We all know the secret to that flawless no-makeup makeup look is setting a beautiful foundation with great skincare. But the world of skincare products can be an overwhelming place, what with all of its potions promising the best complexion of your life. If your end game is anti-aging, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (or the skincare aisle) — turns out, there are only four power players you really need in your arsenal. These ingredients will set your skin up for success so that your foundation doesn’t have to do all of the work. You might even find that the more of these ingredients you use, the less makeup you’ll need. These are the four ingredients to search for in order to save face.


What it does: Retinol is a skin-perfecting, multitasking miracle. It can treat fine lines, sun damage, overall dullness and even acne.

How it works: This vitamin A-derived ingredient increases cell turnover and penetrates deep into the skin to stimulate cellular repair. The result is boosted collagen and elasticity as well as faded hyperpigmentation from acne scars and sun spots.

How to use it: Only buy options that are packaged in a tube or a bottle with a pump. Retinol loses effectiveness if it’s been exposed to light and air, so jars are a no-go. After cleansing at night, apply a pea-sized amount all over your face, avoiding the eye area. Retinols have a rep for irritating skin, so work your way up to daily use by using it every other night for the first couple of weeks. Follow up with a soothing moisturizer packed with ceramides.


1. Resurface by Shani Darden Retinol Reform ($95): Celebs like Jessica Alba and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley have professed their love for this magic formula created by facialist Shani Darden. Apply 2-3 pumps of the retinol to clean skin. After it’s absorbed into the skin, follow with moisturizer.


2. Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer ($22): This retinol-based night cream has won a couple of Allure Best of Beauty awards for its ability to minimize fine lines and brighten up dull skin in just a week. In addition to its star ingredient retinol, this formula also has a hefty dose of hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate the skin.


What it does: This glow-booster evens your skin tone, invigorates the skin’s surface and keeps your face looking younger for longer.

How it works: The powerful antioxidant takes on free radicals (AKA unhealthy skin cells caused by stress, less-than-stellar diet choices, smoking and pollution) to reverse and prevent the telltale signs of aging. Plus, it can protect your complexion from harmful UV rays.

How to use it: Look for options that contain pure L-ascorbic acid (another word for vitamin C) in higher percentages — shoot for 15 or 20 percent. Wash your face and leave it slightly damp. Pat your vitamin C serum or treatment into the skin, avoiding the eye area, and allow the product to dry for up to five minutes. Do this every morning and follow up with a moisturizer that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

3. MyChelle Dermaceuticials Perfect C™ Serum ($44): This multi-tasking vitamin C formula reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles, while also brightening the skin. Apply one pump in the morning after washing your face. If you’re layering serums, use this one first, and if you’re not, then follow it up with your favorite moisturizer. This stuff gets bonus points for being vegan and GMO- and cruelty-free.


4. Foxbrim Advanced Formula Vitamin C Serum ($16): Just like the vitamin C in orange juice boosts your immune system, it’ll give your skin a healthy boost. It’s an amazing antioxidant that can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and dryness and legit make you glow. Plus, this option is packed with collagen-producing amino complex, so you can make every day a good skin day.


What it does: The chemical exfoliant reveals radiance, helps to fade blotches and allows other anti-aging ingredients to penetrate faster into the skin.

How it works: There’s physical exfoliation (think scrubs or cleansing brushes), and there’s chemical exfoliation. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are a leave-on chemical exfoliant. They loosen the bonds between dead cells and your skin and support cell turnover in a gradual manner without any abrasion — so they’re often more gentle than a gritty scrub.

How to use it: Look for ingredients such as glycolic and lactic acids — these are two fairly common AHAs. Apply the AHA treatment to slightly damp skin after cleansing and toning. Feel free to layer other products and use this day and night or just at night — it’s totally up to you. If you opt for daytime use, you should always follow it with a sunscreen.


5. Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment ($105): Who doesn’t want the unmistakable look of having good genes? And boy does this stuff deliver. (720 Birchbox reviewers can’t be wrong, can they?) This lactic acid-based treatment instantly plumps fine lines and acts as a chemical exfoliant to reveal brighter, newer skin. Apply it as you would a serum, after cleansing and before moisturizing. Don’t forget to add a layer of sunscreen too.


6. Alpha Skin Care Intensive Rejuvenating Serum ($19): This is great AHA exfoliant for all skin types. It contains 14 percent glycolic acid to take your skin to next-level radiance. The ingredient list also boasts some soothing anti-irritants, which is super important considering its percentage of glycolic acid. Apply a small amount of this silky gel to your face after cleansing in the morning and at night. Always follow up with sunscreen.


What it does: This dream cream is all about prevention. It keeps premature wrinkling and sagging at bay. Plus, it protects from harmful UV rays, which basically eliminate the collagen and elastin fibers that give you bouncy, plump skin.

How it works: Think of a Snapchat filter that takes dim lighting and disperses the light all over your selfie. Sunscreen molecules (also known as UV filters) do the same thing as they scatter UV light to protect your skin.

How to use it: Look for broad spectrum options with an SPF of 30 or more to block UVA and filter out UVB rays. When it comes to the recommended amount, our motto is go big or stay home (or at least in the shade). If you’re heading outside at all, slather about a teaspoon of product all over your face and neck.


7. EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 ($32): Acne-prone ladies might dread the thought of slathering on greasy sunscreen, but this option is changing the game with its oil-free formula created especially for sensitive skin. Not to mention, this sunscreen delivers on its promise to dry clear, which means it won’t offset the shade of your foundation in any way. Apply it every morning under your makeup to prevent sun damage.

8. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 55 ($7): This no-frills favorite is well-loved for good reason — it protects skin without weighing it down. While this might be something you only reach for on pool days, make it a part of your daily routine by massaging into your face before applying makeup. It gives a matte finish and is PABA-free and non-comedogenic so it’ll never clog your pores.

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