How to use active ingredients in your skincare routine

Author: Danielle Cauchi   Date Posted: 6 April 2023 

Active ingredients are the secrets behind our favourite skincare items. But picking which to use can be tough. Here's what you need to know!


There comes a time in everyone’s life where we start taking our skincare routines a little more seriously. We may start to notice some unwanted pigmentation or fine lines we don’t like the look of so we might begin considering our options in the form of a brightening eye cream or skin-firming serum.

When constructing a skincare routine, it’s important to understand which key ingredients are actually going to target and address our concerns. The ingredients you want to look out for are active ingredients.

There are numerous different active ingredients out there, each with their own list of proven skincare benefits. But what are active ingredients? Should they be mixed?


Woman using skincare serums


What are active ingredients in skincare?


Active ingredients in skincare refer to the specific ingredients that are targeting your skin concerns. You might love the texture of a product from its emulsifiers and you may really enjoy the fragrances that the product emits, but these ingredients, otherwise known as inactive ingredients, aren’t actually addressing your skin concerns.

Active ingredients include Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, niacinamide, retinol, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, all of which have proven skincare benefits.

Even though active ingredients can address multiple concerns, they each tend to have a strong point that they are known for. For example, salicylic acid is known for its ability to purify and exfoliate, hyaluronic acid is celebrated for being a hydrating powerhouse and retinol is widely recognised as an effective ingredient for anti-aging.


How to mix active ingredients in skincare?


To give your skin a really targeted treatment, you can even mix and layer active ingredients to maximise and enhance results. For example, mixing Vitamin C and Vitamin E can boost its anti-aging and sun protection abilities, using niacinamide and salicylic acid in conjunction can promote pore reduction and combining glycolic acid with Vitamin C may further improve hyperpigmentation.

Mixing active ingredients can also help counteract some of the negative effects of certain ingredients. For example, using hyaluronic acid after retinol can prevent the skin from flaking or becoming too dry or irritated after the retinol.

When considering how to layer active ingredients in skincare, the rule of thumb is to apply from thinnest to thickest to improve absorption capabilities. When in doubt, you could always separate active ingredients between AM and PM or even alternate on different days.

If you are wondering what ingredients not to mix, there are certainly some active ingredient combinations that should be avoided, or at least spaced out. Mixing retinol with AHAs, for example, can be overly drying on the skin. It’s always good to research which actives work best for your skin type and find out how they interact with each other before layering them, especially if you have sensitive skin.  


How many active ingredients should I use in skincare?


Of course, there is a limit to how many active ingredients you should use in your skincare routine at one time as you don’t want to overload your skin.

It’s best to introduce active ingredients one at a time and see how your skin reacts with it before adding any other active ingredients to the mix, especially if this is your first time combining ingredients.

If you do happen to overdo it and your skin becomes dry and irritated, remove the actives you introduced and turn your attention to nourishing and hydrating products to heal and repair the damage.


Click here to shop skincare with active ingredients at Cosmetic Capital

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