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From acids and peptides to retinoids, decoding skincare can be a real head-scratcher. Here, we delve into the ingredients you need to know, and the beauty products containing them

Retinoids: the anti-ageing superheroes

Retinoid is the family name given to vitamin A ingredients, encompassing everything from the heavyweight tretinoin to retinol, which you may have already heard of. Retinoid products, such as Formula Overnight retinoid serum (find it in your local store), are great for those seeking anti-ageing benefits because they stimulate collagen production and resurface the skin. Over time, they reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, leaving skin looking plumper and healthier. The key thing to remember is to introduce them gradually, as your skin may take some time to get used to retinoids – if you’re unsure, start with a low percentage and a pea-sized amount of product used every few days until your skin acclimatises.

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Glycolic acid: the complexion brightener

Glycolic acid might sound like something you don’t want to put anywhere near your face, but don’t fret. Derived from sugar cane, it’s actually a five-star exfoliating agent that dissolves the bonds that hold lifeless dead skin cells to glowing new ones. A non-abrasive alternative to traditional scratchy face scrubs (which also give more even results), glycolic acid products such as cult favourite Pixi Glow tonic are unbeatable at resurfacing rough, bumpy complexions and bringing dull skin to life again. Just remember, if you’re using a glycolic acid product, it’s essential to apply sunscreen – SPF30 minimum, please – to protect skin from sun sensitivity.

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Hyaluronic acid: the super-hydrating skin plumper

It may just look like a tricky string of vowels – but hyaluronic acid is a super-moisturising substance that skin produces naturally to keep cells healthy and hydrated. In beauty products, it is there to compensate for the fact that skin loses its ability to retain water with age – if you’re wondering why that’s a big deal, think about the difference between a juicy grape and dehydrated raisin. Note: not all hyaluronic acid molecules are created equal – some are too large to do much more than moisturise, so look for smaller weights that can penetrate more deeply, plumping up cells from within to achieve smoother-than-smooth skin.

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Peptides: the youth boosters

Hot property in anti-ageing products, Peptides are made of the same building blocks as collagen and elastin proteins (the stuff that keeps your complexion plump, smooth and springy). The rate skin produces these proteins slows down over time but adding peptides to your regime can kickstart the production line in those cells, giving skin a new lease of life. While there are hundreds of peptides on the market, look out for Matrixyl or Argireline, which are both potent and scientifically proven.

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Salicylic acid: the blemish buster

Salicylic acid can make the world of difference if you’re battling with breakouts, oversized pores and blackheads. An anti-bacterial agent found in willow bark, it’s similar to glycolic acid in the sense that it acts as an exfoliant, but salicylic acid goes further by breaking down the build-up of oil, make-up and impurities in pores that can lead to blemishes, too. Unlike other spot fighters, a low dose of salicylic acid isn’t harsh on skin – in fact, it has skin-calming properties, which is just the ticket for blemish-prone complexions.

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Words: Sophie Hines and Emma Robertson

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