From vitamin C to retinol, these are the most googled skincare ingredients of 2020

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Hanna Ibraheem
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We’re making more of an effort to educate ourselves on skincare ingredients than ever, but it can still be confusing. Here, we break down everything you need to know.

Skincare. It can be a bit of a minefield to navigate. Once you’ve figured out your skin type and skin concerns, you then have to set up your routine. With websites and shop shelves bursting with endless skincare products, not only can it feel overwhelming but confusing, too.

Within the skincare world, there’s a long list of ingredients that can be hugely beneficial. Dry or dehydrated skin? Look into polyglutamic acid. Skin feeling slightly irritated after getting too acid-happy? Slather on something with ceramides.

It’s no surprise that any time a new ingredient is pushed into the spotlight, our initial response is to find out everything we can about that product. According to data from online beauty retailer Cult Beauty, we’ve been googling skincare ingredients more than ever – no doubt spurred by lockdown and skincare being the only beauty step most of us maintained while sitting at home.

Cult Beauty has gathered the most googled skincare ingredients of 2020, so we’ve taken that information and broken down everything you need to know about each one below.

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Vitamin C

Coming in at the top spot, vitamin C has been searches a staggering 1,211,000 times (and counting). Touted as one of the few skincare ingredients that all dermatologists swear by, vitamin C is an antioxidant that works to shield your skin against environmental damage and daily aggressors, such as pollution and free radicals. It also brightens and evens out skin tone.

Read more on vitamin C:

Best vitamin C serums to brighten skin and treat hyperpigmentation


In second place, it’s retinol, also known as vitamin A. Known as the holy grail of skincare ingredients, experts swear by its ability to even out pigmentation, reduce acne, treat acne scars and encourage cell regeneration – which ensures new collagen is formed and prevents fine lines and wrinkles. As it’s so effective, dermatologists recommend starting with a low percentage and slowly building up your skin’s tolerance. 

Read more on retinol:

Retinol in skincare: from benefits to best retinol products, here’s everything you need to know

Castor oil

A natural oil made from castor beans, castor oil helps both skin and hair health. However, some products can irritate skin so ensure the one you’re buying is 100% pure castor oil. It’s particularly popular for eyebrow growth and is present in many eyebrow serums. However, results will vary for everybody.

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Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid shot up into popularity a few years ago and has been a favourite amongst those in search of hydration. One molecule is able to hold up to 1000x its own weight in water and draws water into skin to keep it supple and hydrated. There are many hyaluronic acid options available on the high street, including many options under £20.

Read more on hyaluronic acid:

Hyaluronic acid: what it is, how it affects your skin and the best products


Another handy hydrator, squalane is a humectant that is also effective are strengthening the skin’s protective barrier and reducing redness. Additionally, pure squalane oil is great for hair health and leaves it stronger, shiny and smooth. It’s derived from plants, including olives, rice brand and sugarcane.

Read more on squalane:

The 8 best squalane products for softer, smoother, more hydrated skin and hair

Salicylic acid

Do you have oily, blemish-prone skin? Or do you often get hormonal breakouts? If so, salicylic acid is for you. This BHA (beta hydroxy acid) exfoliates skin, getting rid of dead skin cells and impurities that block pores. It also speeds up the healing process of sore, red blemishes.

Read more on salicylic acid:

Salicylic acid: what is it and does it help clear up blemishes?

Witch hazel

Ideal for those with very oily skin, witch hazel is a plant extract that reduces the amount of excess sebum your skin produces. However, it can be very drying on skin and experts recommend avoiding it if you’re looking to treat acne, skin texture or scarring.

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A favourite amongst the Stylist beauty team, niacinamide dishes up a long list of skin benefits. A form of vitamin B3, it strengthens our skin’s protective barrier, which helps to reduce dehydrated skin. It’s also an anti-inflammatory, treats blemishes and reduces oil production. A skincare wonder ingredient that works for all skin types.

Read more on niacinamide:

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Ceramides are found naturally within our skin and play a vital role in keeping the protective layer strong and healthy. Adding more through your skincare products helps to deliver extra replenishment, which is particularly handy for those with eczema, rosacea, psoriasis or dryness. 

Read more on ceramides:

Ceramides: the protective skincare ingredient that’s key to healthier skin

Lactic acid

Part of the AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) family, lactic acid is a gentler alternative to glycolic acid. It’s an exfoliant that speeds up cell turnover, which helps to even out skin texture and fade hyperpigmentation. Additionally, it is a humectant that improves the skin’s moisture barrier and hydration levels, making it ideal for sensitive skin types, too.

Read more on lactic acid:

Lactic acid: everything you need to know about this gentle exfoliator

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