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Little known facts about the UK’s most searched skincare actives

The nation has been searching these actives in droves, but we share the little known facts to save you hours of research - you're welcome!

New data from the beauty experts at We Thrift, have revealed the UK’s five most searched skincare ingredients of 2021, and unsurprisingly they consist of a number of gold standard actives. But while you might have heard of salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, collagen, and retinol – there are likely a host of benefits, facts and usage instructions you probably haven’t heard.

So, to save you time searching here’s some interesting information you should know about these much-loved skincare heroes….

Salicylic acid quells redness

Known predominately as an exfoliating acid, beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) salicylic acid derived from willow bark helps keep breakouts at bay. This is thanks to the fact that unlike alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), salicylic acid is oil soluble. Meaning, it can cut through sebum to not just exfoliate the top layers of skin, but rather penetrate deep within our pores to unclog them of any sebum, dirt and dead skin cells. But what you may not know is that salicylic acid belongs to the same class of medicines as aspirin – making it an anti-inflammatory ingredient. This not only helps those with acne, but what’s less know is if you are prone to redness of the skin salicylic acid can be an effective treatment for this too. However, to achieve the treatment sweet spot don’t overuse this BHA, otherwise you’ll exacerbate redness. Choose a pad, liquid or serum  and use it once every other day to get all the redness reducing benefits without the irritation.

This is how you apply Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is made from amino acids and sugar molecules and acts as a natural ‘humectant’ meaning that it draws water to itself. It can hold a thousand times its weight in the stuff, and alongside collagen and elastin, it helps support tissue structure – resulting in smoother, firmer skin.

But slathering on your skin post cleansing isn’t all that’s required. Well, it is but you need to apply it to damp skin for it to work successfully. This is because if your skin is already dehydrated HA will pull any moisture you have left in the deeper layers of the skin up to its surface. Skin will eventually become dehydrated, lined and dull as this gold standard active ‘steals’ much needed moisture from skin cells below.

Niacinamide is a must for oily skin

There are a plethora of vitamins that are essential in helping our body function at its best and there are a fair few that when applied topically work wonders on the complexion too. Niacinamide is one of those wonder vitamins.

A form of Vitamin B3, niacinamide has become a buzzword in beauty over the last few years and we’re not surprised. Offering a brighter, firmer, smoother and clearer complexion there really isn’t much that niacinamide can’t do. It boosts the production of ceramides, a vital fat needed to help form the skins natural protective barrier. By keeping the barrier strong, and healthy your skin is protected against environmental aggressors that prematurely age the skin and prevents moisture loss too.

Niacinamide also has anti-inflammatory properties helping to treat redness, and acne. But what is less known is that this versatile ingredient reduces oil production, with studies showing that just 2 per cent of the stuff effectively lowers sebum levels and excretion rates. Which means that adding this gentle ingredient to your acne busting arsenal will help with sebum regulation and keep breakouts at bay.

Sugar consumption lowers collagen levels  

Collagen is a protein that makes up 75 per cent of the skin, and gives it structure to keep it from sagging and wrinkling. Over time we naturally produce less and less collagen and while many of you may have heard that environmental aggressors like UV exposure, blue light, and pollution speed up collagen degradation you’re probably totally unaware that what you eat can impact your collagen too.

High sugar and refined carb consumption can majorly damage the bond between collagen, as glucose and fructose attach to the amino acids present in collagen and produce advanced glycation end products (AGE). Over time the AGE molecules accumulate in the dermis and end up destroying your collagen leading to sagging and wrinkle formation.

Retinol is not an exfoliant

The umbrella term for vitamin A derivatives are retinoids, and retinol is one of these derivatives. It’s the more potent of the forms that are available without a prescription and when applied to the skin, it converts into retinoic acid.

It’s the retinoic acid that works its magic on your skin cells and is the reason retinol has become a gold standard skincare ingredient. There are countless benefits to using retinol. It stimulates skin firming and wrinkle-busting collagen and elastin production, reduces pigmentation, tightens pores, regulates oil production, and even treats acne.

But there’s a common misconception that retinol is an exfoliant. This is probably due to the fact that it often causes the ‘retinoid uglies’, where people often experience shedding when they first start using it. But the difference here is that once your skin gets accustomed to retinol it will stop flaking.

And while it speeds up cell turnover - the skin's natural shedding and regenerating process - it doesn’t actually loosen the bonds between your skin cells so they naturally slough off. This means that you can still use exfoliating actives like AHAs and BHAs for a smooth even toned complexion.

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