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Buying skincare can be a confusing beast. Labels can be a myriad of unpronounceable ingredients, vague claims and distracting images of hotties – it’s enough to make you want to run, hide and go back to makeup wipes. But don’t fear. I have compiled here a list of fun, effective and innovative skin-gredients to help you decode the label and get the most from your products.

One with probably the most intriguing name is Dragon’s Blood. Fear not – no dragons are harmed in the process. It actually refers to the sap from the sangre de drango tree, an ingredient with plumping and firming qualities. It’s also great for skin that has been compromised, either by overuse of actives (guilty) or brutal environmental factors. The innovators of the ingredient are Rodial, who offer a whole Dragon’s Blood range (their Sculpting Gel is basically a serum and moisturizer combined) while Nip & Fab offer a more budget friendly range (I’m a big fan of the Plumping Serum when I’m feeling saggy-faced).

Probiotics are another skincare buzzword at the moment – and with good reason. The term generally refers to any “good bacteria,” which can soothe, rebuild and protect skin to restore a natural and healthy complexion. Probiotics can particularly benefit sensitive and acne prone skin, alongside those highly at risk from pollution. The frontrunners of the probiotic scene are undoubtedly Aurelia, whose whole line is based on the stuff. Standouts of the range for me are the Revitalize and Glow Serum and the Cell Repair Night Oil.

Speaking of oils, they’re another great choice for skin in need of a boost. And more recently, oils that are typically reserved for our insides have been turning up in all manner of facial preparations. SW Basics Oil Serum contains coffee oil, to aid circulation, heal acne and brighten the skin. Elemis’s Superfood Face Oil combines tasty sounding broccoli, radish and flax seed for an antioxidant and nourishing effect. And, as the name suggests, Votary’s Super Seed Oil combines the juice of 21 different edible seeds, including raspberry, blueberry, strawberry and melon, to rehydrate and restore.

Manuka Honey is another tasty sounding choice, and it’s a real godsend for combination skin. It’s extremely hydrating, but also antibacterial, meaning it can clear up acne without drying skin out, while soothing redness and irritation. One of my favorite treatments in times of extreme need is straight up Manuka honey itself – Tiptree do a great one. But if that sounds a bit sticky and uncomfortable, I highly recommend the Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask. Applied over areas of congestion, irritation or dryness, it does amazing work.

A final and undeniably decadent recommendation is thus: rub precious gems on your face. Sounds ridiculous, but I’m serious. Because they can be ground up so small and are extremely hard yet perfectly spherical, gemstones are in some of my favorite manual exfoliants. Goldfaden MD’s Doctors Scrub contains rubies, alongside skincare faves like jojoba oil and hyaluronic acid, to make an exfoliant as gentle as it is effective. And for the truly bougie, there’s no better than the La Prairie Cellular Mineral Face Exfoliator, which contains mysterious yet alluring “mineral rich gem powders,” to add smoothness, softness and undeniable glow.

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Images: Erin Yamagata via Refinery29

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