Shop TODAY is editorially independent. Our editors selected these deals and items because we think you will enjoy them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Items are sold by retailer, not TODAY. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.
Every day it seems like there's a new beauty ingredient that has the internet abuzz. And while some are actually worth the hype — for example, experts say that rosemary oil really can help with hair growth and bakuchiol could be an effective gentle retinol alternative — 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, we reached out to two leading dermatologists, Dr. Sejal Shah of SmarterSkin Dermatology and Dr. Julia Tzu, founder 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 said. 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 said. "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 added.
Instead, Tzy 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 said. Vitamin C and B vitamins (like niacinamide) can be helpful as well, she added.
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 said. "So instead of using collagen — use peptides."
ROC makes affordable over-the-counter retinoid products, Shah said. 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.
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.
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.
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.
While vitamin E has a host of other benefits for the skin, Tzu said 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 an 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 said. 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 said. A silicone covering provides that environment. The adhesives also cover the scar, so it's not being exposed to UV radiation, and may prevent hyperpigmentation. "These are kind of presumed mechanisms for why silicone might be helpful," she said.
Nuvadermis' Silicone Scar Sheets have more than 3,300 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 24 hours at a time.
While these popular scar sheets are made to be used on C-section scars, shoppers have said that they also work on other types of scars, as well. For optimal results, the brand says that the sheets should be worn for a minimum of 12 hours per day.
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 said. "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 said.
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.
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.
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 skin.
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 is a botanical ingredient that's often found in toners and acne products. And while it might work for some people, Shah said that it can potentially be very irritating to the skin. "It might have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant benefits, but the irritation may be outweighed," she said, depending on the person.
If you have sensitive skin, or witch hazel is irritating to your complexion, like with succinic acid, Shah said that you're probably better off using one of the four proven acne remedies mentioned above.
For more stories like this, check out:
- How to achieve a salon-worthy pedicure at home, according to experts
- What is bakuchiol? A derm breaks down the benefits of the retinol alternative
- The brand behind a bestselling anti-thinning shampoo has a ‘miracle’ $15 facial oil