Where, when and how to use active ingredients for the best results

active ingredients

So, by now you’ve probably heard about active ingredients. These are the ingredients in your skincare products that target and tackle specific concerns or are used because of specific qualities. However, knowing what they are and knowing how to use them effectively can be a confusing business.


While some products that contain them are safe and beneficial when used every day, others are more potent and should be applied sparingly for optimal results. If deciphering between daily actives and treatment actives has got you scratching your head…


… let’s clear that up so that you can get the most out of your routine for a *snatched* complexion.

Do it on the daily

If only it were as simple as some actives being safe for daily use and others not. Some of them are best used at certain times of the day to protect your skin from environmental damage and UV rays, such as vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night. For the most part, though, it all comes down to the concentration of the hero ingredient in your products. 

The active ingredients in your skincare routine that are designed for daily use will have a lower concentration so that your skin is better able to tolerate it. Either that, or they are one of those gentler all-rounders, such as moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid and skin-balancing niacinamide, which are safe for all skin types, can’t really be overused and require consistency for visible efficacy. Not just for your face, actives can be used daily in the right concentrations on your body as well.

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Just the occasional treat

Some of the products in your beauty regimen should be more targeted treatments that you use every few days, once a week or only when necessary. What separates them from their daily-use counterparts is that they tend to contain higher concentrations of active ingredients and, if you were to use them daily, would be too harsh and could do more harm than good. And by harm, we mean a disrupted skin barrier and a red, sensitive complexion. No, thanks!

Products meant for occasional use are often in the form of face masks or treatments applied directly to the problem. Some serums, however, are also too strong to apply every day, which is why reading the label is crucial. Some common treatment actives include exfoliating acids, such as glycolic and salicylic, as well as anti-ageing retinol.

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Helen Wallace

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