Healthy Skin

Our pick of the best skincare ingredients

Looking to step up your skincare habits? Our Beauty Editor, Ellie Smith, shares the four must-have ‘skingredients’ that will supercharge your daily routine.

From retinols to SPF, Ellie explains why these ingredients are a must for your beauty bag. She also reveals some of her favourite products that are well worth incorporating into your regime.

The best skincare ingredients


We can spend a fortune on high-tech skincare serums but they will never work the same magic as good old fashioned sun protection. In fact, in a recent study of 298 Caucasian women, researchers divided the participants into two groups based on their history of sun exposure. They concluded that UV rays account for 80% of the signs of skin ageing — from wrinkles to pigmentation. While the higher levels of melanin in darker skin contributes to increased natural protection (up to SPF 13), it’s still important to wear sun protection daily to protect against skin cancers and accelerated ageing.

We can prevent this accelerated ageing process and keep skin looking fresh, plump and youthful looking by applying a good quality SPF daily.

SPF is often met with a shudder due to many of us having had bad experiences of thick white creams that take hours to rub in and leave a sticky residue on the skin. Thankfully, there are elegant SPF formulas that promise to save our skin without being such a chore to apply. The key is finding a formula that’s easy to apply and feels comfortable (or, dare I say it, even luxurious) so you’re not likely to skip it in favour of a silky serum or plumping primer.

Ellie’s favourite SPF products

A great all-rounder is the Katherine Daniel’s Daily DNA Defence SPF 30 (RRP £50). This beautifully light formula is invisible once applied and sits nicely under makeup. It contains broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection. It also shields against blue light from our electronic devices and pollution in the air around us.

The Beauty Pie Super Healthy Skin Ultralight UVA/UVB SPF 25 (members pay £9.88, use code LIZLOVES for £10 off your first month or your first annual fee) is another great option that’s more affordable. It’s non-chalky, non-sticky and similarly sits well underneath make-up.

At a relatively low SPF 25, it’s more suited to day-to-day life than soaking up rays in high summer.

Hyaluronic acid

Most will have heard about this hydrating hero that has boomed in popularity in the last five or so years. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water (boosting both the hydration and elasticity of our skin). Our bodies naturally produce hyaluronic acid but our levels begin to deplete as we age. We can influence our levels of hyaluronic acid with the food we eat, but a topical serum is a staple in any savvy skincare regime.

If you’re serious about hydrating and plumping skin, I recommend the  SkinCeuticals H.A. Intensifier (RRP £90). The serum contains 1.3% hyaluronic acid as well as 10% Proxylane (a patented hydrating molecule derived from beechwood) and brightening liquorice root. 1.3% hyaluronic acid might sound like a low concentration, but this is actually within the ideal range. Higher concentrations of this hydrating acid (10% for example) can actually have the opposite effect, drying out the skin.

For a more affordable alternative, I recommend the Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum from The Inkey List (RRP £5.99). It stars 2% hyaluronic acid at a variety of molecular weights that penetrate and hydrate every layer of the skin.


When it comes to youth-promoting skincare, there’s no better option than a retinol. This ‘skingredient’ is derived from vitamin A. It reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and keeps skin looking plump and youthful by preventing the breakdown of collagen.

I recommend Paula’s Choice Clinical 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment (RRP £53). It’s been specifically formulated to reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles, restore firmness and even out skin tone. Bakuchiol is another brilliant, sensitive skin-friendly ingredient with similar youth-promoting effects.

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane (RRP £7.80) is a brilliant affordable option that is well tolerated by most skin types.

Only apply retinol at night and follow with a good quality SPF in the morning as it tends to leave skin more sun-sensitive. Start low and slow, applying just once or twice a week to increase skin tolerance. Do not combine with exfoliating acids such as AHAs.


A high-strength antioxidant serum can help to protect our skin against the irritants and pollutants that we come into contact with daily. This sustained attack on our skin can contribute to general wear-and-tear. This accelerates skin ageing and can leave our complexion looking lacklustre and dull.

Antioxidants, whether it be vitamin C or green tea, can help to provide a protective barrier, neutralising these threats before they can do damage to our skin.

I recommend the Beauty Pie Superactive Capsules Pure Double Vitamin C & Vitamin E Serum (RRP £13.83, use code LIZLOVES for £10 off your first month or your first annual fee). The clever biodegradable capsules prevent the vitamin C from oxidising in the air before it even reaches the skin.

Read more articles from Liz Earle Wellbeing

Words: Ellie Smith
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