Active Ingredients in Skincare—What Are They, How Do They Work, & Which Ones Should You Use?
Do you find that nothing seems to work no matter what you use on your skin?
The fine lines keep appearing, pigmentation gets darker by the day, and acne simply refuses to calm down—breaking out at the slightest shift in your hormones.
It could be that your current skincare doesn’t have the powerful ingredients needed to fight these common skin concerns.
We spoke to resident expert and Cosmeceutical Director Corri Matthews about active ingredients and which ones get you glowing.
What Are Active Ingredients in Skincare?
“Simply put, an active ingredient is something that’s proven to have a beneficial effect on the skin,” Matthews says. “For example, Vitamin A has been proven to have a rejuvenating effect on lines and wrinkles.”
Choosing skincare that contains actives is your best bet for visible results. However, Matthews warns against looking at the wild statements some skincare brands make about percentages.
“After a certain level, some actives stop having any additional benefit and may even cause a reaction,” she explains.
“High percentages don’t count for much. Dp Dermaceuticals is revolutionising the skincare industry by using scientifically-backed combinations and choosing active ingredients that are mutually beneficial.”
Find out what these ingredients are and what concerns they are best suited to.
List of the Best Active Ingredients for Skincare
Retinaldehyde (Vitamin A)
People around the world love vitamin A for its seemingly miraculous anti-ageing charms. It’s used in many creams and serums to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, smooth skin texture, and improve overall skin tone.
Technically speaking, a retinoid is a class of Vitamin A compounds and derivatives in different forms and strengths.
Retinaldehyde is a crucial ingredient in the Dp Dermaceuticals range. It’s considered the most active form of retinoid (Vitamin A) that doesn’t require a prescription. It has a far greater skin tolerance than Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin) or Retinol, reducing your risk of retinoid reaction.
Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A)
This Vitamin A ester is made by combining Palmitic Acid with Retinol. It’s considered a less irritating form of Retinol and is gentler on sensitive skin.
Studies have shown that Bakuchiol is comparable with Vitamin A in action. It enhances firmness and elasticity but (in comparison to Retinol) doesn’t cause the same irritation. It’s the ideal anti-ageing active ingredient for those with dry or sensitive skin.
Vitamin C is another effective antioxidant that boosts collagen formation and helps brighten skin, so you appear more radiant. Like most antioxidants, it has calming and hydrating properties. Thanks to Vitamin C, your skin is better able to withstand the environment’s negative impact.
Another powerful collagen booster, Vitamin E, reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. It also reduces the appearance of UV-induced photodamage and stabilises the skin barrier. Vitamins A, C, and E work together to make the skin more durable.
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
This anti-inflammatory regulates sebaceous (oil gland) activity. Niacinamide has been clinically proven to:
Reduce the appearance of acne, pigmentation, and fine lines
Increase moisture in skin
Improve the look of ageing skin
Balance uneven skin tone
If you’re prone to breakouts, you could benefit from some Niacinamide in your skincare routine.
Panthenol (Vitamin B5)
Vitamin B5 is known for its anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, moisturising, and anti-acne properties. As a humectant, it physically attracts moisture to the skin’s surface and delivers nutrients into your skin.
Tranexamic Acid (TXA)
TXA is making a splash on the beauty scene lately, and we understand why. (Dp Dermaceuticals have been using it for years!) It’s a powerful tyrosinase inhibitor that reduces the appearance of ALL forms of hyperpigmentation, including melasma.
Tranexamic acid works well together with these other brightening actives: Vitamin C, Kojic Dipalmitate, Liquorice and Safflower Seed Oil Piperonyl Esters (SSOPE).
Dp Dermaceuticals BRITE LITE™ at-home brightening serum contains all 5 of these proven brighteners encapsulated in HylaFuse™ Complex—a Hyaluronic Acid dermal delivery system (more on why this is crucial later) to ensure actives reach the deeper into the skin.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) & Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)
These acids work as mild exfoliants to gently ‘unglue’ the intracellular bonds holding dull, dead skin on the surface. Your skin naturally sheds its spent cells for smoother, younger-looking skin.
These water-soluble acids work effectively on the surface of dry skin to hydrate and reduce the visible signs of sun damage and age.
The AHA family includes:
Glycolic acid from sugar cane
Lactic acid from sour milk
Citric acid from citrus fruits
Malic acid from apples
Mandelic acid from bitter almonds
Tartaric acid from grapes and tamarinds
These oil-soluble acids can penetrate through lipid layers between the skin cells more readily to unclog pores. They are used in skincare for:
normal to oily skin
Antioxidants are complex molecules that come in many forms, including minerals, enzymes and vitamins.
Antioxidants are so prevalent in skincare because they defend the skin against the adverse effects of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and ageing. Your body naturally produces some, but external things like smoking, alcohol or pollution can accelerate their production.
Free radicals are like tiny zombie molecules. They go around stealing electrons from other molecules. Those victim molecules then turn into free radicals themselves. Superhero antioxidants save the day by donating electrons to neutralise free radicals or stop them from forming in the first place.
Many Dp Dermaceuticals products are rich in antioxidants like omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. linoleic acid), which are extremely revitalising and can help skin look firmer.
The range also uses botanically-derived antioxidants, including resveratrol (naturally found in the skin of red grapes), grape seed extract, minerals (zinc oxide), and vitamins.
Competing with Vitamin A in terms of anti-ageing, Copper Peptides are made of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins in our body, including the collagen in the skin.
Peptides act as ‘signals’ to your body that you need to heal and produce more collagen where you need it the most. The result is smoother skin with fewer lines and wrinkles.
The Power Peptides contained in Dp Dermaceuticals include:
Argireline® – Often called ‘Botox in a jar’, it helps prevent the formation of expression wrinkles.
Syn-Coll® – By mimicking the body’s mechanism, Syn-Coll boosts collagen production and protects against degradation.
Neodermyl® – Known as the ‘needle-free’ collagen filler, Neodermyl has been shown to improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles significantly.
A little-mentioned active ingredient that deserves wider acclaim, Geranylgeranylisopropanol (GGP), included in professional Meso-Glide MG-HA35+™, has been shown to stabilise the Telomeres in skin cells, which assist in prolonging the life of a cell. It helps the skin retain its firmness and elasticity.
Skin thrives on moisture. Hyaluronic Acid (HA) draws water to the skin’s surface. And that’s why it’s a critical ingredient in almost all quality skincare products. It also has mighty staying power, keeping moisture locked in and hydrating your skin throughout the day.
Introducing HylaFuse™ Complex
This is the patented form of Hyaluronic Acid used in Dp Dermaceuticals clinical skincare. It consists of 3 different sizes of biologically active HA molecules that reach different layers of your skin.
The complex is so effective that it can also deliver other active ingredients deeper into the skin. It continues to deliver water and active ingredients to the skin for up to eight hours after application, even when the skin feels dry to the touch.
A secondary delivery system used in Dp Dermaceuticals is Calphasomes. This is a very controlled way to deliver both oil- and water-based active ingredients while enhancing the skin’s barrier to environmental aggressors.
The acidic pH in the very top layer of the skin triggers the release of the actives from the Calphasomes. In addition to delivering these active ingredients, the hydroxyapatite crystals are naturally beneficial and easily absorbed into your skin.
What Active Ingredients Should I Use for What Concern?
Our skin ages naturally, but the visible effects are accelerated by external factors such as UV rays, smoking, and pollution. As a result, skin thins, and fine lines and wrinkles appear. Pigmentation also appears in the form of freckles, age spots or melasma.
Best anti-ageing ingredients: Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Copper Peptides, Hyaluronic Acid, TXA
Fine Lines & Wrinkles
Fine lines and wrinkles start appearing around the age of 25. The earlier you fortify your skin with potent anti-ageing active ingredients, the longer you can ward off these tell-tale signs of age.
Best active ingredients for fine lines & wrinkles: Vitamin A (Retinaldehyde), Vitamin E, Copper Peptides, Hyaluronic Acid, Bakuchiol.
Some people are simply more prone to pigmentation (darker skin tones are more at risk, for example). Along with the following active ingredients, a good slathering of SPF is essential to reduce and prevent visible dark patches. “One thing that might surprise you,” says Matthews, “is that pigmentation is quite superficial so just exfoliating dead skin with MICRO DERM EXFOLIANT is beneficial. It’s gentle enough to use every day, and the active ingredients also brighten the skin.”
Best active ingredients for pigmentation: Tranexamic acid, Vitamin C, Kojic Dipalmitate, Liquorice, Safflower Seed Oil Piperonyl Esters (SSOPE)
Starting on the nose and butterflying out to the cheeks, forehead and chin, Rosaceasymptoms can vary from a mild red rash to painful pustules. The key is to build resilience in your sensitive skin to minimise symptoms.
Matthews explains, “Using a barrier moisturiser like SKIN VENEER helps protect your skin from environmental triggers while soaking up all the moisture from the HA.”
Best active ingredients for rosacea: Vitamin B3, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Hyaluronic Acid
Acne & breakouts
When your oil glands kick into over-drive or hormones are imbalanced, you may find that your skin breaks out. Acne ranges from white and blackheads to cystic acne with infection in the skin. Gently clearing our pores, killing P. acnes bacteria, and regulating oil production can reduce your acne.
Best active ingredients for acne: Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Hyaluronic Acid, BHAs (glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid)
Acne, surgery or injury can all cause scars, but not all scars have to be permanent. Dermapen Treatments are effective in reducing the appearance of scars. When coupled with proper active ingredient skincare, results are remarkable. HylaFuse travels deeply into scar tissue to help revise scars.
Silicone is another remarkable active ingredient used in scar revision creams, including SSSCAR. Today, many skincare companies promote themselves as being ‘silicone-free’ due to the misconception that silicones cause acne and congestion. Despite the many rumours, silicone physiologically cannot cause blackheads, pimples or acne. It has been scientifically shown to provide great improvement in the formation and reduction in scars.
Best active ingredients for scars: Retinaldehyde (Vitamin A), HylaFuse, Centella Asiatica Extract, Vitamin E, Silicone
Scar active ingredients skincare: RETINAL ACTIVE, SSSCAR, and MG-R.A.S. and MG-HA35+ (Professional Dermapen Meso-Glides™)
Stretch Marks are distinctive scars that form after a period of rapid growth. Dermapen Treatments can greatly reduce their appearance especially when correct Protocols are followed, including regular application of Dp Dermaceuticals to boost results.
Best active ingredients for stretch marks: Retinaldehyde (Vitamin A), HylaFuse, Centella Asiatica Extract, Vitamin E, Silicone
Stretch mark active ingredients skincare: RETINAL ACTIVE, SSSCAR, and MG-R.A.S. and MG-HA35+ (Professional Dermapen Meso-Glides™)
We need our pores, but does everyone need to see them? Enlarged, gaping pores make it impossible to have that smooth glowing complexion you’re craving. Pores appear smaller and skin smoother when you keep them clean and plump the skin that surrounds them. Regular at-home microneedling with the Dermapen HOME is good for pores
Best ingredients for enlarged pores: Retinaldehyde (Vitamin A), BHAs
Combine Dermapen Treatments with Dp Dermaceuticals Active Ingredients for the Best Results
Dermapen Treatments are an effective way to reduce multiple skin concerns in one go. What’s better, there’s no downtime after a procedure.
The super fine needles of the Dermapen 4 device penetrate the skin in an up and down motion (no grabbing or tearing of the skin) infusing the high-quality, safe formulations of Dp Dermaceuticals even deeper into the skin.
The needling on its own offers outstanding results as the body responds by producing more collagen and elastin. But when the procedures are supported by the active ingredients before, during and after microneedling you’ll see the most rapid and impressive results.