What is the Active Family of Ingredients?

Read the label of your favourite skincare products and you’re sure to see one or more of these: antioxidants, amino acids, Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or brighteners. They may be listed as an active ingredient or simply placed on the label to entice you to buy it.

But, what are these ingredients and what do they do? Let’s break it down for you in Part 2 of our Skincare Education Series. After all, the more you know and understand, the better equipped you’ll be to find the right products that address your greatest skin concern.


Antioxidants are substances that prevent or inhibit cellular damage from the free radicals that cause premature ageing. Basically, they protect your skin and keep you from looking older than you are. They're everywhere, not just in your favourite skincare products but also in the foods you eat. In fact, you may have enjoyed eating foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, nuts, and seeds in your breakfast this morning or for your mid-morning snack.  In skin care products, antioxidants protect the skin from the effects of free radicals, prevent inflammation, firm skin and reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles and repair sun and environmental damage.

Antioxidants to look for:

Keep an eye out for these terms:
  • Vitamin A or its derivative Retinol: Restores skin cells to reduce ageing, improve surface texture and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
  • Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid): Boosts the effectiveness of the other antioxidants, especially Vitamins A and E.
  • Vitamin E: Works with Vitamin C to protect cells.
  • Resveratrol: Nourishes and protects the skin. Although it’s also found in red grapes (and thus also red wine), that doesn’t mean you should double down on the red wine on your next night out.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10): Found naturally in the body, CoQ10 smooths skin texture and reduces the signs of premature ageing.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that help the body produce healthy skin. They’re vital for collagen production and synthesis. If you’ll remember, collagen is crucial for the production of young, healthy skin cells. Unfortunately, as we get older, our bodies produce less collagen, which makes fine lines and wrinkles stand out. Even if premature ageing isn’t your main concern, amino acids allow the skin to produce strong, healthy cells.

Amino acids to look for:

  • Histidine helps protect the skin from UV rays and may neutralise free radicals.
  • Lysine boosts collagen synthesis.
  • Methionine is essential for tissue growth and repair.
  • Arginine reduces inflammation and improves support for antioxidants.
  • Proline reduces the appearance of fine lines.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

AHAs are an active ingredient in many exfoliating products and skin treatments. For good reason, too: they remove the top layer of skin to reveal the fresh skin beneath. They make aged lackluster complexions appear younger, firmer and smoother.

AHAs to look for:

  • Lactic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Malic acid
  • Citric acid
Look for the percentage concentration listed on the label. Also, speak with your skin care professional to find the appropriate percentage to address your primary skin concern.


Brighteners revive and even out skin tone and texture. If you’re concerned with dark spots or age spots, skin brighteners remove dead skin cells and smooth your complexion. There’s some overlap between brighteners and the categories listed above. For example, Vitamins A and C are both antioxidants that repair cellular damage and improve cell turnover (especially when used together!). The result? A brighter, smoother complexion and reduced pigmentation. The good news is Cosmedix products contain one or more of the above categories as an active ingredient. They boost the overall health and appearance of your skin. In Part 3 of this blog series, we’ll get into why your skin is so sensitive. Here’s a hint: It may have to do with what you slather on it.

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