Skin cycling is the latest beauty trend to take over TikTok. With a cool 3.5 billion views on the hashtag, the skin cycling trend is far from being a weird and wacky method (as is often the case on the Gen-Z-led platform). In fact, it actually has legs according to a number of skin experts and dermatologists. But what is it, exactly?
“The concept of skin cycling applies to a nighttime skincare routine, which involves using active ingredients only on certain days, and following them with ‘rest’ days,” explains Dr. Alexis Granite. “A four-day cycle is the most popular, which typically comprises using active ingredients for two nights of the week, followed by two nights of rest—and repeating.”
The idea is that adopting a skin cycling routine can help prevent the skin barrier from being compromised due to overuse of active ingredients—plus, it’s a great way to create a consistent and effective routine that helps the skin work optimally. The New York-based dermatologist behind the concept is Dr. Whitney Bowe, who shared her vision for the ultimate skin cycling routine on TikTok.
Night One: Exfoliation
“You want to cleanse [the skin], pat dry, then put on an exfoliating product,” explains Dr. Bowe, who recommends using a leave-on product over something that’s wash-off, like a cleanser. Seek out chemical exfoliators, which contain ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs, instead of physical scrubs because they’re better for the skin barrier and more effective.
Night Two: Retinoid
On day two, apply a retinoid after cleansing. If you’re new to retinoids and skin cycling in general, begin by applying a hydrating cream to the sensitive areas of the face—under the eyes, around the corners of the nose, and on the marionette lines—to act as a buffer and prevent dryness and irritation. Then, apply your retinoid over the whole face, down the neck, and across the décolletage.
Nights Three and Four: Repair and Recovery
It’s time to look after the skin barrier and ensure the skin is adequately hydrated. Dr. Bowe recommends cleansing, leaving the skin damp, and then applying a serum that contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and/or niacinamide. Follow with a moisturizer: “Choose a formula that’s really nourishing which will support the skin barrier,” says Dr. Bowe. “If the skin is really dry, apply rosehip or squalane oil onto the cheeks.”
Contrary to popular belief, eye creams are not a scam. In fact, they’re an essential part of any healthy skincare routine.
“Eye creams are specifically designed to use on the skin around the eyes to address common concerns such as dark circles, puffiness, and fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell – New York Presbyterian Medical Center, previously told InStyle. “Because the skin around the eye is thin and delicate, it can be especially important to use products that are gentle on the skin and intended for the eyelid area.”
That said, it’s important for these formulas to also be ultra-nourishing to ensure they’re helping to hydrate the skin and keep it moisturized all day and night.
With colder weather on the way, you’re probably looking for the best eye cream — and I’ve got you covered. Discover the top nine picks, ahead.
While there are dozens of products on the market to choose from these days, you can never go wrong with an old reliable — namely Olay. The fragrance-free formula offers a mix of peptides and hyaluronic acid help to keep skin well quenched for 24 hours, plus it will give you an instant cooling sensation. Expect to see smoother skin after two weeks of consistent use.
Kiehl’s Super Multi-Corrective Anti-Aging Eye Cream
A blend of niacinamide and peptides work together to smooth out fine lines, wrinkles, and support collagen production around the brow bone, eyelid, outer corner, and under-eye. Plus, it’s lightweight and fast-absorbing formula is surprisingly hydrating.
Yes, this product is a splurge, but if you’ve got the cash, it’s worth it — trust me. I first tested the formula when I got to experience Valmont’s signature facial at The Carlyle. As soon as I got home, I put the V-Firm Eye Firming Eye Care in my bathroom cabinet and have been using it ever since. I really appreciate the gel-like formula that gives you the satisfaction and moisturizing benefits of slugging, but without the clammy or heavy feel.
We’re all aware of the perks of retinol when it comes to reducing the signs of aging. But on the flip side, it’s also known to wreak havoc on skin — especially for new users. Thankfully, Sunday Riley found a way to incorporate the superstar ingredient into an eye cream that won’t dry out this delicate area. Retinoid ester and liposome-encapsulated retinol work to support collagen production, while the brand’s moisturizing complex of ceramides and olive oil keep the skin barrier thriving. The formula is rounded out with niacinamide, which not only brightens discoloration, but also helps to reduce the look of wrinkles.
StriVectin is one of those brands that consistently understands the assignment — and the Tighten & Life Peptight Eye Serum is no exception. The brand’s triple peptide blend of oligopeptide, dipeptide, and tetrapeptide work alongside caffeine and kakudu plum extract to hydrate, support collagen production, and help to give skin a firmer appearance.
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Gel-Cream
Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Eye is supercharged, indeed. The silky formula boasts a mix of hyaluronic acid to keep skin hydrated, along with vitamin E to fight free radicals, and the brand’s FR-Defense™ technology, which protects against environmental stressors.
Youth To The People Superfood Hydrate + Firm Peptide Eye Cream
This cult-favorite, clean, and planet-positive eye cream checks all the boxes. Formulated for all skin types, expect this mix of proprietary superfood blend, peptides, sunflower oil, and aloe to leave your skin feeling instantly soothed and hydrated.
Drunk Elephant Ceramighty™ AF Eye Cream with Ceramides
If your eyes are seriously quenched, this is the eye balm you need to reach for. Formulated with a three percent ceramide blend and 10% plant omega-lipid complex, rich in fatty acids, this product not only supports the skin barrier, but it will also soften skin with regular use.
Idris and Sabrina Elba have it going on — in more ways than one. The partners in life and business are hosting a podcast, Coupledom, and now, launching a skin-care brand, S’Able Labs. (That’s Elba’s spelled backwards!)
“We’re a partnership, and skin care is something we can share. We are both on the same page about feeling good externally and it helps us approach our day,” Idris Elba tells Allure. There’s no “his” or “her’s” here. Instead, S’Able Labs is all about “us-care,” the idea of looking after yourself, so you can look after others — and intentionally sharing moments with the people around you. “We all have skin we want to nourish and protect and hydrate,” says Sabrina Elba, and, she adds, “when you feel good, you do good.“
Together, the duo has created a line of three products — cleanser, toner, moisturizer — to help with the “feel good” part of that equation. It’s a simple lineup, but each product is formulated with hard-working ingredients, several of which have been thoughtfully sourced from Africa. “There are powerful ingredients on that continent,” says Sabrina Elba. “Some of my fondest memories are of sitting underneath the massive baobab trees in East Africa,” she says.
The superfood baobab, packed with anti-inflammatory properties, is the star ingredient in the aptly named S’Able Labs Baobab Moisturiser, a lightweight formula that goes heavy on hydration with the help of shea butter and squalane.
Each of the products are infused with The Elba’s experiences. “Somali women have been using qasil, [a powder made from the leaves from the gob tree], for centuries,” says Sabrina Elba. “I’ve watched my mom put this green stuff on her face forever. It’s a great natural soap full of antioxidants,” she tells Allure. Cosmetic chemist Ginger King confirms this ingredient is both an effective cleanser and exfoliator.
The S’Able Labs Qasil Cleanser combines the Somalian plant with shea butter and purifying kaolin clay. “We both loved the way the cleanser felt on our skin. It provided immediate smoothness and softness — but unlike some exfoliating cleansers, it wasn’t the least bit irritating,” says Allure associate features director Dianna Mazzone, after testing it with her fiancé Herman.
For editorial assistant Talia Gutierrez and her partner Austin, the S’Able Labs Black Seed Toner added some fun to their multi-step routine. “We enjoyed spritzing each other’s faces — a couple’s thing,” she says. “And we both appreciated the ultra-fine mist that left our skin dewy while feeling clean and hydrated, too.” They both sealed in the hydration with a penny-sized scoop of the S’Able Labs Baobab Moisturiser. “A little goes a long way,” says Austin.
Well, Allure sat down with Idris and Sabrina in a cozy, colorful room at The Whitby Hotel in New York City to chat about their exciting new brand S’Able Labs, how they like to use the products, and their favorite ways to practice “us-care.”
IDRIS: Self-care quickly became “us-care” when we were in lockdown [during the pandemic]. We realized that only when you’re really good with yourself, are you good with someone else.
SABRINA: It’s become such an educational process for me to talk about skin care with my partner who, you know, only used Vaseline until very recently [laughs].
When we created the S’able Labs, we wanted it to be something we could use together.
IDRIS: It’s not man or woman. It’s just human. We are both humans.
SABRINA: Idris will use the [S’able Labs Black Seed] toner as aftershave and I use it to set my makeup. It doesn’t need to be so specific.
IDRIS: I know how our [S’able Labs Baobab] moisturizer feels on my skin, Sabrina knows how it feels on her skin, and we both know that actually makes us feel good.
SABRINA: So much of my beauty routine is [about] being prepared for the day, so I don’t have to spend time in the bathroom, like having lash extensions, or my brows laminated. Even though I never look like I’m wearing heavy makeup, I’m always trying new things. If I’m going to try a color, it’s probably on my lips. And I’ve been trying colorful eyeliner recently, which is so fun. But Idris loves the no-makeup look [on me]. He says, “Oh, you look so great in the morning when you just wake up.”
IDRIS: I just sit in the makeup chair and get whatever done to me if I’m in a film. [And] I do make it a point to brush my teeth, but I’m not a flosser. Sabrina is a flosser.
SABRINA: How do you get away with so many things? I get jealous of how little you have to do [before] you walk out the door.
IDRIS: I will shave! I’m the guy who gets new growth by five o’clock in the afternoon, so I keep on top of it. And I shower every day, sometimes twice a day. I just got a fresh haircut and, honestly, my energy levels feel different. My clothes feel different.
A haircut does that for me. I’ve gotta make sure the hair looks right. Buying new sneakers definitely makes me feel good. There’s something about stepping in fresh shoes. And I started swimming early in the morning. It feels so alien to jump into cold water, but it’s invigorating.
SABRINA: So much of the dream treatment for me is about where I am and who I am with. We went to Iceland recently and we were in the Blue Lagoon getting a massage.
IDRIS: That was incredible.
SABRINA: Yeah, it made it so much more impactful. If I’m in a beautiful setting, it doesn’t matter if it’s a bad massage.
IDRIS: Also, hot yoga in a hot climate is different. It’s not hot yoga, it’s just yoga. Something about the elements being natural rather than having a heater… Everyone’s sweating. But it’s the fact you’re warm and supple, and the environment is great.
SABRINA: Music is [another] form of self-care for us. We sit together, listen to an album… We fell in love listening to an album on a couch. It was A Tribe Called Quest…
IDRIS: The newest one. And Sampha.
SABRINA: We were just listening to music and that was so therapeutic for us and allowed us to bond. And also, if Idris serenades anyone, I’m pretty sure they fall in love pretty quickly.
IDRIS: Don’t put that out there [laughs]. They’ll be like, “You’re good at this! Sing!“
SABRINA: Idris is so passionate about music. And it’s that [same] passion that’s bled into our relationship and anything we approach together.
“I have always been super into skincare,” Zoë Kravitz says on a recent summer afternoon. Today, the High Fidelity actress is finally revealing the secrets behind her signature lit-from-within complexion, from what she puts on her skin to what she puts into her body. Beginning with a pumpkin lactic cleanser – “it smells like Christmas!” she quips – Kravitz’s routine includes just a handful of carefully selected skincare saviours, including a light serum from Retrouvé, the French pharmacy favourite Caudalie mist, and Isun’s SPF 27 Sun Butter – many of which she has shared with her mother, Lisa Bonet. “My mom and I are constantly sending each other things that we like,” says the 32-year-old, who notes that she also embarks on a 30-day Dr Schulze detoxifying cleanse with Bonet every year. “I really think wellness starts with diet, exercise, [and] hydration,” she says. “I think it’s all about balance, right? I think it’s about joy and happiness and laughter. I really think that affects how you look and feel. Then, you don’t have to use make-up to cover yourself up; you can use it to highlight.”
With her face adequately moisturised, Kravitz goes on to reach for only nine make-up products, all of which leave an almost entirely imperceptible finish. “It’s fun that no one can tell you’re wearing something on your eyes or on your face,” she muses, after perfecting her complexion not with foundation but rather with light strokes of Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Éclat concealer. “It’s like a little trick!” Here are her own above-the-neck sleights of hand: First, she dots a thin-tipped black pencil on just the outer corner of her lids, blending the mark outward and upward with her pinky finger for an opening effect. She then pats a bronze Nudestix pigment onto her cheeks and lids for a touch of believable colour. Finally, with a pink-toned Marc Jacobs crayon in hand, she softly lines her lips, paying extra attention to the centre of her mouth for peak poutiness. “There are different kinds of make-up, and everyone finds their own style, but I do like to try to encourage people to enhance the things that you love and not try to change your face completely,” she explains of her go-to approach. After all, as she puts it, “Everyone is so pretty in their own way.”
When Hailey Bieber declared 2022 the year of “glazed doughnut” skin, it was inevitable that it would become one of the year’s biggest beauty trends. A tasty term used to describe ultra-hydrated and plump, dewy skin, it’s the perfect trend to try for a fresh, youthful and healthy sheen, especially now that it’s springtime.
“When you are attempting to create the glazed skin look, I would say that one of the most important steps you can take is using good skincare,” says make-up artist Vincent Oquendo. “You have to make sure that your skin is hydrated and exfoliated.”
As a first step, gentle exfoliation is key to slough off dead skin cells, and create a smooth surface for ensuing shine to bounce off. Oquendo touts exfoliating wipes, such as Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads, as easy options to keep in your make-up bag, as well as Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial mask, which he is “currently obsessed with”.
As well as having excellent genetics, Bieber achieves the look by layering her skincare, starting with exfoliation and following with hydrating serums and sheet masks (she multi-masks, where you apply different masks to different parts of the face), and she has previously discussed her obsession for barrier-boosting moisturisers to seal it all in, too.
A number of excellent hydrating skincare products have recently launched that promise to get you the right level of dewiness, while simultaneously nourishing the skin and keeping it in peak condition. A good all-rounder is Lancôme’s Rénergie H.C.F. Triple Serum, which blends hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, ferulic acid and niacinamide to illuminate the skin, while protecting it from external aggressors and improving its appearance over time.
Meanwhile, for those with mature skin, Revive’s new Targeted Skin Filler is expensive, but excellent at plumping, softening and filling in fine lines, for the kind of cushiony skin that dreams are made of.
The trick is to employ formulas – from essences to serums – that promise to deeply hydrate. After that, seal them in using an equally hydrating moisturiser. Top tip: Bieber always applies her serum to damp skin, so it “soaks in a little better”, as she previously revealed on Instagram.
To amp up dewiness in all the right places, melting a face oil into the high points of the face (namely the upper cheekbones), can help deliver a sumptuously healthy sheen in seconds. Of course, depending on your skin type and how well you get on with oils, make-up is also an option to create the same finish.
Important note: forget anything shimmery or pearlescent. Oquendo is a big fan of Kevyn Aucoin’s Glass Glow Face and Body Gloss: “It comes in a few different shades, so no matter your skin tone, it always gives an otherworldly shine,” he says. Other excellent glazing products to try include Chanel’s Baume Essentiel, and Glossier’s Future Dew.
The last thing to note is that glazed skin is all about clarity, so if you suffer from redness, blemishes or pigmentation, it’s a good idea to gently conceal them. “I would always follow skincare with a fuller coverage concealer on any blemishes or areas that need it,” says Oquendo. “And, if you need it, follow that with a luminosity-boosting tinted moisturiser.”
Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve overdone it on the active skincare ingredients. Guilty of nothing but the pursuit of more even-toned, luminous skin, like kids in a candy shop we pile on multiple products in the hope that they’ll work quickly and effectively. But actually, this overcomplicated approach can cause irritation, redness, acne and dryness – to name just a few unpleasant side-effects. Which is why the latest skincare buzzword, “microdosing”, is fast becoming one of the industry’s biggest trends. And it’s one that could pay off for your skin health in both the short and long term.
“The practice of microdosing has been around for decades,” says Dr Jason Thomson, head of medical at Skin + Me. “It’s probably most commonly known in reference to taking micro concentrations of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin (the active molecule found in magic mushrooms). When micrograms (a millionth of a gram) of psychoactive substances are taken, studies have shown that users do not experience the “high” effects, like hallucinations and feelings of elation, but instead report improvements in creativity, focus and mental health. In the past few years, the same concept has been adopted by the skincare sector.”
Instead of overloading skin with the highest concentration of active ingredient possible, deploying a lower percentage – around one tenth – and applying regularly (daily, rather than every few days), enables greater toleration, keeping the skin and its all-important barrier robust, healthy and glowing, and all while still enjoying all the benefits of the ingredient.
Andre Condit, formulator and founder of Spectacle Skincare, calls the technique a “therapeutic” way to deliver key but easy-to-overdo ingredients, like retinoids, exfoliating acids (think azelaic, glycolic and salicylic – any that can cause side effects), and vitamin C to the skin, and says it’s the best way to prevent “adverse side effects like flaking and redness”, and slowly build up the skin’s tolerance. “It’s very common to see people become overzealous with several high-strength products in one routine,” he adds. “The skin can only accept so much before you start to create an inflammatory response, which is the opposite of what we are looking to achieve. The skincare journey should be a slow, steady marathon for lifelong results.”
The other important thing to note is that skincare works best when applied consistently. “Applying a retinoid twice a week – and building it up, as we’re often told to do – can be hard to remember, so using a lower strength each day makes it easier to get into a regular routine,” says Dr Thomson. “If you keep stopping and starting on a strength you can’t tolerate, you won’t be able to continue treatment and will likely end up in a worse place than when you started.”
The good news is that a number of brands are making the microdosing technique accessible and easy. First, Skin + Me, a subscription skincare brand that connects you to dermatologists and pharmacists and offers a custom approach, will prescribe you the best actives for you and your specific skin type – at low percentages if required. Also, keep an eye out for skincare “boosters”, which are designed to be added to your moisturiser (but can be used alone), and often come in lower percentages.
Meanwhile, Spectacle Skincare’s new Performance Crème delivers a “microdose” of encapsulated retinaldehyde, poly hydroxy acids and vitamin C in one all-bases-covered formula. “It offers a steady daily dose of vitamin A,” says Condit, “which allows us to maximise other advanced anti-inflammatory antioxidants and collagen and elastin stimulators, like our gallic acid derivative, and copper amino acid complex to deliver a truly well-rounded, multitasking formula.”
All skin types can benefit from microdosing, especially those who are sensitive or reactive, says cosmetic doctor and founder of Skndoctor Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe, who says it’s a trend she can get on board with. “Even at a low dosage, ingredients like retinol have great benefits, so microdosing is an excellent way of seeing these benefits without the irritation,” she says, confirming that you will still see results. She also believes it’s a great entry point for those who don’t currently use active ingredients.
Her only warning? There are certain ingredients that you should not microdose. “Definitely do not microdose on SPF!” she says. “You need a minimum of SPF30. Apply a teaspoon-sized amount daily.”
The practice of “slugging” involves spreading a layer of an occlusive (typically a petroleum jelly like Vaseline, or a healing ointment like the popular ones made by Aquaphor or CeraVe) over the entire face while sleeping at night. It has a close cousin in the beauty routines of the mid-1900s, when women wore thick cold creams on their skin overnight to prevent wrinkles.
Why try slugging? The benefits are twofold: Not only does it “hold in” all the moisture from the products you apply underneath, it also prevents dry air from further dehydrating skin.
“If you have severely dry skin that struggles to maintain hydration, slugging could be a great option to help prevent water loss, keeping skin moist and nourished,” said Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist in Toronto. “It’s also great for those who have intentionally caused skin damage through in-office aesthetic treatments like peels and laser resurfacing treatments, or those who have unintentionally injured their skin with severe sunburn or through overexfoliation with an OTC or prescription retinoid,” Yadav said.
But not everyone is as big a proponent of slugging as the numerous positive TikToks might make you assume. Writer Jessica DeFino, who asks her readers to Please Stop Slugging, even points out that petroleum jelly—which is what Vaseline and similar occlusives are made of — is a purified petrochemical, a fossil fuel and therefore a contributor to climate change. And just the idea of smearing Vaseline over your face might have you imagining the breakouts that will appear soon after. Plus, we’re all probably using too many products anyway, so is there any real benefit to adding another one?
Will slugging make you break out?
First, some good news: petrolatum is noncomedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores and cause breakouts. But there’s a caveat. Depending on your skin type, it may still contribute to acne.
“Even though it’s not comedogenic, as an occlusive, it can trap oils or other comedogenic ingredients in the skin and could potentially contribute to breakouts,” said Hadley King, board-certified dermatologist in New York City and a clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
This means that slugging is best for those with normal to dry skin types, or those experiencing irritation and eczema. King advises that those with combination or acne-prone skin skip it, but others may find it beneficial.
“For dry skin, particularly in a dry environment that will exacerbate transepidermal water loss and dryness of the skin, applying an occlusive like petrolatum can be very helpful,” King said.
Yadav likes to think of slugging as a “factory reset” for skin, giving skin the opportunity to heal itself. “Think about how you help heal a wound on your skin, like a cut: You slather it in a product like Neosporin (which not only contains healing antibiotics, but petrolatum), then cover it to keep it protected. Slugging works similarly — keeping the skin moist, then protecting that moisture with an occlusive formula,” Yadav said.
What’s the best product to use for slugging?
While petroleum jelly alone is most often used, it might not actually be the best option. “For slugging, the emphasis is on the occlusive, but ideally this still should be combined with humectants and emollients for optimal moisturizing results,” King said. Like what, then?
“Occlusives are oils and waxes, which form an inert layer on the skin and physically block transepidermal water loss,” King said. This includes petroleum, but also other substances like beeswax, mineral oil, silicones, lanolin and zinc oxide. Humectants include hyaluronic acid and glycerin, and emollients include cholesterol, squalene, fatty acids, fatty alcohols and ceramides.
Yadav recommends using a product like SkinCeuticals Hydra Balm Moisturizing Ointment. “In addition to containing petrolatum, it has rose hip oil and squalane for added moisture. I use it on my patients to help them heal after more intensive procedures, like deeper chemical peels and laser skin resurfacing,” Yadav said.
If you’d prefer to avoid fossil fuel byproducts entirely but still want to try slugging, oils and thicker night creams are good alternatives to petrolatum, and can be used the same way.
Here’s how to do it (and how not to do it)
Whatever you choose to use, make sure you start with clean skin. Then, follow up a thin layer of hydrating moisturizer before sealing it in with your chosen occlusive. “Some suggest cleansing and going straight to the petrolatum-based product, but I disagree — if your skin is very dry, the occlusive will seal in that dryness,” Yadav said.
Be cautious if you’re using any topical prescription medications, since using an occlusive on top of them could increase their potency. Other strong ingredients, like AHAs, vitamin C and retinoids should be skipped, too. “By sealing in ingredients that can irritate the skin, you’re increasing the likelihood of sensitizing your complexion and diminishing the moisture barrier,” Yadav said.
Slugging might not be the best choice for every skin type, but for those with dry, irritated skin that needs some TLC, it can seal in hydration and help skin heal.
Even with thousands of retinol products on the market, it’s still challenging to find the exact skincare item that matches your skin’s needs. Some are too potent and cause irritation, and others don’t really deliver any noticeable results at all. The happy medium? This creamy retinol moisturizer that shoppers can’t stop praising — and it’s only $20.
TruSkin’s Retinol Moisturizer is infused with retinol to help smooth signs of aging. Not familiar with retinol? Let’s back up a bit. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and belongs to a group known as retinoids. “Retinols contain lower concentrations of the retinoid,” Dr. Debra Jaliman previously told InStyle. “This means it will not give you the same effect as a prescription version.” And even though retinol doesn’t possess the same potency as retinoids, the ingredient still has miracle-like benefits — it diminishes lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and acne.
Aside from retinol, the cream incorporates hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to moisturize the skin and stave off any irritation and dryness that the retinol may cause. Occasionally, when you start to use retinol, you may experience some redness and sensitivity but don’t panic, as it’s quite common. “I typically say that dryness and irritation from retinoids can last four to six weeks. Around then, we may also start seeing some improvement in mild acne breakouts,” Dr. Shari Marchbein previously explained.
Shoppers love the retinol moisturizer and say that it’s a “must-have.” One reviewer wrote, “The first impression with the moisturizer is [that it’s] light, smooth, refined, and easily absorbed into the skin. But once you continue to use it, that’s when you get an effect of it. In a few weeks, my pores closed, and my skin was rejuvenated. My face started [to] even out and looked brighter.“
Another satisfied shopper explained that the cream “made wrinkles decrease, especially the deep ones.” They added, “I am 36 years old and this year, I noticed wrinkles around my eyes while smiling or laughing. I worried a lot but after using the retinol moisturizer regularly for around three weeks, I can say yes, I have seen the difference.”
Other shoppers have said the retinol cream has been an asset when it comes to combating acne. A customer even said they “decided to try this for lines and wrinkles” and the “best part” about the cream is how it helped get their acne under control, too.
“I have been using this product for only 10 days and my skin looks wonderful,” a final reviewer enthused. “[The] fine lines around my eyes are at least 50 percent gone. Lip lines are 25 percent gone. My skin looks luminous, finer, [and] makeup looks more finished.”
For those of us blessed with dry, sensitive skin, building out a skin-care routine can, at best, be daunting and, at worst, painful. You can scour the internet for hours upon hours and walk the aisles of Sephora, sampling all the new! and! exciting! products! with! crazy! new! ingredients! that promise all benefits and no irritation, only to end up disappointed.
Recently though, an old-school ingredient has been making the rounds on skin-care shelves. “Centella asiatica — nicknamed ‘cica’— is an antioxidant-rich herb that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine,” says Dr. Hadley King, a New York City-based dermatologist. “The plant is known for its anti-inflammatory and highly moisturizing properties and has been effective against everything from burns to psoriasis.”
Dr. Sejal Shah, the founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology (who is also based in New York City) is a fan of the ingredient because of its soothing and reparative properties. “‘Cica’ may also be a reference to cicatrization, which means wound healing,” she explains. “While [cica-containing] products aren’t exactly for wound healing, they are meant to soothe, repair and protect the skin.”
According to Dr. Shah, cica’s complexion benefits are the result of a number of “active substances that have wound healing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and skin barrier repairing properties.” Those substances include asiatic acid, madecassic (brahmic) acid and asiaticoside, brahmoside — all of which can be spotted on ingredient lists if you’re not sure the product you’re looking at is the real deal.
“Many other ingredients that are effective in these ways can be irritating, so the fact that cica can provide these benefits without irritation makes it ideal for people with sensitive skin, or for people who are using other ingredients that irritate their skin — like retinoids or benzoyl peroxide or hydroquinone,” adds Dr. King.
Domestic and K-beauty brands alike have been featuring the ingredient in a wide range of products. Neogen makes an entire line of cica-centered products and items from Dr. Jart’s Cicapair range have shown up too many Instagram shelfies to count. Really, cica’s spike in visibility and popularity can be attributed to one thing: It works. “Yes, cica is a trendy ingredient right now, but I think the science shows that the hype is warranted,” says Dr. King. “Studies have shown that the cica extract is an effective wound-healing agent and has also been documented to be effective in the treatment of keloids, phlebitis, cellulitis, slow-healing wounds and stretch marks.”
As with any new skin-care product, you should consult your doctor if you’re concerned about how your skin might react to the ingredient, but Dr. King points out that cica has “no known adverse effects from topical application and contact sensitivity is considered unlikely because it is a weak sensitizer,” which basically means: Don’t eat it, and you’ll probably be fine.
The brightening skincare ingredient can tackle hyperpigmentation.
As far as brightening skincare ingredients go, vitamin C is an A-list star. However, there are other effective ingredients that can treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne, sun damage, or melasma that deserve some time in the spotlight, too.
Tranexamic acid is one such ingredient having a moment, with more and more skincare influencers and beauty brands shining light on its benefits and including it in product formulas. While tranexamic acid can be effective on its own, it works even better as an ensemble with other dark spot-fighting ingredients such as vitamin C, kojic acid, niacinamide, and more.
What Is Tranexamic Acid?
“Tranexamic acid is a synthetic form of lysine, which is an amino acid needed to make proteins,” says Dr. Shari Marchbein, board-certified dermatologist in NYC. “It works by decreasing the production of melanin and we know that the oral form is much more effective at treating melasma than topical form. That being said, serums and other products that contain this ingredient have a lot of potential to help improve hyperpigmentation.”
The ingredient originally was used as a hemostatic agent to help blood clots, but recently has been utilized as a brightening ingredient to help minimize hyperpigmentation as well as melasma.
What Are the Benefits of Using Tranexamic Acid?
One of the major benefits of tranexamic acid is that it plays nice with other brightening ingredients, so you can really zero in on hyperpigmentation.
“There are many treatments for dark spots and these often work well together including licorice, niacinamide, kojic acid, tranexemic acid, retinoids, chemical exfoliants [such as glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid], and more,” Dr. Marchbein says. The dermatologist often recommends serums with tranexamic acid and other brightening agents be used in the same routine for the ingredients to work synergistically to improve post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma.
Tranexamic acid is also a safer, effective alternative to hydroquinone, a potentially irritating bleaching ingredient. “There aren’t many options when it comes to safe, effective skin lightening bioactives,” says Krupa Koestline, clean cosmetic chemist and founder of KKT Consultants. “Hydroquinone is banned in the EU and restricted in many countries due to its safety concerns. Tranexamic acid has shown promising evidence as a plasmin inhibitor and therefore an effective treatment for UV induced discoloration, dark spots, and redness.”
What Are the Side Effects of Tranexamic Acid?
All skin types can use tranexamic acid, but like adding any other new ingredient to your skincare routine, it’s best to do a patch test to ensure you won’t experience irritation.
It’s also important to wear SPF when using tranexamic acid, along with other brightening ingredients, because the sun can make hyperpigmentation darker.
“Remember that before you spend your money on antioxidant serums, brightening ingredients, and retinoids to improve the tone of your skin and hyperpigmentation, the most important and first step is diligent daily sun protection,” Dr. Marchbein says. “It is key to reduce the appearance of brown spots (otherwise you are literally throwing your money away).” The dermatologist recommends a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher should be applied to the face, neck, and ears every day — even in the winter.
How Do You Add Tranexamic Acid to Your Skincare Routine?
Dr. Marchbein says to use tranexamic acid once or twice a day. “I also layer tranexamic acid containing serums over Vitamin C serums and under SPF in the morning and under retinoids at nighttime, so this can safely and effectively be combined with multiple other actives.”
The active can be found in serums, moisturizers, and toners, so it’s entirely up to you what step of your routine in which you want to incorporate it.
That being said, Koestline says serums are a popular way to go. “Most people do like using actives in their serum layer since you’re applying it before other products.”
Shop Tranexamic Acid Skincare Products:
SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense
Dr. Marchbein is a fan of this serum by SkinCeuticals, which she often recommends to patients treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma. It’s infused with tranexamic acid, along with kojic acid and niacinamide, another two tried-and-true brightening ingredients.
Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment
In addition to niacinamide, the all-star cast of Peter Thomas Roth’s discoloration treatment includes tranexmic and kojic acids, alpha arbutin, and pentapeptide. The lightweight cream can be applied twice a day on clean skin and is best followed by a moisturizer.
Puffiness? Dark circles? Dryness? Crow’s feet? This eye mask by celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas checks all the boxes. It’s powered by brightening tranexamic acid, collagen-boosting matrixyl, soothing allantoin, and hydrating licorice root extract.
If post-breakout dark spots, hyperpigmentation, or dullness are your main skincare concerns, try swapping your usual moisturizer for this overnight treatment. Powered by tranexamic acid, vitamin C, and acai berry extract, it targets areas of discoloration and boosts overall radiance.
Dr. Marchbein says SkinMedica’s Lytera 2.0 serum is another great option for treating discoloration. It combines tranexamic acid with niacinamide, phytic acid, phenylethyl resorcinol, and a marine extract blend to improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation without drying out skin.