skin health

1 mins read

a guide to pairing actives for different skin conditions

age bright clearing serum bottles
skin health

We’re more clued up about skincare ingredients than ever before. Retinol, Vitamin C, Niacinamide – you’ve likely heard of or read about these popular actives. But do you know if they’re actually right for your skin and if they’ll give you the results you’re seeking?

This guide takes the confusion out of skincare actives. We’re going to give you the lowdown on which actives pair best for different skin concerns and conditions, so you’re able to select the best skincare actives for your unique skin.


actives for breakouts: salicylic acid + niacinamide

When treating breakouts, there’s a couple of factors that need to be addressed. These include clearing a build-up of oil and dead skin cells from the pores; reducing excess oil production; eliminating bacteria and decreasing inflammation.

Salicylic Acid is considered a hero for breakout prone skin. Why? Because it offers multiple benefits for the skin and is a gentle exfoliating ingredient. Salicylic Acid is from the Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), meaning it’s oil loving. Perfect! Salicylic Acid deep dives into the pores and decongests oily build-up. It also increases cell renewal, helping to smooth skin texture. Another stand out is that Salicylic Acid is an anti-inflammatory. Yes, that’s right, it’s going to help calm down angry, inflamed breakouts. If that wasn’t enough, it also has antibacterial properties. You’ll find Salicylic Acid used through the Active Clearing range (excluding Oil Free Matte SPF30). Both AGE Bright Clearing Serum and Retinol Clearing Oil contain a 2% concentration of Salicylic Acid for rapid clearing. AGE Bright Clearing Serum is ideal for oiler skins that experience blackheads, bumps and breakouts. Retinol Clearing Oil on the other hand, addresses both breakouts and signs of skin ageing at the same time.

Whilst Salicylic Acid decongests and fights bacteria and inflammation, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) helps suppress excess oil production – one of the biggest causes of breakouts, which can be caused by hormonal and lifestyle factors. Another benefit of this gentle active is that it helps fade the marks breakouts leave behind. Niacinamide is another active you’ll find in AGE Bright Clearing Serum. It’s also in Sebum Clearing Masque, AGE Bright Spot Fader and Oil Free Matte SPF30, all in the Active Clearing range of products.


actives for signs of skin ageing: retinol + hyaluronic acid

As the skin naturally ages, it becomes thinner, duller, more dehydrated and due to collagen decline, lines, wrinkles and skin sagging become visible. Our exposome (environment and lifestyle) can all speed up and intensify signs of skin ageing. In the modern busy world, it can be challenging to avoid premature ageing triggers such as stress, pollution and blue light from our smart technology.

If you want firmer skin fast, Retinol is your active. Known as the gold standard for skin ageing, Retinol (pure Vitamin A) is another skincare multi-tasker. Retinol is potent, with the ability to reverse skin damage and speed up processes in the skin to reflect a younger behaving skin. For example, Retinol increases cell renewal and cell turnover; promotes more collagen production and helps even skin tone. It’s ideal for a mature skin or for skin that’s been exposed to environmental damage. As incredible as it is, Retinol needs to be used with caution, introducing it slowly to the skin, only using at night and always wearing sunscreen during the day. Overnight Retinol Repair features 0.5% microencapsulated Retinol. Microencapsulation stabilises Retinol which is naturally unstable and breakdowns easily when exposed to light, air and heat. By microencapsulating Retinol, an optimum does is delivered to the skin, combined with a targeted delivery deep into the skin. Overnight Retinol Repair comes with a Buffer Cream that can be mixed in with it. This allows skin to acclimatise to the powerful effects of Retinol over time and prevent an adverse reaction.

One of the reasons why skin becomes more dehydrated and loses volume with age is due to a decline in Hyaluronic Acid production. This hydrating hero does an amazing job of attracting and holding onto moisture in the skin, leaving it plump, smooth and soft. Hyaluronic Acid is the perfect partner to use in conjunction with Retinol, as a side effect of Retinol can be dryness and sensitivity. Hyaluronic Acid helps strengthens skin’s barrier while saturating skin with moisture. Dermalogica uses Hyaluronic Acid in a number of its product. Circular Hydration Serum contains Hyaluronic Acid, along with Polyglutamic Acid from fermented Soy, which stimulates the production of natural Hyaluronic Acid. Not only does Circular Hydration Serum instantly hydrate, but it locks in moisture for long term hydration and healthy skin.


actives for hyperpigmentation: niacinamide & hexylresorcinol + lactic acid

Hyperpigmentation refers to uneven skin tone or dark patches on the skin. Most commonly caused by UV rays, other factors such as hormones, medications, stress and skin trauma can also cause dark spots on the skin. In order to effectively fade hyperpigmentation, the cell that is responsible for making pigment needs to be targeted. When we have excess pigment it’s because this cell is hyperactive.

As already mentioned, Niacinamide helps to fade dark spots. How does it do this? Well, it’s able to prevent excess pigment being injected into our skin cells – the last step in the process of making skin pigment (melanin). Working in synergy with Niacinamide, is Hexylresorcinol. This is a new and highly effective ingredient for treating hypopigmentation. Another stage of the pigment making process within the skin is the making of pigment itself Much like making a cake, there’s some fundamental ingredients needed. Tyrosinase (an enzyme) is a key ingredient required to make pigment and this is where Hexylresorcinol comes in. Hexylresorcinol is a potent active that can inhibit Tyrosinase activity, and in turn inhibit the overproduction of pigment. PowerBright Dark Spot Serum stars both Niacinamide and Hexylresorcinol. Along with fading dark spots, it safeguards against future hyperpigmentation, by preventing against key triggers such as pollution, inflammation and free radicals. PowerBright Dark Spot Serum works fast to fade hyperpigmentation – it was proven to fade dark spots in just one week and reduce the size and number of dark spots over a four-to-six-week period.

In addition to tackling the pigment making process head on, breaking up existing pigment will enable your dark spots to fade faster. Exfoliation speeds up cell turnover, pushing pigmented skin cells up and out of the skin. Lactic Acid is a highly regarded Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) for fading pigmentation. Along with its exfoliating properties, it’s also able to inhibit Tyrosinase activity. What’s more, it’s gentle on the skin so there’s less risk of causing inflammation (a cause of pigmentation). Skin Resurfacing Cleanser contains 5% Lactic Acid, delivering daily brightening. Whereas Rapid Reveal Peel, a weekly exfoliation treatment, contains a 10% dose which is amplified by brightening Pumpkin Fruit Enzyme.


actives for skin glow: vitamin c + glycolic acid

Are we not always seeking skin glow?! When our skin glows, it looks healthy and vibrant and we ooze skin confidence. However, skin dullness is a daily battle. Why? Because our skin is constantly exposed to brightness blockers. Pollution, stress, fast food, poor make-up removal or an inconsistent skincare routine can all lead to a “wall” of brightness blockers on our skin.

Vitamin C is a fan favourite in the world of skincare. Notably because it’s yet again another active offering multiple benefits. What it tends to be most known for is it’s brightening benefits - it’s one active to grab if you want more glow! Vitamin C can enhance skin radiance because it’s able to inhibit pigment production. But it’s worth noting that there’s more to offer than brightening. It’s also a potent antioxidant and it helps firm skin by stimulating collagen production, making it a strong contender against premature skin ageing. The BioLumin-C Collection of products uses an ultra-stable, bioavailable Vitamin C complex. The Vitamin C complex contains two types of Vitamin C (Ascorbyl Methylsilanol Pectinate and Aminopropyl Ascorbyl Phosphate), fused together with a firming peptide for a youthful boost. Like Retinol, Vitamin C is highly unstable. Bioavailability refers to getting the Vitamin C beyond the skin’s surface, where it would be oxidised quickly. As well as driving results, this can also help the skin to dial up its natural defence mechanisms against skin damage.

Glycolic Acid is another leading ingredient for treating skin dullness. Firstly, because it’s an exfoliant and will remove the build-up of dulling dead skin cells. Secondly, it’s the most potent of the family of AHAs. Because of its small molecular size, it’s able to penetrate the skin’s surface rapidly and “unglue” brightness blockers, revealing a more luminous, healthy-looking skin. Daily Glycolic Cleanser couples Glycolic Acid with Calendula Extract and Jojoba Oil, to both brighten and condition the skin. Prepping the skin first with Glycolic Acid means when you treat it with Vitamin C, the Vitamin C will be better absorbed into the skin!


actives for sensitivity: oats + hyaluronic acid

Skin sensitivity can be genetic (meaning your born with it), a reflection of our lifestyle or something we’ve applied to our skin that we shouldn’t have or our skin dislikes. Red, hot, tight, dry and painful skin are all symptoms of sensitivity. What’s a common theme with a sensitive skin is an impaired skin barrier. Tiny gaps or cracks in the barrier means moisture can escape and irritants can easily get in. Treating the symptoms of sensitivity, along with strengthening the barrier will help to restore skin, or for those who are genetically sensitive help keep sensitivity at bay.

Records show that oats were used to soothe skin and relieve itching around 2000 BC by the Egyptians! Oats offer great relief for skin sensitivity: they naturally soothe skin and relieve redness; have antioxidant properties and help to restore the skin’s lipid barrier. You’ll find Colloidal Oatmeal, Oat Extract and Oat Oil commonly used in skincare, depending on the formula. Oats are used as a staple ingredient in our UltraCalming range of products. Outside of UltraCalming, Super Rich Repair, our most nourishing moisturiser contains Oat Kernel Extract, to help soothe and relive itchiness for a dry skin. MultiVitamin Power Recovery Masque combines Oat Kernel Extract with conditioning Vitamin E and brightening Vitamin C – it’s the perfect remedy for a stressed, dull, dry and dehydrated skin in need of some TLC!

Hyaluronic Acid – a star performer – helps to improve an impaired barrier. It does this by locking in moisture for sustained protection and providing deep moisturisation to relive skin tightness. Hydration is also needed to ensure our barrier lipids, a major component of our barrier, are organised correctly. Calm Water Gel, a lightweight, cooing gel moisturiser, boasts a blend of soothing and hydrating botanicals with dual Hyaluronic Acid technology. Dual Hyaluronic Acid Technology uses Hyaluronic Acid at different molecular weights, to optimise delivery into different skin layers for optimum protection and deep hydration. UltraCalming Serum Concentrate, also from the UltraCalming range, contains both Hyaluronic Acid and Oat Kernel Extract to provide a potent, yet gentle, solution for inflamed skin.


how should I layer my actives?

Many popular skincare actives are found in serums. If you’re using multiple serums, you may be wondering how to layer them. Well, you have a few options. Firstly, you can alternate morning and evening. But if you do want to use them in the same sitting, then the general rule of thumb is to apply your lightest layer first, so get a feel for the weight of your serums. Give the first layer 30 seconds to a minute to absorb into the skin, before following with your next serum. Be mindful that not all actives will mix well together. For example, Retinol with a Hydroxy Acid would be too stimulating for the skin – it would pair better with a gentle active in the same application.

There’s so many incredible actives out there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use them all on your skin! When it comes to selecting your skincare actives, it’s about understanding how they work and what your skin needs. Taking an educated approach will ensure the best results and minimise the potential for skin irritation. Find your nearest Dermalogica Expert here.


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