Active ingredients to look for in everyday skin care products

Nikhita Mahtani, CNN Underscored
Fri July 26, 2019

Making sure you have an effective skin care routine is not easy. There are so many options on the market that it can be hard to find the products that are actually effective. So, before you rush to the drugstore and try to decipher all the fine print in the skin care aisle, keep reading: There are certain ingredients that will benefit you regardless of your skin type, and by incorporating them into your daily skin care routine, you'll see major results fast.

Below, check out our top picks when it comes to the creme de la creme of ingredients, and then, take a peek at some of the best products to buy. Your skin will never be the same -- and that's a good thing.

First, the ingredients:

Vitamin C: A potent antioxidant, vitamin C is essential for collagen production, thus helping to diminish signs of aging. In addition, it also helps to protect from UV rays, treats dark spots, and brightens the skin, making it a real powerhouse of an ingredient that you absolutely want to get on your radar.

Salicylic acid: A proven acne fighter, salicylic acid is on the gentler side when it comes to ingredients that fight breakouts (especially when compared to say, benzoyl peroxide). However, that doesn't mean it isn't effective: Try it in cleansers, serums, or as a spot treatment for clearer skin in a matter of days.

Hyaluronic acid: Don't let the "acid" in the name scare you. Hyaluronic acid is a very potent moisturizer, and has a number of skin care benefits, including hydrating the skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and boosting skin elasticity. It's great for preventing dryness and works for all skin types.

Zinc oxide: In case you missed the memo, it's time to switch to a mineral-based sunscreen, and zinc oxide is one of the best ingredients to look for. Instead of a traditional sunscreen, which works by absorbing UV rays, mineral sunscreens deflect them so that they aren't absorbed by your body at all. Buy a zinc oxide sunscreen for total sun protection.

Next, the products:

Preparing your skin for your makeup is key, which is where toners come in: They work to prep your face for the absorption of the serums and moisturizers that come after. InstaNatural Vitamin C Toner, Witch Hazel Toner & Pore Minimizer ($15.97; walmart.com) provides tons of hydration thanks to the addition of vitamin E and glycolic acid, while vitamin C helps to boost collagen and reduce the appearance of fine lines, leaving smoother skin in the process.

Containing salicylic acid to fight acne, Aveeno Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser ($6.37; walmart.com) contains soy for its moisturizing benefits, but is also oil-free, meaning it won't clog pores. It's gentle enough for everyday use, since it won't dry out the skin.

Dermatologist-approved, L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($23.94; walmart.com) has been proven to hydrate and fill wrinkles in as little as two weeks. The science behind it? Well, L'Oreal says it has combined different kinds of hyaluronic acid with both high and low molecular weights, allowing it to be absorbed by the skin easily, as well as staying on the surface in order to provide an immediate plumping effect on wrinkles. Talk about a dual-purpose product.

Formulated especially for the delicate skin on the face, Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face Dry-Touch Sunscreen ($10.97; walmart.com) is an SPF 50 sunscreen that's free of potentially harmful ingredients such as parabens and phthalates, while the zinc oxide helps to protect the skin from harmful UV rays. It also features a special dry-touch technology that allows it to be quickly absorbed by the skin, without the greasy finish that often accompanies traditional sunscreens.

Imagine being able to brighten up the appearance of dark spots every time you wash your face. Well, thanks to Image Skin Care Vital C Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($18.50, originally $29; walmart.com), that's a real possibility. Consisting of high concentrations of vitamin C that help to fight wrinkles and soothe the skin, this cleanser will gently remove all makeup and impurities with ease.

The gold standard in moisturizers, Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Face Moisturizer ($24.93; walmart.com) contains a host of anti-aging and moisturizing ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, amino peptides and vitamin B-3 to boost skin elasticity and plump the skin, all while being super hydrating. It's also fragrance-free, which means it's less likely to irritate the skin.

Containing a high concentration of salicylic acid (0.75%, to be exact), Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Targeted Spot Treatment ($7.98; walmart.com) also includes natural ingredients such as tea tree and parsley extracts for potent blemish-fighting abilities. It's been clinically proven to reduce the appearance of acne in 48 hours, making it a great emergency product to have in your arsenal.

The prices below reflect the listed retailer's price on the date this article was published.