Six unpronounceable ingredients that can really improve your skin


Shopping for skin care can leave you reaching for a chemistry dictionary and a white lab coat. As brands traverse the cutting edge of science, in the relentless quest for game-changing formulas, they also tend to champion increasingly obscure ingredients. That’s all very well until you encounter these tongue twisters on the label of your favourite new serum. We surveyed a handful of trending actives with the potential to improve your skin. Hard to pronounce but easy to use, these star ingredients are worth getting to know.


Pronounced: glute-a-thigh-on

Wow factor: It has nothing to do with gluten (or an intolerance to it). This powerhouse antioxidant has the potential to slow the ageing process. It’s a tripeptide that occurs naturally in our bodies but dissipates as we age—that old chestnut. Solution? Kickstart its production. “Producing glutathione will neutralise free radicals, improve collagen production and reverse ageing signs,” says 111Skin founder and London-based plastic surgeon Dr. Yannis Alexandrides.

Find it in: 111Skin products, including Space Anti Age Day Cream and Nocturnal Eclipse Recovery Cream, rely on an ingredient called NAC to support glutathione. Perricone MD is also a firm believer in this firming ingredient. The dermatologist-founded brand has an entire line-up devoted to reducing the appearance of fine lines, creases and deep wrinkles. This moisturiser is one of the main players.


Pronounced: nigh-a-ceen-amide

Wow factor: Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide can help address pores, blemishes, uneven skin tone, fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Phew! No wonder it’s cropping up everywhere. This smooth operator protects against moisture loss by stimulating the production of skin-protecting ceramides. It also plays nicely with everything else in your routine, including hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and retinol.

Find it in: Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask taps niacinamide to visibly reduce large pores, uneven skin texture and fine lines. Go To’s serum-drenched Transformazing mask uses it to plump and hydrate. Meanwhile, Omorovicza Silver Skin Saviour and Verso Blemish Fix harness the ingredient in a blemish-busting mask and gel respectively. In these instances, it helps to minimise breakouts and inflammation.


Pronounced: squay-lane

Wow factor: Squalene (spelled with an e) maintains your skin’s moisture barrier. Once again, this naturally occurring molecule peskily decreases as we age, leaving us high and dry. But, never fear, since squalane (with an a) is here to save the day. This plant-derived ingredient is a highly regarded emollient. Translation: it seals in moisture, softens fine lines and helps counter those inexplicable dry patches we spend far too much time scrutinising. It’s ideal for dry or combination skin, less so for oily.

Find it in: Squalane is a central ingredient in bareMinerals Complexion Rescue, the tinted gel revered for its hyper hydration, and in Westman Atelier’s Vital Skin Foundation Stick, which melts into skin for a supple finish. A lick of olive-derived squalane lends creamy richness to this Tatcha eye serum, luminous mist, gel cream and lip balm. The Japanese-leaning brand is clearly mad for it.


Pronounced: baku-chee-ol

Wow factor: This plant-based alternative to retinol is a boon for those with sensitive skin. It works in a similar fashion to the dynamo ingredient—increasing cell turnover, jumpstarting collagen and softening fine lines and wrinkles—but it does so without the irritation that can occur. It’s extracted from the babchi, a plant native to India with photogenic purple flowers.

Find it in: The natural retinol is showcased in Omorovicza’s facial oil (mix a few drops with your serum or moisturiser); in Ren’s anti-ageing cream (for retinol results without any little surprises); and in 111Skin’s plumping lip duo (bec ause your pout deservers some anti-ageing clout too). Not content with retinol alone, Kate Somerville uses its doppelganger as well in Dermal Quench Liquid Lift + Retinol. This mighty treatment practically commands your skin cells to turn over—lickety-split.


Pronounced: ruh-sveh-ruh-trol

Wow factor: This potent antioxidant, famously found in red wine, is touted for its ability to repair the skin from environmental damage. Free radicals assail the production of collagen and elastin—two vital proteins that give your complexion Jodie Comer-like bounce. But, applied topically, resveratrol can help to regenerate your skin, as well as protect against future damage. Feel free to cocktail it with other antioxidants, including vitamin C and E.

Find it in: The richest occurrence is Apot.Care’s Resveratrol Pure Serum. Mix a few drops of this natural wonder with your other serums or moisturiser. It also occurs in Cosmetics 27’s Crème Bio-Logique, a notable moisturiser that shields your complexion from the hazardous effects of pollution. In its Clinical Concentrate Radiance Booster, Dr. Dennis Gross combines resveratrol with a trio of firming acids.

benzimidazole diamond amidoethyl urea carbamoyl propyl polymethylsilsesquioxane

Pronounced: We’re still checking.

Wow factor: Saving the best for last in terms of unpronounceability, this mouthful is prized for its ability to imbue the complexion with a soft-focus effect. As the name suggests, it contains traces of diamond encased within a spherical particle to fill wrinkles and add chandelier-level glow. Remarkably, this ingredient mimics the lighting frequency of youthful skin (as we age, we lose our ability to “fluoresce” light).

Find it in: Hourglass was one of the first brands to use this miraculous ingredient for its Ambient Lighting Powder, a collection of finishing powders that emulate various light settings for a golden-age Hollywood look. It worked so well that the brand also added it to its Ambient Lighting Blush, a smart-alecky flush. You can also find it in Too Faced’s Multi-Use Diamond Fire Highlighter, which the brand avers “creates a rainbow diamond fire glow like you’ve never seen.”

Words by George Epaminondas
July 2019


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