Skin care isn't just about slathering the latest and greatest products all over your face. It's a delicate balance of cosmetic elegance, retail price, and ease of use. But most of all, it's about science. Yes, scientists run skin-care clinical studies and trials, and for the results you want, it's worth paying attention to the dermatological literature. Combing through studies, there are a few exciting skin-care ingredients that are showing promise in the laboratory — and here's how you can take advantage of scientists' work.

Niacinamide, try it in the Skinlex 10% Niacinamide Serum, $13.60, at Skinlex

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Niacinamide is a miracle ingredient. Known by its other name, vitamin b3, it brightens skin, makes pores appear smaller, helps diminish hyperpigmentation, and can speed up production of collegen and epidermal cell growth, according to INCIdecoder

Studies have shown that concentrations of 4-5% are effective to obtain benefits. Some people can experience irritation at higher concentrations; it can also cause niacin flush, which is temporary skin redness upon application. 

Personally, the Skinlex 10% Niacinamide Serum is one of my holy grails, and I've never experienced any problems with using a 10% solution. When I use it, my skin is noticeably brighter and my pores look smaller and don't fill up as quickly with sebaceous filaments

Retinol, try it in the Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream, $28–$74, at Sephora

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Retinol is amazing. Everyone should try retinol. It is a retinoid (also called vitamin A), and is the over-the-counter derivative of tretinoin — the only FDA-approved treatment for wrinkles. Retinol about 10 times weaker than tretinoin, which is only available by prescription. It's well-studied and lauded because it works.

The benefits of retinoids and retinol are numerous. In addition to battling wrinkles and fine lines, they also help resurface skin and are excellent treatments for acne, and its subsequent scarring and hyperpigmentation. 

The drawbacks? It can cause irritation and dryness. Users are encouraged to apply the product in the evening, as it can cause sun sensitivity; always wear your SPF with any sun exposure, but especially when using retinol. It should also not be used while pregnant and/or breastfeeding.

Combat the dryness by using it once every few days, and let your skin adjust to the ingredient as you work up to daily use. Be sure to apply lots of moisturizer. The Drunk Elephant A-Passioni™ Retinol Cream also contains ingredients to soothe skin, including glycerin and vitamin F.

Bakuchiol, try it in the Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Serum, $54, at Herbivore Botanicals

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If your skin can't tolerate retinoids, bakuchiol may be the ingredient for you. It comes from Babchi plant seeds, and has similar benefits as retinoids (although they are not similar in chemical composition). While studies of bakuchiol show promising results, it's important to note that retinoids are far more clinically-tested and proven.

That said, bakuchiol is a great retinol alternative for super sensitive skin. I loved trying the Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Serum, and saw results in as little as a week.

Vitamin B5, try it in the Phyto-C B5 Gel, $37, at Phyto-C

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Vitamin B5, also known as panthenol, is an excellent moisturizer. It's main job is to hydrate skin, and, according to INCIdecoder, it has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a useful ingredient to combat hungover skin.

The Phyto-C B5 Gel is one of my favorite products everrrrr, the panthenol deeply moisturizes my skin without a tacky finish; during the winter, I apply a light layer as my last AM skin-care step, and it keeps my face from cracking in the cold.

Vitamin F, try in the Drunk Elephant F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask, $52, at Sephora

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Vitamin F, also known as linoleic acid, feels like the biggest secret in skin-care: as an essential fatty acid, it is an incredibly hydrating ingredient that is kind to many skin types. And it may even quell pesky breakouts; INCIdecoder notes a study showing a decrease in microcomedones, which are "tiny blocked pores," the site reports.

Recently, I tried the Drunk Elephant F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask and can attest to its hydrating properties — my skin feels moisturized from the inside out, rather than as the effect of something greasy sitting on top of my face. Vitamin F effing rules.

Tranexamic acid, try it in the Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment, $14.99, Sephora

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Are you battling hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration? Tranexamic acid may be for you. It's a buzzy ingredient that has been getting attention for its serious pigment-blasting properties rivaling hydroquinone. Paula's Choice cites studies here, in case you want the backup evidence.

Melasma is genetic in my family, and I developed it above my lip in my late 20s. I'd resigned myself to a lifetime of concealer, until I tried the Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment by the Inkey List — nothing has worked as well to fade the discoloration, and I take this product to the grave. Although it's an acid, it doesn't dry my skin or have adverse reactions when used in conjunction with other ingredients, like alpha arbutin (see below).

Hyaluronic Acid, try it in the L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum, $23.99, at Target

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We all know and love hyaluronic acid. It's a humectant that absorbs up to 1000 times its own weight in dihydrogen monoxide. It doesn't absorb directly into the skin; rather, it forms a protective barrier over the skin, allowing water to stay in the skin, and collecting water for surface hydration, explains INCIdecoder. It's amazing stuff.

There's a ton of great hyaluronic acids serums on the market, but L'Oréal's new Revitalift Hyaluronic Acid Serum is quickly developing a cult following for its non-tacky finish and soothing application. 

Matrixyl, try it in the Ordinary Matrixyl* 10% + HA Serum, $11.50, at Sephora

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Matrixyl is a class of peptides that were created and trademarked by Sederma, a skin-care lab in Europe, whose studies brought the ingredient to the forefront. Normally, I roll my eyes at studies done by the product's own manufacturers, but in this case, I stan Matrixyl forever. 

What does it do? Matrixyl — which includes Matrixyl 3000 and Matrixyl synthe’6 — are amazing collagen production signalers. It plumps up skin, reduces wrinkles, and gives skin an overall glow. The Ordinary Matrixyl* 10% + HA Serum is one of my absolute holy grails, and, in my opinion, is the best product in the brand's line. Within days, it makes my skin look like a real-life Instagram filter.

Resveratrol, try it in the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Clinical Concentrate Radiance Booster, $68, at Sephora

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Have you ever heard the adage that a glass of red wine each day is totally healthy? That's because red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant, which has great oral and topical properties. On the skin, it can help mitigate UV damage from the sun, so it's best used during the day alongside your usual SPF.

My mom swears by the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Clinical Concentrate Radiance Booster. But if that product is out of your budget, try the Ordinary's Resveratol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%, and combine it with your favorite vitamin C serum for maximum sun protection. Note that it does NOT take the place of SPF, it just helps your SPF work harder. Please wear your sunscreen!

Salicylic acid, try it in the SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Cleanser, $24.99, at Target

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Ah yes, salicylic acid, our friend and enemy during our teen acne years. I say "friend" because many studies have proven its efficacy in fighting zits, but "enemy" because the SA products of our youth tended to be harsh and drying. You may have also heard SA referred to as BHA, or beta-hydroxy acid.

SA works so well because it is oil-soluble, meaning it can penetrate the skin's oil layer to work its magic against blackheads, sebaceous filaments, and closed comedones. Nothing else works as well to clear out gunk in your pores, making it the gold standard in over-the-counter acne treatment. 

Today's SA products are much kinder on the skin. The SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Cleanser doesn't strip the skin of important hydration to keep it looking its best. Personally, I've had the best success using SA in a cleanser as opposed to a serum; SA serums seem to irritate my skin, though everyone is different, of course!

Vitamin C + vitamin E + ferulic acid, try it in the Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum, $33.99, a Ulta

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When the Medieval alchemists were searching for gold, they should have experimented with vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid, along with other derivates), vitamin E (tocopherol), ferulic acid. These three ingredients have proven to be an unbeatable combination for brightening skin, fighting fine lines, evening skin tone, and boosting the power of SPF.

This combination was discovered by SkinCeuticals, so naturally they patented the most effective formula. If you want to spend $166 on their lauded C E Ferulic serum, be my guest. I've found the Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum to be a great dupe, especially for those whose skin doesn't tolerate L-ascorbic acid (the Mad Hippie serum contains Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate instead of L-AA).