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The five skincare ingredient ‘all-stars’ to know about right now

By Megan Bedford

The five skincare ingredient ‘all-stars’ to know about right now
With sheer makeup textures and stripped-back complexions our current desire, beautiful skin is in focus more than ever. Radiance and resilience is the goal with the latest youth-boosting skincare ingredients making their mark.

Gone are the days of loading up skincare routines with a plethora of steps and products. We are becoming more shrewd with our purchasing power, demanding efficient and effective products that create a visible difference to our complexions without a lot of application time or effort.

With more of us seeking out products that offer performance-driven ingredients with real data behind them, here are five key ingredients to know about that promise benefits for skin health and appearance.


Peptides are made up of chains of amino acids, sometimes referred to as the ‘building blocks’ of certain proteins needed by the skin, such as collagen and elastin. They can be responsible for skin’s texture, strength and resilience. Peptides help keep skin feeling firm and plump, and minimise fine lines. When applied topically, it’s thought that peptides also help signal to skin to build more collagen and elastin, improving firmness, elasticity and texture.

Where once hyaluronic acid or Vitamin C were banner ingredients for brands to shout about – and these certainly have their place for specific hydrating and brightening benefits – expect to hear a lot more about peptides this year. This is because specific beneficial peptides are being identified all the time and they are each included for a slightly different purpose. ‘Signaling peptides’, used to help prompt skin’s natural healing or regeneration mechanisms, are particularly hot news right now. 

Drunk Elephant’s Protini Polypeptide Cream was one of those Holy Grail moisturisers we used to have to shop for while travelling. With a lush, gel-cream texture and a host of beneficial ingredients including numerous peptides, for a long time its formulation was considered prescription-strength by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration and therefore unavailable Down Under. The good news is, MECCA has recently launched Protini in Australia and New Zealand with what the brand says is a slightly different array of peptides at levels that provided equivalent benefits as the original formulation to meet the TGA standards for off-the-shelf products. It includes signaling peptides the brand says ‘bind moisture to skin plumping, firming, and restoring bounce.’

Already popular in skin serums, peptides are beginning to be included elsewhere too. The success of Rhode Skincare’s Peptide Lip Treatment may owe more to its smooth, nourishing and glossy texture and owner Hailey Bieber’s habit of wearing it over lip liner, but its added firming benefits have helped bring peptides to wider attention. The Ordinary recently launched a peptide serum designed to encourage the health of eyelashes and another to support healthy roots for growing stronger hair.

Growth factors

Growth factors have not had as much buzz as other trending active ingredients, but behind the scenes there has been a lot of discussion around them among the science community, and their prominence is only growing. First discovered by two scientists, an achievement that earned the duo a Nobel Prize in 1986, the knowledge spurred key developments in medicine. Since then, Epidermal Growth Factors (EGF) have become a focus of skincare giants looking for breakthroughs on treating ageing.

EGF are signalling proteins that activate different processes in the skin and other organs. They are thought to encourage cell proliferation and stimulate the skin’s natural repair and replication process, as well as prompting cells to produce components that improve skin firmness and elasticity. However, a lack of universal agreement over their sourcing and benefits – and potential downsides that may not yet be fully understood – means some controversy lingers. Expect to see more brands embracing emerging research in this area and including EGF, as understanding and regulations around their use evolve.


Skinsmiths Senior Product Manager Sheree Butchers says niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B3, has largely been an under-appreciated skincare ingredient in the past but is now gaining prominence, ending up in a variety of skincare and even makeup products to help smooth skin. “It plays a role in healthy skin barrier function, which can help reduce the appearance of facial dryness and redness, as well as support a smoother and more refined skin texture. Niacinamide is also known to inhibit melanosome transfer, resulting in a lightening effect that helps even skin tone.”

One of the great things about niacinamide is that it is suitable for everyone, Butchers says.

“It is the perfect complement to other well-known active ingredients like retinol and Vitamin C for harder-to-target skin concerns like lines and wrinkles and pigmentation.”


Your skin’s barrier (known as the stratum corneum) is like a point guard that prevents moisture escaping and irritants getting in. With increasing understanding of how important it is to keep that barrier working well, many skincare brands are including ceramides in nourishing and protective serums and moisturisers.

Ceramides are a unique form of lipid (fat) found naturally in between the skin cells of the protective barrier, and help to support its structure and natural processes. If skin cells are like bricks, then lipids are the mortar. Skin’s natural production of ceramides decreases as we age, weakening the barrier and leaving it more prone to sensitivity, dryness and the signs of ageing.

Bolstering that process with topical skincare that contains ceramides can help return a healthy skin composition, and help keep the barrier working efficiently. Previous products containing ceramides could often be thick and cloying, but there’s been progress here too. Elizabeth Arden, that pioneered the use of the ingredient in its iconic Ceramide Capsules, is now offering a ‘light’ version for oilier skin types.


The most well known of all skincare ingredients, despite developments in other areas, there’s no sign that formulators are moving on from retinol and other retinoids, or forms of Vitamin A. Now, the focus is on helping the ingredient work more effectively and pairing it with other ingredients to minimise its downsides, as it speeds cell turnover and stimulates collagen and elastin production.

“Retinoids, including retinol, are a champion amongst the ingredients available to treat the signs of ageing – and also acne,” explains Emma Hobson, Dermalogica’s Director of Education for Asia Pacific.

“Our scientists are getting more and more sophisticated with how we are formulating cocktails of retinoids, to create very efficacious products without the associated side effects that retinoids – in particular retinol – have previously had on the skin: dryness, itching and irritation if used too frequently or too aggressively. This means we can deliver incredible, speedy results on a greater range of our customers without compromising their skin barrier, and in turn respecting their skin health.”


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