Retinol, Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid: Your guide to decoding trending skincare ingredients

01 April,2024 10:18 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Aakanksha Ahire

Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, peptides or retinol are names of some of the trending skincare ingredients you must have heard many times. However, we barely know how they help the skin. If you have been tempted to experiment with these ingredients but hesitated to invest in them, here is everything you need to know before making a purchase

No matter which skincare ingredient you use, using sunscreen is extremely important and compulsory. Photo Courtesy: iStock

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Skincare, a crucial part of one's self-care has now become a trend. While it is good that more individuals are drawn to skincare thanks to the trend, the market has now become saturated with a huge dump of skincare products. In such a scenario, picking the right products that your skin embraces can be a difficult task.

Currently, we are coming across multiple skincare videos in which beauty influencers and celebrities alike are seen lauding the works of a few skincare ingredients. These ingredients, though jargon to the ears of many, are proving to be quite effective for the skin. What's more, dermatologists too are endorsing the many benefits of these ingredients.

Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, peptides, or retinol are names of some of the trending skincare ingredients you must have heard many times from your gal pals, office colleagues, or media personalities. Although most of us know they are used in the context of skincare, we barely know how they help the skin.

Mid-day Online got in touch with skin expert Dr Rinky Kapoor, consultant dermatologist, cosmetic dermatologist and dermato-surgeon, The Esthetic Clinics, who lists down the top six trending skincare ingredients and elucidates how each of them helps. So in case you have been tempted to experiment with these ingredients but hesitated to invest in them, here is everything you need to know before making a purchase.

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that is a popular ingredient in skincare for reducing acne and improving skin texture and tone. Retinols are the milder versions of retinoids (compounds derived from vitamin A) and the active molecules that influence the skin structure formation in them are the retinoic acid.

Retinol is used to treat
1. Fine lines and wrinkles on the skin,
2. Reduce the effects of photoaging such as sun damage
3. Improve skin texture
4. Treat melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation
5. Control acne and reduce acne scarring
6. Help prevent dry skin

How does retinol work?
Unlike most anti-ageing treatments that only remove the dead skin cells from the skin's surface, retinol reaches deep into the skin under the epidermis layer. It enhances the activity of keratinocytes, fibroblasts, melanocytes and Langerhans cells under the skin.
Retinol's interaction with Keratinocytes encourages their growth which helps in their proliferation leading to a strengthened epidermal protective barrier and reducing water loss. it thickens the deeper layer of the skin. This reduces the fine lines and wrinkles reflecting youthful and glowing skin. This activity is also helpful in controlling acne.

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Fibroblast and keratinocyte interaction protects the collagen fibres from breaking down and slows down the action of enzymes that degrade the skin's structure improving cell turnover.

Retinol molecules aid in the remodelling of skin fibres and stimulate the formation of new blood vessels on the dermis which results in tighter and firmer skin.

In the middle layer of the skin, the retinol neutralises free radicles which further aids in collagen and elastin production.

Who can use retinol?
Retinol is suitable for most skin types but the strength on frequency of use of retinol might vary, depending on the skin type.

For dry skin, start with a lower concentration and increase gradually to prevent dryness or irritation.

Those having oily skin should start with lightweight formation in conjunction with oil-free products.

For combination skin use retinol selectively. Those with sensitive skin should be more cautious and start with very low concentrations. If you have conditions such as rosacea, eczema, or severe acne then talk to your dermatologist before introducing retinol to your routine.

Hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is one of the key molecules in combating skin ageing and one of the most interesting ingredients in skin care. It is also known as hyaluronan or hyaluronate. It is naturally found in glycosaminoglycan in the body's skin, eyes, and joints.

The primary function of hyaluronic acid polymer on the skin is to retain its moisture and structure. What makes this trending skincare ingredient a hit among many its because of its capacity to hold about 1000 times its weight in water.

As we age, the natural production of hyaluronic acid goes down causing the skin to lose its sheen and become drier and less firm. Due to its water-holding property, just a per cent of HA in skincare formulations can make a noticeable difference in the skin.

Hyaluronic acid is used to:
1. Reduce wrinkles and lines
2. Improve skin's elasticity i.e. the ability to stretch and flex
3. Helps wounds heal faster
4. Makes the skin super soft, plumpy and pillowy
5. Improve symptoms of mild to moderate eczema

How does hyaluronic acid work?
When applied on the skin in the form of serums, moisturisers, sheet masks, night creams or lip products, hyaluronic acid draws moisture from the air into the skin leading to an immediate hydrating effect. This helps the skin retain moisture and leaves it soft, supple, and hydrated.
Inside the skin, the small HA molecules drive moisture from the skin and swell up. Thus, they help fill in the wrinkles and lines and make the skin surface smooth and plumper.

The HA polymer has a chain-like structure which acts as a scaffold for tissue growth. This helps in healing the wounds on your body quickly.

Who can use HA?
All skin types can use hyaluronic acid, even sensitive and breakout-prone skin.

Vitamin C
It is a powerful antioxidant for the skin. This trending skincare ingredient's brilliance lies in enhancing the antioxidant prowess of our cells by warding off the damaging effects of free radicals and reviving tired tissues. Vitamin C is easily absorbed in the skin and starts its work immediately. It is also a cofactor for collagen synthesis. Collagen synthesis cannot happen without vitamin C. It stabilises the structure and promotes collagen gene expression.

Vitamin C is used to:
1. Neutralise and remove the oxidants caused because of environmental factors and UV radiations.
2. Fight the free radicals that damage the skin.
3. Delay signs of ageing
4. Improve skin radiance and texture
5. Diminish the appearance of fine lines, crow's feet and wrinkles on the face and neck
6. Reduce dark spots and hyperpigmentation on the skin
7. Reduce skin inflammation when combined with ferulic acid and vitamin E
8. Protect the skin from sun damage
9. Help control sebum or oil production within the skin.
10. Reduces the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.

How does vitamin C work?
Vitamin C is a cofactor in prolyl hydroxylase and lysyl hydroxylase enzymes which are responsible for stabilising the collagen molecule and providing it structure strength respectively.

Vitamin C inhibits the action of the enzyme tyrosinase. This aids in reducing the extra melanin production thus preventing hyperpigmentation.

Who can use vitamin C?
Vitamin C is suitable for all skin and age types. Consistency is the key to getting maximum benefits.

Also Read: Why lip balms are a skincare must-have according to dermatologists

One trending skincare ingredient that is in high demand is Peptides. In skincare, it is the most versatile and valuable ingredient today. Though they are relatively new to skincare, their benefits have overtaken the scepticism of new products. Needless to say, they are here to stay for good.

They are a type of amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins that form the skin. Amino acids play a crucial role and skin health. Peptides are essential for maintaining the skin's structure and improving its resilience.

Peptides are used to:
1. Promote collagen and elastin production leading to firmer skin.
2. Smoothen the fine lines and wrinkles.
3. Enhances skin barrier.
4. Facilitate skin healing and repair.
5. Reduce inflammation and redness.
6. Fade hyperpigmentation and reduce dark spots.
7. Give a radiant and glowing appearance to the skin.

How do peptides work?
Different kinds of peptides work differently to benefit the skin. They are all small-sized molecules and can be easily absorbed into the skin and work their magic from deep within. Peptides instruct the skin cells to perform various functions such as collagen and elastic production, improving hyaluronic acid synthesis and regulating pigmentation.

When you apply peptides to the skin, the skin cells interact with this ingredient and see it as a signal to heal which stimulates the collagen-boosting process of the skin. Different peptides cause different signals for example, if you have a wound, the peptides will signal to the body to repair the wound.

Who can use peptides?
Everybody and anybody can use this skincare ingredient. However, when choosing a suitable peptide, you have to first understand the requirements of your skin. For example, the signal peptides are needed for collagen and elastin production and the carrier peptides help in healing and skin rejuvenation. Neurotransmitter inhibitor peptides target the expression lines. Ask your dermatologist about the right type of peptide that will suit your skin concern.

Also Read: Take notes: Dermatologists and experts dish out tips to pick the right skincare products

The path to beauty begins with healthy and balanced skin and ceramides should be your go-to skincare ingredient for long-term beauty goals. Ceramides are naturally found fats or lipid molecules in your skin cells. About 30-40 per cent of your outer skin layer is made up of ceramides. As we age the body loses fatty acids and ceramide levels decline. This makes the skin vulnerable to attack from external aggressors. Also, the skin's structure is compromised leading to dull, dry skin with premature signs of ageing. Decreased levels of ceramides can cause atopic dermatitis or eczema, ichthyosis, and dry skin. Using skincare ingredients having ceramides can be the solution to these skin woes.

Ceramides are used to:
1. Help retain the skin's moisture.
2. Block the entry of germs, bacteria, and fungi.
3. Protect the skin against pollution, allergen, and toxin attacks on the skin.
4. Reduce free radicles and block the metabolic process causing pigmentation.
5. Helps keep the skin healthy, plump, and firm.
6. Reduce signs of ageing.
7. Keep the skin moist and supple.
8. Prevent dryness and irritation by locking in the moisture into the skin.
9. Strengthen and bond the skin cells.
10. Reduce free radical and oxidant damage.
11. Protect the skin from allergies and infections.

How do ceramides work?
Ceramides are present in moisturisers, serums, creams, and toners. When applied to the skin, the ceramides restore the lipid balance on the top layer of the skin and act as a lipid replacement. They help the skin cells nurse back to health and become stronger.

Who can use ceramides?
Ceramides are safe for all ages and skin types. They are very beneficial for people suffering from dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis. Ceramides act quickly and their results can be seen in one week. In a few months, one will notice visible smoother and plumper skin with fewer signs of ageing. The best time to apply ceramide is when the skin is damp to trap in as much moisture as possible.

Glycolic acid
The superhero to all skin's woes is glycolic acid. It is a simple water-soluble ingredient and excellent for getting healthy, clear and radiant skin. Glycolic acid is a type of AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) and is the smallest and lightest of all acids. This means that it can penetrate the skin easily and deliver maximum benefits. It is a naturally occurring compound in sugarcane, beets, and other fruits. It is a chemical exfoliation that removes the outer layers of skin cells and oils and cleans the pores.

Glycolic acid is used to:
1. Treats age spots, scars, hyperpigmentation, and melasma.
2. Reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
3. Reverse sun damage to the skin.
4. Make the skin bright and smooth.
5. Opens clogged pores and prevents breakouts.

How does glycolic acid work?
This AHA speeds up cell turnover. When applied on the skin it dissolves the bonds that hold the skin together. The dead skin cells are normally bonded closed together and glycolic acid breaks down this glue. This way the skin sheds cells more quickly than it would on its own.
The process also pushes the body to make more collagen and prevents the breakdown of collagen.
Who can use glycolic acid?
Glycoic acid is not for everyone. It is best for normal, combination and oily skins. People with dry or sensitive skin should use it cautiously. Any form can irritate the skin. The use of glycolic acid is also influenced by seasons, for example, the winter air can compromise the skin barrier function or sun exposure can cause the skin to be more sensitive. Ask your skin specialist about the right use. Start with small concentrations of glycolic acid.

Lastly, Kapoor says it is always safe to do a patch test before using any product. She also says that no matter which skincare ingredient you use, using sunscreen is extremely important and compulsory.

Disclaimer: This information does not replace professional medical advice. Consult a qualified specialist or your physician for personalised guidance.

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