Skincare is still booming like crazy in 2021, in great parts thanks to the pandemic. We simply don’t feel like buying as much makeup anymore thanks to mostly being homebodies and, when we do venture outside, our faces mostly being covered by masks. Prolonged mask-wearing also leads to a whole host of new skin troubles, among them the dreaded maskne breakouts and rashes. Thus, it is no wonder that interest in at-home skincare treatments and a whole host of soothing, blemish-fighting, skin-saving ingredients is steadfastly increasing.
And of course the beauty industry was quick to pick up on the current consumer focus on effective skincare products with potent, science-backed ingredients. Thanks to the current natural and clean beauty craze, we also see an increase in products with predominantly nature-derived ingredients, often traditional healing plants with surprising anti-aging benefits.
Let’s have a closer look at five currently trending skincare ingredients that will continue to dominate the beauty market in 2021 and beyond!
It’s no wonder that interest in at-home skincare treatments and a whole host of soothing, blemish-fighting, skin-saving ingredients is steadfastly increasing.
If I had to choose just one “it ingredient“ in 2021, it would be tranexamic acid—it seems to have come out of nowhere and suddenly is everywhere! I must admit that I had never heard of tranexamic acid until I saw it in a number of ingredient lists of newer Korean beauty products. Skinfood added it to their popular Yuja C Dark Spot Clear Essence, for instance, and here in the west, The Inkey List made waves with their Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment.
If you suffer from hyperpigmentation, then you may want to take note of this new skincare darling. A derivative of the amino acid lysine, this extremely well-tolerated ingredient has been used both orally as well as topically to treat a host of pigmentation issues such as melasma, post-inflammatory pigmentation (PIH), and age spots. Apparently, studies have shown it to be safe to use and just as efficient as the somewhat controversial hydroquinone, with far less side effects. It basically blocks the pigmentation process of the skin, thus preventing and even healing hyperpigmentation. And, bonus—this trending skincare ingredient also may prevent UV damage and support skin barrier health.
This legendary healing root has been a vital part of traditional Korean healing arts for centuries, and so-called hanbang skincare, inspired by Korean herbalism, has been steadily conquering the globe in recent years. Ginseng has a myriad of known health benefits when taken as a supplement, something very commonly seen in Korea and other parts of East Asia. Red ginseng in particular is said to replenish low energy levels, boost the immune system, and improve blood circulation.
When it comes to benefits for our skin, ginseng is equally impressive as an ingredient—and again, the red variety is the most potent, best researched one here. High potency ginseng skincare products, such as Sulwhasoo’s Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream EX, are said to increase collagen production, leading to plumper, bouncier, and overall smoother skin. The circulation-boosting qualities of ginseng can also help improve skin firmness and potentially even diminish fine lines, and its high antioxidant content helps fight off free radicals, one of the main causes of premature aging. Thus, you usually find ginseng in anti-aging skincare aimed at mature skin, but younger skin can likewise benefit from the glow-enhancing and vitalizing effects of a good ginseng essence or cream.
French pharmacy brand Caudalie was one of the first to utilize the power of resveratrol in many of their most iconic skincare products. Predominantly won from the skin of red grapes or red and purple berries, resveratrol is a type of polyphenol, a micronutrient that gives red wine its characteristic tartness. Polyphenols are high in antioxidants and thus can potentially slow down and even counteract the negative effects of free radicals, those pesky little molecules that can cause havoc to our skin’s elasticity and collagen levels.
Resveratrol has become of increasing interest to Asian beauty brands due to its potential for fighting off environmental damage and negative effects of both pollution as well as UV radiation. Since anti-pollution skincare will only gain in popularity thanks to global warming, I expect to see more and more of this trending skincare ingredient in beauty products in the near future.
This isn’t a new skincare ingredient by a long shot, as niacinamide has been a staple in most skincare enthusiasts’ routine for years now. The first brand to put niacinamide in the spotlight was The Ordinary, with their virally popular Niacinamide 10% + 1% Zinc serum. By now there are countless copycat products on the market, from high potency boosters with up to 20 percent niacinamide content, to brightening treatment essences using the power of this skincare allrounder.
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3, an essential vitamin responsible for the proper functioning of our brains, kidneys, and yes, also our skin. Truly, this is such a superstar ingredient in skincare, with a whole host of amazing benefits. Niacinamide can help balance sebum levels, stabilize a compromised skin barrier, minimize (not shrink—that’s impossible, sadly) the appearance of enlarged pores, combat redness, and even potentially brighten skin. The latter part is the reason why you find niacinamide in many products meant to treat hyperpigmentation. Since it also happens to be a great acne-soother, this is an excellent ingredient choice for anyone dealing with that double whammy of simultaneous acne and acne scarring. You do not need a high potency product at all, by the way—research shows that the sweet spot in terms of dosage is roughly round the 5 percent mark.
This one is an oldie but definite goodie, and I am really happy to see it reemerge in modern, trendier product ranges. Panthenol, also known as pantothenic acid or vitamin B5, has traditionally been used for wound healing. Here in Europe, a thicker panthenol salve—usually packaged in a rather unsexy, simple aluminum tube—is a standard part of every parental first aid kit. We grow up with our parents smearing panthenol creams and balms on every scrape, cut, or slow-healing wound, and so I was at first somewhat amused at seeing panthenol now being touted as a new trending skincare ingredient.
A closer look at panthenol quickly reveals why it is such a great addition, especially in sensitive skincare lines and products that focus on sensitized, maskne-plagued skin. Essentially, panthenol is a derivative of another B vitamin—in this case, it’s vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid. Vitamin B5 is an essential building block of healthy skin, eyes, and hair, and it also aids in the conversion of fats and carbohydrates into fuel for our bodies.
Now, here is where it gets interesting: Panthenol has been shown to also have a positive effect on wound healing, providing soothing and anti-inflammatory benefits when applied topically. It can also boost hydration levels of skin and improve skin barrier function. So, it is no wonder that beauty brands are currently developing panthenol-centric products en masse, often paired with other soothing ingredients such as centella asiatica or heartleaf extract for maximum anti-redness, blemish-combating, but simultaneously gently protective benefits.