A Beauty Breakdown: Understanding the Active Ingredients in Your Skincare Products

5 Valentine's Day Skincare Essentials to Gift Yourself,A BEAUTY BREAKDOWN: UNDERSTANDING THE ACTIVE INGREDIENTS IN YOUR SKINCARE PRODUCTS by Beauty Blogger Laura Lily,

Whether you’re just getting started on your skincare journey or you’re looking to purchase some new treatments, understanding the active ingredients in your skincare products is crucial for maintaining clean, healthy skin. Recognizing what active ingredients or ‘actives’ are and the role they play in your beauty supplies can teach you a great deal on what it means to properly care for your skin. Not only will this allow you to find the right products, but it’ll also help to outline which steps to follow in your daily skincare regime.

Not sure where to begin your research? Look no further! Here is a basic beauty breakdown of the active ingredients in your skincare products. 


What is An Active Ingredient?

Active ingredients are multi-functional, but in skincare, they’re designed to target and treat particular skin concerns. In other words, they’re the ingredients that are responsible for providing the benefits as advertised by any given skincare product. If you’re using a facial cream that proposes anti-aging benefits, for instance, the active ingredient within the product is what’s actually working to combat signs of aging— possibly something like tretinoin or hyaluronic acid.

Actives vary in strength depending on whether they’re over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription-based. Typically, OTC products that contain an active will be weaker in strength and less potent compared to prescription skincare treatments. Nevertheless, the percentage of active ingredients within a prescription product can differ based on a patient’s skin type and the severity of their concern. So, if you’re looking for suitable skincare products in their purest form, your best bet is to meet with a dermatologist first in order to avoid irritation, inflammation, or worsening the state of your skin.

But, if you’re not quite ready to schedule an appointment, OTC products with active ingredients are a great alternative. Still, to ensure you reach desired results, it’s important to know which actives are compatible with your skin type and specific condition. Some of these ingredients support more than one skin concern, whereas others are more area focused.

Let’s take a closer look:

Common Actives in Skincare Products


Often referred to as the tried-and-true ingredient in skincare, retinoids— the umbrella term for retinol products— are a class of topical medications derived from vitamin A used for a number of reasons. From targeting acne to treating fine lines and wrinkles, this active ingredient works to smooth and firm the skin by boosting cell turnover, lightening age spots, unclogging pores, improve skin texture, and more. Even though the timeline to visible results can take anywhere from three to six months after initial use, countless studies have proven why retinoid products are a must-have skincare item.

Hyaluronic Acid:

For those of us who struggle with dry, sensitive skin, this active ingredient is made for you! Hyaluronic acid is a powerful ingredient in the skincare world as it helps to keep skin hydrated, elastic, and healthy. This can be especially valuable for people as they get older. Naturally, our hyaluronic acid (HA) production level decreases once we hit our thirties, and continues to diminish over time. The immediate benefits for dry skin, combined with its long-term benefits for aged skin, make hyaluronic acid an all-star ingredient for almost anyone, regardless of what age they are.

Vitamin C:

Nothing helps to preserve your bright, youthful glow like a skincare serum rich in vitamin C. As an antioxidant, this active ingredient serves to protect against harmful free radicals by neutralizing them, in turn, helping to reduce signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots caused by sun damage, and loss of moisture, As a result, these antioxidant properties make it effortless to keep your complexion looking bright and radiant all-year-round.

Identifying Active Ingredients on Product Labels

Now that you have a better understanding of active ingredients, you’re ready to begin your hunt for some new, active-equipped skincare products. To do this, however, it’s important to know how to read your product labels so that you can easily identify any active ingredients within it. Seems straightforward right? Wrong. Identifying the actives on a label isn’t just about knowing the official ingredient name, it’s also about acknowledging where it’s listed amongst the other ingredients on the label and how that plays a part— or should play a part— in how you incorporate it in your usual skincare routine.

In most cases, actives should land at the top of the ingredient label as they tend to make up the majority of the skincare formula. Primary ingredients are normally the first five components listed on the label, meaning they take up the highest percentage within the product. Pay attention to the percentage associated with the active(s) as this can impact how effective the product will be for your skin, especially if it’s already sensitive.

For best practice, perform a patch test when trying out a new treatment or increasing the active percentage. Doing this will allow you to see how your skin reacts to the product without jeopardizing its current state.

As always, thank you for reading. You can find more of my beauty and skincare product articles here.



Photo by Taylor Lynn Photo


  1. We need to be very careful with what skincare products we are using and what are the ingredients used in it. The article that you shared will be helpful in knowing our products well. Thank you for listing it together and sharing it with us. Keep sharing more such articles with us in the future.

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