Overwhelming and often over-promising, the beauty industry is full of “miracle” products that offer a multitude of benefits—so how do you separate the cosmetic, from the truly effective? The pharmacy is an obvious port of call—stacked with medical-grade solutions for acne, eczema and breakouts—but it’s a gloss-free, clinical and functional aesthetic. The formulas, however, really do work—and luxury skincarebrands are now catching on. Here, Vogue recaps the top five ingredients to soothe and heal skin, and the products that maximise their potential.
Best for: Acne and breakouts.
What is it: Tiny particles of silver hydrosol (silver ions) suspended in pharmaceutical grade water.
The treatment history: In ancient Rome, they would store wine in silver urns to prevent spoilage, and put silver coins in milk to keep it fresh. In the 1930s, doctors were using silver for its purifying and antibacterial properties, before antibiotics were readily available. And today, silver-infused wound dressings are still widely used by doctors to treat traumatised skin with its antimicrobial properties.
How is it used in skincare: Colloidal silver calms inflamed skin and fights bacteria without stripping away the natural microbiomes of the skin. It’s particularly effective in addressing symptoms of oxidative stress and treating acne.
Vogue recommends: Argentum La Potion Infinie, Omorovicza Silver Skin Saviour, Amly Silver Rich Facial Mist, Allies of Skin Promise Keeper Blemish Facial
Best for: Eczema.
What is it: Colloidal oatmeal is ground oatmeal suspended in liquid.
The treatment history: Oats are brilliant for moisturising, re-building the skin’s barrier, reducing itching and calming inflammation, and have been used to treat the skin for years. The oldest oat grains were found in Egypt, dating back to 2000BC, and the use of oatmeal in skincare is thought to date back to the 17th century. In 1945 the first colloidal oatmeal was made, researched and shown to improve skin health and reduce itching. And in 2003, the FDA approved colloidal oatmeal as an official skin protectant.
How is it used in skincare: Oatmeal is packed with lipids and proteins, which means it naturally holds moisture and forms a seal over the skin’s surface. It is also rich in antioxidants and helps to protect against harmful free radicals.
Vogue recommends: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream, Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment
Best for: Dry skin and breakouts.
What is it: Marigold flower extract.
The treatment history: In ancient Greece, Rome and Arabia, calendula was used for its medicinal properties, to treat everything from scorpion stings to burns and haemorrhoids. It was also used in the American Civil War and World War I—marigold flowers and leaves were applied to open wounds to disinfect and accelerate healing.
How is it used in skincare: Calendula contains flavonoids and linoleic acid, which both help to fight inflammation; and it also has antibacterial properties. These properties combine to benefit dry and damaged skin, and it’s particularly good for sensitive or inflamed skin, too.
Vogue recommends: Weleda Skinfood, Kiehl’s Calendula Extract, Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Restorative Serum
Centella (Gotu Kola)
Best for: Detoxification and calming.
What is it: An extract of Asiatic Pennywort, a herbaceous plant native to Asia, often used in Ayurveda(Gotu Kola is its more common, Sri Lankan name).
The treatment history: Gotu Kola has a long history of traditional medical use. In Ancient Greece, it was considered a useful remedy to treat leprosy. In the 1800s, Europeans started to use centella to treat burns and wounds. In Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) (still widely used today), it’s thought to help skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis, plus internal issues such as ulcers, bronchitis and anaemia—and in the yogic philosophy, it’s thought to enhance the crown chakra, to promote calm, meditative states and ease anxiety. Sri Lankan elephants frequently chew on the leaves and bark of Gotu Kola, and are considered one of the longest living mammals.
How is it used in skincare? Found to improve circulation and boost collagen, it helps to strengthen the skin’s structure and improves elasticity. It’s also rich in antioxidants, which helps to combat environmental aggressors. It’s great for managing the visible signs of eczema, psoriasis, veins and scarring too.
Vogue recommends: 111 skin Space Anti-Age Day Cream, Cosmetics 27 Baume
Best for: Calming.
What is it: The ground roots and leaves of the Ginseng plant, mainly cultivated in China, Japan, Korea and Russia. It’s botanical name is Panax, derived from the Greek words “pan” meaning all, and “axos” meaning cure, so it can be translated as “cure-all” or “panacea”.
The treatment history: Dubbed the “King of herbs”, ginseng has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, to treat everything from respiratory illness to cognitive improvement. It’s still used widely in TCM for detoxification and recovery after illness. And clinical studies have shown that it stimulates the immune system, reduces fatigue, improves energy and stamina while supporting adrenal health, and helps the skin to recover from environmental pollution.
How is it used in skincare? A natural skin balancer, ginseng can also boost circulation, improving the ability for skin to rebuild from cell level. The high antioxidant levels also help to reduce the damage caused by free radicals and protect the skin in its recovery.
Vogue recommends: Mario Badescu Ginseng Moist Cream, Erborian Ginseng Sheet Mask, Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewal Cream