The 5 Active Ingredients That You Need In Your Winter Skincare
The 5 Active Ingredients That You Need In Your Winter Skincare

The 5 Active Ingredients That You Need In Your Winter Skincare

4 minutes read

It’s not called the ‘dead of winter’ for nothing. The phrase should have been coined to call out our dull, lifeless skin. But fret not, as you can fight back against this seasonal slump by employing the power of active ingredients in skincare. 

From scientifically-researched selections to traditional Chinese medicine remedies – coupled with our winter skincare tips – will offer a glowy, plumped complexion, whatever the weather app has to say. 

Woman in sweater with radiant skin

What are active ingredients? 

If you’ve been researching the best winter skincare routine for you, it’s likely you’ve come across the word ‘active’. These are ingredients that actively work with your skin to address the issue (be it dehydrated skin or breakouts); whereas non-active ingredients are product-focused – for example to improve sensoriality and aid its delivery into the skin. 

Active ingredients can be found in a variety of products, but the most common types you’ll find are in topical treatments for conditions such as dryness (hyaluronic acid, vitamin E), acne (vitamin A, retinoids, salicylic acid, azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide) and psoriasis (steroids, vitamin D, urea, lactic acid).

Our top 5 active ingredients to tackle winter skin

Some of the most powerful active ingredients are found in nature or produced by our bodies. These gifts from mother nature work with your skin to improve its condition, for a brighter, more glowing you. Read on for our top 5. 

1. Leaf of Life: Reinforce your skin’s barrier

Your skin’s barrier is your first line of defence against the ravages of winter skin aggressors. It keeps moisture in and irritants, pollution and other environmental aggressors out. When your skin barrier is compromised, you are left with rough, dry and lacklustre skin. 

Succulents come to your rescue here and offer much more than just the apparent interior-inspo and cleaner air. When included in your skincare ingredient list, the extracts of the kalanchoe, aka leaf of life, can withstand severe weather conditions and still hold onto water – and that’s exactly what it does when used in your winter skincare routine. Try Clarins Hydra Essential Bi-Phase Serum, £46,  which contains Leaf of Life to activate your skin’s natural hydration systems to instantly quench thirsty skin. 

Hydrating serum


2. Red Algae: Anti-pollution skincare

Roaring fires, snug central heating and leaving the car running to warm before the school run are all creature comforts we’ve come to love – but they can also be super damaging to the environment, along with your dermis. So, whether you are outside or indoors, a decent anti-pollution skincare shield is key. 

Scientists have discovered that furcellaria, aka ‘red algae’, found in the ocean’s deep dark depths is a rich source of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The extracted gum is a powerful barrier between you and the nasties you can’t see floating about in the air, making it an essential addition to your winter skincare routine.

3. Squalene: The skincare superhero   

Dermatologists love ‘squalene’ for its soothing, moisturising and anti-inflammatory abilities. It’s also classed as an adaptogen and non-comedogenic, meaning it adapts to your skin type and won’t block pores – so it will equalise and moisturise even acne-prone skin. When used in a gentle foaming cleanser, it helps protect the skin’s hydrolipidic film from the drying effects of hard water. 

Squalene occurs naturally in the body; like collagen, it peaks in our teens and drops off in our 20s and 30s. In the past, it had a bad rap, as it used to be sourced from shark’s liver. However, the good news is that it also comes from reliable vegan sources, like olives, rice bran, and sugarcane. So, make sure you choose ‘vegetal squalene,’ as it is the animal-friendly, eco version. 

4. Beautyberry: The radiance-boosting fruit

This brilliant berry is excellent at fighting free radicals – the unstable molecules that damage skin cells. Originating from Asia, it’s often found in high-tech J-Beauty skincare ranges and is also known as the beauty bush or ‘callicarpa japonica’. 

This bright purple fruit has shown an impressive resume when it comes to boosting the efficacy of your skincare. It assists in anti-pollution and antioxidant protection and is also super soothing and anti-inflammatory – so makes for the perfect winter skin essential, especially when you want to boost radiance and glow on those dreary grey days. 

5. Huang Qi: The TCM solution

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been using ‘huang qi’ for centuries to boost the immune system and energy levels and is often prescribed by practitioners to help the body fight off infections. You can take it in the guise of a soup or tea, and handily, it also comes ready-packaged in some skincare regimens. 

When applied topically, it’s been found to help improve eczema, assist with skin healing, and encourage cells to fight against oxidative stress. Cleverly, it also helps reduce redness and irritation, perfect for a sore red nose or frost-bitten cheeks. For the ultimate in skin regeneration, find huang qi in the multi-tasking Clarins Double Serum, £85.


There you have it, your guide to active ingredients in skincare to give you a winter beauty boost. And if your skin is feeling sapped of moisture from the harsh British climate, then check out this piece where we demystify the difference between dry and dehydrated skin

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