From Retinol to Niacinamide: The Top Trending Skincare Ingredients of 2020

There's a reason they got millions of searches.

Girl doing skincare

 Caroline Tompkins / Getty Images

When it comes to skincare, there are always a handful of ingredients that seem to rise to prominence each year. We’re talking about the ones that find their way into the formulas of countless new products throughout the year and that skincare pros can’t stop raving about. In 2019, CBD, bakuchiol, and turmeric were just a few of the buzzy ingredients that took the spotlight. To discover which ingredients have been the most-talked-about in the U.S. in 2020, the Google team decided to take a deep dive into the top trending skincare searches.

In a year where many of us haven’t been able to see our estheticians in-person and maskne has become a thing, it’s safe to say that we’ve been turning to Google more than ever to fill us in on ingredients that can help us troubleshoot our skincare concerns. After combing through all of the skincare-related queries that had a sustained high spike in traffic this year, Google pinned down the top seven trending skincare ingredients. Keep scrolling to see which ingredients landed on the list.

  • Retinol: Retinol describes over-the-counter vitamin A derivatives. The exfoliant is universally loved for its ability to smooth skin texture, reduce wrinkles and scars, and clear skin. The powerhouse ingredient is able to work all of this magic on your skin due to its anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial properties, and anti-acne properties.
  • Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic acid has everyone singing its praises because of its supreme moisturizing properties. The hydrator helps replenish and hold cell moisture, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and speeds up wound healing. Among our favorite hyaluronic acid products to launch this year, U Beauty's The SUPER Smart Hydrator ($68) and the Peach & Lily Glass Skin Water-Gel Moisturizer ($40) takes the cake.
  • Micellar Water: Micellar water is one of the many French beauty staples that we’ve fallen in love with. The skin tonic performs a trio of duties as it acts as a makeup remover, cleanser, and toner. Micellar water has been a central ingredient in many skincare product rollouts in 2020, but Neutrogena’s Skin Balancing Micellar Cleansing Cloths ($6) is one launch we’re excited about.
  • Lactic Acid: Lactic acid is an exfoliating acid derived from sour milk (Yes, you read that right). Many brands include this ingredient in their skincare formulas because of how it works overtime to treat your skin. Lactic acid kills acne-causing bacteria, diminishes wrinkles, increases cell turnover, and helps your skin retain moisture. Pixi debuted its Clarity Tonic ($15) this summer, and it contains a potent blend of lactic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid. 
  • Glycolic Acid: Glycolic acid has been dubbed the magic eraser for blackheads. When added to your skincare routine, the exfoliating ingredient minimizes pore size, regulates oil production, and brightens your complexion.
  • Niacinamide: When we talk about brightening ingredients, vitamin C has traditionally received most of the praise. But this year, Niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3) took the spotlight. It helps to brighten the skin, fight premature signs of aging, and repair damaged skin barriers. Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops ($34) are one of the latest skincare releases to contain the brightening ingredient. 
Girl applying face cream

We did some investigating in Google Trends for other ingredients everyone was searching this year and found a few more buzzy ingredients that landed on everybody’s radar this year. See them below. 

  • Tretinoin: Tretinoin is derived from vitamin A, classifying it as a retinoid. Dermatologists typically prescribe tretinoin to treat and prevent chronic acne, but its skin benefits extend beyond treating breakouts. It also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and sun damage. 
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E has long been a staple in skincare product formulas. It provides your skin with an array of benefits, including protecting your skin’s lipid barrier, boosting moisture retention, and accelerating the healing of skin damage.
  • Panthenol: Skincare brands have relied on panthenol (also known as vitamin B5) for its mega-moisturizing properties. The hydrating ingredient also helps with wound healing and provides anti-inflammatory benefits. That’s why KLUR decided to infuse their latest launch, the Supreme Seed Cacao + Vitamin B5 Delicate Purification Mask ($60), with panthenol.
  • Mupirocin: Mupirocin is an antibiotic used to treat skin infections such as impetigo. The topical treatment works to slow the growth of certain bacteria. 
  • Triamcinolone Acetonide: Triamcinolone Acetonide is a corticosteroid used to treat various skin conditions, including eczema, dermatitis, allergies, and rashes. It helps to reduce the swelling, itching, and redness caused by the skin condition.

Related Stories