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Have you ever got your salicylic acid confused with your glycolic acid, your AHA with your BHA and heaven forbid, couldn’t remember the last time you used an SPF? Well, fear not, we’re going to take you through the very basics of the most common ingredients, let you know what skin type it’s good for and show you just some of the many products that you can get hold of right here in Frenchgate. And, this isn’t just for the ladies, men – we are talking to you too!

Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in the body. Its role is hydration in both skin and joints, and it also plays a key role in skin repair. It has the amazing capacity to attract and hold onto 1000 x its weight in moisture but, just like collagen and elastin, the levels in our bodies decrease as we get older. Although it’s called an ‘acid’ it doesn’t work to exfoliate dead skins like some of the other skincare ingredients we’re going to talk about. Although it can be found in lots of skincare products, including mists for the summer, it probably works best as a lotion or serum and used twice a day under your moisturiser to plump and hydrate the skin.

Who will benefit:

Everyone, although it works best on dry and dehydrated skin types.

Some of our favourites:

1 Hada Labo Tokyo Super Hydrator Lotion, 150ml, Superdrug £17.45. 2 Clinique Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator, 50ml, Debenhams £37. 3 Vichy LiftActiv Hyalu Acid Mask 50ml, Boots £40.

Glycolic Acid (AHA)

Glycolic acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that’s derived from sugar cane. Keeping it simple, glycolic acid is an exfoliant with the ability to get deeper into your skin where it removes dead skin cells – making skin brighter and skin tone more even. It can also stimulate collagen production – which is good for keeping skin younger looking. If you’ve never used it before on its own, it may be better to start with once or twice a week and build up from there. It can make your skin more sensitive in the sun so you need to use your SPF (see below). However, many products now include skin soothing ingredients alongside glycolic acid.

Who will benefit:

It works best for those with ageing skin, acne-prone skin and uneven skin. Be cautious if your skin is very sensitive.

Some of our favourites:

4 GlamGlow Supertoner Exfoliating Acid Solution 200ml, Debenhams £29.  5 PIXI Glow Tonic, 250ml, Boots £18. 6 Superdrug Naturally Radiant 5% Glycolic Tonic, 300ml, Superdrug £9.99.

Lactic Acid (AHA)

Lactic acid is another AHA but think of it as glycolic’s gentler sister. Originally derived from milk (Cleopatra was clearly a fan with all those baths), although it’s now synthetically produced. It has the same AHA effects as glycolic but it’s much gentler as it doesn’t penetrate deep into the skin. It also has an extra benefit, like hyaluronic acid, it’s also hydrating as it increases water retention in the skin. It’s often found in shampoos and conditioners as well as skincare. Again, make sure you protect your skin with an SPF (see below).

Who will benefit:

It’s ideal for dry or sensitive skin and it’s also a safer and more effective ingredient for darker skin tones too. As with glycolic, and depending on what lactic acid product you use, start small and build up.

Some of our favourites:

7 Clarins Camomile Toning Lotion 200ml, Debenhams £22. 8 Ole Henriksen Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner 190ml, Boots £22. 9 Compeed Cracked Heel Overnight Cream 75ml, Savers £3.49.

Salicylic Acid (BHA)

Salicylic acid is a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) and the only BHA used in skincare. If you suffer from oily and acne-prone skin then salicylic acid will be your best friend. Naturally sourced from willow tree bark, it is a fat-soluble acid which breaks down oil build-up and helps reduce and prevent pore blockage – the stuff that leads to breakouts. It also reduces inflammation and redness. As with all acids take care with very sensitive skin and protect your skin with SPF (see below).

Who will benefit:

Great ingredient for people with oily and acne-prone skin.

Some of our favourites:

10 CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser 236ml, Boots £29. 11 L’Oreal Men Expert Barber Club Short Beard Moisturiser 50ml, Savers £5.99. 12 Nip+Fab Salicylic Acid Extreme Serum 50ml, Superdrug £19.95.

Vitamin C

You could say that vitamin c infused skincare has been the trend of 2020. It’s the answer to healthier, glowier, brighter and smoother looking skin. It’s a powerful antioxidant which can help minimise UV damage and pollution, stimulate collagen production and reduce dark spots. It can be found in a wide variety of skincare products including cleansers , serums and moisturisers. Although vitamin c is an antioxidant, depending on the product type you use, it can cause a mild irritation in sensitive skin so again, build up usage over time starting with twice a week.

Who will benefit:

Again this is a great ingredient for those who are showing signs of ageing or anyone who wants their skin to glow. As a serum it’s best used in the morning.

Some of our favourites:

13 La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C 10 Serum 30ml, Boots £38. 14 Balance Vitamin C Brightening Serum 30ml, Savers £2.99. 15 Estée Lauder ‘Perfectionist Pro’ Rapid Brightening Treatment 50ml, Debenhams £86.

Retinol (Vitamin A)

Retinol is widely considered by most dermatologists and experts as the final word in anti-ageing skincare. It works by increasing the rate of cell turnover in the skin and it’s been shown to aid just about any skin concern from fine lines and sun damage to uneven skin tone and acne. However, it has to be used with care. Unlike our friend, hyaluronic acid, you can’t just slap it on, you have to build up a tolerance depending on the percentage of the ingredient in the product. It can cause redness and dryness, but you can minimise this by using a good hydrating moisturiser daily, and mask two or three times a week. Another side-effect of retinol is that is may cause your skin to become sensitive to sunlight so an SPF of at least 30 is essential. Do not overuse this product, it won’t speed up the results and could make the side-effects more extreme. For advice on retinol, visit one of the skincare experts at the beauty counters in Frenchgate to find out the best product for your skin type.

Who will benefit:

Anyone suffering from premature ageing, although most dermatologists advise introducing it into your skincare routine in your mid-twenties. Again, if your skin is sensitive or if you struggle with rosacea or eczema be wary of retinol and get advise from an expert.

Some of our favourites:

16 No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate 30ml, Boots £34. 17 Olay Retinol24 Night Face Moisturiser with Vitamin B3 50ml, Superdrug £34.99. 18 Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum (30 pieces), Debenhams £42.

SPF (Sun Protection Factor)

Sunscreen, many of us only dig it out when we’re off on holiday abroad but it’s an important product that we should use every day in our skincare routine. It protects your skin from UV rays. UVA which causes premature ageing and UVB which burn and damage the skin and can lead to possible skin cancer. Caroline Hirons, This Morning regular, on-line skincare guru and author of the best-selling, Skin Care – The Ultimate No-nonsense Guide, advises using a dedicated SPF no lower than SPF30. Again, do some research on the best products for your skin type but make sure you use one. And, check the date on ones you are using, they are no good if they have expired.

Who will benefit:


Some of our favourites:

19 Soap & Glory Make Yourself Youthful Sunshield Superfluid SPF50+ 30ml, Boots £15. 20 Simple Protect n Glow Radiance Booster SPF30 50ml, Superdrug£7.99.

We would also like to give a mention to LUSH.

Although they don’t necessarily include some of the ingredients we’ve been talking about in their products, they still have an amazing skincare range. BIG SHOUT OUT to their Charity Pots. These little black pots of goodness are working wonders on dry over-sanitised hands. Not only is this hand and body cream incredibly nourishing but, with every purchase of a Charity Pot, LUSH donate 100% of the price (minus the taxes) to small, grassroots organisations. LUSH Charity Pots from £1.

For more advise on your specific skin type and the best products for you, please visit one of the skincare advice experts on the beauty counters here in Frenchgate. And, get yourself a copy of Caroline Hirons book, Skin Care – The Ultimate No-nonsense Guide. It’s a fantastic and very informative read. On sale in Waterstones and WHSmith.

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