Ingredient focus

8 affordable ways to upgrade your skin care regime

Whether you already speak fluent ‘skin care’ or you’re entirely new to the game, we’ve cherry-picked eight of our favourite (surprisingly affordable!) powerhouse ingredients to help you amp up your current regime…

Model with glowing skin looking to camera


A member of the AHA family – that’s alpha-hydroxy acid – glycolic works by dissolving the ‘glue’ that sticks dulling dead cells to the surface, while also supporting renewal to leave skin looking smoother and more light-reflective (read: glowy). The concept of ‘acid on face’ can be daunting, but Pixi’s bestselling {Glow Tonic} is gentle enough to be used every day after cleansing – just sweep over face, neck and chest in the evening to wake looking luminous.


Often found as L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C works to shield from the daily aggressors while working to counteract scarring and dark spots to actively brighten and unify uneven skin tone (a boon for those longing to battle brown patches). However, this potent ingredient often runs the risk of being unstable in many formulations; Versed’s {Found The Light Powder With Vitamin C} rectifies this issue by delivering the powerful antioxidant in powder form, allowing freshness for much longer. Simply mix a little in with your favourite serum or moisturiser to enjoy the radiance-giving benefits.


Like a shot of espresso for skin cells, caffeine is found in a swathe of eye treatments because of its zing-giving benefits. A great way to fake ‘wide awake’, caffeine constricts tiny micro-capillaries, helping to minimise under-eye shadows and send your bags packing (praise be). The INKEY List’s {Caffeine Eye Serum} utilises the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant powers of the ingredient to soothe the delicate eye area and diminish the look of dark circles, leaving you looking enviably rested.

Sweet Chef’s Celery + Hyaluronic Acid Serum Shot


An acid but not as you know it. The body actually  produces its own hyaluronic acid (or HA) to lubricate joints and help supplement skin’s lipid barrier (responsible for keeping the ‘good stuff’ in and the ‘bad stuff’ out). Able to hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water, this miraculous molecule helps to hydrate as it plumps to diminish the depth of fine lines. With an ultra-thin texture (perfect for layering up with the other lotions and potions in your routine) Sweet Chef’s {Celery + Hyaluronic Acid Serum Shot} quickly quenches your skin’s thirst thanks to a cocktail of refreshing HA, antioxidant rich celery and balancing niacinamide — all for just a bank balancing-loving £18.


A pore-purging sibling to alpha-hydroxyls, salicylic acid is a BHA (beta-hydroxy) that penetrates pores to dissolve all the ‘gunk’ that contributes to blackheads and breakouts, Beloved by the beautysphere, PAULA’s CHOICE {Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant} comes in a sized-to-try 30ml bottle to let you discover its pimple-diminishing properties before you invest.


It’s probably quicker to list the (few) things that niacinamide doesn’t do, so expansive are its attributes. A fancier title for vitamin B3, this does-it-all hero is great for diminishing visible pores, improving skin tone, softening fine lines, boosting barrier function, inhibiting moisture loss and fortifying compromised complexions. The Ordinary’s {Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%} is a budget-friendly way to inject this superhero into your routine; score 30ml of this silky serum for not-too-much-more than your morning coffee.

IT Cosmetics’ Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream


Speak to any ‘skintellectual’ and chances are, you won’t be waiting long before the topic turns to retinol. Retinols, retinoids and retinoic acids (more about those {here}) are the best way to soften the signs of the passage of time – from fine lines to lost elasticity. Retinol works to re-densify, lift and refine, and IT Cosmetics’ {Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream} combines the potent effects of a serum with the nourishing effects of a cream. No scaly side effects here, thank you very much. 


The ‘scaffolding’ that keeps skin firm and supple, cells’ manufacture of collagen starts to tail off as we age. Retinol helps to invigorate collagen synthesis, while Pixi’s phenomenal {Collagen Tonic} infuses depleted complexions with plant-derived collagen, peptides and coconut water to maximise moisture retention (it’s a great hydrator). Perfect to help your get more from your moisturiser, at £10 it’s well worth the splurge.

To learn a bit more about actives that play well together we’ve compiled {a guide} to which ones to use when.


Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Verity is our Content Editor and a Cult Beauty veteran. Currently on maternity leave, raising Cult Beauty’s honorary ‘word nerd’, Tabitha, she speaks fluent ‘beauty’ and loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm (and cleanser and candles… ad infinitum). Nothing can stop her from quoting Nancy Mitford, treating herself to yet another Bella Freud candle for her desk or buying that pilgrim-esque collared or heavily fringed outfit she’s been eyeing. You can trust her to debunk widespread beauty myths and dispense invaluable advice with ease…