Often we are completely spoilt for choice when it comes to skincare. We are lucky to have so many incredible products and ingredients available to us, but this can be a double-edged sword. Not only can the choice become overwhelming, but so too can the sheer volume of ingredients out there, and learning to understand exactly what it is that each one does. And on top of everything, learning to select which ones are suitable for your unique skin.
This guide has been created to break down this process for you, giving you the tools you need to create the perfect, tailored skincare regimen for your individual needs, preferences, budget, age, and lifestyle. So, which are the key active ingredients that a great routine should comprise of, and what do they all do?
The gold standard of ingredients for ageing. Vitamin A was originally used by medical physicians to treat acne, as it has the ability to regulate sebaceous (oil) gland hyperactivity, often responsible for breakouts. However, it was soon discovered that it also regulated skin cell production and boosted collagen stimulation, helping to improve volume and texture. Retinol, retinaldehyde, and retinoic acid are all types of Vitamin A. In skincare, it is available in all of these forms, and at varying strengths. We naturally have Vitamin A receptors in our skin, which can only tolerate a certain amount per day. This is why we often need to build up our tolerance to Vitamin A skincare slowly, as we can ‘overwhelm’ the receptors which lead to inflammation, sensitivity, and flaking.
There are lots of different types within the Vitamin B group, but in skincare there are two types used: Vitamin B3 (niacinamide) and B5 (panthenol). Both are excellent anti-inflammatory agents, shown to reduce the inflammatory cascade and improve the skin’s healing abilities. This makes it ideal for sensitivity, inflammatory conditions like rosacea, and post-treatment use including after needling or peels. Any age or skin type can benefit from B vitamins.
Vitamin C A skin clinician’s favourite antioxidant. Antioxidants are extremely important in the prevention of premature ageing as they neutralise free radicals, which cause destruction to collagen, elastin, tissue and oils. Vitamin C is also shown to improve the efficacy of sunscreen agents, to improve vascularity and strengthen delicate vessels, lighten pigmentation, and have a lovely brightening effect. It’s crucial to remember that not all Vitamin C products are made the same. C comes in an extensive variety of different types, as well as different strengths. And like Vitamin A, ingredients can also be encapsulated, which means the substance is wrapped in a substance to improve its absorption and reduce risk of reaction. Think of it like a gel-coated vitamin capsule.
Peptides are chains of amino acids, and they all do different things. For example, transport peptides can deliver molecules from one place to another, and messenger peptides can trigger certain actions or cell-to-cell communication. So the peptides in your skincare may benefit you in any number of ways. A popular choice in modern skincare are peptides that act as neurotransmitters in a similar way to anti-wrinkle injections, reducing the communications between nerves and facial muscles to soften expression lines.
These are just a handful of the most popular active skincare ingredients out there, along with so many more! As always, we recommend consulting with your favourite skin professional to continue your education and make the perfect choices for you.