4 Insanely Powerful OTC Skincare Ingredients You Need to Try Right Now

Hi, my name is Amy and I am a skincare junkie.

Ever since I was in fifth grade and my skin started to get bad (and I mean really bad at some points) I have been on a quest to find the best skincare products out there.

And let me tell you, this process has not been easy.  I have put just about everything on my face that Teen, Seventeen, YM, Sassy, and later Allure, Glamour, Elle, Vogue, et cetera have ever recommended.  Some were winners. . . others were not.

However, there are a few standouts from the pack.

And these days, skincare products are easier to get than ever.  I remember begging for a Retin-A prescription back in the day.  These days you can get retinol over-the-counter.  I mean, come one.

I also have to say I’m very, very happy that my mother did not give in to my repeated requests to be put on Accutane.  When I was growing up, this was prescribed pretty widely by physicians to solve acne problems.  As someone who suffers from depression, I’m certain this would not have had great consequences for me, even if I had achieved clear, glowing skin.  Plus now, they’ve discovered a correlation to Crohn’s disease, I believe? Seriously, stay away from that stuff.

Anyhoo, as I was saying, you can get some seriously kick ass products over the counter these days to keep your skin youthful and glowing.  These are my faves.


Y’all, retinol is my jam.  I started dabbling in retinoids back in the ’90s when I first tried Retin-A, and have been hooked ever since.

Simply put, retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that pretty much helps with any skin problem you can imagine.  Retinols encourage cell turnover, which helps with clogged pores, fine lines and wrinkles, and skin discoloration.  See? Everything.

It’s important to keep retinols in an airtight container, preferably in an opaque bottle or tube as they can be degraded by light and oxygen.  And just to be safe, assume they have a shelf life of about six months and replace them accordingly.

As for my preferred method of delivery, these days I still stick to a good ol’ Retin-A prescription.  However, I have used Vivant Skincare’s  Exfol-A and looooove it.  Vivant is awesome, and if you go to their website you can fill out a form and they’ll recommend a skincare regimen for you.

Murad also makes a great retinol product, Resurgence Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream.  You can pick this up at Ulta for around $82.

Vitamin C

It’s not just for staving off colds – Vitamin C is an extremely potent antioxidant for your body, both inside and out.  Basically, vitamin C protects your skin from everything the environment throws at it, which is essential for me in Los Angeles, the pollution capital of America.  Although I think it’s better now that it was 10 years ago.  I don’t know.  Last night was pretty smoggy.

Vitamin C is a very potent protectant, but make sure you look for products with L-ascorbic acid if you want the really yummy anti-aging properties thrown in.  Once again, vitamin C is super sensitive to light and air, so make sure your products are in sealed, opaque bottles.

Vivant makes a kick a** serum called Spin Trap that not only has vitamin C, but vitamin E as well to prevent aging and keep all those nasty free radicals away from your skin.

4 Insanely Powerful OTC Skincare Ingredients You Need to Try Right Now Pin


I tried adalpalene a very long time ago, when it was new on the market and a dermatologist of mine wanted to switch things up.  Switching things up in your skincare routine can be a good thing, just like in your haircare.  There was this great new product on the market called Differin gel, which functioned a lot like Retin-A but was specifically prescribed for acne.

Fast forward 20 years, this stuff is available over the counter! Marvelous.  Adalpalene worked very well for my acne, and I would use it again, since as an adult I still suffer from the magical hormonal wonder that is adult acne.

In a nutshell, adalpalene works to treat every stage of acne formation.  Meaning that it not only helps with active breakouts, but also helps stop pimples from forming below the surface of the skin.  Bonus: It helps with collagen production, so Differin can also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  I might have to incorporate this one back into my routine. . .

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is actually a sugar, which makes sense that I love it so much since I am a junk food junkie ;P.  It’s a humectant, which basically means it draws moisture from the lower layers of the skin to the upper layers, making skin look more plump, bouncy, and dewy – which is what we all want, right? Does anyone else think of the Sir-Mix-A-Lot video when they see all those words together?

It can also draw moisture from the environment and into the skin, but only in humid environments (foiled again by the desert climate!).  In science-y terms, HA has different molecular weights — the heavier molecules give better skin hydration and elasticity, while the lighter ones have wrinkle fighting potential because they can penetrate better into the skin.

Translation: look for products that have multiple HA weights in them. There are a lot of them out there, but Dr. Dennis Gross, one of my fave skincare brands, has one called Hyaluronic Marine Oil Free Moisture Cushion that rocks.

That’s it for my skincare recommendations this week!


  1. Savvy Southern Chic August 15, 2018 at 9:09 am

    I have been trying to incorporate these into my skincare lately. Thanks for your recommendations. Vitamin c breaks out my face but I can use it on my arms and chest.

    1. Amy August 16, 2018 at 3:49 pm

      Ugh, that sucks about the Vitamin C! Have you tried a Vitamin E derivative? That might work better for you.

  2. Karla | Little Conquest August 15, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Great info! I had no idea about some of these!

  3. Brandi August 15, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    I just moved to Florida and Hyaluronic acid makes my skin flourish here. Awesome post!

    1. Amy August 16, 2018 at 3:49 pm

      That’s awesome! I would imagine the humidity down there would really pump up the HA

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