How to Introduce Active Ingredients into Your Skincare Routine

Three black bottles of skincare serums containing active ingredients pictured in a large white clamshell.

Active ingredients have been massively popularised in the mainstream skincare industry in recent years, with more and more people introducing them into their skincare routines. But, it can be a little intimidating when approaching these strong ingredients to begin with. When introduced right, active ingredients have amazing effects on your skin. However, if not introduced correctly, active ingredients can actually cause more harm than good. That’s why it’s important to be educated on how they work, and what the best way to introduce active ingredients is.

What are active ingredients?

Put simply, active ingredients are the ingredients in your skincare that target specific skin concerns. They're the ingredients that work to repair, rejuvenate, hydrate, protect, and nourish cells. Active ingredients work by penetrating your skin’s barrier and performing their functions at a cellular level. This instigates rapid cellular turnover as the active ingredients begin to heal your skin concern.

When you first introduce active ingredients into your skincare routine, this rapid turnover often causes “purging”, where impurities evacuate your skin rapidly causing small breakouts. Many people misunderstand purging as a negative reaction and take it as a sign to discontinue use of active ingredients, however this is usually not the case. Purging is an essential step on the road to healing your skin concerns. During this stage, your active ingredients are causing your skin to rapidly shed excess oils, dead skin cells and other impurities. With continued use of your active ingredients, purging should clear up within 2-6 weeks, leaving your skin clearer and healthier inside and out.

Common Active Ingredients

Active ingredients commonly used include:

Vitamin C - brightens and evens out skin-tone, repairs barrier & stimulates collagen production

Retinol - prompts skin cells to turn over and die rapidly, making way for new growth. Known for its anti-ageing properties through collagen retention and thickening the deeper layers of skin to prevent wrinkles.

Hyaluronic Acid - known for hydrating the skin. Hyaluronic acid works by binding water molecules to your skin cells, allowing your skin to absorb water more easily and increasing your skin’s hydration.

Niacinamide - reduces inflammation and repairs your skin’s ceramide barrier, allowing your skin to retain more moisture. With continued use, niacinamide can help to reduce visible pore size and help your skin to regulate oil production, resulting in less breakout.

So, how do you safely introduce active ingredients?

Start Small

Your first step into active ingredients shouldn’t be the strongest concentration you can find on the market! Introducing active ingredients will bring a massive overhaul to your skin, so it’s best to start small with lower concentrations to introduce the ingredient to your skin and get a feel for how it reacts.

MYTH: Low concentrations aren’t effective

TRUTH: Low concentration actives make a huge difference to your skin when introduced because they cause rapid cell turnover and renewal.

One at a time

When we hear about active ingredients and all the magical things they can do for our skin, it can be tempting to rush out and buy an all-new active skincare routine to start at once. However, this can be overwhelming for your skin and will cause hardcore purging, which might not be ideal. Active ingredients also increase your skin’s sensitivity, so introducing too many at once can result in adverse effects as your skin tries to cope with the sudden change.

Learn your new skin type

As we mentioned before, active ingredients will increase your skin’s sensitivity. You’ll need to treat your skin with some EXTRA TLC after introducing active ingredients. Avoid things like exfoliating scrubs, harsh chemicals, and things that rub on your skin (like towels or skin scrubbers). ALWAYS follow up your active ingredients with a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturiser to keep your skin feeling hydrated.

Clear it out

After a week of using active ingredients, it’s important to do a gentle exfoliation to help release the skin cells brought to the surface. We do not recommend using anything physical, like an exfoliating towel or face scrub. The best way to gently exfoliate your skin is with an enzyme mask. We go into detail about how enzyme masks work in this blog post.

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