Skip to content
The ABC's of Active Skincare Ingredients

The ABC's of Active Skincare Ingredients

From ascorbic acid to retinol, active skincare ingredients can play a pivotal role in promoting healthy, radiant skin. But what exactly are these magical compounds?

Let's take a deep dive into the science, benefits and applications of active ingredients we use and feature and how they can transform your routine and complexion.

Remember the best way to choose your skincare is first come in for an AI driven skin analysis which will determine what is actually holding your glow back! Our team will help you select products and monitor your progress. 

What Are Active Ingredients in Skin Care?

Active skincare ingredients are compounds known for their therapeutic effects on the skin. They work to address specific skin concerns such as acne, oily skin, wrinkles, sun damage, skin aging and hyperpigmentation. 

Active vs. Inactive Ingredients:

Inactive ingredients, on the other hand, are substances in skin care products that do not have therapeutic effects. But they nevertheless play an essential role in the product's formulation. 

They may serve various purposes such as improving texture, consistency, and shelf-life, enhancing absorption, and providing fragrance or colour.

Examples include water, emulsifiers, thickeners, and humectants like hyaluronic acid. While inactive ingredients do not directly treat skin concerns, they are crucial for delivering active ingredients effectively and ensuring the overall stability and usability of the product.

Below is a list and breakdown of the most popular active skincare ingredients used in medical aesthetics:

Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

What is Ascorbic Acid?

Ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C, is a powerhouse antioxidant that boasts a plethora of skincare benefits. This water-soluble vitamin is renowned for its ability to brighten the complexion, fade dark spots, and defend the skin against environmental stressors like pollution and UV radiation.

Benefits of Ascorbic Acid

  • Brightening: Ascorbic acid inhibits melanin production, resulting in a more even skin tone and diminished discoloration.

  • Antioxidant Protection: It scavenges free radicals, neutralizing oxidative stress and preventing premature aging.

  • Collagen Synthesis: Vitamin C stimulates collagen production, promoting firmness and elasticity in the skin.

  • Sun Damage Repair: By reducing inflammation and supporting skin barrier function, ascorbic acid aids in repairing sun-damaged skin.

How to Use Ascorbic Acid

Incorporate ascorbic acid into your skincare routine by using serums, moisturizers, or treatments formulated with stable derivatives like ascorbyl glucoside or tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. Apply a pea-sized amount to clean, dry skin in the morning for optimal protection against environmental aggressors.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

What are AHAs?

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a group of exfoliating agents derived from fruits, milk, or sugar cane. Glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid are among the most popular AHAs used in skincare products. These water-soluble acids work by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells, revealing smoother, brighter skin underneath.

Benefits of AHAs

  • Exfoliation: AHAs gently slough away dead skin cells, promoting cellular turnover and improving skin texture.

  • Hydration: Unlike harsh physical exfoliants, AHAs help retain moisture by enhancing the skin's natural barrier function.

  • Hyperpigmentation: By accelerating cell turnover, AHAs can fade dark spots, acne scars, and sun damage over time.

  • Anti-Aging: Regular use of AHAs stimulates collagen production, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

How to Use AHAs

Introduce AHAs into your skincare routine gradually to prevent irritation, starting with a lower concentration and gradually increasing frequency as your skin acclimates. Use AHA cleansing pads in the morning or evening as part of your cleansing routine. Always follow up with a good moisturizer to prevent dryness and sunscreen during the day.


What are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals, unstable atoms that can damage cells and contribute to skin aging. Common antioxidants in skincare include vitamin C, vitamin E, green tea extract, and resveratrol. 

These potent compounds protect the skin from oxidative stress, inflammation, and UV-induced damage.

Benefits of Antioxidants

  • Free Radical Scavenging: Antioxidants intercept free radicals, preventing them from causing cellular damage and premature aging.

  • Anti-Inflammatory: Many antioxidants possess anti-inflammatory properties, soothing redness and irritation in the skin.

  • Collagen Protection: By inhibiting collagen breakdown, antioxidants help maintain skin firmness and elasticity.

  • Environmental Defense: Antioxidants shield the skin from environmental aggressors like pollution, smoke, and UV radiation.

How to Use Antioxidants

Look for skin care products such as serums, moisturizers, or treatments enriched with these potent ingredients. Apply a few drops of antioxidant serum to clean, dry skin in your face, neck and chest in the morning, followed by sunscreen to maximize protection against environmental stressors.

Kojic Acid

What is Kojic Acid?

Kojic acid is a natural compound derived from fungi, commonly used in skincare for its skin-brightening properties. This tyrosinase inhibitor, and alternative to hydroquinone, impedes melanin production, making it effective in treating hyperpigmentation, age spots, and mild cases melasma.

Benefits of Kojic Acid

  • Hyperpigmentation: Kojic acid lightens dark spots and evens out skin tone by inhibiting melanin synthesis.

  • Antimicrobial: Due to its antimicrobial properties, kojic acid can also help alleviate acne and prevent bacterial growth on the skin.

  • Brightening: Regular use of kojic acid can impart a luminous glow to the complexion, enhancing overall radiance.

How to Use Kojic Acid

Incorporate kojic acid into your skincare routine by using serums, creams, or spot treatments formulated with this ingredient. Apply a thin layer to affected areas in the evening, following cleansing and toning, and always use sunscreen during the day to prevent further pigmentation.


What is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, is a versatile skincare ingredient celebrated for its myriad benefits. This water-soluble vitamin regulates oil production, strengthens the skin barrier, and reduces inflammation, making it suitable for all skin types, including acne-prone and sensitive skin.

Benefits of Niacinamide

  • Oil Control: Niacinamide regulates sebum production, minimizing excess oiliness and preventing breakouts.

  • Barrier Repair: By enhancing the skin's lipid barrier, niacinamide fortifies the skin against environmental stressors and moisture loss.

  • Redness Reduction: Niacinamide possesses anti-inflammatory properties, soothing redness, and irritation associated with acne, rosacea, or eczema.

  • Hyperpigmentation: Studies suggest that niacinamide can fade dark spots and improve overall skin tone with regular use.

How to Use Niacinamide

Incorporate niacinamide into your skincare routine by using serums, moisturizers, eye cream or treatments containing this popular skin care ingredient. Apply a small amount to clean, dry skin morning and evening, and layer with other skincare products as needed.


What are Peptides?

Peptides are short chains of amino acids that serve as the building blocks of proteins like collagen and elastin, which are essential for maintaining skin's structure and firmness. 

They signal the skin to produce more collagen, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Benefits of Peptides?

  • Collagen Boosting: Peptides stimulate collagen production, helping to firm the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Improved Skin Barrier: By enhancing the skin's protective barrier, peptides help retain moisture and defend against environmental stressors.

  • Increased Elasticity: Peptides promote the production of elastin, improving skin's elasticity and making it appear more youthful and resilient.

  • Reduced Inflammation: Peptides have anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe irritated skin, reducing redness and swelling.

  • Wound Healing: Peptides aid in the skin's natural healing processes, accelerating the repair of minor wounds and blemishes.

  • Hydration Enhancement: Peptides improve skin hydration by encouraging the skin to retain moisture, leading to a plumper and smoother appearance.

How to Use Peptides

Look for serums, moisturizers, and creams containing peptides. Apply these products after cleansing and toning, but before heavier creams or sunscreens. 

Consistent use is key as peptides need time to show visible results. It's also beneficial to pair peptides with complementary active ingredients like antioxidants for enhanced effects.


What is Retinol?

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is one of the most revered skincare ingredients for its transformative effects on the skin. This lipid-soluble compound accelerates cell turnover, stimulates collagen production and promotes a smoother, more youthful complexion.

Benefits of Retinol

  • Collagen Boost: Retinol stimulates collagen synthesis, minimizing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin.

  • Cellular Renewal: By promoting cellular turnover, retinol helps slough away dead skin cells, revealing fresh, radiant skin underneath.

  • Acne Treatment: Retinol unclogs pores, regulates oil production, and reduces inflammation

How to Use Retinol

Start with a low concentration (0.25% to 0.5%) to allow your skin to build tolerance. Use a retinol product in the evening after cleansing and before moisturizing. Apply a small amount to your entire face, avoiding the delicate eye area. Begin by using it two to three times a week and gradually increase frequency as your skin adapts. Always follow up with sunscreen during the day, as retinol can increase sun sensitivity.

In summary, active skincare ingredients can range from brightening to exfoliating to anti-aging. Each active ingredient plays a unique and vital role in achieving healthy, radiant skin. Whether you're combating acne, dryness, or sensitivity, there's an active ingredient suited to your skin type and concerns. Embrace the science on your journey towards a luminous complexion that radiates health and vitality.

Book your free consultation to receive the best product prescription for your skin and goals!