Imagine wearing the same outfit for years and years. You never would, right? So why do the same with your skin care? Just as we swap out things in our closets for better-made pieces and the latest trends, the same should happen with your medicine cabinet. “To some degree, the skin sort of gets used to a routine,” says Charlotte, NC dermatologist Gilly Munavalli, MD. “I think mixing it up is always good. These new ingredients have different mechanisms of how they work and might stimulate different pathways in the skin that allow for more skin turnover or improved barrier function of the skin. It’s always good for your skin to not get used to one specific routine.”
Dermatologists share the eight ingredients they want you to start using in 2022, from fresh ground-breakers to ones that have been flying under the radar.
“As more and more studies are showing the likely negative skin effects of blue light, I am recommending patients to include blue light-protective ingredients in their skin-care regimens,” says New York dermatologist Blair Murphy-Rose, MD. “Iron oxides is one example that can defend against worsening of hyperpigmentation like melasma.”
Look for sunscreens containing iron oxides. Unlike the active ingredients in sunscreens that are easily located at the top of an ingredient list, iron oxides will be found deep in an ingredient list, so look carefully for it, cautions Dr. Murphy-Rose. Her go-to is Alastin Hydratint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36 ($55), as in addition to iron oxides it contains ectoin for additional blue light protection. “Hydratint feels light on skin but provides excellent broad-spectrum protection,” she says. “I have had many happy patients report back after trying this product.” Iron oxides can also be found in Payot Drying and Purifying Gel ($21), a spot treatment that fights irritation while banishing breakouts.
“Hydrocortisone is a simple, proven ingredient that has multiple benefits for many irritating skin conditions, including dry, chapped skin and lips, eczema, minor allergic reactions in the skin, rashes and even inflammation from bug bites,” says Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. “As a mild corticosteroid, it works by helping soothe symptoms of these conditions by calming the body’s immune response.”
Typically, hydrocortisone comes in a cream that can be messy, so Dr. Schlessinger and his son, Dr. Daniel Schlessinger, invented a 1% Hydrocortisone Healing Balm ($20) that comes in a convenient balm stick for easier application. “It doesn’t melt or become messy and also includes emollient ingredients like shea and cocoa butter to keep skin feeling comfortable and hydrated,” he says.
A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide has garnered major buzz for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to boost skin hydration. “As a topical, it is protective against UV damage,” Dr. Munavalli says. “It’s being used in many different formulations because of its anti-aging abilities.” The multitasker boosts the lipid barrier, eases redness, minimizes pores, fights hyperpigmentation, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, and regulates oil. Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster ($46) shines the spotlight on it and also contains vitamin C to brighten and licorice extract to soothe irritation.
Madecassoside and asiaticoside in centella asiatica
The active ingredients madecassoside and asiaticoside—found in centella asiatica—are becoming even more popular in skin-care products—and for good reason. “Their anti-inflammatory benefits are now well established and with consumers becoming more aware of the sustainability of their products, all-natural ingredients like these occurring in the centella plant are a win-win,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. “Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Cream ($49) is my go-to winter face moisturizer and one I frequently recommend when the humidity drops or year-round for those with dry skin.” The Onå New York Firming Serum ($67) also has centella asiatica, along with peptides and antioxidants.
Dark spots are notoriously difficult to treat, but there’s a new kid on the block to help. “I always recommend tranexamic acid for hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. “It’s proven for effective hyperpigmentation reduction and lacks the risk of a side effect called ochronosis seen with prolonged use of hydroquinone.”
Tranexamic acid is a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine that has been shown in studies to be effective at treating melasma and post-inflammatory discoloration. “While the exact way this ingredient works is still unclear, it’s thought to block the interaction between skin cells and melanin-producing cells,” Dr. Schlessinger says. “Additionally, unlike some AHAs, tranexamic acid is suitable for all skin types and can be used in combination with other active ingredients like retinoids and vitamin C.” Both Dr. Schlessinger and Dr. Murphy-Rose recommend the SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense ($98) for its brightening powers and affinity for repairing sun damage.
“Ceramides will never lose popularity and are an excellent ingredient for a skin-care regimen,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. “I am constantly touting their benefit to patients. They are waxy fats that are found naturally in high concentrations in the outer layers of the skin. They help form a shield-like barrier to keep moisture in and to protect from the external environment.”
Vital to a well-functioning skin barrier, ceramides can help repair a damaged skin barrier, allowing irritated skin to recover. They’re necessary to prevent transepidermal water loss, critical to healthy skin and benefit all skin types. “In fact, those with eczema usually have a diminished skin barrier with insufficient ceramide levels,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. “Ceramides also have anti-aging properties and are believed to reduce free radical damage.”
Ceramides have perks for hair as well as skin. “For the skin, they help hold good things like moisture in and keep bad things like toxins, dirt and bacteria out,” Dr. Schlessinger says. “Ceramides work in hair in much the same way, acting as glue that helps keep the hair cuticle closed, sealing in moisture and preventing breakage.”
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream ($38) is Dr. Murphy-Rose’s favorite for sensitive skin. Formulated with essential ceramides, soothing shea butter, colloidal oatmeal and antioxidants, this whipped-like cream leaves skin well-protected and hydrated. Another of her picks is the SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore ($130), a rich face cream that’s a perfect fix for extra dry or irritated skin, as it contains ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. Dry, flaky skin immediately appears smoother and more hydrated upon application. For hair, Dr. Schlessinger likes the L’ANZA Healing Colorcare Trauma Treatment ($26), and for the body Replenix Retinol Smooth + Tighten Body Lotion ($71).
Retinol and prescription-strength retinoids—both vitamin A-derived ingredients—are one of the most popular and best-studied anti-aging skin-care ingredients, known for a plethora of benefits, including boosting collagen production in the skin. However, they’re notorious for side effects like irritation, redness and peeling skin, plus they should be avoided if pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding. “However, for those looking for a retinol-alternative either because of a contraindication to retinol (like pregnancy) or having been unable to tolerate retinol, there are good retinol alternatives like bakuchiol that has been increasingly seen in skincare products,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says.
Bakuchiol is similar to a weaker version of vitamin A, according to Dr. Munavalli. “It’s an interesting ingredient because it very much stimulates the effects of prescription strength topical vitamin A,” he says. Bakuchiol is a pretty trendy one right now for anti-aging, and it also repairs sun damage and promotes healthy skin with cell turnover.” Ideal for sensitive skin, Beekman 1802 Dream Booster Bakuchiol Beta-Retinol Better Aging Serum ($23) fights fine lines, smooths texture and minimizes pores while going easy on your complexion.
If you’re looking for more retinol alternatives, you’ve got options. “An exciting yet lesser-known ingredient than bakuchiol and with the same reduced risk of skin irritation is lychee extract,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says, noting rambutan is a derivative of the natural ingredient. “As more consumers are becoming conscious of their environmental impact and choosing sustainable products, lychee is an excellent retinol-alternative ingredient to choose. In an example of upcycling, Embryolisse Complete Serum ($45) highlights lychee extract from plants harvested in Vietnam and uses all parts of the plant to reduce waste.” The gel-like serum is rich in plant-based hyaluronic acid to help plump and hydrate skin.