Your bathroom shelf guide to skincare ingredients

26 September, 2022 / words by Nateisha Scott

Image by @sknperfct

Let’s face it; the beauty aisles are overwhelming. Let’s not get started on the number of new products and ingredients we double tap or scroll past on social media that promises to improve our hyperpigmentation or increase our skin’s hydration, even plump skin. The benefits and ingredient lists are endless, and without a skin expert by your side, you may be hesitant to try something you do not want to risk irritating your skin or not working for you full stop.

With the rise in ‘beauty snacking’, skin minimalists and pushing toward 2023 and beyond, lazy skin minimalists, we’re looking for hybrid, multi-hyphenate products that work just as hard without crowding our bathroom shelves. With that concept in mind, it means curating and honing in on necessary and effective ingredients that work for your skin. Yes, everyone’s skin is different, with a myriad of concerns, but there are a few heroes that have worked hard for that cult status and should be on rotation regardless of your skin type or concern. We’re talking SPF, exfoliating acids, hydrating formulas and conditioning ingredients. Not a rule book, but more of a guide (and by no means are all ingredients listed), this is our guide to the skincare ingredients you need for your bathroom shelf. 

AHAs, BHAs and PHAs – exfoliating acids

Alpha hydroxy acids, Beta hydroxy acids and polyhydroxy acids are the holy trinity of exfoliating acids that help and encourage exfoliation and skin cell renewal for smoother, brighter and even skin. Ideal for all types (sensitive skin may prefer PHAs as a gentle alternative), they often come in the form of chemical exfoliants with common ingredients such as lactic, glycolic and mandelic acids (AHAs) or salicylic acid (BHAs) and gluconolactone and lactobionic acid (PHAs). But be careful not to over-exfoliate the skin; irritating it further can leave skin incredible sensitive and skin barrier compromised. 

Vitamin C, niacinamide, kojic acid, azelaic acid, tranexamic acid, caffeine – brightening ingredients

One of the most common concerns for brown and black skin is hyperpigmentation and improving scarring. Therefore one absolute must in your routine is brightening ingredients which help to even the skin’s tone. As above, there are so many to try and play around with. Alongside regular skin peels with an aesthetician, laser (optional), exfoliation and a skincare balance, you can transform dark areas over time.


Antioxidants may not visibly transform skin to the naked eye, but it’s an essential ingredients in any routine. Neutralising free radical damage caused by sun exposure, smoking and environmental aggressors such as pollution, antioxidants help shield skin and prop it up with the reserves it needs to keep your skin cells healthy. Think vitamin E, ferulic acid and even niacinamide.


Everyone talks about strengthening and balancing the skin barrier but often leaves it at that. When your skin barrier is healthy and strong, it reduces profound skin changes like breakouts, texture, inflammation and redness. Ceramides help to nourish and replenish the skin barrier, and often your moisturiser makes it an excellent ingredient for sealing and protecting your skin.

Hyaluronic acid and Glycerin – hydrating ingredients

Don’t underestimate the beauty of hydrating ingredients – we’re talking about plump, hydrated, healthy, and glass-like skin. Used both day and night, hydrating ingredients pull in water to plump and hydrate skin as a humectant. If your skin is struggling to retain hydration, reach out for occlusives, they help to prevent transepidermal water loss and hold onto moisture.

Peptides and Squalane

We’re talking about healthy, plump, firm skin, so popping peptides in your routine is a crucial step. Mainly in serums and moisturisers, introduce these when your skin feels shallow or hollow. Pair your peptides with squalane. Not only helping improving skin’s elasticity, but it also improves moisturise retention, smooths texture and helps hyperpigmentation.

Retinol and Bakuchiol

Retinol, a form of vitamin A (excellent for skin cell renewal) and Bakuchiol, considered a natural alternative to retinol, is a powerhouse ingredient that helps improve fine lines and hyperpigmentation and replenish skin. Not to be used every day and especially not during the summer months, retinol is your overnight ingredient for skin success. Make sure you’re wearing SPF to protect your skin on the other side of using this.

Tretinoin, arbutin, succinic acid and sulfur – acne and breakout ingredients

Acne and breakouts can be both frustrating and draining. You must treat your skin with extra care for these skin conditions and concerns. Don’t over-exfoliate, don’t throw any and every ingredient at it, and hope for the best; in fact, you’ll irritate your skin and make it worse. If you have a doctor-prescribed routine, stick to what is recommended but if you’re perusing the beauty halls, reach out for products that help kill the acne-causing bacteria, improve the breakout and all without drying out the skin. Supplement with hydrating and brightening ingredients for an ideal balance.


Nateisha Scott


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