When it comes to skincare that targets my anti-aging concerns, the three main active ingredients I like to have in my routine are vitamin C, glycolic acid and retinol. I can find them in various forms whether it is a peel pad, toner, serum, moisturizer or even a mask. After many years of testing products, I have seen the most results from using products that contain these ingredients. They all somewhat overlap in the results I achieve when using, but nonetheless I like to have them in my skincare regimen regularly.

1. Vitamin C – I like to have vitamin C in my routine for helping with brightness and overall evening out of my skin tone. I use my vitamin C products in the morning because they can additionally help fight free radical damage. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can aid in skin repair, while enhancing an SPF’s function and reducing potential sun damage. Normally I use vitamin C products in serum or moisturizer form before applying any SPF for the day. A few of my favorite vitamin C products are:
2. Retinol – I don’t use Retin-A or a strong prescription strength retinoid, but prefer OTC formulations that I can find at department stores or Sephora. There are varying strengths of retinol and I use all kinds. The results I find from adding retinol products into my routine are smoother texture, less noticeable pore size, reduction of fine lines, decreasing of dark spots, evening out of my skin tone and an overall refining of the skin. Normally I use my strongest retinol products in the winter because I am not out in the sun as much. I don’t want to be trying to reduce dark spots or evening out my skin tone only to go out in the sun all day and ruin what I want to repair or treat. I have found great products that contain retinol as the active ingredient as well as natural alternatives that give similar results. Again, most of the products I use that contain retinol are in serum or moisturizer form and I use them in the evening. Here are some of my favorites:
3. Glycolic Acid – The final active ingredient I enjoy using is glycolic acid (better known as an Alpha Hydroxy Acid or AHA). For me, glycolic acid helps target rough skin texture and evens out my skin tone. I find that many of my favorite peels, acid toners or toning pads use glycolic acid and I love adding in that extra step to my routine after cleansing. As with my retinol products, I typically use glycolic acid products in the evening and not as frequently in the spring/summer. Occasionally I will use a retinol and glycolic acid product in my routine together but it just depends on the strength of each on whether or not it will irritate my skin. For that reason, I tend to stick with one or the other in my routine unless I have tested it before and know the products work well together on my skin. Here are a few of my favorite glycolic acid products:
4. Lactic Acid and Salicylic Acid – While retinol, glycolic acid and vitamin c are my 3 favorite ingredients to have in my routine regularly, I have also had great success with lactic acid and salicylic acid. Salicylic acid (also know as a Beta Hydroxy Acid or BHA) is what I find works best when I’m having breakouts. Lactic acid gives similar results to glycolic acid but is less intense and can be less drying to my skin. Here are a few of my favorite salicylic acid and lactic acid products: 
Most of the products that contain these ingredients in my routine are either my toner, serum or moisturizer. Occasionally I will find a mask or cleanser that I enjoy with these ingredients, but serums and moisturizers are on my face for longer periods of time which is why I prefer those to be the workhorses in my routine and have these active ingredients that help target my skin concerns.
What are your favorite active ingredients that you prefer in your skincare routine? Let me know!
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