The 3 Skincare Ingredients You Need the Most

Unlike a bad haircut, the way we treat our skin has consequences for decades. So you’re anything like me, you care about investing in quality products.

Still, most of us have limited resources. I don’t mind saving up for something that actually works, but don’t want to waste money on bogus claims in fancy packages. I’d rather start with the most bang for my skincare buck then fill in the rest as I go along.

So to help with that, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are the three most effective, research-backed skincare products:

  1. Sunscreen

This is the biggest, holy grail, head honcho skincare product of them all. If you could only buy one single item to save your face from the ravages of time, this would be the one.

Why? Because experts believe over 80% of skin aging directly comes from sun exposure. Brown spots, wrinkles, the breakdown of collagen and elastin… nearly all of it is due to ultraviolet rays and the lighter your skin tone, the harder it hits.

Seems like a cruel joke, because the sun feels so good against our skin. But I’ll never forget the time, when I was around thirteen years old, my mother made me compare her forearms…

Her left forearm looked normal, whereas her right was covered in light brown spots. She explained how she always hung her right arm out the window when she was driving around with my dad, proving that even tiny lifestyle changes produce visible effects over time.

If that’s not enough to convince you, compare the skin on your belly to the skin on your arms. Or if you’re too young to see any difference yet, check out older people swimming at the gym.

Okay, that sounded kinda weird, but I meant it. You’ll notice how the skin on typically-covered areas of their bodies looks thirty to forty years younger than their face and arms, which have seen tons of sun.

So, grab a good, broad-spectrum sunscreen and use it every single day. Find one with a texture you can live with, so you’ll keep on using it, and don’t forget to reapply every few hours when you’ve been in the sun because sunlight breaks down its ingredients over time.

2. Retin-A or Retinols

retina.jpgInvesting in Retin-A is probably the next most important thing you can do for your skin, second only to sunblock. Most dermatologists would tell you the same thing.

Why? Because study after study has proven its effectiveness, whereas most other treatments are still just theories.

Retin-A increases the turnover rate of our skin (which slows down with age),  effectively treating acne, wrinkles, dull texture, and just about any other skin issue. There’s even evidence it may help prevent skin cancers by fixing cells that are starting to mutate.

So, get your hands on a prescription for Retin A, if possible. If not, use an over-the-counter retinol, which takes longer but also works.

Retin A and retinol can be irritating, however, so you’ll probably need to “train” your skin to handle it. Wait until your skin is completely dry before application and start with a lower percentage, applying every few days until your skin gets used to it.

Then try applying it every other night, then nightly. Once your skin adapts, consider increasing the percentage.

One more thing: since Retin-A exposes fresher skin, it becomes even more important to keep using a good sunscreen.

3. Vitamin C Serums

vitamin c.jpgFinally, it’s a good idea to incorporate a good Vitamin C serum into your skincare routine. There’s a great deal of research showing topically-applied Vitamin C can reduce wrinkles, increase firmness, and improve overall skin tone.

However, you can’t just rub orange juice all over your face and call it a day. Vitamin C has to be formulated properly to absorb into your skin and work its magic. It seems to work best in ascorbic acid formulations at higher concentrations, though higher concentrations can be irritating and tend to be rather expensive.

There are lots of cheap products on the market touting themselves as  vitamin c serums, but you have to be careful–they may not be formulated to absorb properly. Be careful of any products that don’t spell out the percentage of C in their formulas or mention the kind of C they’re using, because it could mean you’re getting ripped off.

An added bonus is that the antioxidants in vitamin C help neutralize free radicals from sun exposure, so it’s best to apply your serum in the morning before putting on sunblock.

Now, there’s some debate over whether you should buy products combining retinol AND vitamin C simultaneously. Some experts believe they work at cross purposes, canceling each other out.

Others disagree, but I figure it can’t hurt to play it safe by applying a C serum in the morning while using retinol before going to bed.


I hope you find this info useful! There are so many wonderful skincare products out there, it can be hard to decide which ones are the most useful. These are the ones with the most research to back them up.

-Erin XX








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