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These were the most searched-for skincare ingredients of 2021

The hype-queens you need to know about.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of us became more skincare savvy over the course of 2021 (and 2020 before it). We may not have been able to go to out as often as we'd have liked, but it seems we put that time to good use, because over the course of the pandemic, searches for “skincare” have gone up by over 143%. That's loads when you consider we did a fair bit of Googling it beforehand.

But, if you're wondering whether there's a hero ingredient you've missed, or you want to know what everyone else is obsessed with, beauty retailer, Look Fantastic, did a little digging of their own. They analysed data from Google searches, trends and social media to create The 2021 Skinfluencer Report which has identified the most-searched for skincare ingredients over the past year. We've laid them out below…

Salicylic acid

74,000 monthly searches

One of the most well-known skincare ingredients, salicylic acid is the ultimate spot-busting, pore-cleaning and oil-controlling skincare ingredient. It's derived from willow bark, salicylic acid and is a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) that can penetrate deep into pores and vacuum away clogs that cause spots by breaking up their bonds, gently exfoliating and lifting away dirt and grime. Given the fact face masks have caused our skin havoc this year (that's you, maskne) it's unsurprising the ingredient has come out on top.

Hyaluronic acid

60,500 monthly searches

Another queen bee ingredient, hyaluronic acid is pretty well-known these days, but remains one of the most popular ingredients for deeply hydrating skin. It's famously known for being able to hold 1,000 times its own weight in water, making it a moisture magnet to tackle skin dehydration. Despite having acid in the name (sounds scary), it's super gentle on skin and is a natural component that's abundant in healthy skin, so essentially, you're just topping up your moisture levels by using topical serums and moisturisers containing the ingredient.

Vitamin C

49,500 monthly searches

A powerhouse ingredient, vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it fights causes of skin damage (such as pollution and the effects of stress on skin) and offers protection against free radicals (which are the molecules that cause skin damage). Specifically, it's known for its ability to brighten skin, fade pigmentation and promote a healthy glow. It also has a side hustle boosting collagen and smoothing fines lines.


49,500 monthly searches

Niacinamide is finally gaining the attention it deserves. Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is an incredible skin multi-tasker, offering up a range of benefits. It can regulate oil secretion, to combat greasy and spotty skin and it has antibacterial properties that help to clear congestion. But rather than drying skin out like other spot busters can, niacinamide is ultra gentle and replenishing, it can help strengthen our skin barrier (which is what keeps moisture in) and enhance the production of ceramides that moisturise skin. So it will basically give us clear, plumped skin.


49,500 monthly searches

Perhaps one of the most famous skincare ingredients, retinol is a form of vitamin A. It's best known for it's gold-standard ability to boost collagen and smooth wrinkles, but like niacinamide, it's an accomplished multi-tasker. “Retinol addresses a whole host of skin concerns," Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe, top dermatologist and founder of SKNDOCTOR, told GLAMOUR. "From clearing acne, to smoothing texture, eliminating dullness and minimising pores, to tackling ageing concerns, it just really does everything.”

Benzoyl peroxide

40,500 monthly searches

You may be less familiar with benzoyl peroxide. It's massive in the States but the ingredient is much more restricted in Europe thanks to its potency. Therefore, it's usually prescribed over the counter, or available in lower dosages. It's an antiseptic that's commonly used to clear up acne and works by tackling the build-up of bacteria, dead skin cells and oil. “Benzoyl peroxide works deep in the pores of the skin by killing the bacteria that causes acne called p.acnes and as such is particularly helpful in inflammatory pustular acne," Dr Yusra Al-Mukhtar, founder of the Dr Yusra clinic told GLAMOUR. "It also works to accelerate skin turnover and dry up oily skin, therefore decongesting the skin and improving and reducing acne breakouts.”

Azelaic acid

40,500 monthly searches

This one's a bit of a curve ball since it's one of the lesser-known exfoliating acids, behind the likes of glycolic acid or lactic acid. That said, we did predict it would be the one to watch at the beginning of the year. Azelaic acid is derived from the yeast of wheat and barley and offers up a more gentle exfoliating alternative to most other alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic. "It's one of the few topicals that is safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, allowing for women to continue treating their acne or rosacea which can flare during this period," Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme MD MBChB MSc, founder & medical director of Adonia Medical Clinic told GLAMOUR.


33,100 monthly searches

The term AHA refers to a whole family of skincare ingredients known as Alpha Hydroxy Acids. They're multi-tasking acids that exfoliate, promote glow, resurface skin and smooth skin texture. In general, AHAs are naturally-derived molecules, made from sugar, milk and fruit and they vary in molecular size. The smaller the molecule, the easier it gets into skin. Glycolic acid is arguably the best well-known form of AHA and is the smallest of all the alpha hydroxy acids and can therefore penetrate deepest into skin for some impressive brightening and exfoliating action, but because of its potency, it can cause sensitivity. Other examples of AHAs include mandelic acid, lactic acid and azelaic acid.

Lactic acid

27,100 monthly searches

As mentioned, lactic acid is another form of alpha hydroxy acid. It has larger molecules, than most other AHAs, so it's gentler on skin if you're looking for a light, mild exfoliation. Bonus it also helps to hydrate skin – unlike many other skin acids – so rather than stripping complexions as it goes, it can help leave skin feeling much more balanced.


22,200 monthly searches

Where AHAs stand for alpha hydroxy acids, BHA stands for beta hydroxy acid and it's main form, salicylic acid, will probably already be very familiar with you. As mentioned, salicylic acid can help to dislodge the gunk deep in pores to help curb blemishes. It's also proven to reduce inflammation, so it can help calm the redness created by breakouts, too.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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