By Nancy @redlipsgoldskinned
My favourite aspect of Asian skincare is its ‘more power to you’ approach – it is less about how many products you use, and more about the flexibility to customize your daily routine based on your specific skin concerns and budget.

Let’s get started! How? By understanding what goes on your skin and why it goes on your skin.

Welcome to Skincare Actives!

An active is any ingredient that can change or alter your skin, its structure and appearance, not just temporarily. It has a measurable effect against a specific skin problem. It is backed by scientific study … none of that ‘alpha collagen with light boosting miracle pearls’ snake oil.

Sounds fantastic, yeah? Sign me up! Why aren’t we just using actives…why the multi-product complicated routines? Because, like just like avocados, Netflix binges and pizza – Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be a Bad Thing.

Apart from actives, a product can be made of up of several other ingredients – some as delivery vehicles for the active, and some as stabilizers, coloring agents, anti-oxidants and other good stuff, fragrance, and downright pointless ingredients such as gold leaf (because you know…marketing). Not every skincare product must contain an active.

DOES YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE NEED ACTIVES?

In my experience, I don’t think every skincare routine needs actives. But when I want my skincare to really do something, I’d rather incorporate an active than gamble on marketing claims.

That being said, each active has its pros and cons. For example, vitamin C is used to treat hyperpigmentation, but it increases your skins sensitivity to sunlight. So going out without adequate sun protection is not an option, because it may worsen your hyperpigmentation.

Choose actives if you are willing to incorporate additional products into your routine, to counteract any possible side effects.

Here are some popular Asian Skincare Actives by function (with some overlaps), to help you customize your routine:

If you want to: BRIGHTEN, FADE AGE SPOTS AND SUN DAMAGE, EVEN OUT COMPLEXION

  • Vitamin C – Improves collagen production with long term use

  • Arbutin

  • Galactomyces / Yeast Ferment extract – Controls sebum production

  • Niacinamide – Strengthens skin’s moisture barrier

If you want to: HYDRATE / SOOTHE / SPEED UP SKIN REPAIR

  • Snail secretion filtrate: Does all of the above

  • Propolis: Derived from the sap of coniferous trees, and is converted to a resin by bees. As a natural sealant, Propolis aids in moisture retention to maintain a healthy, glowy complexion. It’s anti-fungal, antiseptic, and anti-bacterial properties speed up the wound healing process.

  • Hyaluronic acid / Sodium hyaluronate

  • Glycerin

If you want to target: FINE LINES, WRINKLES AND OTHER SIGNS OF AGING

  • Retinol, Retinoid, Tretonin: Retin based actives that stimulate cell turn over, and collagen production and thicken deeper layers of the skin, which is the source of wrinkles.

  • Vitamin C

If you want to: EXFOLIATE / REDUCE THE OCCURRENCE OF ACNE / IMPROVE  TEXTURE

  • AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) exfoliates outer layers of skin and improves skin texture. Common AHAs include glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and lactic acid

  • BHA (beta hydroxy acid) penetrates into pores and clears them out, preventing buildup of sebum. The most common BHA is salicylic acid.

If you want to: LIGHTEN SPOTS / SCARS 

  • Arbutin

  • Kojic Acid

RESTRAINT IS KEY, MORE IS NOT BETTER

  1. Use actives to target specific skin problems only. It if doesn’t bother you, or can be fixed with lifestyle/dietary changes, then skip it.

  2. Percentage % and pH matter. Let your skin gradually acclimate to the more potent level of the product instead of starting out with a higher concentration. Actives such as AHA, BHA are pH dependent.

  3. If you skin is overly sensitive or compromised, seek advice from a qualified medical profession, not only from Dr. Internet.

  4. If you want to use more than 1 active at a time, err on the side of caution. Simply alternate actives between your am & pm routine or on alternate days

Were you able to match an active to your skin concern, from the above list? If not, look up products by entering the active in our search tab or leave your questions in the comment section below. We are happy to help !

Until next time, your friendly neighbourhood skincare addict, @redlipsgoldskinned.

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