Beauty 101

How to Layer Active Ingredients?

Dr Ingky Dermatologist
How to Layer Active Ingredients?

There are two primary ways to go about this, and our dermatologist recommends pursuing a hybrid approach of the two.

Rule #1: Order products by consistency from thinnest to thickest.

This is the simplest way to go about layering actives, and it’s the one that we always advise people to do. This means that right after cleansing, begin by applying water-based serums. Their thinner consistency allows them to sink right into the skin and get to work. Then layer the silicone-based products before finishing with oils, creams, and sunscreens.

Rule #2: Order actives by pH from lowest pH to highest Ph

Lower pH actives include Vitamin C, AHAs, and BHAs. These should be applied earlier in your skincare routine, ideally right after cleansing. Because of their lower pH, they are able to sink deeper into the skin. A great way to incorporate these actives early in a routine would be to invest in an acid toner or peel pads and a Vitamin C serum due to their thinner consistencies. Higher pH actives include Vitamin A, hyaluronic acid, and most oils. These should come later in a routine if you choose to layer based on pH. A good way to do this would be to use a hyaluronic acid moisturizer, a retinol cream, or a facial oil.

Now we have the idea on how to layer our skincare. But what active ingredients that we should have in our daily skincare routine? With skincare’s recent boom in popularity among consumers, the sheer number of products hitting the shelves and promising to fix our skin can be overwhelming to say the least. Therefore, we provide you a handy guide that break down the ingredients that work and provide a few simple combinations to address a variety of skin concerns. You will find Vitamins A, B, C, AHAs, and BHAs are the most common ones that appear in a variety of popular skincare products.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is mostly known as Retinol, Retinal, Retinoid, and Retinaldehyde. Other examples of Vitamin As include Differin gel, Adapalene, Retin-A, and Tretinoin. While each of these forms of Vitamin A differ slightly, these are all antioxidants that work to increase cell turnover, smooth fine lines, fight wrinkles, and treat acne. 

Although Vitamin A has been widely studied as a hero ingredient for warding off acne and signs of aging, it does come with a few side effects. First, this active has been known to have a drying effect on the skin. Consequently, applying a rich moisturizer right after applying your chosen form of Vitamin A, is critical to maintaining overall skin health.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B, also known as niacinamide, has grown in popularity recently for its versatility and calming effect on the skin. When used on its own, niacinamide brightens dull skin, fades dark spots, and controls oil production in the pores.

Niacinamide works wonderful as a spot treatment to fade dark spots and treat breakouts. Because niacinamide sits at a relatively neutral pH of around 4.5, this active can be combined with most others. When combined with other active ingredients, niacinamide works to calm any irritation that may result from the use of stronger actives like retinol, AHA, or BHA. Niacinamide, when combined with other brightening agents such as Vitamin C, delivers even more impressive results in the same amount of time, and with less irritation, for sensitive skin types.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is known for increasing collagen and elastin production in the dermal layer in the skin, as well as brightening skin at the surface. Vitamin C, like Vitamin A, is an antioxidant that helps to fight off the free radicals and environmental pollutants that our skin gets exposed to during the day. 

The purest form of Vitamin C is L-Ascorbic acid. However, this molecule tends to be highly unstable, and its instability can lead to skin irritation for some. Fortunately, there are plenty of less potent derivatives on the market for more sensitive skin types. Common derivatives of Vitamin C include ascorbyl palmitate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (THD), and magnesium ascorbyl palmitate.


AHA, also known as alpha-hydroxy acid, refers to a class of water-soluble chemical exfoliants that slough dead skin buildup away right at the surface, resulting in a more even complexion. Because AHAs function right at the surface of the skin, these acids also help to prevent blackheads and whiteheads.

 BHA, also known as beta-hydroxy acid, differs from AHA, in that this group of chemical exfoliants is lipid-soluble. This difference in solubility allows BHAs to penetrate deeper into the pores to kill acne causing bacteria and treat clogged pores more directly than a preventative AHA can. 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to use all of these active ingredients every single night, especially if your skin doesn’t need it. There are times where just a moisturizer would hydrate your skin before you go to bed. The overuse of treatments would increase the risk of irritation and we don’t want that.

Therefore, get to know what you want for your skin and get the right active ingredients and apply them with the right method. Within 1 to 3 months, you might see your dream skin become reality!

If you're ready to take your skincare routine to the next level, we are here to help! SkynFyx is a platform that provides completely free skincare education. SkynFyx is run by a group of skincare experts who want everybody to achieve flawless skin at the cheapest possible cost. We customize a skincare range just for your skin condition. Feel free to contact us if you have any inquiries concerning skincare.

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