A Guide To Must-Have Skincare Products With Active Ingredients For Flawless Skin

Skin serum

Taking care of your skin is more than just a beauty ritual; it is a necessary component of overall health and well-being. However, with the staggering amount of skincare products in the market and trends on social media, anyone can feel overwhelmed and confused by them.

Skincare products with active ingredients play a crucial role in nourishing and protecting your skin, treating a variety of issues, and maintaining a glowing and healthy complexion. Every ingredient, from cleansers to moisturizers, serums to sunscreens, is meticulously developed to offer certain advantages and attend to various skincare needs. However, creating an efficient skincare routine requires an understanding of the value and application of skincare ingredients.

The right skincare ingredients help combat aging signs, soothe sensitive skin, moisturize dry spots, and reduce oiliness. They can also help to achieve a clearer, more even-toned complexion, boost collagen production, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and enhance your skin’s natural radiance.

In this article, we will look at a variety of skincare products with active ingredients, their uses, and their proper application. This information will allow you to make wise decisions about the products you use, whether you’re a skincare novice or an enthusiast eager to increase your knowledge.

Common skincare products to be used:

1. Cleanser: The first step in any skincare regimen is cleansing. It removes dirt, oil, and makeup from your skin, leaving it clean and prepped for the next steps. Use a gentle cleanser that is ideal for your skin concern, has lower pH (less than 6), is oil-free, and is non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores [6]. Wash your face with a cleanser twice a day, morning and night.

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2. Toner: While not necessary, a toner can balance your skin’s pH and get rid of any leftover oil or dirt after cleansing. It can also benefit your skin by hydrating it properly. Look for a toner that is alcohol-free and has moisturizing components like glycerin or hyaluronic acid. After cleansing, apply it with a cotton pad by swiping it across the face and neck.

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3. Chemical exfoliators AHAs/BHAs: Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are chemical exfoliators that can enhance the appearance of your skin. AHAs work by dissolving the bonds that hold dead skin cells together, whereas BHAs dissolve oil and grime that might block pores. Some common AHAs are glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid; some common BHAs are salicylic acid and betaine salicylate. Begin with a low concentration of AHA/BHA serum and gradually increase it as your skin becomes tolerant of it. In the beginning, use it only once or twice a week after cleansing.

Note: Glycolic acid can cause photosensitivity, which means it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun’s UV rays. Therefore, apply sunscreen during the daytime. Also, if you are using both AHAs and BHAs separately, then use BHAs during the daytime and AHAs in the evening regime.

4. Antioxidants:

a. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is one of the best skincare ingredients on the market with strong antioxidant properties. It moisturizes and brightens the skin, reduces hyperpigmentation, encourages the synthesis of collagen, and offers UV protection. It is considered safe for use for the majority of skin types. In the morning, layer a vitamin C antioxidant serum under your moisturizer that is followed by sunscreen.

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b. Retinol/Retinoid: Vitamin A in the form of retinol and retinoid assist to enhance the appearance of your skin. They can lessen the visibility of age spots, fine lines & wrinkles and increase the production of collagen [1]. Retinols also help to lessen acne and acne marks and enhance the texture of your skin [1]. However, some people may find them irritating, so it’s crucial to start with the lowest strength and use them in moderation. Use a retinol or retinoid product only at night after cleansing. Always remember to consult your doctor when using retinol/retinoid-based products.

Note: Do not mix retinol/retinoid with vitamin C or AHAs/BHAs. Use them at different times. Also, like glycolic acid, retinol/retinoid makes your skin photosensitive. Therefore, don’t forget to use sunscreen the next morning.

c. Niacinamide: Niacinamide, often known as vitamin B3, is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging compound. It controls the quantity of acne-causing oil, sebum, produced by the oil glands in your skin and lessens the swelling and redness brought on by acne. Niacinamide holds moisture and softens and illuminates the skin by encapsulating water molecules. Additionally, it can also help to reduce hyperpigmentation and increase keratin (the protein that makes up the skin, hair, and nails) production [1]. Use it during the day and at night as it is compatible with other active substances. Layer it based on its consistency and pH.

Note: Do not mix niacinamide and vitamin C as both are powerful antioxidants.

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5. Eye cream: Eye creams are created specifically to care for the sensitive skin around your eyes. They can aid in lessening the visibility of fine wrinkles, puffiness, and dark circles. Find an eye cream that includes ingredients like vitamin C or caffeine [2]. Use them before moisturizing as they are mainly thin in consistency.

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6. Moisturizer: A moisturizer is a paramount component of any skincare regimen. It helps to keep your skin hydrated. Look for a moisturizer that is appropriate for your skin type, has moisturizing components like hyaluronic acid or glycerin, and is oil-free & non-comedogenic. Apply it after using your antioxidant products.

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7. Sunscreen: It is necessary to shield your face and body from the sun’s harmful UV rays, and this makes sunscreen the most important skincare product you can use. It also aids in preventing early aging signs, skin cancer, and other skin issues. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection from UVA and UVB radiation and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply it daily, even on cloudy days or during winter, as the last step of your skincare regime during day time.

Note: Do not mix SPF with makeup or moisturizers. Use it as a single layer to preserve the protective factors.

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How to layer these products in skincare regimes?
Morning (AM) Regime:
Step 1: Cleanse- Use a mild cleanser and start with a clean complexion.
Step 2: Tone- Prep, hydrate, and balance your skin’s pH by using a toner.
Step 3: Treat- Use serums like antioxidants to correct skin concerns and protect skin from environmental stresses by creating a barrier layer on the skin.
Step 4: Eye cream- Depuff tired eyes and minimize dark circles by using caffeine- or active ingredient-based eye creams.
Step 5: Moisturize- Hydrate and lock all the ingredients in their place by using a moisturizer. Use a hyaluronic acid- or glycerin-based moisturizer if you have dry skin or a salicylic acid-based product if you have oily skin.
Step 6: Sunscreen- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF and protect the skin from harmful sun radiations. *If you are using a chemical sunscreen, use it before the moisturizer as it needs to penetrate the skin to provide protection.

Night (PM) Regime:
Step 1: Double Cleanse- Remove makeup using an oil-based makeup remover and then use a cleanser to remove all the dirt and impurities.
Step 2: Exfoliate- Use a chemical exfoliator like glycolic acid or lactic acid 1 to 3 times a week to promote cell turnover and renewal.
Step 3: Mask (optional)- Use a sheet mask once or twice a week to deliver essential vitamins and nutrients to the skin.
Step 4: Treat- Use retinol or retinoid once every other day until you build tolerance and then every day to treat acne marks, increase cell turnover, and boost collagen production.
Step 5: Eye cream- Plump, hydrate, and minimize the appearance of dark circles by using an active ingredient-based eye cream.
Step 6: Night cream- Use a moisturizer to replenish hydration, undo the damage, and lock all the applied ingredients in the skin.

Things to remember before including active ingredients in your skincare routine:

1. There is no hard and fast rule as to how many active ingredients you can use, but it’s important to remember not to go from zero to 100 at once. Start incorporating them gradually.
2. Not all active ingredients can be combined together. Consult your doctor to know which ingredients you should use together to get the most benefits out of them.
3. Remember to layer the ingredients according to their pH, i.e., apply products with less pH first and then layer it with the products that are high in pH.
4. Along with pH, consider the consistency and thickness of the products. Use products with thin consistency like toners and serums before and then top them with products that are thicker in consistency like moisturizer and sunscreen.
5. Active ingredients like vitamin C, retinol/retinoids, and AHAs/BHAs have some side effects that go away after some time with continuous use. Consult your dermatologist if the symptoms don’t subside.
6. Always do a patch test before applying any new product.
7. Not all products have the same effect on everybody. Test and check what works for you according to your skin condition and type.

Remember! Each person’s skin is different, so it could take some trial and error to find the correct mixture of components. With patience and consistency, you can discover the ingredients that work best for you and unlock the true potential of your skin.

(The article is written by Namita Singh, Team Leader, and reviewed by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)

1. Understanding Popular Skincare Ingredients [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic; 2022 Aug. 02 [accessed 2023 Jul. 02]. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/skin-care-ingredients-explained/
2. How to correctly layer your skincare products, according to the experts [Internet]. Curology Team; 2022 Oct. 27 [accessed 2023 Jul. 02]. Available from: https://curology.com/blog/what-order-to-apply-skincare-products/
3. How to Layer Skincare Products [Internet]. Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery Institute; 2022 Nov. 30 [accessed 2023 Jul. 02]. Available from: https://www.mydcsi.com/2022/11/30/how-to-layer-skincare-products/
4. We Asked a Skincare Specialist How to Layer Skin Care Products the Right Way [Internet]. Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute [accessed 2023 Jul. 02]. Available from: https://skincancerderm.com/we-asked-a-skin-care-specialist-how-to-layer-skin-care-products-the-right-way/
5. Unlocking the Power of Skincare Layering: How Combining Products Can Transform Your Skin [Internet]. Reviva Labs; 2023 Mar. 15 [accessed 2023 Jul. 02]. Available from: https://www.revivalabs.com/unlocking-the-power-of-skincare-layering-how-combining-products-can-transform-your-skin/
6. Wong M. All About Cleansing & How to Choose a Gentle Cleanser [Internet]. Lab Muffin Beauty Science; 2022 Jan. 10 [accessed 2023 Jul. 2]. Available from: https://labmuffin.com/how-to-choose-gentle-cleanser/

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