What you should know about active ingredients

What you should know about active ingredients

After consuming a lot of time online searching makeup recommendations through different beauty blogs, you must’ve come across the word active or active ingredient. What is an active ingredient?  

Active ingredients are the main elements of the skincare products that influence the skin and bring out the changes. In other words, these are the main mysterious wands that supposedly do the so-called miraculous wonders to your skin. But these ingredients usually don’t make any sense to the common individual. Trying to understand the long list of these complex words and terms before purchasing any product would take a lot of time. However, there are some extremely important ingredients to look for in discovering if a certain product is going to work for you or not. We’ve listed some of these ingredients to help you with this 1st world problem. Certain other interdictions of mixing these ingredients are also mentioned.

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)/Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs):

These are gentle chemical exfoliants that exfoliate by not only removing dead skin cells but also by helping new skin cells to be regenerated. These are found in most anti-aging products. AHAs/BHAs are applied mainly for

  • Acne
  • Reducing Pigmentation
  • Age spots
  • Smoother skin texture
  • Blackheads
  • Clogged pores

Don’t: Don’t mix AHAs/BHAs with retinol. Applying these for acne or anti-aging after mixing may lead to excessive skin sensitivity, irritation, redness, and even eczema.


A derivative of vitamin A which is converted into its active form retinoic acid (which your skin needs) boosts skin renewal making it smoother, firm, and brighter. It also boosts cell turnover. It is applied mainly for

  • Acne
  • Pigmentation
  • Fine lines
  • Anti-aging

Don’t: Don’t mix retinol with AHAs/ BHAs, vitamin C, and benzoyl peroxide. Using retinol with AHAs/BHAs can further dry out your skin which you don’t want. And about retinol and benzoyl peroxide, Dr. Shari Marchbein, a New York board-certified dermatologist said, “It is not recommended to use these two together as they cancel each other's effect making them less effective.” Finally, retinol and vitamin C should be used at opposite times of the day.

Vitamin C/Vitamin E:

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Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that stimulates the production of collagen and elastin making skin younger-looking and firm. It prevents skin damage by protecting from environmental aggressors. Vitamin E, another strong antioxidant also protects from environmental aggressors. It is also anti-inflammatory and is soothing and calming for the skin. Vitamin C can be used with vitamin E (another antioxidant) to boost results and efficiency. Main uses of these ingredients are

  • Skin brightness
  • Reduces pigmentation
  • Reduces scars and spots
  • Anti-aging (Vitamin E prevents premature aging)
  • Moisturizing, super hydrating
  • Strengthen skin barrier

Don’t: Don’t mix vitamin C with retinol, and benzoyl peroxide. Retinol is used overnight and repairs skin while vitamin C best thrives in daylight so these two should not be used together. Benzoyl peroxide is an oxidizing agent that reduces spots by spot-causing bacteria while vitamin C loses its potency while oxidized so these two cannot be used together.


This vitamin B3 derivative, on one hand, is an anti-inflammatory and on the other hand increase levels of fatty acid in the skin, increases the elasticity of the skin. It contains some antioxidant properties. It can even out discoloration making skin look brighter. It is applied mainly for 

  • Acne
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Rosacea
  • Reduces blemishes/discoloration
  • Strengthen skin barrier

Don’t: Don’t use niacinamide with vitamin C. Now you may wonder why the use of two antioxidants is prohibited. Dr. Shari Marchbein explains it this way, “When used together they tend to diminish the effect of each other and should be used with a gap of at least 10 minutes between two serums.”

Benzoyl Peroxide:

It is a drying agent and is a game-changer in acne treatment by killing bacteria and also having dry and peel effect on the skin. Mix benzoyl peroxide with hydrating ingredients, SPF, and topical antibiotics because acne treatment always requires extra care and needs to be extra gentle, as explained by Dr. Shari Marchbein. The moisturizing or hydrating ingredients can compensate for the dehydrating effects of benzoyl peroxide.

Don’t: Don’t mix benzoyl peroxide with retinol (as explained earlier), vitamin C (as explained earlier), and caution required in its use with acne prescription tretinoin. They work just fine if used one after another or one in AM and other in PM if you completely want to minimize any chances of interaction.

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