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Active Ingredients in Skincare

First things first… What exactly is an active ingredient?

Skincare products can be formulated with any number of ingredients — humectants, extracts, preservatives and active ingredients, just to name a few. Simply speaking, actives are the ingredients in a formula that are scientifically-proven to address specific skin concerns.

In other words, they’re the ingredients that really help a product do what it promises to do. For example, if a spot treatment claims to clear up acne, it will probably contain an active ingredient like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Make sense? Let’s break down some of the most popular active ingredients in skincare.

Select an ingredient to learn more

Alpha-hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
Hyaluronic Acid
Mandelic Acid
Tartaric Acid
Benzoyl Peroxide
Kojic Acid
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
Vitamin C
Beta-hydroxy Acids (BHAs)
Lactic Acid
Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs)
Glycolic Acid
Malic Acid
Vitamin C
Ingredient Type:
L-ascorbic acid, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, 3-O ethyl ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and ascorbyl glucoside.
The basics:
When it comes to vitamin C in skincare products, L-ascorbic acid is the most researched, stable and beneficial form to look for. It is a potent antioxidant and skin-soothing agent that can also help improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin C can be air and light sensitive, which is why you’ll often find it bottled inside of dark-tinted or opaque packaging (which helps preserve its effectiveness).
Antioxidant protection
Improves the appearance of photodamaged skin
Minimizes the look of fine lines and scarring
Improves overall skin clarity and radiance
Fades dark spots and hyperpigmentation

Best for

Normal, oily and combination skin types. For sensitive skin, start gradually

Works well with

Moisturizing ingredients (also, sunscreen!)

Doesn’t mix well with

Citric acid or Alpha-hydroxy acids Benzoyl Peroxide

How often to use

Daily. Apply it in the morning for antioxidant protection all day long.