The Ultimate Guide to Actives in Skincare

The Ultimate Guide to Actives in Skincare

We are all bombarded with skincare products and it is hard to know which ones actually work. Actives have proven to be more beneficial than anything else when it comes to skincare, but how do you use them? The Dermal Diary has created this ultimate guide for actives in skincare that will teach you everything you need to know about these powerful ingredients!

Our Approach to Actives

At The Dermal Diary, we don’t believe in serum/active layering.

Yep! That might sound contrary to a lot of the information out there especially online, but the reason is simple: 

Each active is designed to do something specific, and the skin can only absorb so much therefore to avoid active reactions and product wastage it’s best to use one serum at a time per morning or night.

So, what are the best actives for skincare? 

Vitamin C 

First up is Vitamin C. This ingredient will brighten your skin tone and even out pigmentation while reducing any congestion in the pores. It’s also a powerful anti-oxidant to combat ageing caused by environmental aggressors like pollution and smoking! 

How to Use It:

It's great to use every morning for its antioxidant qualities, to reduce damage caused by UV rays and to combat the ageing process. You can also use it at night to get rid of any congestion and give your skin a good detox.

Here at The Dermal Diary, our Vitamin C range is tailored to suit the needs of all skin types - our C10 is a lower concentration yet potent blend that gently exfoliates while also those with dry, damaged skin. While our C20E  is made with 20% Vitamin C - a supercharged version of our C10 complex that is ideal for reactive skin types, adult acne and those who just can’t get enough of C10.


Next up is retinol, otherwise known as Vitamin A. This skincare active will help reduce fine lines and wrinkles while also giving your skin a healthy glow. It's one of the most popular actives in the market, and for good reason! 

How to Use It:

If you're new to retinol, introduce it into your routine once per week in the evening as you're building up tolerance. Once your skin is adapted (typically after 28 days) slowly work your way up to 2-3 times a week to support your skin's regeneration process.

The Dermal Diary 'New Skin' is a fabulous starter product when it comes to retinol. This Retinyl Palmitate (a very safe version of Vitamin A/Retinol) rejuvenates the skin by stimulating new cell production as well as brightening, exfoliating, and protecting cell DNA. This version is safe for pregnancy & breast feeding, & ideally for regular daily use (once you've built up your usage)


Next, we have Vitamin B - Niacinamide. What makes this so great is that it has the ability to brighten skin and reduce redness all while being gentle on sensitive skin types, and has an impressive amount of clinical studies to back it up! 

How To Use It: 

Vitamin B can be used either day or night (how many times depends on your skin's needs and your goals) it’s an incredible pigment reducer and barrier function support. 

Our “Pigment Corrector” is a highly-specialised formulation for targeting stubborn dark spots and reducing hyperpigmentation. Made with 10% Niacinamide, the only clinically-proven product to remove pigmentation with regenerative properties, it helps fade old scars, freckles, blemishes, and sun spots.

AHA’s and BHA’s

Finally, we have AHAs and BHAs which are great for tackling rough, dull skin texture caused by sun damage or aging. They also help with acne because they make it easier for your skin cells to shed that layer of dead, dry cells blocked in pores leading to breakouts! The most popular AHA is glycolic acid which is great for sensitive skin types. The most popular BHA product on the market right now is salicylic acid, and it's a great choice if you're looking to address breakouts or blackheads (especially since this active can penetrate deep into pores).

How To Use It:

How often you use AHAs or BHAs is entirely dependent on your skin type - and how prone to sensitivity you are. Using too many exfoliating acid-based products, or one product that is simply too potent, can damage the stratum corneum – the outermost layer of your skin, also known as the skin barrier. 

AHA's should not be used more than once every other day, and BHA's are typically used over breakout prone skin a couple of times a week.

The more important point is that having too many highly active ingredients in your skincare line up can result in an imbalance in your skin, causing irritation and breakouts - the very thing you're trying to avoid!

When To Use Your Actives?

As mentioned, we don't believe in layering your actives. So if you are choosing to use - as an example - a Vitamin C that day, we don't recommend layering it with other actives unless your skin therapist has specifically prescribed it.

In What Order? 

Using your serums/actives after you cleanse, tone and exfoliate but before your moisturizer is the most optimal order to use them. You want to use them after exfoliating to increase absorption and before your moisturizer to allow your moisturizer to nourish and hydrate after your skin has responded to the actives. 

It’s best to consult a skin therapist for a proper skin analysis and plan as it is possible to use too many actives. Sometimes less is more especially if the skin is particularly and obviously stressed. Many consumers rely on advice gained online and assume they should buy everything and layer it on. We see this a lot at The Dermal Diary and often strip back what people are using in order to nurse the skin back to health. 

Hence, when we prescribe clients new skincare, our plans often resemble personal trainer plans for clients. Each day might focus on a different part of the body ie leg day or core day. In the same way, each day is composed of different actives to repair and strengthen skin depending on what your unique goals are.

At The Dermal Diary, we believe in the importance of education and empowering our clients with the right information they need to achieve their skin goals. With so much misinformation out there, and with skincare companies being able to make claims that overpromise and often underdeliver, our intention is to cut through the noise and create transformative skin results that are sustainable for our clients. 

If you're ready to learn about what your skin really needs, and get the exact prescription of actives to help you achieve your skin goals once and for all - book in for a First Time Visit now!