero is not only one of the most potent antioxidant protectors against pollution and UV damage, but brightens dull complexions, evens tone and texture, and boosts collagen and elastin production. Everyone, young and old, can benefit from using it as part of their morning routine to reap all-day antioxidant benefits and keep skin looking smooth and glowy. A word of warning – vitamin C is notoriously unstable and goes off quickly, so look for packaging that protects from light and air, like dark or opaque bottles and airtight pumps, and keep it in a cool, dark place. If the product’s gone dark or a brownish color it’s oxidized, and should be discarded.
How to use it: Best used as part of your morning routine to reap its potent antioxidant benefits and help protect against UV and environmental aggressors. If you’re new to vitamin C start with a low concentration of around 10% and use three times a week. Work up to daily use and higher concentrations of 15-20% as your skin gets used to it. Safe to use during pregnancy.
What it does: Retinol, the vitamin A derivative, has long been the go-to for those who want more youthful-looking skin. But it comes with a long list of draw backs, including redness, irritation, dryness, peeling, photo-sensitivity and, for women of color, a potential increase in post-inflammatory pigmentation. And because of links to reproductive toxicity, it’s not safe to use during pregnancy. Plant-based alternative bakuchiol, extracted from the babchi plant native to India, delivers retinol-equivalent results with none of the irritation, according to a 2018 study in the British Journal of Dermatology. Although chemically distinct from retinol it encourages cells to behave in the same way – speeding up collagen and elastin production to smooth lines and wrinkles, as it plumps, fades discoloration, and evens skin tone.
How to use it: Bakuchiol is gentle, soothing, and safe for all skin types to use in mornings and evenings. Apply in a serum before moisturizer.
5. Hyaluronic acid
What it does: Skin dull, dry or dehydrated? Not only can stellar hydrator hyaluronic acid – the beloved humectant that can attract and hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water – quench thirsty skin fast, but it gives an instant plumping effect.
How to use it: Layer on as serum when skin feels rough and dry. Always apply to damp, not dry skin, and follow with moisturizer.