9 Must Have Skincare Actives in Your Routine

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: May 10, 2018 | Last Updated: Dec 13, 2018

Skincare Actives You Need in Your Routine

Skincare is becoming just as trendy as makeup was a couple of years ago. It is certainly easy to see why so many people are getting into it. To look better all the time without the need to spend hours in front of the mirror is certainly a tempting option.

Although, when you start researching skincare, it does get a bit confusing. Here is a round-up of the key active ingredients that you will certainly want in your life.

1. Sunscreen

I know this isn’t an active ingredient per se, but it would be a skincare crime if I didn’t impress the importance of sun protection. UV damage causes up to 80% of aging. There is no sense in entertaining the rest of the list if you skip this. Note that UVA waves can penetrate both clouds and glass, so it’s worth applying even if you’re staying inside or if the weather isn’t sunny. 

2. Retinoids

Second, on the list are Vitamin A derivatives, these are the only clinically proven molecules actually to reverse aging. You can turn back the clock with this stuff, and it’s scientifically proven. There are some issues introducing Retinoids, it must be said. Retinol is the most commercially available retinoid, and it is highly irritating.

The skin must be slowly introduced to this fantastic skin time machine. You have to build up the tolerance by gradually increasing the concentration and frequency.

The results include a reduction in pigmentation, fewer wrinkles, smaller pores, as well as an improvement in acne. It is worth adding to your long-term skin regimen if you’re looking to improve skin quality in general.

3. Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid

Ascorbic acid or Vitamin C is found in plentiful supply in nature. It’s an excellent addition to your skincare routine for it’s antioxidant, collagen supporting and anti-pigmentation action.

It’s best used in the morning under SPF and supports sun protection by reversing sun damage by binding “reactive oxygen species.” Reactive oxygen species are the particles made in the skin when the sun shines on it that cause sun damage. 

It is water soluble and works best in low pH situations. Vitamin C is unstable and goes rancid quickly. Be careful never to use a Vitamin C product that has turned orange or brown- that means it has gone off. 

4. Alpha Hydroxy Acids

AHAs include Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, Mandelic acid, Tartaric acid, Citric acid and Malic acid. Glycolic acid is the most popular acid seen in skincare products, and it has the smallest molecules of all the AHAs, which means that it penetrates the skin better.

These plant-derived acids help to break down the bonds between skin cells and produce and exfoliating action. It increases cell turnover and delivers a smoothening effect and reduces wrinkles. AHAs can also help with acne by lowering pore blocking dead skin cells.

You have to be somewhat careful when using acids in your skincare, they can be irritating and will sensitize the skin to the sun. You can combat this by using a low concentration, using a good sunscreen and introducing slowly.

5. Beta Hydroxy Acids

The only real Beta Hydroxy acid or BHA is Salicylic acid. Salicylic acid dissolves oil, and this means that it unclogs pores. If blackheads, open pores or acne is your problem then BHA is a fantastic choice. Salicylic acid could even reverse sun damage as shown by some studies, making it an excellent choice for daytime skin routines (whereas AHAs should only be used in the evening).

6. Peptides

You have probably heard of peptides in anti-aging moisturizers and serums. What exactly are peptides? And how do they work? Peptides are small chains of amino acids- like a protein, only smaller. They are like little messengers, telling the skin cells what to do.

There are numerous peptides (also called oligopeptides, polypeptides and pentapeptides) that have different functions- Argireline reduces muscle contraction in a similar way to Botox, Matrixyl 3000 boosts collagen production, Trylagen stops enzymes in the skin from breaking down collagen and elastin. 

There is some research showing peptides may help with signs of aging and they don’t come with the issues of sun sensitivity or irritation.

7. Niacinamide

Vitamin B3 Use

Well known for reducing oiliness and helping with pores, Niacinamide aka Vitamin B3 is no one-trick pony. This is something you want to look into. Niacinamide has been well studied and has numerous pleasing effects for the skin- oil regulation, reduction of redness, improvement in skin tone, support for the skin’s moisture barrier, reduction in pigmentation, fewer wrinkles.

Using Niacinamide regularly can result in smoother, younger and more even-toned skin. It can be used morning and night and best used at a different time to strong acids as it can have a flushing effect. 

8. Azelaic Acid

An underrated skincare star, Azelaic acid is derived from grains. It’s much gentler than the Alpha Hydroxy Acids as it’s the same pH as skin, so it is much less likely to irritate. Azelaic acid exfoliates and smoothes the skin in a much gentler way than AHAs. If acne, rosacea or pigmentation are concerns, then Azeleic is worth exploring.

It’s been shown to reduce inflammation and brighten the skin in general as well as having antioxidant action. It’s a great all rounder for all skin types and well worth exploring.

9. Alpha Lipoic Acid

Antioxidants are a vital part of any anti-aging skincare regimen; they can reverse the damage that sunlight causes. There are plenty of amazing antioxidants that have sun damage preventing effects, but Alpha Lipoic Acid is my favorite.

It is both oil and water soluble which means it can absorb well into the deeper layers of the skin. Its effects, aside from being an excellent antioxidant, include a possible detoxification effect on cells, an oil regulation effect, a reduction in pore size and a visible brightening and smoothing result.

You might not have heard of Alpha Lipoic Acid, but it’s certainly an ingredient that is worth learning about.

Read Next: Different Ways To Establish An Effective Skincare Routine


Skincare can be a baffling field, but a bit of research can entirely pay off. Most of the actives in this list work for numerous skin problems and have many wonderful results.

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