Take our simple quiz to find your skin type and get to know the best (and worst) active ingredients for your unique skin.

Want flawless skin you say? Well, you’ll achieve that once you start to customize your skincare routine according to YOUR skin type, with active ingredients suited for YOU.

what are active ingredients

But what are active ingredients?

Easily explained, an active ingredient is an ingredient in your skincare product that is biologically active and is meant to address a specific concern, like balancing the skin’s oil production or hydrating the skin. Active ingredients have tons of biotechnical studies supporting their effectiveness!!

Proven active ingredients are the only skincare elements we know work with 100% certainty. These have, as mentioned, countless official studies proving their superpower. So let’s find the ones most suited for you.

quiz skin type active ingredients

//skin type + active ingredients

We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s just SO important: A skincare product is only as good as its worst ingredient. And, a skincare routine is only as good as its worst step. For instance, did you know most people (hopefully not you) fuck up their entire skincare routine by doing the first step, the cleansing, totally wrong?

“A skincare product is only as good as its worst ingredient. And, a skincare routine is only as good as its worst step.”

By cleansing too poorly or with the wrong ingredients, you leave a microscopic layer on the skin, so the other products you apply in your skincare routine won’t be absorbed into the skin because of “stuff being in the way”. This often results in dry and flaky skin, and sometimes breakouts.

On the other hand, if you cleanse too much with rough products, maybe in a desperate attempt to remove excess oil from your skin, you make your skin irritated. And the result? Your skin produces even more sebum (oil) to protect itself. It’s all a big vicious circle.

We’ll tell you all about what kind of cleansing is the ideal one for you after you’ve taken the quick skin type quiz.

Does climate affect the skin?

And, one last thing, you might be wondering how climate is important for what skincare ingredients you use. We’re not talking about how dry skin is more prevalent in places with dry air and similar. We’re talking about how ingredients work. We won’t bore you with too much technical information, just one quick example:

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid. A commonly used active ingredient to treat dry skin. It’s an effective and well-proven ingredient with tons of benefits. However, there’s one big problem –
Hyaluronic acid works like a magnet. It hydrates by attracting moisture from the air and “giving it to your skin”. This is great if you live in a humid climate with lots of moisture in the air, but if you on the other hand live in a dry climate there’s not much moisture in the air, so instead the hyaluronic acid molecules suck out the little moisture you have in your skin instead, and you end opp drier than before… Crazy huh? And to think that every beauty store in countries with dry climates sells tons of hyaluronic acid. There are many studies on how this acid works.

This is why you should avoid using hyaluronic acid in dry places, like a non-humid country, in a plane, at a school/workplace with dry air, etc.

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quiz skin type active ingredients

//quiz skin type + active ingredients

What are the benefits of a personalized skincare routine? 

By understanding your skin, and having a customized skincare regimen consisting of good products with proven ingredients, you’ll start seeing a difference in your skin as soon as 1-to 2 weeks. 

By using active ingredients suited for your skin type, you can expect benefits like:  

  • Healthy-looking, hydrated skin 
  • Less sebum production, more balanced skin  
  • Fewer whiteheads/blackheads and blemishes  
  • Fewer fine lines, less visible wrinkles 
  • More plumped and youthful skin complexion 
  • Less visible scars and pigment spots, more even skin tone

And much more. 

Sounds too good to be true? It’s not a joke. 

How to enjoy the sun and be tan while also preventing photodamage!

//quiz skin type + active ingredients

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Let’s customize your skincare routine!

These are the five major skin types:

  • Oily skin is shiny, greasy, and with big pores.
  • Dry skin is flakey, tight, and is often irritated.
  • Normal skin is balanced, mostly clear & non-problematic.
  • Combination skin is typically oily in the t-zone (forehead, nose, chin) and dry in other places.
  • Sensitive skin gets easily irritated, sometimes turns red, itches, and stings – often when touched or applying products. You might have sensitive skin in combination with one of the other skin types.
  • … And you can have acne or other skin conditions in combination with one of the skin types above.

//quiz skin type + active ingredients


(If you already know your skin type – scroll down to find your best active ingredients)

Skincare quiz – find your skin type:

(It takes less than 1 minute to finish)

What's your age? This is important because different ages usually give different skin challenges.

↓↓↓

Best active ingredients for your skin type:

If you don’t feel like taking the quiz, or already know your skin type, below are the results for the most common skin types and struggles.

  • Each “box” contains the most suitable active skincare ingredients for each skin type.
  • The active ingredients are listed in these categories: 1. Cleansing/exfoliation, 2. serums, and 3. moisturizers. We also list some make-up ingredient tips for the more challenging skin types.
  • Sources are listed at the bottom of the page. Here you’ll find studies done on the active ingredients.

Best ACTIVE ingredients for DRY SKIN TYPE:

Dry skin

(scroll to read)

Let’s fix your dry skin! Can you think of a cause for your dry skin? Sometimes skin struggles are just genetics or bad luck, but very often it’s actually a reason behind your dry skin. It can be rough, cold, or dry climates, dehydration, diet, or – the most common reason behind dry skin: poor cleansing and exfoliation. Poor cleansing with the wrong ingredients causes a microscopical layer of dirt and dead skin cells on your skin, and because of this layer your skin won’t be able to absorb the moisturizing products you apply = skin continues to be dry. So let’s start with the ultimate cleansing ritual for dry skin;

The best cleansing ingredients for dry skin type:

Always double cleanse. First with oil, preferably 100% squalane or coconut oil, as these are THE ONLY oils that won’t oxidize on your skin and ruin your skin on a cellular level. (Read more about squalane here). After the oil cleanse, cleanse with a clinical cleanser containing the super ingredient lactic acid (ex. study), or salicylic acid (ex. study). Lactic acid is more suited for dry skin because it’s more gentle and focuses on the surface. Salicylic acid is better for oily or acne-prone skin, as it is rougher and goes deeper. Choose clean cleansing products with a high enough percentage of lactic acid/salicylic acid, and no bad add-ons. Some ideas for good cleansers are the Murad AHA/BHA lactic acid cleanser, a plus is that it has some salicylic acid as well. A cheaper option is the CeraVe wash with niacinamide (another super ingredient) and salicylic acid.

The best exfoliation ingredients for dry skin type:

Exfoliate your skin weekly with a pure lactic acid product. Do not use grainy old-fashioned “scrubs” as these ruins the skin. A suggestion is The Ordinary’s lactic acid 10% exfoliator, it’s the bomb! A big plus for being a serum you leave on at night, so it’s less time-consuming compared to a mask. Expect some tingling when applied.

The best serum ingredients for dry skin type:

The best serum ingredients to treat dry skin are hyaluronic acid or amino acids. Only choose hyaluronic acid if you live in a humid environment as we mentioned before. Anyone can use amino acids. Many dry-skinned people prefer amino acids serums over hyaluronic acid because they seem to be more effective in targeting dryness. Choose super clean serums with a high percentage of the active ingredient. Paulas Choice peptide serum with amino acids is a gold mine, as it contains several super-effective and well-documented ingredients targeting many skin issues. The Ordinary’s Amino Acid serum is also an excellent choice. If you want hyaluronic acid, this serum from Cos De Baha is a best-selling favorite.

Another MUST-HAVE serum for dry skin is 100% squalane oil. It’s super moisturizing, but compared to other oils, squalane absorbs into the skin and leaves it glowy and healthy-looking, instead of oily and sticky. Make sure the oil is 100% saturated and free of perfumes and similar. You might want to purchase two because most squalane tends to come in small bottles. I love The Ordinary’s plant squalane and have used it for years. Another good option is the Mayumi squalane, both are totally affordable.

Are serums really necessary? YES. Serums are small particles that are able to penetrate deep into the skin, and actually “fix” whatever problem you have, compared to a cream that just sits on the surface and protects the skin from external damage.

If you are interested in more super effective serum ingredients targeting other things than dryness check out this article.

The best active moisturizer ingredients for dry skin:

Use a cream moisturizer rather than a gel moisturizer. Ideally, it has amino acids or hyaluronic acids. The Ordinary’s moisturizer it’s gentle and super soothing for dry skin, it’s clean, and it has a ton of benefits!

The best make-up for dry skin:

Now, my friend, you will learn the ultimate make-up hack for dry skin fellas. If you try this, you will NEVER go back to your current skin makeup. Dry skin looks bad, it looks dull, lines and wrinkles are more visible, and make-up trends become flakey, so let’s fix that, with a little change in your make-up routine;

  1. Start with a super moisturizing and healthy skincare routine with the ingredients mentioned above.
  2. Finish off with literally BATHING your face in the super moisturizing squalane oil. Let it absorb for as long as you can, a minimum of a minute or two.
  3. Then, use the super beneficial skincare-makeup jane iredals pure-pressed powder. It’s made for oily skin, so it sits super well on the skin, and it mattes down the squalane and leaves your skin looking dewy and naturally glowy. The product is clean and 100% skin-healthy. It’s buildable, it also has SPF 25, and has a ton of benefits like protecting your skin against blue light from screens.

If you want even more dry skin tips and tricks, check out this article: How to instantly cure your dry skin overnight


Best ACTIVE ingredients for OILY SKIN AND/OR ACNE:

Oily skin / Acne

Best Cleanser + Exfoliator ingredients:

Most people with oily skin are cleansing and exfoliation way too rough with way too harsh products, in a desperate attempt to get rid of the excess sebum (oil). This causes the skin to get irritated, and guess what? As a result of that, your skin starts to produce even more sebum! Always cleanse twice, but with a mild exfoliator containing salicylic acid, which is a super-effective deep cleansing ingredient.

Do not use a cleanser with irritating add-ons like perfume, silicone, parabens, sulfates, or traditional oils. As a suggestion, the mild Medik8 pore cleanser is a good fit for oily skin and all sorts of acne. Another cheaper option is the CeraVe salicylic acid wash, this also contains niacinamide which is another amazing ingredient for regulating oil production. It’s important to exfoliate 1-2 times a week. Use an exfoliator based on salicylic acid. If you have acne, Medik8 has a great one called refining scrub. If you just have oily skin, two other best-selling options (with good reason) are Paula’s choice SA liquid exfoliator, and on the cheaper side; The Ordinary’s pure salicylic acid mask.

Best serum ingredients:

The best serum ingredient for regulation of oil production is niacinamide (ex. studies) It also has a ton of other benefits like minimizing pores, redness, blemishes, congestion, blackheads/whiteheads, it repairs the lipid barrier, and makes your skin look overall better. Your product should contain 10% niacinamide, which surprisingly few do. Good and clean options are The Ordinary’s niacinamide serum, or Paula’s choice niacinamide serum.

If you have acne as well, a good retinol serum is a must-have as it helps with treating acne and old scarring. It also is the only ingredient that’s actually anti-aging supported by science (ex. studies). The serum should contain 1% retinol and have stable ingredients. Most retinol serums contain squalane, which is basically oil. Squalane is supposed to be acne-safe, but just in case here’s a retinol serum from medik8 without oil, it’s called 3TR retinol. Other good options (with squalane) is Peter Thomas Roth’s night retinol or The Ordinary’s 1% squalane.

Read this article if you are interested in learning more scientifically proven super-serum ingredients targeting different skin issues, like glow, aging, pigment spots, hydration, etc.

Best moisturizer ingredients for oily skin and/or acne:

While serums penetrate deep into the skin, daydreams are super important as they protect the outer layer of your skin against damage. Choose creams that are gel-based, not cream-based. It should contain niacinamide and some hydrating components, eighter amino acids, or hyaluronic acid. It’s a big plus if it has some zinc as it’s a good protector against blue light, pollution, and free radicals.

We have many holy grail suggestions for gel-based moisturizers, but our top 2 is Paula’s invisible moisture gel, this is our best recommendation because it contains both niacinamide and moisturizing factors like hyaluronic acid. It’s clean and a great choice for oily skin with big pores. Another hot tip is Natrium’s niacinamide gel, this one is especially great if you have a surface with a lot of “texture”, like big pores, scarring, discoloration, very much sebum, etc. The niacinamide gel also has a lot of other great ingredients, like the protective zink oxide we just mentioned 🙂

A good sunscreen is challenging to find for people with oily skin, especially if you have acne as well. You should definitely give the dry powder sunscreen from Jane Iredale a chance. Another good option is to use a mattifying, skin-safe mineral powder with high SPF for daily use (we get back to this just below) and then use a very protective sunscreen on the days you spend a lot of time outside. The ELTA MD is another best-selling sunscreen that should be a good match for oily and/or acne-prone skin.

Make-up tips for challenging skin:

When dealing with somewhat problematic skin, it’s especially important that the make-up you put on your skin is 100% skin-safe and healthy. In your case, your skin will start over-producing sebum (oil) if it gets irritated, and you don’t want that! Use clean, breathable “skincare makeup”, and always check all the ingredients. The Jane Iredale pure-pressed base is just fantastic. It’s made for oily and acne-prone skin. It has a pretty high SPF, lots of colors to choose from, and a ton of benefits like protecting against pollution and blue light, it mattifies without making the skin look dull, and it helps regulate oil production. It’s a gold mine and it’s loved all over the world.


Best ACTIVE ingredients for COMBINATION SKIN TYPE:

Combination skin

You want the “best of both worlds”. With combination skin, we assume you have some oily parts (probably in the T-zone), and some average to dry patches on your skin. You might also suffer from sensitive skin or acne, and you most definitely have some whiteheads or blackheads on your nose. This ingredient suggestion is all about finding a good balance to treat all skin problems without overdoing it and causing more harm than good.

Best Cleanser + Exfoliator for combination skin:

Always do a double cleanse with a mild cleanser containing salicylic acid. No perfume or other harmful add-ons. A simple suggestion is the CeraVe salicylic acid wash, it does the job, and is totally affordable.

1-2 times a week you should exfoliate, which is like a super deep cleanse. This process helps your skin get rid of dead skin cells and other junk. For drier and more sensitive skin, lactic acid (AHAs) is a great exfoliating ingredient, while for oily and acne-prone skin, salicylic acid (BHAs) is the holy grail. As you are a combination, you should ideally have an exfoliator containing both super-acids, and the best-selling Murad AHA/BHA exfoliator is one of few that helps you with that. If you just want one of the acids, The Ordinary’s salicylic acid mask is top-notch, and for lactic acid, The Ordinary has just the perfect product for that as well, lactic acid 10% + HA.

Best Serum ingredients for combination skin type:

Serums are important as they are able to penetrate deep into the skin. For your skin type, you need two different serums. One with niacinamide, which balances your skin, minimizes pores, scarring, and fine lines, and makes your skin look overall much better. Niacinamide is also a life-saver for acne. The serum should contain 10%+ niacinamide, and it’s a big plus if it contains zinc as well, as it works well with niacinamide. Choose clean products with few ingredients, and no perfume, oils, parabens, silicon, etc. Paula’s choice niacinamide serum is a great choice, and it also has a lot of other benefits. On the cheaper shelf, you got the popular Cos The Bha’s 20% niacinamide + zinc serum, this is another terrific choice, and it also contains moisturizing hyaluronic acid – which brings us to the other super ingredient you need;

So, with combination skin, you got a serum that helps with balance and oil production: niacinamide. In addition to this, you need a serum that is moisturizing. Choose either hyaluronic acid or amino acids for this. You could use a serum containing both hydrating ingredients + niacinamide, like the cos the BHA-serum we just mentioned. Otherwise, The Ordinary’s Amino Acid serum is great for moisture, and if you want hyaluronic acid, this serum from Cos De Baha is a pure favorite.

Best Moisturizers for combination skin type:

People with dry skin should choose creamy moisturizers, while people with acne-prone and/or oily skin should go for gel moisturizers. So, if you feel like your skin is more on the drier side, go for a cream moisturizer with protecting factors, like the belief moisture bomb. If you are more on the oilier and acne-prone side, Paula’s invisible moisture gel is a balancing life changer.


Best ACTIVE ingredients for SENSITIVE SKIN TYPES:

Sensitive skin

As you have sensitive skin in combination with either oily, “normal”, or dry skin, – it could be clever to read one of those as well 🙂 For sensitive skin, we focus on ingredients that are protective and soothing, and “less is more” is definitely key when it comes to sensitive skin.

Best Cleanser + Exfoliator ingredients for sensitive skin:

For a cleanser, you want something super clean and very soothing that relaxes your irritated skin while also getting rid of dirt and dead skin cells. It should contain the relaxing, gentle and hydrating ingredient squalane oil. Dr. Hauschka soothing cleansing milk is highly appreciated by sensitive-skin strugglers all over the world. Another option is The Ordinary’s squalane cleanser, which is gentle, and super clean with 100% skin-safe ingredients!

1-2 times a week you need to exfoliate. This has to be a little more effective and “clinical”. Use an exfoliator containing “lactic acid” this is the most gentle and least irritating of the acids. Use a leave-on exfoliator, not masks or scrubs. The Ordinary’s lactic acid 5% is just perfect for sensitive skin. It’s a clean product without any unnecessary add-ons. The original product has 10% lactic acid, while this is a more gentle version containing only 5%. Perfect!

Best Serums for sensitive skin:

Mainly focus on hydrating and gentle products that soothe and calm your skin. Go for the moisturizing and repairing ingredient ‘hyaluronic acid‘. For instance, Cos De Baha’s hyaluronic acid serum is an excellent choice as it’s gentle and skin-safe. Follow up with 100% squalane oil, which is super relaxing for the skin, it protects your skin, and your skin absorbs it easily, so it won’t look oily but instead glowy and natural. The Ordinary’s plant-derived squalane oil is perfect, it’s affordable yet high quality, it’s clean and your skin will thank you.

Another ingredient that could be relevant for you, is “niacinamide“. Use a gentle niacinamide serum if you struggle with pores, scarring, acne, black/whiteheads, uneven skin tone, or similar. Since you have sensitive skin, choose a serum that’s only niacinamide-based, like The Ordinary’s niacinamide serum.

Best Moisturizers for sensitive skin:

Back to the simple and soothing. The Ordinary’s moisturizing factors + HA is perfect for sensitive skin, and for the wallet! It’s super clean, and it would be EXTREMELY surprising if your sensitive skin reacts to this product. It contains amino acids, which help moisturize and balance your skin in the ways hyaluronic acid can’t. If you want something else, look for moisturizing creams that are clean (duh), with as few ingredients as possible. It should be based on hyaluronic acid or amino acids, and make sure it doesn’t contain any traditional oils, but squalane instead.

Read more about the wonders of squalane here!

Make-up tips for sensitive skin types:

Just an additional tip for sensitive skin. It’s SO important that you use skin-friendly “skincare make-up” on your skin. Often, the make-up can be the cause of sensitive skin. Choose clean make-up products that you could literally go to bed with. A hot tip if your skin is on the drier side, is to apply lots of soothing squalane all over your face, and then tone it down with jane iredals pure-pressed powder. If you have oily skin or acne you can just use the powder as it is. It looks so good on the skin, is healthy, protective, and has a high SPF. Other good “skincare make-up” brands are Dr. Schrammek and Ilia skincare.


Best ACTIVE ingredients for “NORMAL” SKIN TYpe:

Average “normal” skin

You lucky bastard! As you have skin without any big problems, we will try to keep it simple with ingredient suggestions to maintain your healthy skin, add a little glow, and minimize fine lines, whiteheads on the nose, and pores (if you have them).

Cleanser + Exfoliator

Cleanse with a gentle cleanser containing salicylic acid. This gets rid of a whole day of wear and tear. CeraVe salicylic acid wash is perfect for you.

1-2 times a week you should exfoliate your skin to really give it a deep cleanse, and achieve a more glowy and less dull skin. “Lactic acid” is the exfoliating ingredient most suited to your “problem-free” skin, and in combination with your salicylic acid cleanser, it’s just perfect. The Ordinary’s lactic acid 10% is clean, cruelty-free, and totally affordable.

Serums

Everyone should have a moisturizing serum because well-hydrated skin is crucial for the skin to function properly, be healthy and overall look good. If you live in a humid climate, choose a moisturizing serum containing pure hyaluronic acid this hyaluronic acid serum from Cos De Baha. If you on the other hand live in a cold/dry climate or spend a lot of time in dry places like an airplane, the hyaluronic acid serum simply won’t do it for you as we mentioned earlier. Instead, choose a serum based on amino acids + B5, The Ordinary’s Amino Acid serum, it will instantly hydrate your skin!

If you want to use more serums, for instance for more glow, smaller pores, anti-aging, pigment spots, scarring, whatever… check out this article telling you the most scientifically proven skincare ingredients 🙂

Moisturizers

Moisturizers are important because they protect the outer layer of your skin, while serums penetrate deeper. Finish your routine with a clean moisturizer that contains either hyaluronic acid or amino acid and ideally some squalane for extra hydration and a dewy finish. It’s fabulous if the product has some zinc oxide as well, as zinc is effective in protecting the skin against pollution, free radicals, blue screen light, and similar. CeraVe’s 30 SPF moisturizer is a good choice. If you feel your skin is on the drier side, give the popular belif moisture bomb a try! Don’t forget to finish with sunscreen, the EltaMD UV is a best-seller with good reason.


Make sure to check out: Affordable skin care products that are BETTER than most high-end products!

best ingredients for oily skin, best skincare ingredients for acne, best skincare ingredients for dry skin

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Sources:

National Center for Biotechnology // List of studies on active ingredients

Dermnet //Fitzpatrick skin types

Euceriun //Understandig the skin

Verywellhealth //Understanding the skin – sebaceous glands

INCIDecoder //Ingredient analyzer

//quiz skin type + active ingredients


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