We’ve officially hit the three-quarter mark for 2021! We spent a good part of this year staying in, which made room for lots of beauty experimentation, especially in the skincare department. Maybe you’ve had revamping your self-care routine on the charts (never a bad idea), or maybe you’re looking for a late shot at a sure-fire glow-up before 2021 ends. If you haven’t dived into at least one major skincare ingredient trend this year, it’s not too late. There’s a good reason why everyone was talking about these active ingredients all year long. We may only have 4 months till 2022, but that’s still ample time for some seriously transformative results. Ready to jump on the bandwagon? Here are some of the best trending skincare ingredients from 2021 that you need to try before the year ends!

1. Retinol

Retinol is one of those miracle ingredients that everyone knows about, but is equally apprehensive about. For starters, retinol is one of the most potent anti-aging ingredients you can acquire over the counter. Retinol, a derivative of Vitamin A, increases cell turnover and boosts collagen production (that wanes with age) for younger looking skin. Think plumper, less sagging, reduced wrinkles and improved elasticity. Increased cell turnover also helps to unclog pores — which can in turn lead to fewer breakouts. So retinol is not *only* an anti-aging wonder, but can also be used on younger skin to clear up pimples / acne.  

But proceed with caution! Retinol’s bad rep comes from its potential to irritate the skin on first use (redness, burning, scaling). It’s important to gradually introduce retinol into your routine, so your skin can slowly build its tolerance. Once you get past that, sit back and let the magic work. (Psst: Which sounds just right for the WFH situation.)


If you have more delicate skin, Dermalab’s AgeDefy retinol concentrate features ultra-stable retinol for all the potency, at a far lower risk of any dryness, irritation and redness. The gentler formulation also features Derma Mimic Complex, that helps to fortify the skin barrier and retain moisture. 

2. AHAs/BHAs

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acid) are both chemical skin exfoliants that lift dead skin cells from the skin surface for smoother, more refined skin tone and texture. While there is no better between AHAs and BHAs, they serve slightly different purposes (and yield slightly different results). AHAs are generally safe for all skin types. They help to shed dead skin cells, stimulate collagen production and do good work for sun-damaged skin. AHAs you know might include Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid and Citric Acid.

BHAs on the other hand, are serious acne-busters. They are oil soluble and can get deep inside your pores to target clogged / enlarged pores and blemishes. That said, BHAs do contain natural skin-calming properties, which make them suitable for more sensitive, acne-prone skin types too. You’ve probably seen BHAs everywhere, most likely in the form of Salicylic Acid. 


The classic radiance-boosting holy grail! This gentle but effective essence soothes the skin and restores luminosity with Glycolic Acid and revitalising White Peony extracts.


Dr Dennis Gross has created hands down, one the most potent at-home AHA/BHA treatments with its bestselling Alpha Beta® Universal Daily Peel. For the ultimate pore-busting treatment, this silicone-free serum instantly refines pores with high-performing formula featuring Farnesol, Adipic Acid, Prickly Pear and of course, the classic Alpha Beta Complex. 

3. Vitamin C

It’s a consensus: Vitamin C really works. Vitamin C boasts potent antioxidant and skin-healing properties from its highly acidic nature — which also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin. The wonders continue: the active also inhibits your skin’s melanin production to combat dark spots and hyper-pigmentation (including preventing their formation in the long run). Altogether, Vitamin C is easily one of the most superior and intensively-researched skincare ingredients you can use for significant improvements. Think more even skin, smoother texture, reduced signs of aging, a big radiance boost and diminished scars / dark spots / pigmentation. You name it!


An Ole Henriksen icon! This powerful age-defying serum features 15% Vitamin C, 5% PHAs and Hyaluronic Acid for bright, supple skin. 15% Vitamin C is the highest concentration of Vitamin C for daily use, so expect superlative potency in all the skin goodness of Vitamin C. 



A smart, peach-tinted gel cream that combats stress, fatigue and pollution with three sources of Vitamin C and Rose of Winter. Olehenriksen’s C Rush Gel Creme alleviates fine lines and wrinkles, renews and firms skin, while delivering 24-hours of grease-free hydration. Psst: This also smooths skin for the perfect makeup base.

4. Neoglucosamine

Here before it blew up! Neoglucosamine is a relatively new player, but this skin brightening fix is set to take the beauty community by storm. This amino sugar helps to resurface and brighten the skin at a whopping 10x the speed vis-a-vis untreated skin. What sets it apart? Unlike other skin brighteners (including our favourite AHAs, BHAs, PHAs), Neoglucosamine is actually a building block of Hyaluronic Acid. This makes it equally effective in plumping and hydrating the skin, as well as smoothing out fine lines!


A retexturizing serum with Neoglucosamine and Glycerin that gently resurfaces the skin to alleviate dark spots and prevents the formation of new ones, while delivering a burst of hydration. At S$29.90, this is possibly one of the most affordable Neoglucosamine-powered serums in the market too. What a steal!


Leave this cream to do the heavy lifting overnight! Neutrogena’s Bright Boost Overnight Brightening Cream is powered by Neoglucosamine and Recytein, to intensely hydrate, brighten and even out your skin tone.

5. Peptides

If you’re a skincare beginner / have pretty reactive skin and don’t want to risk the pitfalls of trying a new active ingredient… Peptides will be your safest bet. Peptides (or Polypeptides) are amino acids that make up certain proteins which are naturally occurring in and essential for our skin. Like collagen! But while we do produce collagen naturally, the process diminishes with age. This is exactly why peptides pose a plethora of benefits for our skin. Peptides fortify the skin barrier, boost collagen and elastin production, repair damaged skin and in the case of antimicrobial peptides, they can also clear breakouts.


Not going to lie, but this is possibly the only peptide-powered serum you need to try. The mega-strength Protini Powerpeptide Resurf Serum features an ultra-concentrated blend of 11 peptides. Pretty unmatched in the market if you ask me! It combats dull, uneven complexion, signs of aging and enlarged pores, to restore skin to its bounciest, healthiest, glowiest state ever! 

6. Enzymes

Here’s another super promising alternative to resurfacing skin acids (if acids are not your thing). Most enzymes in skincare are derived from fruits (e.g. papaya, pineapple) and help to break down the rough, dull dead skin cells on the surface of your skin*. Enzymes are also a lot kinder to the skin barrier. This makes them especially great for dry, sensitive, and mature skin types. The result? Clearer, brighter and smoother skin — without compromising your moisture barrier. 

*Enzymes work primarily on the surface of your skin, while skin acids resurface skin by getting deeper into the skin layers. Visible results may be similar, but they work slightly differently. For deeper exfoliation, go with acids. 


A melty, non-abrasive exfoliator made with Natural Enzymes to soften dead skin cells, while delivering a boost of nutrients and vitamins. Work this gently into your skin to stimulate microcirculation — the Natural Skin Refiner can also be used as a 10-min mask to instantly calm acne breakouts!

7. Prebiotics 

As it turns out, prebiotics are as phenomenal for your skin as they are for your gut. Prebiotics support healthy bacteria while keeping bad bacteria at bay. In turn, a balance of good bacteria is essential in maintaining optimal skin health. It can also be key to alleviating conditions like eczema, acne, dry skin, signs of aging and even UV damage!


Gallinée’s Face Vinegar is a purifying, soothing and reparative all-in-one that aims to restore your skin surface after cleansing. Actibiome (a prebiotic) helps to comfort skin and keep irritation at bay; while Hibiscus Vinegar (a postbiotic) gently removes impurities and bad bacteria. There’s also a shot of Lactic Acid (AHA) in the mix, to promote cell renewal for smoother, clearer skin.

It’s never too late to ‘amp up your skincare routine. Taking the plunge on trending skincare ingredients may feel a tad risky — but these high-performing actives are worth the shot. Good luck!

Take care,

Melisa Goh

Melisa Goh

up up and away


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