Molecular Beauty

Meet the groundbreaking formulas that go beyond skin-deep to give you a lit-from within radiance.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Meet the groundbreaking formulas that go beyond skin-deep to give you a lit-from within radiance.
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There’s a revolution in the beauty world. Driven by science, the pros are pioneering new formulas that are causing real (even amazing) changes to your complexion at the molecular level.

These break throughs – from a next-level vitamin C to micro-encapsulated particles that release inside your skin – are shielding your cells from what ages them, successfully nourishing and hydrating the epidermis, and promoting the collagen production you need to look smoother and firmer.

Here are the ingredients to know, and how to take full advantage of their power.

The alpha vitamin Vitamin C is one of only two molecules (vitamin A is the other) to make it past your skin’s upper layers and get inside collagen making cells. “Your cells are naturally equipped with vitamin C, so their transporters recognise it and actually draw it in towards the nucleus, which is really stunning,” says Ben Fuchs, a cosmetic chemist.

Vitamin C’s effect on the skin is pretty stunning, too: “When this vitamin gets into these cells, the production of collagen – which is what makes skin firm – increases up to eightfold,” says Dr Neal Schultz, a dermatologist. “It also reduces the formation of melanin, the pigment that produces age spots, and protects against free radical damage.”

The thing is, regular vitamin C is water soluble and notoriously unstable. It stops working before it enters the cell. A new form, called tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, is more stable and oil-soluble, so it’s much easier for the skin to absorb. You’ll find it in Truth Treatment Systems Truth Balm.

Powerhouse botanicals Natural extracts (from plants, herbs and flowers) have centuries worth of proof that they work as potent antioxidants and hydrators – but a new innovation makes them even more effective. “A process called micro-encapsulation wraps each botanical particle in a protective shell, which helps protect the ingredient from degrading, and controls its release until it has made its way into your skin,” says dermatologist Dr Dendy Engelman. Think of them as teeny, tiny pills inside your serum or cream. Get the technology in Philosophy Time in a Bottle 100% In-control ($115, Sephora).

Of course, you don’t want all your skincare to sink into skin. On the surface, humectants help to stop water from escaping, while antioxidants can fight off environmental aggressors. Royal jelly, from honey bees, is both. Find it in Burt’s Bees Skin Nourishment Day Lotion.

Moisture magnet When hyaluronic acid (often referred to as HA) comes into contact with your skin, it absorbs 1,000 times its own weight in water, doing wonders for hydration. That’s critical.

But more fascinating is that when HA levels increase, the collagen in our skin thrives, says dermatologist Dr Sherry Ingraham. She adds that HA nourishes the collagen and elastin fibres that plump and firm our skin, and that pumping becomes more important as we age.

In our 20s, our bodies begin to produce less HA, and the decline accelerates in our 40s, Dr Ingraham says. Annoyingly, the level of an enzyme that breaks down HA stays the same, while inflammation and UV damage are causing it to degrade. You can inject HA into the skin (that’s what fillers like Juvederm are made of) or apply it topically with Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum ($24.90, Guardian).