Skincare Ingredients To Look For In 2021

Your skin’s new besties

Every year, certain ingredients are touted as the “Next Big Thing” in skincare, and some do go on and take the skincare world by storm — we’re looking at you, 2010’s hyaluronic acid! Now, it’s time to get to know the new contenders vying for a space on our shelves. Are “natural” skincare ingredients still king? Is sustainable the only way to go? Let’s find out! We spoke with the beauty experts from some of your beloved skincare brands that can be found in Sephora — Biossance, Gallinée, SUNDAY RILEY, and Tatcha — about the skincare ingredients to look for in 2021.


An oldie but a goodie, niacinamide or Vitamin B3 is one skincare ingredient that’s expected to become “a little bigger or [have] more spotlight on it” in 2021 according to Biossance Director of Global Education McKenzie Bolt. And why wouldn’t it? After all, niacinamide helps with diminishing dark spots and improving your skin texture — something we all need as we deal with maskne. It’s also a mild exfoliant and a good moisturiser, offering a lot of benefits in one ingredient.

How to use it: Niacinamide works best when used in leave-on products like toners, serums and moisturisers since these allow the ingredient to sink and absorb into the skin. Look for concentrations of two per cent, if you’re going to use it twice a day, since higher concentrations can irritate your skin. You can go up to 4 or 5 per cent with moderate use and for faster results.

Probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics

Our skin’s microbiome has a fragile balance of good and bad bacteria. To keep the bad bacteria in check, you can add probiotic, prebiotic and postbiotic skincare ingredients to your routine to support the microbiome. According to Gallinée founder Dr. Marie Drago, probiotics are the skin’s “good bacteria”. Bifidobacterium longum lysate and lactobacillus ferment are some probiotics that are used in skincare.

Meanwhile, prebiotics are the bacteria’s food or “nutrients that can only be absorbed by good bacteria”, Dr. Drago explained. These are typically extracted from fruits, vegetables, and honey. Some examples include xylitol and glucomannan.

Postbiotics, like lactic acid and enzymes, are prebiotic by-products that “create the perfect environment for the skin’s good bacteria” (like maintaining the skin’s optimal acidic pH) and prevent the bad bacteria from acting out. Basically, these ingredients prevent any skin imbalance, like acne, redness, or severe dry patches, that can damage your skin.

How to use it: You can get the best results from prebiotic, probiotic, and postbiotic ingredients from leave-on skincare items like toners, facial masks, and moisturisers.

Lactic acid

Lactic acid has steadily gained popularity over the years, but it’s set to take over skincare more in the coming months. Lactic acid is a form of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and postbiotic, a light and gentle chemical exfoliant. It speeds up cellular turnover and improves skin clarity. If you feel that your skin is a little bit congested or dull, using lactic acid can solve that in a pinch.

People with dry and oily skin types can especially benefit from lactic acid. Dry skin “traps in a lot of pollution and environmental aggressors” under the layer of dead skin cells. On the other hand, oily skin “produces too much sebum and has [very] slow cellular turnover” which creates “a glue that acne bacteria loves”, according to SUNDAY RILEY founder Sunday Riley. Lactic acid removes that layer of dead skin to reveal the smoother, brighter skin underneath.

How to use: You can use lactic acid in serums and masks, but those with sensitive skin are better off using a lactic acid cleanser so it doesn’t irritate the skin too much.

Rice bran

Rice bran has been a staple in Asian skincare, but Western brands have now also noticed its numerous skincare benefits. Specifically, rice bran has antioxidant, soothing, and exfoliating properties. Despite being a good exfoliant, it’s gentle enough that people with sensitive and dry skin can use it. Luxury skincare brand Tatcha uses Japanese rice bran or komenuka in its Hadasei-3™ complex — a “double fermented blend of rice, green tea, and algae that unlocks essential amino acids (like arginine and lysine) your skin loves,” according to Tatcha’s Director of Education & Events Aly Casas. Rice bran is also a vital source of vitamins A, B2, B12 and E. Plus, it deeply hydrates the skin when used in gels or creams.

How to use it: Rice bran’s antioxidant and hydrating properties are best observed in cream formulas, so look for it in moisturisers and cream cleansers.

Which up-and-coming skincare ingredient in 2021 are you already using?

(Cover photo from: Mathilde Langevin via Unsplash)

Biossance, Gallinée, SUNDAY RILEY, and Tatcha are all available in Sephora Malaysia,, and the Sephora app.

Next, read up on the eco-friendly waterless beauty trend.

Comments, questions or feedback? Email us at [email protected].

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