Makeup for Better Skin

Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on March 04, 2013

Blush, foundation, or lip balm. Just about every cosmetic now promises to leave your skin better than before. Which ones are worth slipping into your makeup kit?

Read the Label

Many beauty ingredients do have a good track record, but you need to get enough of something to make a difference. If a key ingredient is listed first, second, or third, your makeup likely contains a decent amount.

Here are a few beauty ingredients worth a try, from those with a long track record to promising newcomers.

Vitamin C

You down a glass of orange juice every morning for the vitamin C. In cosmetics, it may help nourish your skin's collagen, an under layer that keeps skin plump so that sagging and wrinkles are less noticeable.

Vitamin C may also lighten dark spots and protect against sun damage.

Antioxidants like vitamin C stop some of the harmful changes that sunlight can trigger deep in your skin. "It helps to block the damage from free radicals that are produced by UV light that passes through the makeup or SPF," says David H. McDaniel, MD, director of the McDaniel Institute of Anti-Aging Research in Virginia.

Vitamin C is perishable, so buy only enough cream for a month. Or look for new, stabilized formulas that promise to stay potent longer.

In general, light and air weaken vitamin C. "You may gain more benefits if it's in an air-tight, opaque packaging." says Jeanne San Diego, a freelance makeup artist in southern California.

Copper Peptides

Copper peptides stimulate your skin to make more collagen and elastin, leading to firmer, tighter skin. Some cosmetics with this ingredient have been touted as a "facelift in a bottle," but this is unrealistic. "There's nothing that's going to give you a lot of lifting," says dermatologist Patricia K. Farris, MD, of the Tulane University School of Medicine.

You may still see good, but less dramatic, results from makeup with copper peptides.


Your body's own collagen is the base for skin that looks tight and plump, rather than loose and saggy -- and we have less of it as we age. Unfortunately, it won't help much to smooth a product with collagen on your skin.

Collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the skin from your foundation, says independent cosmetic scientist Perry Romanowski. "This is mostly a marketing gimmick," says Romanowski.

The foundation may make your skin look smoother while you wear it, though. The collagen can temporarily fill fine lines and big pores for a smoother complexion.


Kombucha is a trendy ingredient made from fermented tea and packed with antioxidants. It's showing up in foundations, primers, and more. It's thought to help keep your skin moist and tight with fewer wrinkles, but there's no strong evidence yet to show whether it really works.

"The rationale might be that there are antioxidants in there, the way that green tea has polyphenols, and antioxidants are good for the skin," Farris says.


You may know resveratrol as a heart-healthy ingredient in red wine. More recently, it's been added to makeup, offering anti-aging benefits. Since it's relatively new in cosmetics, it hasn't been well-studied and isn't as proven as other antioxidants like vitamin C.

"We don't know yet what is the optimal dose," McDaniel says, "but I think it is a very interesting and good anti-aging molecule."

Show Sources


American Academy of Dermatology.

Clarissa Luna, makeup artist, New York.

Copper Development Association Inc.: “Copper and Your Skin: Facelift in a Bottle.”

David H. McDaniel, MD, director, McDaniel Institute of Anti-Aging Research.


Jeanne San Diego, makeup artist, Los Angeles.

Patricia K. Farris, MD, Tulane University School of Medicine.

Perry Romanowski, independent cosmetic scientist.

Rebecca Kazin, MD, Johns Hopkins Dermatology and Cosmetic Center.

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