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Are these trendy skin care ingredients worth the hype? Derms set the record straight

We reached out to two leading dermatologists to get their thoughts on which popular beauty ingredients may not be worth it.
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Every day it seems like there's a new beauty ingredient that has the internet abuzz. And while some have proven to be must-haves — for example, experts say that rosemary oil really can help with hair growth and colloidal oatmeal can soothe dry, itchy skin — not all of these trendy ingredients actually deliver the results that they promise.

So to save you time and money and help you figure out which ingredients deserve a spot in your beauty routine, we reached out to two leading dermatologists, Dr. Sejal Shah of SmarterSkin Dermatology and Dr. Julia Tzu, founder and Medical Director of Wall Street Dermatology, to get their thoughts on which popular beauty ingredients may not live up to the hype — and the ones that definitely do.


Collagen has been one of the buzziest ingredients in the beauty world for a while, but unfortunately, both experts said that the topical formulas (and ingestible formulas, for that matter) likely won't have much of an effect on your skin.

"Collagen does exist in our skin, and it exists quite abundantly and it makes our skin nice, soft and supple, along with hyaluronic acid," Tzu says. As we age, it starts to break down, so it's natural to want to find something that will help replenish that, but collagen-containing formulas aren't the best way to go about it, she says. "So when you're talking about growing collagen in our skin for anti-aging purposes, you can't really derive collagen topically. Because collagen is this huge molecule that doesn't penetrate through our normal skin barrier," she adds.

Instead, Tzu recommends retinol, vitamin C, vitamin B and peptides to target those anti-aging concerns.

If you're after the skin brightening and firming benefits that collagen products are said to deliver, there are a few alternative ingredients that you can turn to. "Retinols are going to help stimulate collagen synthesis," Shah says. Vitamin C and B vitamins (like niacinamide) can be helpful as well, she adds.

Peptides are another good option. "Collagen is a big protein, and peptides are like smaller snippets of protein that actually can penetrate through the skin barrier and cause a number of various desirable effects," Tzu says. "So instead of using collagen — use peptides."

RoC Retinol Face Serum Anti-Wrinkle + Firming Treatment

ROC makes affordable over-the-counter retinoid products, Shah says. And this serum from the brand's Retinol Correxion line contains time-released retinol, which is said to stay active for 12 hours, helping to improve skin firmness and texture. Along with its star ingredient, the serum contains squalane to provide a boost of hydration.

Revision Skincare Vitamin C Lotion 30%

Shah likes this lotion from Revision Skincare, which contains THD Ascorbate, a lipid-soluble form of vitamin C. According to the brand, the formula can help brighten skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Retinol Eye Cream

Another pick from Shah, this eye cream may help improve the appearance of crow's feet, dark circles and other signs of aging around the eyes. It contains La Roche Posay's Retinol Booster Complex, which the brand says can help enhance the retinol's efficacy while minimizing the common skin discomfort that the ingredient can cause.

Olay Wrinkle Correction Serum

This top-rated Wrinkle Correction Serum is made with two of the derm-recommended ingredients: niacinamide and dual peptides. The fast-absorbing formula is free from parabens, phthalates, mineral oil and synthetic dyes, according to the brand.

Bliss Glow and Hydrate Serum

No matter your skin's sore spot — whether it's minimizing pores, brightening, hydration or soothing blemishes — this serum is designed to tackle it all. Formulated with niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, this day serum is a perfect way to kick-start your beauty routine.

Vitamin E

While vitamin E has a host of other benefits for the skin, Tzu says that patients often ask her about using the ingredient to help fade scars, but studies have shown that it doesn't have any effect on their appearance — and one study even suggests that in some instances, vitamin E can worsen the appearance of scarring. Instead, Tzu recommends silicone scar sheets for at-home treatment.

In general, the most effective way to treat scarring is through an in-office procedure, like laser treatment, microneedling or even a surgical scar revision, Tzu says. Though, she added that there is some research that shows that silicone-based coverings could be mildly helpful in improving the appearance of scars.

"Scars heal better with moisture, humidity, occlusion," Tzu says. A silicone covering provides that environment. The adhesives also cover the scar, so it's not exposed to UV radiation, thereby helping prevent hyperpigmentation. "These are kind of presumed mechanisms for why silicone might be helpful," she said.

Nuvadermis Silicone Scar Sheets

Nuvadermis' Silicone Scar Sheets have more than 10,000 five-star ratings from people who have said the patches have helped flatten and reduce the appearance of scarring. According to the brand, the sheets are lightweight and breathable, so you can comfortably wear them for up to 24 hours at a time.

ScarAway Clear Silicone Scar Sheets

If you're going to choose a scar sheet, you might want to go with the one that includes technology used by plastic surgeons, hospitals and burn centers. These advanced silicone sheets are designed to prevent and treat scars (old and new), making them flatter and less visible, according to the brand.

Succinic acid

Succinic acid has been touted as an up-and-coming skin care ingredient, but according to Shah, it may not be as effective as promised. "The thing about succinic acid is, basically, it's being promoted as an acne treatment, but there just really isn't enough evidence or data to show that it could be an effective acne treatment," Shah says. "There really isn't much evidence, in general, behind its skin care use."

Shah instead recommends reaching for a formula that contains a tried-and-true ingredient, like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and retinol, which are all effective and proven acne treatments, Shah says.

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment

Shah recommends Differin's popular acne treatment gel. According to the brand, the over-the-counter product gel features a prescription-strength retinoid for maximal results. As previously reported by TODAY, the formula gets its potential acne-fighting and anti-aging benefits from adapalene, which tends not to be as irritating as other retinoids.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Facial Cleanser

Developed by a dermatologist, La Roche-Posay's foaming facial cleanser is an Amazon bestseller that aims to target excess oil and blackheads and help clear breakouts. Along with salicylic acid, it contains the humectant glycerin and the exfoliant lipo-hydroxy acid.

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Treatment Gel

Need to get rid of a stubborn spot ASAP? According to Neutrogena, this benzoyl peroxide targeted spot treatment can reduce the size and redness of breakouts in just two hours. The company recommends following the treatment with a moisturizer to help hydrate the skin.

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion is another popular acne treatment — and it also just so happens to be the brand's No. 1 bestselling product. Made with salicylic acid, sulfur and zinc oxide, the lotion can be used to treat above-the-surface blemishes. To apply, dip a cotton swab into the bottle and dab directly on an acne spot. Let dry overnight and then rinse off with water in the morning.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is a botanical ingredient that's often found in toners and acne products. And while it might work for some people, Shah says that it can potentially be very irritating to the skin. "It might have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant benefits, but the irritation may be outweighed," she says, depending on the person.

If you have sensitive skin, or witch hazel is irritating to your complexion, like with succinic acid, Shah says that you're probably better off using one of the four proven acne remedies mentioned above.