4 skincare ingredients that don’t work and what to try instead

Every day, there seems to be a new beauty ingredient that’s making a buzz on the internet. And while some are definitely worth a shot — for example, experts say rosemary oil can really help with hair growth, and bakuchiol might be an effective alternative to mild retinol — all of these buzzy ingredients don’t add up. not the results they promise.

So to save you time and money and help you figure out which ingredients deserve a place in your beauty routine, we reached out to two leading dermatologists, Dr. Sejal Shah of SmarterSkin Dermatology and Dr. Julia Tzu, founder of Wall Street Dermatologyfor their thoughts on popular beauty ingredients that may not live up to the hype — and those that definitely do.


Collagen has been one of the hottest ingredients in the beauty world for quite some time, but unfortunately the two experts said that topical formulas (and ingestible formulas, for that matter) probably won’t have great effect on your skin.

“Collagen exists in our skin, and it exists in abundance, and it makes our skin nice, soft, and supple, along with hyaluronic acid,” Tzu said. As we age it starts to break down, so it’s only natural to want to find something that will help replenish that, but formulas containing collagen aren’t the best way to go about it, she said. declared. “So when you’re talking about growing collagen in our skin for anti-aging purposes, you can’t really derive collagen topically. Because collagen is this huge molecule that doesn’t penetrate through our skin barrier. normal,” she added.

Instead, Tzy recommends retinol, vitamin C, vitamin B, and peptides to target these anti-aging issues.

If you’re looking for the skin brightening and firming benefits that collagen products are supposed to provide, there are a few alternative ingredients you can look to. “Retinols are going to help stimulate collagen synthesis,” Shah said. Vitamins C and B (like niacinamide) can also be helpful, she added.

Peptides are another good option. “Collagen is a big protein, and peptides are like smaller protein fragments that can actually penetrate through the skin barrier and cause a number of desirable effects,” Tzu said. “So instead of using collagen, use peptides.”

RoC Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Face Serum + Firming Treatment

ROC makes affordable over-the-counter retinoid products, Shah said. And this serum from the brand’s Retinol Correxion range contains time-released retinol, which stays active for 12 hours, helping to improve skin firmness and texture. In addition to its star ingredient, the serum contains squalane to provide a boost of hydration.

Revision Skincare Vitamin C Lotion 30%

Shah likes this lotion from Revision Skincare, which contains THD ascorbate, a fat-soluble form of vitamin C. According to the brand, the formula can help brighten skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Retinol Eye Cream

Another Shah pick, this eye cream can help improve the appearance of crow’s feet, dark circles, and other signs of aging around the eyes. It contains La Roche Posay’s Retinol Booster Complex, which the brand claims can help improve the effectiveness of retinol while minimizing the common skin discomfort the ingredient can cause.

Olay Wrinkle Correcting Serum

This top-notch wrinkle-correcting serum is made with two of the ingredients dermatologists recommend: niacinamide and dual peptides. The fast-absorbing formula is free of parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, and synthetic dyes, according to the brand.

Vitamin E

While vitamin E has many other benefits for the skin, Tzu said patients often ask her to use the ingredient to help fade scars, but studies have shown it has no effect on their appearance – and a study even suggests that in some cases vitamin E can worsen the appearance of scars. Instead, Tzu recommends silicone scar sheets for at-home treatment.

In general, the most effective way to treat scars is through an in-office procedure, such as laser treatment, micro-needling, or even surgical scar revision, Tzu said. However, she added that some research shows that silicone-based liners might be slightly helpful in improving the appearance of scars.

“Scars heal best with moisture, moisture, occlusion,” Tzu said. A silicone coating provides this environment. Adhesives also cover the scar, so it is not exposed to UV rays and can prevent hyperpigmentation. “These are sort of putative mechanisms as to why silicone might be useful,” she said.

Nuvadermis Silicone Scar Sheets

Nuvadermis Silicone Scar Sheets have received over 3,300 five-star ratings from people who say the patches have helped flatten and reduce the appearance of scars. According to the brand, the sheets are lightweight and breathable, so you can comfortably wear them for up to 24 hours at a time.

ScarAway Silicone Scar Sheets for Cesarean Sections

Although these popular scar sheets are designed for use on C-section scars, buyers have said they work on other types of scars as well. For best results, the brand indicates that the sheets should be worn for at least 12 hours a day.

Succinic acid

Succinic acid has been touted as a promising skincare ingredient, but according to Shah, it might not be as effective as promised. “The thing about succinic acid is basically it’s promoted as a treatment for acne, but there really isn’t enough evidence or data to show that it could be a treatment. effective against acne,” Shah said. “There really isn’t a lot of evidence, in general, behind her use of skincare.”

Instead, Shah recommends looking for a formula with a proven ingredient, such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and retinol, all of which are effective and proven acne treatments, Shah said.

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment

Shah recommends Differin’s popular acne treatment gel. According to the brand, the over-the-counter product gel contains a prescription retinoid for optimal results. As previously reported by TODAY, the formula derives its potential acne-fighting and anti-aging benefits from adapalene, which tends not to be as irritating as other retinoids.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Facial Cleansing Gel

Developed by a dermatologist, La Roche-Posay Foaming Face Wash is an Amazon bestseller that aims to target excess oil and blackheads and help eliminate breakouts. In addition to salicylic acid, it contains humectant glycerin and exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid.

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Treatment Gel

Need to get rid of a stubborn stain ASAP? According to Neutrogena, this targeted benzoyl peroxide treatment can reduce the size and redness of breakouts in just two hours. The company recommends following the treatment with a moisturizer to help hydrate the skin.

Drying lotion Mario Badescu

Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion is another popular acne treatment – ​​and it also happens to be the brand’s best-selling product. Made with salicylic acid, sulfur and zinc oxide, the lotion can be used to treat superficial blemishes. To apply, dip a cotton swab into the bottle and dab directly onto an acne spot. Leave to dry overnight then rinse with water in the morning.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is a botanical ingredient often found in toners and acne products. And while it might work for some people, Shah said it can potentially be very irritating to the skin. “It might have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, but the irritation can be offset,” she said, according to the person.

If you have sensitive skin or if witch hazel irritates your complexion, like with succinic acid, Shah said it’s probably best to use one of the four proven acne remedies mentioned above.

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