Style & Beauty

Discover the Latest in Skin Care

Many ingredients you may never have heard of have become the hottest things in skin care


By Lola Augustine Brown

Photo: iStock/Artfully79.

With ingredients that include bakuchiol face serums and hemp-infused cleansers, brands big and small are bringing out products with a whole host of components you’ve probably never heard of. “With a growing interest in adapting to more healthy, transparent, and sustainable choices in beauty, more and more Canadians are opting for natural, holistic, and wellness-based approaches to skin care,” explains Megan Menard, a senior manager at Shoppers Drug Mart. “In the past few years, ingredients have become increasingly inventive and global as consumers are looking for products that strike a balance between beauty and health.”

Brands have had to up the ante to meet consumer demand and, consequently, these are exciting times to branch out and try something new. Here’s a primer on some of the hottest new ingredients to look out for.


Extracted from the seeds and leaves of the babchi plant, bakuchiol (pronounced back-uh-heel) is used in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines and is now being incorporated into many Western skin-care products because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Bakuchiol is promoted as a plant-based alternative to retinol that provides the same benefits without the harsh burning sensation and without drying out the skin.

Try: OleHenriksen Transform Plus Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème ($66) works overnight on fine lines and dark spots, and improves elasticity.

Bioassance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum ($95) smooths, plumps, and evens out the skin.

Hemp and CBD Oils

Using hemp oil in beauty products isn’t new, but it’s definitely experiencing a surge in popularity as anything associated with marijuana becomes less taboo in our society. With its balanced mix of omegas 3 and 6, hemp oil is a great moisturizer. The availability of CBD oil in products is new, though. These products aren’t going to get you high—it’s the cannabinoid THC, not CBD, that does that. Using them topically can provide localized pain relief, they’re full of essential fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and E, and they have anti-inflammatory properties. New research into CBD oil shows evidence that it can provide relief for dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis, which is why so many beauty brands are starting to include the oil in their products.

“We’ve definitely seen a major spike in customer curiosity regarding CBD and cannabis-infused products,” says Joel Dart, the owner of the Toronto-based beauty boutique Jacob & Sebastian. “This is partially due to both performance and a certain ‘cool’ factor that these products provide. Our bestselling Malin + Goetz cannabis collection is THC-free and CBD-free, yet evokes an aura of fresh yet earthy cannabis. Just the word on the bottle piques curiosity and prompts customer trials.”

Plenty of Canadian companies are cashing in on this trend, and one brand that Dart is currently testing at his stores is Upothecary, which uses hemp and marijuana extracts and promises anti-inflammatory benefits for the skin. “Most skin concerns are a result of inflammation, so any ingredient to help fight this occurrence topically could do wonders for the epidermis,” Dart says.

Try: Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate ($59) also contains oregano oil and is formulated to help calm problem skin, helping with blemishes, redness, and discomfort.

Upothecary “Wash Up!” Sativa Face Bar ($7) with activated charcoal and hemp oil deep cleans and moisturizes the skin, leaving it feeling soft and fresh.

Fermented Ingredients 

Humans have been ingesting fermented foods (think sauerkraut, yogourt, and kimchee) for millennia, but these foods have been especially trendy in recent years. Commonly known as probiotics, these foods are laden with beneficial bacteria to help our digestion. Increasingly, probiotics are being used in skin care, as are prebiotics, which feed and encourage growth of the bacteria we already have.

“The benefits of probiotics have been well-known for years, and now we know that they are highly beneficial to the health of our skin,” Menard says. Fermentation happens when ingredients are soaked in a solution that allows “good” bacteria to thrive; when used in topical beauty products, probiotics help soothe inflammation, even out skin tone, and restore the skin from the inside out.

Try: Vichy Idéalia Smoothness & Glow Energizing Cream ($45) contains fermented black-tea extract to brighten tired skin, refine pores, and smooth out fine lines.

Juice Beauty Prebiotix Hydrating Gel Moisturizer ($65) contains organic prebiotic ingredients that soothe and quench the skin.


If you’ve ever made curry, you probably have a jar of this exotic deep-orange-coloured spice lying around your pantry, but turmeric has been a staple ingredient in Indian beauty products for centuries. Now super-trendy—you’ll find turmeric lattes promoted as health drinks in coffee shops—this spice is now being incorporated in all kinds of Western beauty products. Known for its antiseptic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, this exotic root is being used in face masks and serums, and it’s often used in products developed to brighten and to even out skin tone.

Try: Kiehl’s Turmeric and Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Mask ($23) exfoliates and brightens to restore your skin’s natural glow.

Clarins Double Serum Complete Age Control Concentrate ($91) smooths and brightens the skin, evens out skin tone, and increases skin elasticity.

Moringa Oil

Another ingredient with roots in Ayurvedic medicine, moringa oil is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents and is a great moisturizer. Said to help with acne and many other skin concerns, this oil has gone from being relatively absent in Western products to being super-hot and is now incorporated in all kinds of products, many of which are intended for those of us with mature skin.

Try: Lotus Aroma Day-Night Firming Cream ($44) has moringa oil, alpine rose, and marine fennel extracts, as well as baobab and acai berry oils to plump and firm the skin, easing fine lines.

Lush Magical Moringa Primer ($22.95) provides a velvety soft base for applying makeup.