If you’ve ever felt dissatisfied with your skincare, you’re not alone.
In the beauty industry, all too many beauty brands offer products at exorbitant prices--the kinds in beautiful packaging with big promises.
And yet, the most they end up doing is add another pretty jar to your bathroom sink.
And the fact of the matter is this: good skincare has nothing to do with how many dollars you dropped on it.
This is because when it comes to skincare, formulas are everything!
And while formulas are made up of multiple complexities, we’re going to talk about one of their most important features: actives.
What are Actives?
So you may now be wondering: what exactly are actives?
Essentially, actives are ingredients that have been proven to make changes to your skin at a cellular level, meaning they work to renew, repair, protect, and hydrate your skin, starting at the cells.
Actives are natural ingredients, which means we find them already occurring in nature--most often from plants.
And luckily, all of our favorite actives are plant-based!
Also referred to as nicotinamide or vitamin B3, niacinamide is an active that works to visibly diminish the appearance of large pores, smooth out skin texture, polish up dullness, and soften fine lines and wrinkles.
As a water-soluble vitamin, niacinamide works with the natural substances in your skin, making it less likely to cause a reaction or any kind of irritation.
Niacinamide also works wonders for the skin by repairing damage and improving the barrier, which shields the skin from environmental damage, so that your skin stays more radiant over time.
AHAs are short for “alpha-hydroxy acids,” and come from plant sources like sugar cane, tomatoes, and pineapple, and come in the form of a few different ingredients, like malic acid and glycolic acid.
AHAs have a number of benefits, but they may be most noted for their exfoliating properties, which means that they’re exceptionally good at sloughing off dead skin cells by dissolving the retained bonds underneath. This helps reveal skin that’s soft and glowing, making them especially useful for those with dry skin and hyperpigmentation.
Because of their exfoliating nature, it’s usually best to only use them about 2-3 times a week, and as is the case with all skincare, make sure to wear SPF during the day.
AHAs also pair well with our next active: BHAs.
BHAs, also known as “beta-hydroxy acids,” are exceptional especially for the purpose of fighting acne. In fact, you may be familiar with one of the most popular BHAs: salicylic acid!
BHAs work by going deep inside each pore, and because they’re oil-soluble, they bind with the sebum and bacteria in pores to help reduce the appearance of clogged pores, blemishes, blackheads, and acne.
BHAs are most suitable for normal to oily skin types, but they’re also acceptable for those with sensitive skin due to their gently exfoliating properties.
Like AHAs, you’ll definitely want to use SPF during the day when using BHAs, and it’s best to keep its frequency at once every 7-10 days.
Retinol, also known as “vitamin A,” is one of the actives most associated with anti-aging because of its ability to encourage skin cell renewal, it’s highly regarded as a powerful acne fighter.
Retinol comes in multiple forms, including over-the-counter versions like Retinol, Retinal, Retinoid, and Retinaldehyde, while stronger, prescription forms include Adapalene, Retin-A, and Tretinoin.
As a powerful ingredient, it’s important to understand that retinol can come with some side effects like irritation and sensitivity. However, when certain precautions are taken, these side effects can be minimized or avoided altogether. Following up with a moisturizer is key, as retinol can cause some drying. And because it can cause photosensitivity, (once again) using SPF during the daytime is always encouraged when using retinol.
It’s also well-advised to start slowly with retinol if using it for the first time, and try using it just once a week to gauge your skin’s reaction to it. Over time, you can potentially work up to using retinol for your skin up to three times per week.
As another anti-aging ingredient, vitamin C has a reputation as the active that’ll give your skin an instant glow.
Vitamin C is known for increasing the production of collagen and elastin fibers, which are essential to keeping the skin elastic and firm.
Vitamin C also works to reduce the appearance of sunspots, dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles, and can be used either daily or every other day.
Vitamin C comes in many forms, but L-ascorbic acid is best avoided. As the purest form of vitamin C, it is also the most unstable, and can quickly lose its potency once opened.