The Korean trend of doing a 10-step routine to achieve and maintain dewy skin has seen a significant rise in popularity in the past few years. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a 10-step skincare routine, nor have the time for it. As a result, a ‘back to basics’ skincare routine has begun to interest and find favour within the realm of skincare enthusiasts. Stripping down your skincare routine to the bare essentials has become the trend now, and that complex routine does not necessarily translate to better skin.
What is an active ingredient?
Active ingredients are ingredients within skincare products that are meant to attest to the promised benefits the skincare product is supposed to deliver to the skin to solve a particular skin issue. Examples of active ingredients are vitamin C; niacinamide; alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs); beta hydroxy acids (BHAs); retinol. These ingredients all target a specific skin problem, such as acne or hyperpigmentation.
Active ingredients can be found in all sorts of skincare products and can lead to potential side effects when first introduced to your routine. For instance, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as lactic acid, may cause flushing and redness when applied to skin that is not used to exfoliating acids.
Why is single-ingredient skincare all the rage?
As mentioned previously, there has been a rise in popularity over the ‘back to basics’ sort of skincare routine, deviating from the—though still quite popular—10-step Korean skincare routine. Factors such as affordability and time management make a basic skincare routine suitable for busy working women and university students. In addition, dermatologists are arguing that layering multiple products over the face may not lead to beneficial results.
Instead, putting too many layers may prove harmful. The piling layer on top of another layer creates an occlusive barrier that does not allow the skin to breathe. Furthermore, ingredients may not perform to their fullest extent and penetrate into the skin due to the many layers. This may result in products simply sitting on the outer layer of the skin, which causes clogged pores and eventually, breakouts.
The Best Types of Ingredients for Skin
Hyaluronic Acid: This skincare ingredient is beneficial for both dry and dehydrated skin, as well as acne-prone skin. Hyaluronic acid is known as a humectant, meaning that it has the ability to bind water to the skin, and this ingredient, in particular, can hold 1000 times its weight in water; it can also assist in improving the appearance of acne scars. It is best used in humid environments, or, locked under a moisturiser.
Niacinamide (vitamin B3): This ingredient has attained quite the level of popularity in recent years, and is largely known for its pore-minimising abilities and as a skin brightener. Niacinamide also serves as a wonderful ingredient to brighten acne scars, as well as reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It is able to be paired with most skincare ingredients, from exfoliating acids and retinol to vitamin C.
Exfoliating acids (AHAs & BHAs): There are two types of exfoliating acids, alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids, which are able to be used depending on skin type. AHAs are more suited for drier skin types, as it has the ability to exfoliate the skin without stripping it of moisture. BHAs are better for oilier and sensitive skin types, as it is oil soluble and has the ability to calm redness in the skin. Both types of acids have the ability to diminish signs of aging, as well as reduce breakouts and the appearance of acne scars, through rapid cell-turnover and unclogging pores.
Retinol (vitamin A): This ingredient is known for both serving as an anti-aging and anti-acne ingredient. Retinol is available in an assortment of forms and strengths. Beginners in using retinol must have their skin adjust to it, by using it once a week for instance, then crank up the frequency of use once the adjustment period is over. Retinol exists as over-the-counter products or as ones that need a prescription (i.e. tretinoin). The latter is much stronger and works faster than the former, but you must consult with your doctor before deciding to use it.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an extremely potent antioxidant and skin-brightening ingredient, able to neutralise free radicals accumulated throughout the day from pollution. Vitamin C is also able to be used for acne sufferers, as it is an anti-inflammatory. It is capable of helping those with hyperpigmentation, as it halts the enzyme tyrosinase, which in turn stops the overproduction of melanin.
Are the ingredients in skincare products really safe?
This depends on the product’s formulation. Skincare products that are advertised as being ‘non-toxic’, ‘green’, or ‘natural’ should be taken with a grain of salt. Simply because a product is labelled ‘100% organic’ does not immediately ring true that it is so. In order to check if your skincare products are safe to use is to simply read the ingredients list, which is usually placed at the back of the product. Additionally, choose to trust brands that are transparent with their skincare formulations, and does not include parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and artificial fragrances into their formulations.
Another way of finding out if ingredients in skincare products are safe is through skincare ingredient checkers. Nowadays, there are websites and apps that are designed to be able to inform consumers if a certain ingredient is safe. For instance, the website CosDNA will list each and every ingredient and rate it with a number. This number ranges from zero to five and conveys to the consumer if an ingredient has a risk of causing acne. The lower the number, the less chance for the ingredient to cause an adverse reaction in the skin.
Examples of active ingredients in skincare
For those of you who are confused with where to start in choosing which skincare products contain effective active ingredients, the brand Indeed Labs is a good starting point. This is due to the fact of how easy it is to find a certain product, as they are titled with the active ingredient they are said to contain. For instance, their Retinol Reface contains both retinol microspheres and retinol-peptides, as well as a vitamin A derivative called bakuchiol and is great as an acne treatment. This product is a gentle retinol serum, ideal for beginners looking to include retinol in their routine. This is due to its slow release technology, which can prevent too much inflammation from occurring.
Indeed Labs’ Squalane Facial Oil serves as a good example for single-ingredient skincare, as its ingredient list only lists squalane. The latter is great for dry skin, as it helps prevent moisture loss, and is great in maintaining the skin’s lipid barrier. Another great option for dry and dehydrated skin is Indeed Labs’ Hydraluron Moisture Serum, which contains a low molecular weight of hyaluronic acid, making it easier to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.
To those who are looking to include vitamin C in your routine, Indeed Labs’ Vitamin C24 contains a high concentration of 22% vitamin C, potent enough to sort out hyperpigmentation This product is also a two-in-one, as it works both as a serum and a moisturiser. So, if you’re also wanting to pare down your skincare routine to a few steps, then this product is an option worth looking into.
How to find ingredients in cosmetics?
As said previously, reading the labels and double-checking the ingredients list is a sure-fire way of knowing whether your product contains the ingredient you want. When reading the ingredients list, if the product is advertised as containing a high concentration of niacinamide, for instance, then check to see if that ingredient is at the top of the list. Usually, ingredients are listed based on their concentration. As such, the highest concentration is at the top and it lowers as you go further down the list. If you’re sensitive to fragrances (or have a fragrance allergy), see if it says parfum in the list, or any essential oil (i.e. lavender).
Author: Charlene M Teressa