Unlocking the mystery of Skincare Actives

In the vast world of skincare, the mysterious term “Actives” may excite you or fill you with dread. Maybe you’re picturing the effort of gyms or exercise… well, you’re close.  There may be fitness involved, but more for the skin than the rest of the body. These are game-changing ingredients with no muscles required, so let’s dive in and explore the magic behind these potent skin supporters.

3 minute read

So, what are skincare actives?

At its core, an "active" ingredient in skincare is one that's clinically proven to have a therapeutic effect on the skin. Unlike other ingredients used fillers or sensory boosters, actives truly "act" on your skin and make a discernible difference to a reduction in wrinkles, treatment of acne, or the brightness of your complexion. They’ve been proven to deliver positive changes to the skin in a measurable and scientific way. It's important to note, however, that actives aren’t drugs or medication and are classed as cosmetic ingredients, but have nonetheless been proven to work. Take retinol for example – one of the most powerful ingredients on the market , classed as an actives because it creates a change in your skin leading to noticeable results.


Why actives matter

Think of actives as the lead actress in your skincare regimen. The base ingredients in your moisturisers may hydrate and your sunscreen will protect (best supporting roles), but it's the actives that work on a cellular level to bring about real, noticeable changes. By targeting specific concerns and the underlying causes, they can transform your skincare routine from basic maintenance to transformative.  


Spotlight on a few star actives

Retinol: Perhaps one of the most celebrated actives, retinol is a form of vitamin A. It accelerates skin cell turnover, making it a go-to for those looking to reduce the appearance of fine lines and achieve a smoother complexion. However, because of its potency, it's essential to start with a lower concentration and use it sparingly to let your skin adjust.  Remember everything in moderation!

Hyaluronic Acid: This is my personal favourite – it’s so versatile! Contrary to its intimidating name, hyaluronic acid is a godsend for dry and dehydrated skin. Naturally found in our skin, this active can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water, making it a hydration powerhouse. By drawing moisture into the skin, it helps achieve a plump and youthful appearance.

Antioxidants : (these include vitamins A, C & E) These not only promote a luminous and bright complexion by supporting cellular turnover, they also shield skin against aggressors such as free radicals from pollution, poor diet and stress – a must in today’s environment.

Acids: These include Lactic Acid, Glyocolic, Mandelic, Azelaiac and the gentler fruit acids, and are powerful brightening agents as they lift away the surface layers of the skin to reveal the fresher luminous baby-soft skin underneath, often also boasting powerful dark-spot fighting properties.

Do’s and Don’ts of actives:

With great power comes great responsibility. Actives are potent, and while they can work wonders, they also come with the potential for side effects, so here are some pointers:

  • Less is More: Especially when starting with a new active, begin with a small amount to see how your skin reacts.  You can try a half pea sized amount on the neck and see how your skin responds…we sometimes call this a patch test. 
  • Be a Skincare Night Owl: Some actives, like retinol and acids, are best used at night as they can increase skin's sensitivity to the sun.
  • Patience is a virtue, and you are virtuous:  Most actives don't provide overnight results. Consistency is crucial. Give them a few weeks to work their magic.
  • Slowly slowly does it: Don’t introduce a host of powerful actives at once, give your skin chance to adjust and look at whether you can tolerate each ingredient before adding more to your regime – this will not only reduce sensitivity but also give you a better idea of your personal limits.

Above all, listen to your skin; if it's feeling overwhelmed, take a break.

Skincare actives hold the key to great skin that is bouncy, firm, and alive with glow. Armed with the right knowledge and approach, they can become star players in your beauty routine. It’s time to let your skin take centre stage!

Remember, always consult with a dermatologist, Aesthetic doctor or Aesthetic practitioner before making significant changes to your skincare regimen.

Our knowledge sets us apart

My body was telling me I needed a change.

Written by Jenny O’Connell, Co-Founder of SISTERLY.

I was a barrister for 20 years and took on a major career pivot as a result of feeling sick of being sick! I’d had a busy but stressful career, an obsession with endurance sports and a love of margaritas (I never know when to go to bed) but modern life takes its toll. I got sick a lot - chest infections, strep throats and constant bugs - and I managed my health with antibiotics and steroids.

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