In the era of skintellectual beauty, the scientific workings behind the technical aspects of formulation and active ingredients no longer hold any secrets for the general public. Thanks to the power of social media, there is a new crop of educated consumers who are up-to-date with the latest trends. But, does knowing the ins and outs of the skincare industry mean that we are taking better care of our skin?
Peptides, retinoids, niacinamide – Skincare terms that would have left the majority of us flummoxed back in the day. Now we are on first name terms with some of the beauty industry’s heavy hitters, not to mention that most of them also grace our bathroom cabinets. If you are a skincare lover, it is hard to scroll by without seeing a post touting the latest must-have ingredient. The most obvious contenders being retinoids, vitamin C or hyaluronic acid, which are, of course, all backed by scientific studies that support their effectiveness.
Although all three actives are heavily researched, this is not a guarantee that they will work well on all skin types or, indeed, on your own skin. Everyone is different and rightly so. Here, Dr Pedro Catalá, pharmacist, botanical formulation expert and founder of Twelve Beauty, one of the clean beauty market leaders, shares his insight on the matter, so you can get back to the true meaning behind skintellectualism – Knowing what works for you and addressing your skin concerns with the correct products and ingredients.
Which active ingredients noticeably improve skin?
– The skin benefits of any active ingredient depend a lot on the purity of said ingredient and how it has been integrated into the formula. For this reason, the consumer must first identify what works well on their skin, and from that moment on, it will be consistent use of that active that will make the difference. As in most cases, it can take days, or even weeks, to see results. Especially where correcting hyperpigmentation is concerned.
They say that there are no bad brands, just poorly chosen products. So, which active ingredients are guaranteed to work?
– I dare not choose one over another. Each of us is different and we react differently. Even water can be irritating for some people. There is a lot of trial and error involved when trying to find out what works best for you. This is why I believe offering product samples is essential.
And as an expert skincare pharmacist, which are your favourite active ingredients?
– I have worked as a pharmacist for over two decades and, during this time, I decided to distance myself from following any sort of product or active ingredient trend present in pharmacies. And I say this with no intention of discrediting the sector. I am very proud of my profession, but the ingredients on offer are limited. The focus on functional and hypoallergenic components is interesting, but it seems insufficient to me.
The moment I decided to change my mindset was when I began to research acne-prone skin and the remedies available. I always found it difficult to recommend effective remedies that would bring benefits to the skin and not work against it. It was at that time that I started to study botanical extracts, such as Epilobium, which helps regulate the enzyme responsible for sebum production (5 -Alpha reductase). Also, vegetable oils, despite their ‘bad press’, can actually help this skin type a lot.
Note: Ideal Rebalancing Level Serum contains Epilobium extract.
What about retinoids, a firm favourite of dermatologists?
– Of course, they are good ingredients. But are they the best? Of course not. Formulators, professionals and the general public like to move in our comfort zone and use what we know. If you are asking me why I do not use them in my products, the answer is simple: I always have sensitive skin in mind when formulating and, unfortunately, retinoids and their derivatives are not recommended for this skin type as they can cause allergic reactions, redness, dryness, etc.
Will hyaluronic acid continue to be king?
– In my opinion, yes. I do not think it will go out of fashion, something which has befallen other ingredients, especially those of natural origin. Why is it considered an essential skincare active? Because it is highly compatible with the natural composition of the skin. The risk of allergic reaction is minimal and the results are visible from the first time you use it.
Note: Both Ideal Moisture Level Serum and Ideal Rebalancing Level Serum contain hyaluronic acid.
Is there more to life than retinoids and hyaluronic acid?
– Yes, of course! There are some truly fantastic ingredients available, such as Artemisia extract, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants out there, comparable to pure vitamin C but without the stability issues. Also spent grain wax, which is a by-product of the food industry and perfect for soothing irritated skin.
We must not forget that inflammation is what can affect skin the most. Therefore, another skin beneficial active to watch out for is Buddleja extract. Its ability to repair and protect skin cells against pollution and solar radiation is virtually unmatched.
Note: Artemisia Power Protection Moisturizer SPF50+ contains extracts of both Artemisia and Buddleja. Whereas spent grain wax can be found in Jojoba Quench Body Serum.
What should the perfect skincare product contain?
– There are a few ingredients that, despite not being new, always work well together. So, although you would not class them as key ingredients, it is true that they never fail. You could say that they do all the ‘behind the scenes’ work. For example, allantoin (a compound present in the body of many mammals, plants and bacteria that has healing and epithelializing abilities), panthenol (a crucial pro-vitamin needed in the skin’s regenerative metabolic process) and sodium PCA (a naturally occurring component of human skin and a part of the “natural moisturizing factors” (NMF) that maintain a healthy epidermis).
Note: Allantoin and panthenol are both present in The London Mask and Sodium PCA in Ultra Revitalizing Elixir.
Any thoughts on which will be the active ingredient of the future?
– People are no longer so concerned with fine lines, but more with the loss of even skin tone. Taking into consideration the lifestyle that many of us lead, the most popular active ingredients of the future will be those that treat stressed skin and improve its barrier function. I can also see a boom coming in plant-based alternatives to retinol. Some of the studies already completed are very encouraging!
Are “exotic” active ingredients more effective?
– While I understand the appeal of exotic active ingredients and all that they promise, I always tend to lean towards more well-studied traditional ingredients. As they have been studied for decades, their molecular profile and properties are better understood and, in some cases, their skin benefits are almost identical to those offered by rare ingredients or ingredients from unusual places. A good example is patauá oil, extracted from Amazonian palm trees. As it turns out, this oil’s profile is identical to that of our precious olive oil.