The 9 Super-Ingredients You Need For Great Skin

With our collective focus on a healthy glow for 2023, ingredients that soothe inflammation, repair environmental damage and reinforce the skin barrier are now essential to our daily regimen. Here, MALENA HARBERS shares the standout stars that will give you a brighter, more robust complexion

Flawless, glowing skin starts with consistent care – and the right products


As the hottest skincare term to know, exosomes – microscopic sacs released by our cells – are being touted as the master controlers of how our skin functions. And their skin-rejuvenating, anti-aging powers are solidified in Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Exoso-Metic End Level range. Building on her famous in-clinic PRP (vampire) facial, which uses your own blood plasma, these two new products (there’s a face and eye serum) offer all the same rejuvenating results at home and are based on Dr. Sturm’s 20 years of research on exosomes. Exosomes are essentially the storehouses of your cells, containing all the essentials needed for great skin (DNA, growth factors, proteins and lipids) and are key communicators between cells, too, but as we age, they communicate less. Here’s where Dr. Sturm’s Exoso-Metic formula boosts cell-to-cell communication and bolsters your skin’s structure, texture, tone and strength in turn. It’s truly the next level of skincare science, bottled.

Prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics

They’ve been in the skincare spotlight for some time, but the role prebiotics (the ‘food’ that encourages certain bacteria to grow), probiotics (live bacterial cultures) and now postbiotics (by-products of probiotics that include naturally produced peptides and amino acids) play in making our skin stronger and healthier has received more firm evidence of late. “When we use probiotics in skincare, we feed the healthy organisms of our microbiome, which balances our skin’s pH levels and keeps our skin barrier robust,” says dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. Find them in Dr. Nigma Talib + Kind.Est The Serum, which balances prebiotics with a host of other skin-restoring ingredients, such as marine collagen and algae, for a healthy skin barrier, ensuring better hydration and restored radiance.


If you love the skin changes you see from retinol, then retinal, the newer form of this youth-restoring vitamin, will give you results faster (up to 11 times faster, according to studies), and with less redness and flaking. “When you apply retinol, it’s converted in the skin to retinaldehyde (retinal) and then retinoic acid,” says cosmetic expert Dr. Sophie Shotter. “Because retinal is one step further along this conversion process, you often see quicker results and less irritation than you do with traditional retinol. It’s also the only form of vitamin A that decreases the bacterial load in the skin, so it’s great for preventing breakouts.” However, she does emphasize that it is less stable than retinol, so using the right formula, such as Medik8’s Crystal Retinal 6 Stable Retinal Night Serum, is key.

Succinic acid

For acne-prone skin, you’ll want to keep this plant-derived acid on your radar. “It’s the latest alternative to salicylic acid and isn’t as drying or irritating,” says Dr. Shotter. “Many people with breakouts actually have compromised skin barriers, and typical acne-busting ingredients will fuel the problem rather than solve it. Succinic acid works just as effectively to decrease sebum production, soften skin and get rid of unwanted bacteria.” Dr. Shotter says to bear in mind that, because it’s such a new ingredient, studies on its real benefits are still ongoing.

The reishi mushroom

“Harnessing nature’s power is a huge trend in skincare, but not all natural ingredients offer results,” says Dr. Shotter. “But reishi mushrooms certainly do.” Used for centuries to promote longevity, reishi is considered the queen of mushrooms when it comes to skin benefits, thanks to its mighty anti-inflammatory and anti-wrinkle properties. “It’s both a potent antioxidant and excellent hydrator, and acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor to even out skin tone.” If you have stressed, sensitive or reactive skin, you can really benefit from this soothing super-fungus, which is paired with hyaluronic acid in MZ Skin’s Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum.

Aloe vera

A brilliant ingredient for calming skin by reducing irritation and inflammation, aloe vera is back in demand as so much more than just a sunburn-soother. “It’s recently being used in combination with other ingredients that make it stronger and even more effective,” says Dr. Engelman. A brightening serum, such as Shani Darden’s Lactic Acid Exfoliating Serum, can soothe and calm in a way a typical AHA exfoliator doesn’t, thanks to added aloe vera concentrate. And, mixed into Dr. Barbara Sturm’s The Good C Vitamin C Serum, aloe vera takes the edge off any potential vitamin C-induced irritation.


Peeling is no longer the sole preserve of strong exfoliants. The general consensus among the experts is that PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) do the job to give you that fresh-skin glow, but without irritation, since its molecules are much larger than AHAs and BHAs and don’t penetrate the skin so deeply. Because they work superficially, they’re especially good for a quick refresh. “They also moisturize, reduce fine lines, prevent skin glycation and provide antioxidant protection,” says Dr. Engelman. Look for the most common types of PHA acids, such as gluconolactone, galactose and lactobionic, which are found in Omorovicza’s Blue Diamond Resurfacing Peel.

Hyaluronic acid 2.0

This powerful humectant is hailed as critical for proper skin hydration by cleverly helping your cells to retain and regulate moisture. Now, a new generation of hyaluronic acid helps to deliver hydration even more deeply into the dermis, offering both anti-aging benefits (because it stimulates elastin production and helps the skin function properly) and longer-lasting results. “Ultra-low-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid is the smallest size of HA there is,” says Dr. Shotter. “The lower the weight, the further it will penetrate into the skin.” Look for products that combine this novel version with different weights of HA, such as Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Serum, to treat any surface dehydration, too.

Vitamin C-plus

It’s the gold standard of any good skincare regime, and all experts we spoke to agreed that vitamin C isn’t going anywhere. This standout, multitasking ingredient brightens and boosts collagen, protects against environmental damage, and comes in many forms – with L-ascorbic acid being the most effective, and the most common, but also the most unstable. “I do think we’ll start to see new forms cropping up this year,” says Dr. Shotter. “For example, THD ascorbate is starting to appear in formulations. It’s a more stable form of vitamin C that is less of an irritant; it’s also oil-soluble, so penetrates the skin extremely effectively.”