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The Best Skincare Ingredients

Our Total Guide to Essential Skincare Ingredients

When you’re looking for the right skincare products for your skin type, ingredients make all the difference. But with so many ingredients listed, it can feel overwhelming to decode your skincare labels. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the most common ingredients found in your skincare products to make things a bit simpler.

Read our total guide to skincare ingredients to learn more about what these ingredients are and what they’re used for!

Hyaluronic Acid for Dryness

If your skin appears rough or less plump, hyaluronic acid is one of the most moisturizing ingredients that you’ll find in skincare products. It’s an excellent ingredient formulated to hydrate skin for dewy, glowy results. Hyaluronic is a humectant, meaning it attracts water molecules like a magnet to retain its moisture and hydrate the skin. It works for all skin types but it’s especially helpful for dry or mature skin.

Hyaluronic acid is a versatile ingredient that can be used day and night—just be sure to follow the directions on the packaging. Whether you’re using a hyaluronic acid cream or a hyaluronic acid serum, they’re sure to be great additions to your skincare routine. Once you find the right formula for your skin, you’ll want to establish a routine to see results. Remember to also layer on a moisturizer to keep your skin nourished and seal in hydration. Explore great brands from the Sephora Collection, like Inkey List and Caudalie.

Niacinamide for Pores

Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, is a multi-functional skincare ingredient with several proven benefits for all skin types. On oily skin, it can help reduce sebum production. Dry skin, on the other hand, will benefit from increased moisture retention. Niacinamide even helps foster ceramide production to repair skin compromised by rosacea or eczema.

Typically formulated into a serum or cream, this superstar ingredient helps to improve the appearance of pores and skin texture. Niacinamide helps repair damage and rebuild its protective barrier, helping to fight irritation and redness. Niacinamide can also help reduce hyperpigmentation or brown spots.

Niacinamide can be used every day, either in the morning or at night. However, you’ll want to check the packaging for specific instructions. If you notice any redness or irritation after use, consider scaling back to every other day (or even a few times a week).

BHA/PHA for Congested Skin

If you struggle with persistent acne or have oily skin, BHA is a powerful exfoliator that just might do the trick. BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) is a chemical commonly used in cosmetics to treat a variety of skin conditions. This treatment option is said to unclog pores, treat acne, tame excess sebum and reduce inflammation. This oil-soluble acid works by plunging deep into pores to target oil glands and decrease oil secretion. Since a high sebum production often leads to increased acne, BHA will work to nix dead skin and prevent further pimples.

When using BHAs, it’s best to start off at a low concentration. Start gradually to let your skin get used to these exfoliants. Begin by using it twice a week to see how your skin first reacts. Then, you can increase potency and frequency as tolerated. While BHAs can work wonders for oily skin, it’s best to be more cautious using them on dry or sensitive skin.

This is where PHAs come in. PHAs are chemical exfoliants, considered “cousins” of alpha-hydroxy acids. They have a larger molecule size and do not penetrate as deeply, making them a great option for sensitive skin. Discover BHAs/PHAs from well-known brands, including Paula’s Choice and Drunk Elephant.

Vitamin C for Ditching Dullness

Vitamin C plays a vital role in skin health. This powerful antioxidant works on all skin types. However, it’s especially beneficial on skin that’s hyperpigmented, dull or UV-damaged. The best form of Vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid or Ascorbic acid. Over time, sun damage and environmental pollution can break down collagen, causing the formation of brown spots and wrinkles. Vitamin C works to brighten skin and fight free radical damage from environmental stressors.

Vitamin C can be used with most ingredients and products. But if you experience any irritation, avoid using it on days you use potent active ingredients. You can apply Vitamin C serum or cream in the morning before your sunscreen. Start slowly once a day at a lower concentration. If your skin can tolerate this, you can increase it up to twice a day. Shop Vitamin C products from well-known brands, including Estee Lauder, Fenty Skin and Lancome.

Peptides for Skin Barrier Support

Are you looking to boost collagen and reduce signs of aging? Peptides are a short string of amino acids that stimulate the production of collagen and skin renewal. This ingredient is beneficial for anyone looking to increase their skin’s firmness, smooth out fine lines or wrinkles and reduce inflammation. Opt for products that stay on the skin for an extended period, like a moisturizer or serum. While peptides can be part of any skincare routine, it’s best not to use peptides and acids together.

Be sure to explore products containing peptides, including Youth To The People, Paula’s Choice and The Ordinary. Once you find the right cream or serum, it can be applied to clean skin twice daily, underneath makeup and SPF.

Squalane for Moisture Loss

Squalane is found naturally in the skin, but its production decreases as we age. Squalane is an oil-free, moisturizing molecule with antioxidant properties to lubricate and protect the skin. While squalane works well on all skin types, it’s especially soothing on dry skin and eczema. Since squalane is filled with fatty acids and antioxidants, it increases the absorption of other ingredients. This helps improve the efficacy of the product to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

Squalane can be used twice a day, or as indicated on the product’s packaging. It can usually be found in an oil form, but also sometimes as an added ingredient in serums and face creams. Applying it should be the last step in your skincare routine, after cleansing and applying serum (but before sunscreen). Follow up with a moisturizer to complete your skincare routine. Discover Squalane products from Biossance, Laneige and more!

Collagen for Loss of Firmness

Collagen plays an essential role in protecting the human body but we inevitably lose it over time. This naturally occurring protein can be found throughout the body. However, it’s most abundant in the skin, tissues and bones. In skincare, collagen visibly firms the skin by fighting fine lines and improving the skin’s elasticity. This powerful protein is responsible for keeping skin firm, supple and smooth.

Need help finding the right products to give your skin a much-needed collagen boost? Whether you prefer a moisturizer, serum or skincare set, we have just what you need to improve your skincare routine. You can explore collage based on skin concerns (anti-aging, dryness, loss of firmness, etc.) or choose from the brands you know and love. Collagen is safe to use in the morning or at night. And topical collagen generally works well with other ingredients. However, it’s always best to check the packaging for specific instructions before using it.

Retinol for Fine Lines & Wrinkles

When it comes to improving skin tone and texture, retinol can work wonders. Retinol is the gold-standard ingredient for improving the look of fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging. A form of synthetic vitamin A, retinol supports healthy cell turnover to refine skin and boost its radiance. Many people start using retinol at the first signs of aging. However, retinol serums are a great addition to anyone’s skincare routine.

Ready to give it a try? Retinol should be used at night after cleansing. Your skin may feel drier, so you’ll want to rehydrate and moisturize as necessary. While it can be paired with most sunscreens, try to avoid using retinol and an AHA simultaneously since they are both potent ingredients.

To start off, slowly work it into your routine a few nights a week to see how your skin tolerates it. Go for Peace Out Retinol Face Stick, which can help soften the look of fine lines and wrinkles. For something more potent, try Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Renewal Serum to promote clearer-looking skin and a smoother texture. Be sure to explore other Sephora Retinol brands, including Drunk Elephant and Peace Out.

Sephora at Kohl’s is the place to find all the serums, moisturizers, cleansers and skincare tools you’ll need to achieve all your skincare goals! Be sure to also explore fragrances, hair, makeup, and bath and body products. Refresh your everyday routine with high-powered beauty essentials from Sephora at Kohl’s.