I’ve tried a lot of different skincare products in my time. I always struggled with eczema on my arms when I was a kid, but about 6 years ago I had a nasty breakout of it under my eyes. Being in my twenties and having such aggravated, raw skin on my face wasn’t nice – it ruined my self confidence for a good few months and I couldn’t even cover it with makeup.
That forced me into a ruthless search for the perfect moisturiser; I wanted something that would help fix the eczema and then keep it under control. This meant trying a shitload of different moisturisers, from high-end to “all natural” to drugstore.
Eventually I defeated the eczema and reached a happy place with my skin. Fast forward to now: I’m 25 and starting to get wrinkles, especially in that under-eye area that endured some pretty potent steroids back in the eczema days, thinning the skin in the process.
Between that initial breakout of eczema and now, I’ve tried dozens of products (probably into the hundreds) and amassed plenty of hours of research into skincare ingredients. So I guess the purpose of this post is to take a look at some of the ingredients I’ve discovered over the years, why I like them, and some products that contain them. So let’s take a look at some of my favourite ingredients!
You may have already heard of Ceramides if you’re a fan of the CeraVe brand of skincare (or if you’re just a big old skincare nerd like me).
Ceramides are basically a type of fat which is found naturally in our skin. On the top layer, to be exact.
Imagine the top layer of our skin is a brick wall. The cement that holds the bricks together is a mixture of ceramides and other fatty acids holding the individual cells together. As a brick wall gets older, the cement starts to break down. In the same vein, our skin gets weaker as we get older because we stop producing as many ceramides (and other lovely fatty acids). Using a ceramide-rich moisturiser can help improve the structure of our skin, especially as we get older, by adding more cement to our brick wall…er, adding more ceramides to our top layer of skin to keep it supple and strong.
As someone who’s struggled with eczema, I’m finding ceramides excellent at keeping dryness at bay, and I imagine it can only be good for my skin as I’m getting older and gradually more leathery of face.
My favourite products with Ceramides:
CeraVe Moisturising Cream* – just a nice all-round moisturiser. Pretty heavy, but you may like that if you have dry skin.
Cerave PM Facial Moisturising Lotion* – this is probably my favourite moisturiser ever. The consistency is pretty thin, but don’t let that fool you – it’s super hydrating and I find it calms my irritated skin better than anything else. Shame it’s really hard to get in the UK at a reasonable price any more.
Superdrug Simply Pure Hydrating Serum – this stuff is amazing. For me, it’s a cheap substitute for the CeraVe PM moisturiser. It comes in a tiny 50ml pump bottle, but I often buy two or three at a time because they’re so cheap and usually on offer.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream – this is quite a new addition to my stash, but I really like it. It’s similar to the CeraVe Moisturising Cream in consistency, but it’s in a tube. I don’t use it for every day, just whenever my skin needs a hug.
Niacinamide is a fancy name for Vitamin B3, which is an essential nutrient that can be found in red meat, poultry and oily fish. You can also get it from green leafy vegetables (like our best friend kale), tomatoes, asparagus…and loads of veg actually, so whatever your diet, you’re probably not deficient. Unless you live on the beige diet and mostly consume carbs.
Niacinamide is mostly sold on the claim that it reduces the appearance of skin blemishes and congestion. But it does a ton of other stuff too – it can brighten dull skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines and improve hyperpigmentation.
I found it most useful for reducing hyperpigmentation. I have a lot of redness in my face and after using a moisturiser with a high concentration of Niacinamide in it, my redness got a lot better in a few weeks. That being said, I don’t suffer that much with blemishes (lucky me, I get dryness instead, yaaaay!) so those who struggle with breakouts might find Niacinamide helpful.
My favourite products with Niacinamide:
CeraVe PM* – I’ve already mentioned this, but it has ceramides and Niacinamide in it. Double whammy! If you can get your hands on this, I seriously recommend buying.
Olay Anti-Wrinkle Firm and Lift Night Cream* – Olay products are often packed with Niacinamide; you often find moisturisers by Olay with Niacinamide way up the ingredients list, so keep an eye out. This one is lovely; inexpensive and high in Niacinamide (it’s the third ingredient!) it does the job nicely. My only gripe is the fragrance – why Olay? We don’t need these things!
Superdrug B. Strong Phase 5 Night Cream – okay, now this is a weird one. I really want to like it because it’s so cheap and the ingredients are fantastic, but I think it broke me out. Still, everyone’s skin is different, so I still recommend you try it if you can!
Squalane is probably my most recent skincare love. I thought my skin didn’t get on with it after trying pure squalane oil a few months ago. Turns out my skin was reacting to something else at the same time (I need to practice what I preach and patch test!). After trying it again recently, I’ve discovered my skin loves it.
Squalane (not to be confused with squalene, which can be found in our good friend the shark and various seeds and grains) is a substance that is found naturally in the skin. It’s highly emollient and excellent for hydration. Squalane can be found in moisturisers, but as an oil it’s non-comedogenic and is suitable for all skin types.
After using pure squalane oil on my face, I found my skin looking bright and supple. I love adding it to my foundation to sheer it out, or to my moisturiser to give it an extra boost of hydrating goodness.
My favourite products with Squalane:
The Ordinary 100% Plant-derived Squalane – does what it says on the tin. I apply this all over my face or add it to foundation/moisturisers.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream – another reason why I love this.
MAC Studio Moisture* – I love this as a light moisturiser and as a primer.
Kiehls Ultra Facial Moisturizer* – this is a nice, gentle moisturiser with no added frills that just does a good job moisturising. It sinks in quickly and provides great hydration. It’s pricey, but if you’re willing to pay more for something your skin loves then give it a go.
So there you have it! Those are my favourite skincare ingredients at the moment and a few examples of products I’ve tried that contain them.
You can use tools like Skincarisma to search for products based on your favourite ingredients, so I’d recommend doing that if you’re after something with a specific ingredient. I’ve started trying to find products based on the ingredients. I’m actually looking for recommendations on Niacinamide-rich moisturisers that are gentle and not tested on animals. I’m open to recommendations if you have any!
What are your favourite skincare ingredients and products that contain them? Let me know in the comments!
* Please note that these products are tested on animals. I’m trying to move away from products that test on animals, but I recognise that it’s hard to find cruelty free products that work for our skin. I’ve marked the products that are tested on animals so that you can avoid using these if you’re against animal testing.