While there are skincare trends all over TikTok and Instagram, skintellectuals like you actually turn and learn your ingredients. As you read the back skincare packaging, you might notice that niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin are in virtually everything. From cleansers to sunscreens, hydrators, serums, and moisturizers, they seem to be everywhere - but why? These three ingredients are great, but have they become too much of a good thing?
Let’s start with glycerin as a lot of people are wary of it being comedogenic. However, it’s a relatively inexpensive humectant. It’s actually the glycerol backbone that makes up triglycerides like coconut oil. Because of the way glycerin or glycerol is composed, it’s very smooth on the skin. It helps with hydration, It works well with a lot of other ingredients, and in comparison to other compounds, it doesn’t go rancid as rapidly. Because of its inexpensive price, the benefits it offers your skin, and its cosmetic formulation compatibility, we normally find this in moisturizers and serums as one of the first ingredients outside of water. However, it’s also in things such as cleansers and toners. So, whether glycerin is in a cleanser or moisturizer, it is a great option for hydration.
A lot of people hear the term “acid,” and they feel hesitant, but hyaluronic acid is made inside of our body and connective tissue. Hyaluronic acid can help with wound healing, to cushion our joints, and it’s helpful in skincare because it is a humectant meaning it holds onto water or moisture. Some claims say that hyaluronic acid can hold a thousand times its weight in water. Well, perhaps in some cases, but there are different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, and a lot of the time that figure is closer to 50.
When you’re looking at an ingredient list, you might not see hyaluronic acid every time. You might see sodium hyaluronate. Sodium hyaluronate is like the cousin to hyaluronic acid. It’s the salt form of hyaluronic acid, but it works very similarly, and it’s very easy to incorporate into a formulation. Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan (a naturally occurring polysaccharides in mammalian tissues that work to hydrate) that is in almost everything.
We normally see it in hydrating products, but we’ll even see it in sunscreens and cleansers. Hyaluronic acid comes in multiple forms, but you usually see it as hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate in moisturizers, serums, and toners. Even in small amounts, it can boost up things like a mask or exfoliant. Especially if there’s water in the formula, it works well with other ingredients. However, there are some instances where hyaluronic acid can dry out the skin. But, as long as you pair hyaluronic acid with a humectant like glycerin and water, it should be fine. If you’re in an environment that’s really humid, hyaluronic acid is going to bring even more moisture into your skin.
This is the most popular ingredient right now, and this B vitamin is everywhere. Its sister ingredients are panthenol and biotin. Niacinamide is related to niacin which can irritate the skin. Likewise, it is the gentle form used in skincare. Niacinamide is very well studied. When we use it in skincare, it can help increase ceramide production and regulate oil control. It helps with hyperpigmentation, redness, and flushing because it stops the pigment or melanin that is created in our melanocytes from spreading to other cells such as keratinocytes.
Niacinamide works best when it stays on the skin so putting it in a cleanser is not revolutionary. For example, there were studies done on sunscreens, and the sunscreens with niacinamide actually performed better. Because there is a lot of data supporting the efficacy of niacinamide within sunscreens, it is often incorporated into formulas. Also, the sun can cause redness, flushing, and hyperpigmentation. However, niacinamide prevents against this. So, its versatility is the primary reason we see it everywhere.
Furthermore, concentrations of niacinamide at two to five percent work best. You can find higher concentrations like that of The Ordinary, but more does not always mean better. Low levels of niacinamide like 2% concentrations are best for barrier support and concentrations of 3 to 5 percent are really good for discoloration and hyperpigmentation. Therefore, knowing what you’re trying to treat can help you find formulas with the proper concentration. Moreover, these amazing benefits are largely why niacinamide is so widely found in products.
So, ultimately, are these common ingredients overhyped, and is it okay to layer them on one another? Yes, it’s important to know how our different skincare products or ingredients will interact with one another. But, when you have ingredients with sound data, sound research, years or decades of anecdotal evidence, and amazing track records, it’s no longer hype. Their effectiveness is more of a fact. When you have constant ingredients, there’s a greater probability that the ingredients serve as are basic elements of skincare.
For a video explanation on these common ingredients, click here.