Skincare acids and actives are confusing. We’re told on a daily basis they’re essential and important for the health and well-being of our complexions, but the supporting information—like what they actually are, what they actually do, and how much we should actually use—is murky. Basically, we’re faced with walls and walls (or pages and pages) of cult-favorite elixirs and formulas, with no real guidance as to why they’re important or what we should be looking for in terms of quality, potency, or key supporting ingredients. But we’re about to help with that. Or rather, an expert group of leading dermatologists and estheticians is.
Allow Howard Sobel, MD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and founder of Sobel Skin, to explain first: "These types of ingredients get their name because they’re ‘actively’ working to help improve the general appearance of your skin, whether by stimulating collagen and elastin production, increasing cell turnover, or protecting it actively from skin damage," he shares.
"An ‘active’ ingredient is a targeted ingredient that has been shown in studies to provide results at the level included in the product," adds Elyse Love, MD, of Gramercy Laser and Medical Dermatology. "So, if a product contains an ingredient at a low level that has not been shown to be scientifically significant, it should be listed as an inactive ingredient, not an active ingredient." That said, since there isn’t a lot of regulation on this within the skincare realm, choosing quality formulas from reputable retailers (and, sorry, not just something you find for cheap on Amazon) is of utmost importance if you want something that’s truly effective.
Plus, there’s also the fact that a very small number of over-the-counter skincare products directly state the percentage of active ingredients they contain, and since some (like retinol or your AHAs/BHAs) can be irritating at high potency, it’s always good to tread carefully, starting with smaller amounts and eventually increasing your daily quota if you find your skin reacts well and you’re getting the results you want. It’s also a great idea to book a consultation with a licensed esthetician or board-certified esthetician who can evaluate your skin and prescribe a specific regimen with specific products.
Another important note? Most active ingredients are combined to maximize their efficacy. For example, licensed esthetician and Stacked Skincare founder Kerry Benjamin explains superstar active ingredients like hyaluronic acid (HA) need superb supporting casts in order to earn a standing ovation. Ahead, we’re highlighting 10 important active skincare ingredients in addition to 20 of our favorite formulas containing them. Keep scrolling!
Source: Who What Wear – Erin Jahns