10 skincare ingredients you need to know about

Find out what they really do


Your face can experience a lot in a day – from serums, moisturisers, face masks and make-up, and all can contain ingredients that claim to lift, tone, hydrate and even help to reduce the appearance of pesky fine lines. But how do they work? So if you’re confused by collagen or troubled by tea tree, it’s time to get to know your key skincare saviours…


Retinol has become increasingly popular over the years for helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and fighting the formation of new ones – win win! But what exactly is retinol, what else can it do and how should you use it? Retinol and vitamin A is the same thing! This wonder ingredient helps smooth imperfections, helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and is also known for helping minimise the appearance of dark spots, blotches and sun-damage. When applied to the skin, retinol exfoliates and may also help with the production of collagen too –phew! That’s a lot of benefits.

But how often do you need to apply to see results? If you’re a retinol newbie then ease in gently by applying once a week, then eventually you can build up to once a day. Skin a little red after applying? Retinol is suitable for everyone, but different strengths are appropriate for different skin types. If you experience rosacea, eczema or psoriasis then retinol may make your skin condition worse. However, a little redness and dryness is a common effect when first using retinol.

Heading on holiday or out in the sun? Always apply retinol in the evening, as it breaks down in the sunlight, and exposure to UV light can make retinol products less active and can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight – so make sure you apply SPF when using any skincare acids. Want to know more about retinol? Read our guide to retinol.

Vitamin C

You may know the benefits of vitamin C for the inside, but this skin quenching saviour has added goodness that goes beyond the breakfast table. Vitamin C helps to brighten and smooth your skin, and encourages collagen production – meaning it may help improve visible signs of sun damage and help to keep your skin protected from environmental damage caused by free radicals.

How often can you apply it? Vitamin C can be applied every day, but if you’re using glycolic acid, salicylic or retinol then it’s best to leave some time in between applying to help avoid any stinging or redness to your skin.

The most common form of vitamin C in today’s skincare is L-ascorbic acid, so keep an eye out this when you’re checking out the skincare ingredients on your next visit to Boots.

Hyaluronic acid

Don’t be put off by the name, as hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in your body and doesn’t strip the skin of its natural goodness. As the years go by and our skin starts to age, the amount of hyaluronic acid our skin cells produce drops and production can become sluggish – this is where fine line and wrinkles make their appearance. It’s powerful stuff and just a single gram can hold up to six litres of water!

So why is hyaluronic acid becoming a regular addition to our bathroom cabinets? The average human body contains roughly 15 grams of hyaluronic acid, and one third of this is synthesised on a daily basis. So as we produce less, we go looking for more in our skincare to help plump, hydrate and keep those fine lines at bay.

Glycolic acid

Say hello to the holy grail of exfoliation. Glycolic acid is known for helping skin discolouration, fine lines and wrinkles, as well as helping to plump the skin and give you a smooth and refreshed looking complexion. It’s an AHA (Alpha hydroxyl acid) which works on the skins surface to help remove any dead skin and create a smoother canvas.

So how does it work? Glycolic acid reacts with the top layer of your skin, breaking it down by dissolving sebum (oil secreted by your skin’s sebaceous glands). It’s powerful enough to penetrate the skin deeply and easily, meaning it can work its magic on everything from oiliness to uneven texture.

New to using glycolic acid? Try one with a low percentage, as higher ones can cause redness and flaking. Using glycolic acid can make your skin a little more sensitive to the sun, so remember to add SPF to your skincare routine.

Salicylic acid

Don’t be put off by the scientific name, as salicylic acid can have many positive skincare benefits. It’s a BHA (Beta hydroxy acid) which is oil-soluble and can penetrate past the surface of the skin, meaning it may help clean excess sebum from your pores and make your skin appear a little plumper.

What else can it do? Well, it may help make the appearance of the skin’s surface look smoother, reduce redness and help to minimise the appearance of any fine lines.

If you use glycolic acid then you can still use salicylic acid too, but only if you feel your skin needs deeper exfoliation. Our top application tip for salicylic is to start off with a product with less than 2% acid, as this is the maximum they can include. Don’t worry if it stings slightly when applied, as your skin may need time to adjust.


You can drink it, take it as a tablet and apply it directly to your skin, but what does collagen actually do? One of the most well-known benefits of collagen is its ability to promote glowing, vibrant looking skin. It helps to smooth any fine lines and wrinkles, and helps keep the skin resilient, strong and elastic

Collagen is a protein found in your muscles, skin, blood, bones, cartilage and ligaments, and your body produces collagen on a regular basis, but it does slow down with age. This can be caused by lifestyle choices, such as smoking, sun exposure and an unhealthy diet. So how do you help boost collagen production? Our top tip is to keep hydrated, eat more plant based foods and add hydrating skincare to your daily routine, but if you’re looking for extra ways to cheer on collagen production then supplements can get to work in the deep dermal layers of the skin and help strengthen your collagen from the inside out.


Honey in your skincare? Oh bee-have! Did you know the concept of adding the sticky substance to your routine has been around for over 5000 years – but why? It contains nutrients which may help soothe your skin, and can be found in today’s skincare as it acts as a gentle cleanser.

Now, we’re not suggesting you slather your face in honey, but look out for ranges that contain Honey Flower Extract – great for dry and dehydrated skin, and manuka honey, which can help add extra moisture to the skin.


Not only are clay skincare products fun to apply, but they are also rich in minerals and help to leave you with a brilliantly bright complexion. We’re not just talking clay masks, as this skin wonder can also be found in cleansers and exfoliators too; all helping to clear blemishes and draw out impurities

Confused by clay? The most common type is Bentonite clay, which is super absorbing and great for tightening pores and even helping to clear acne. Have a look for it in the list of ingredients next time you’re shopping at Boots.

Is there anything more satisfying than seeing your clay mask dry? But did you know you should never fully let clay masks dry, as this may irritate your skin and leave it feeling dehydrated. Clay masks go through three phases:

Damp – This is where the minerals work their magic and really soak into the skin

Cooling and exfoliating – Ever felt your face tingling? This is where the dead skin cells are lifted to the surface

Drying - Starting to crack up and not in a good way? Always remove your clay mask while it is still damp, otherwise it could irritate your skin