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Skincare Ingredients Explained

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

I get asked a lot about the various ingredients in skincare products and what we should be putting on your face. For example, do you know your hyaluronic from your glycolic? Or why vitamin C and retinol are your best friends after 40?

It can be confusing to know what all those beauty terms mean. We're bombarded by endless adverts in magazines or influencers on Instagram telling us we need this or our skin can't live without that.

While it's true anywhere and everywhere stocks skincare ranges these days, its important to highlight the difference between off-the-shelf products that state they contain these magic ingredients and those stocked in specialist skincare clinics like mine.

Active ingredients need to be in the appropriate concentration, formulated in such a way that they actually penetrate the skin’s various barriers and, for unstable compounds like vitamin C, don’t degrade before use. There are many products that can legitimately say they contain various elements but that does not mean that they can have a biological effect because of these various factors.

To cut through the confusion, here's a breakdown of what's what and my recommended products.



Retinol is a fat-soluble form of vitamin A, used as a topical treatment in skincare products such as creams, gels and serums. It helps increase cell and collagen production, unclogs pores and exfoliates and is a really important element for mature skincare.

Dr Julia recommends ... VI Derm Retinol Age-defying Moisturiser

I normally recommend my clients of a certain age start their cosmeceutical journey with this non-prescription cream. As well as retinol, it also contains vitamin C, glycolic acid and green tea. Once their skin has acclimatised to it, I recommend an incremental increase in retinol strengths as tolerance builds up to prescription level products such as VI Derm Retinoic acid (which I absolutely love!).



As the most abundant protein in our bodies, collagen connects tissue together and is a major component in our skin, bones, muscles and joints - it's why it's often referred to as the body's scaffolding. Our levels drop as we age; in fact studies show women lose about 30% during the first five years of menopause alone.

Dr Julia recommends ... Calecim Professional Serum

This concentrated treatment serum boasts a biochemical collection of cellular instructions, including soluble collagen, hyaluronic acid and growth factors. It's lightweight and fast-absorbing, and can be used daily to boost surface skin cell activity or after micro-needling treatments to enhance the penetration and collagen-boosting benefits. Shop here.



It helps our bodies fight free radicals and the damage caused by UV radiation. It is also proven to boost collagen production for firmer, plumper and smoother skin. By choosing skincare products that contain this clever, natural ingredient, you’ll notice more even skin tone, improved hydration and radiance.

Dr Julia recommends ... iS Clinical Super Serum Advance+

Formulated with powerful antioxidants, including a scientifically advanced vitamin C with time-release technology. This multi-tasking serum helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and scarring, as well as brightening and correcting hyperpigmentation. Shop here.

To treat the delicate skin around your eyes, try iS Clinical's Eye Advance+. Its cutting edge formulation effectively combines a 7.5 percent concentration of the new scientifically-advanced vitamin C (L ascorbic acid) with Copper Tripeptide Growth Factor for enhanced anti-aging properties.



Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means it creates a protective barrier to lock in moisture, and can hold up to a thousand times its own weight in water. Our skin cells naturally produce hyaluronic acid to maintain healthy moisture levels, but this starts to diminish as we age. The result? Lack of radiance, dehydration and wrinkles. It's important to choose products that contain this magical ingredient for a softer, more youthful complexion.

Dr Julia recommends ... Calecim Professional Restorative Hydration Cream

This multi-level, super hydrating moisturiser contains hyaluronic acid naturally derived from cord lining stem cells. Use regularly to help skin replenish its own HA from within; improving fine lines and restoring radiance as it gets to work. Shop here.



It's a type of natural alpha-hydroxy acid (or AHA) that's derived from sugar cane - think of it as Mother Nature's very own skin exfoliator! Because it breaks down the bonds between the outer layer and next layer of the skin, it helps speed up cell renewal, clears pores and improves tone.

Dr Julia recommends ... iS Clinical Cleansing Complex

Combining effective and gentle components to leave skin purified and healthy. Glycolic acid removes dead skin cells and debris to unclog pores and prevent breakouts without stripping the skin of its natural oils. Perfect whether your skin is oily, dry, combination or acne-prone. Shop here.


You can shop my range of carefully selected skincare saviours here or from my Worcester clinic.


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