5 Underrated Skincare Ingredients Worth Adding to Your Routine

Hopefully, by now you are all caught up on the benefits of ‘heavy artillery’ like retinol or vitamin C - time to learn about some goodie ingredients that have solid scientific data backing their effectiveness, but that for some reason, have escaped the hype so far. Enjoy! ;)

1. For clear, blemish-free skin: Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP)

1. For clear, blemish-free skin: Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP)

What is it?

It is a derivative of vitamin C that includes a phosphate group. It makes the molecule stable, meaning that it does not lose its ability to be active in skin care products, even when exposed to air and light and does not have strict pH environment. This is, of course, the problem with the pure form of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) that likes turning orange in your skincare products, quickly losing its effectiveness. SAP is also, unlike ascorbic acid, oil-soluble, meaning it has an easier time penetrating the skin.

What does it do?

Studies have shown that SAP can help against acne. It does it due to its ability to reduce the oxidation of skin sebum that can lead to the formation of comedones. SAP’s stable antioxidant ability might also help to calm down inflamed blemishes and speed up their healing. While effective against acne, SAP is likely to be gentler on the skin compared to other blemish-fighting ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and it can complement other anti-acne treatment regimes.

An additional bonus: Similar to ascorbic acid and its other derivatives, SAP might be able to stimulate collagen production in skin and help even out its tone, but studies show that it is less effective than the rest of the vitamin C family and would require a way higher concentration to make a difference.

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2. For hydrated and calm skin: Beta-glucan

2. For hydrated and calm skin: Beta-glucan

What is it?

It is a polysaccharide (a large sugar) that can be derived from multiple sources including cereals, yeast, seaweed, and mushrooms.

What does it do?

Studies show that beta-glucan, when applied on the skin, helps to reduce skin’s irritation, promote wound-healing and increase hydration levels. Similar to another large sugar, hyaluronic acid (link), beta-glucan can hold many hundred times its own weight in water. It penetrates the skin easier compared to hyaluronic acid, which means it has a potential to work as an even more effective moisturizer.

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3. For preserving young-looking skin and minimizing sun-damage: Tocotrienols

3. For preserving youthful looking skin and minimizing sun-damage: Tocotrienols

What is it?

A naturally-occurring type of vitamin E. It is a sister-molecule of a more famous in skincare form of vitamin E, tocopherol.

What does it do?

Tocotrienols are powerful antioxidants. Actually, according to recent studies, tocotrienols are more powerful than the more widely used form of vitamin E, tocopherol. Tocotrienols can help neutralize free radicals that are formed in skin as a result of exposure to sunlight. By doing so, they help combat the sun damage and reduce premature aging.

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4. For skin brightening and reducing hyperpigmentation: N-Acetyl glucosamine (NAG)

4. For skin brightening and reducing hyperpigmentation: N-Acetyl glucosamine (NAG)

What is it?

It is an amino sugar that is naturally present in all human tissues, including skin, and is involved in multiple biological processes.

What does it do?

When applied topically (as a cream, serum or an emulsion), NAG has been shown to be effective in reducing hyperpigmentation and evening out the skin tone. It works by reducing melanin production in skin. A big advantage of NAG compared to other effective anti-pigmentation ingredients is that is mild on the skin and rarely causes irritation. In fact, it is a great moisturizing ingredient, can help calm down inflammation, support skin’s barrier function, and even slightly reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

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5. For a less oily skin: L-Carnitine

5. For less oily skin: L-Carnitine

What is it?

It is an amino acid that is naturally present in human cells. It is involved in many biological processes in our body.

What does it do?

A human placebo-controlled study has shown that L-Carnitine, when applied topically (as a cream or serum), can help reduce the production of skin’s natural oil, or sebum. While doing so, carnitine can help simultaneously to hydrate the skin and is unlikely to cause irritation. While we need more studies to be certain about this ingredient’s effectiveness, when it comes to reducing sebum production, there are not so many other ingredients that have shown a similar promise - apart, of course, from skincare superstars retinoids (link to the search for products with retinoids) and niacinamide (link to the search for products with niacinamide). Since the likelihood of any side effects of topical L-Carnitine are minimal, it’s a good ingredient to try if you suffer from oily skin.

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