Everything You Need To Know About Active Ingredients

Everything You Need To Know About Active Ingredients


First things first, if you’re not familiar with active ingredients, your first question is probably ‘What are active ingredients,anyway?’ Well, here’s the low down on everything you need to know about active ingredients, how they work and what they work for!

What are active ingredients?

The short answer : An active is the ingredient in a product addressing whatever skin concern it’s meant to target. An active ingredient has been proven in a lab by research to change the skin in some way and has data behind it. So, in other words, an active ingredient targets a specific concern, for example, congestion, dull skin, dry skin, acne, pigmentation, aging, you name it.

Here’s a breakdown of the most commonly found active ingredients in today’s skincare :

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)

Alpha-hydroxy acids are very commonly used and could be one of the following : glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids. Creams and lotions with alpha-hydroxy acids may help with fine lines, irregular pigmentation and age spots, and may help shrink enlarged pores. It is also recommended for acne scarring.

Environ Concentrated Alpha Hydroxy


Side effects of alpha-hydroxy acids include mild irritation and sun sensitivity. Sunscreen is SUPER important daily, but if you use products containing AHA’s, it is even MORE important. To help avoid skin irritation, start with a product with a maximum concentration of 10% to 15% AHA. If you are new to active ingredients, products containing AHA’s should be applied every other day and gradually work your way up to every day use.

Beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid)

Salicylic acid you will especially find in products that are targeted for acne. This ingredients removes dead skin and can improve the texture and color of sun-damaged skin. It penetrates oil-laden hair follicle openings and, as a result, also helps with acne. Some products containing Salicylic acid are available over-the-counter and others need a doctor’s prescription. Studies have shown that salicylic acid is less irritating than skin care products containing alpha-hydroxy acids, while providing similar improvement in skin texture and color.

Contains Glycolic and Lactic acid along with Salicylic acid

From personal experience and use of products containing Salicylic acid, I do experience dry, flakey skin on the areas I have applied the product to.


Skin care products containing hydroquinone are often called bleaching creams or lightening agents. This will ring a bell if you are familiar with Asian/Korean skincare – they are very much into whitening skincare products. Products containing Hydroquinone are used to lighten hyperpigmentation, such as age spots and dark spots related to pregnancy or hormone therapy (melasma or chloasma).

Products with Hydroquinone are banned over the counter in South Africa and can only be prescribed by a doctor. It is also recommended to be used for a specific period of time only. Again sunscreen should also be used religiously when using Hydroquinone.

Kojic Acid

Kojic acid is also is a remedy for the treatment of pigment problems and age spots. Discovered in 1989, kojic acid works similarly to hydroquinone. Kojic acid is derived from a fungus, and studies have shown that it is effective as a lightening agent, slowing production of melanin (brown pigment). Prior to using Kojic acid chech the specific percentage recommended for your skin.

Kojic Acid Serum by Skinceuticals


One that gets most, if not all skincare junkies very excited, myself included. Retinol is derived from vitamin A and is found in many over-the-counter “anti-aging” skin care products. Tretinoin, which is the active ingredient in prescription Retin-A and Renova creams, is a stronger version of retinol. If your skin is too sensitive to use Retin-A, over-the-counter retinol is an excellent alternative.

Overnight Retinol Repair by Dermalogica


Environ Retinol in a selection of 3 different strengths.

Here’s why skin responds to skin care products with retinol : Vitamin A has a molecular structure that’s tiny enough to get into the lower layers of skin, where it finds collagen and elastin. Retinol is proven to improve mottled pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, skin tone and color, and your skin’s hydration levels. Retinyl palmitate is another ingredient related to retinol, but is less potent. A must in your skincare regime! It is an all-in-one powerhouse ingredient.

L-Ascorbic Acid

This is the only form of vitamin C that you should look for in your skin care products. There are many skin care products on the market today that boast vitamin C derivatives as an ingredient (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or ascorbyl palmitate, for example), but L-ascorbic acid is the only useful form of vitamin C in skin care products. With age and sun exposure, collagen synthesis in the skin decreases, leading to wrinkles. Vitamin C is the only antioxidant proven to stimulate the synthesis of collagen, minimizing fine lines, scars, and wrinkles.

Lamelle Vit C Corrective

Hyaluronic Acid

Skin care products containing this substance are often used with vitamin C products to assist in effective penetration. Hyaluronic acid (also known as a glycosaminoglycan) is often touted for its ability to “reverse” or stop aging. In the big, big world of beauty, you might have heard of hyaluronic acid as the “key to the fountain of youth.” This is because the substance occurs naturally (and quite abundantly) in humans and animals, and is found in young skin, other tissues, and joint fluid. Hyaluronic acid is a component of the body’s connective tissues, and is known to cushion and lubricate. As you age, however, the forces of nature destroy hyaluronic acid. Diet and smoking can also affect your body’s level of hyaluronic acid over time. Skin care products with hyaluronic acid are most frequently used to treat wrinkled and also dehydrated skin.

Hyaluron Complex by Doctor Eckstein


Lamelle HA Plus Corrective – This is an absolute stunner of a product.

Copper Peptide

Copper peptide is often referred to as the most effective skin regeneration product, even though it’s only been on the market since 1997. Studies have shown that copper peptide promotes collagen and elastin production, acts as an antioxidant, and promotes production of glycosaminoglycans (think hyaluronic acid, as an example). Studies have also shown that copper-dependent enzymes increase the benefits of the body’s natural tissue-building processes. The substance helps to firm, smooth, and soften skin, doing it in less time than most other anti-aging skin care products. Clinical studies have found that copper peptides also remove damaged collagen and elastin from the skin and scar tissue because they activate the skin’s system responsible for those functions.

Copper Peptide by Dermafix

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

You may have heard of alpha-lipoic acid as “the miracle in a jar” for its anti-aging effects. It’s a newer, ultra-potent antioxidant that helps fight future skin damage and helps repair past damage. Alpha-lipoic acid has been referred to as a “universal antioxidant” because it’s soluble in both water and oil, which permits its entrance to all parts of the cell. Due to this quality, it is believed that alpha-lipoic acid can provide the greatest protection against damaging free radicals when compared with other antioxidants. Alpha-lipoic acid diminishes fine lines, gives skin a healthy glow, and boosts levels of other antioxidants, such as vitamin C.

Alpha Lipoic Activator by Nimue

DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol)

If you’ve heard of fish referred to as brain food, you can thank DMAE. This substance is naturally produced in the brain, but DMAE is also present in anchovies, salmon, and sardines. DMAE boosts the production of acetylcholine, which is important for proper mental functions. DMAE in skin care products shows remarkable effects when applied topically to skin, resulting in the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles.

We hope after this post and the breakdown of each active ingredient, you have a clearer understanding about what each of them are and what purpose they serve.



Editor’s choice: 6 of the best eye creams for dark circles

Editor’s choice: 6 of the best eye creams for dark circles

Ask any skincare expert what beauty bugbear they’re asked about most often, and it’s safe to say that dark circles will come up top of the list. Whether as a result of sleepless nights, stress, diet, or simply genetics, battling under-eye circles seems to be something that most of us are faced with at some point in time.

What causes dark circles?

Dark circles can be attributed to one of two things: pigmentation or dilated veins. Pigmentation can be as a result of genetics (if your mom suffers from dark spots and pigmentation, it’s likely that you will too) or lifestyle factors, such as spending too much time in the sun. Dilated veins are typically as a result of various lifestyle factors: too little sleep, seasonal allergies, and a poor diet. Dark circles can also be down to the ageing process, your bone structure, and the fact that they skin underneath your eyes is incredibly thin.

Not sure whether your dark circles are caused by pigmentation or dilated veins?

The easiest way to determine whether your dark circles are as a result of pigmentation or dilated veins is to gently pinch the skin underneath your eye and lift it off the surface. If the skin stays brown, it’s likey pigmentation that’s causing your dark circles. If your skintone looks better when you do this, it’s likely that your issue is dilated veins. 

While it’s true that dilated veins are far easier to tackle than pigmentation, we’ve put several eye creams to the test over the past few months and we’ve rounded up some of our top picks to help you combat dark circles for good!

1. Mario Badescu Glycolic Eye Cream (R460)

If your dark circles are thanks so pigmentation, then this is the eye cream for you! It contains glycolic acid to exfoliate the surface layers of your skin, helping to reduce the appearance of pigmentation over time.( When using ingredients like glycolic acid around the delicate eye area, make sure that stick to product specifically formulated for use around the eyes).

2. Dermalogica Total Eye Care (R650)

Another great find for those who battle with pigmentation, this gentle, hydrating eye cream from Dermalogica boasts SPF15 to help protect the under-eye area from further damage. It also helps to reduce puffiness and conceals dark circles while treating them, for a wide-awake, bright-eyed appearance.

3. Guinot Anti-fatigue Fresh Eye Cream (R780)

This refreshing eye cream brightens and depuffs the under-eye area in an instant, with thanks to it’s cooling applicator tip. It’s fantastic for use after a long, sleepless night. Pop it into the fridge for an extra soothing sensation!

4. Placecol  Revitalising Eye Therapy (R225)

This nourishing formula simply melts into your skin (ideal for use before applying your concealer) and tightens and brightens the under-eye area in a flash. It’s high in antioxidants, so it’s great for reversing damage caused by free radicals. We also love the budget-friendly price point!

5. Optiphi Delta Eye Gel (R950)

New from Optiphi is their Delta Medical Skincare range, which is formulated for use by physicians, plastic surgeons, and dermatologists. The Optiphi Delta Eye Gel has been designed to reduce swelling and bruising, and works a treat on dark circles. It’s also great for use after dermal fillers and other skin therapies target at ageing. This is one of the fastest acting eye creams we’ve tried!

6. Colorescience Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35

And last – but certainly not least – is this fabulous find from Colorescience. This 3-in-1 formulation not only improves the appearance of dark circles, puffiness, fine lines, and wrinkles, but it also contains an SPF35 to help protect the delicate under-eye area from those harsh UV rays. Oh, wait – that’s not all (at the risk of sounding like a bad TV commercial). This beauty is also a really effective concealer, revealing a much brighter under-eye area in just one swipe and a little blending. (We also love to metal applicator tip – very soothing and refreshing!)


Do you battle with dark circles? Let us know if you’ve tried any of these eye creams and what your thoughts were. If you have any other recommendations we should know about, let us know – we’re always on the lookout for beauty products that truly deliver!




Banish breakouts this festive season

Banish breakouts this festive season

Reverse any party season skin damage with these top tips and must-have skincare products. 

Three weeks into December and we’ve already eaten our body weight in mince pies, spent far too much time in the sun, drank a few too many G & Ts… and it’s all starting to show, in the form of pesky pimples!

There’s not doubt that the festive season can wreak havoc on your skin, as late nights, heavy meals, and the hot, summer sun can result in oily skin, a nasty breakout, and even a few sun spots for good measure. 

We’ve been testing out a bunch of beauty products that promise to stop breakouts dead in their tracks… here are our favourites! 

 1. Dermalogica Blackhead Clearing Fizz Mask 

If you struggle with blackheads and congestion, you’ll absolutely love this unique mask. The active fizzing formula is designed to open your pores, decongest your skin, and target blackheads in just 3 – 5 minutes. It contains sulfur to keep your skin clear, while kaolin clay absorbs excess sebum  and purifies your skin. 

It activates upon contact with your skin and gently fizzes away, clearing out your pores for a brighter, more refined complexion. Use 2 – 3 times per week for best results. 

 2. SkinCeuticals Retexturing Activator

Battling with a dull, lacklustre complexion that feels bumpy to the touch? Add SkinCeuticals Retexturing Activator to your daily routine (apply it both morning and night after cleansing, but before applying your moisturiser). It contains Glycolic Acid, which is great for treating breakouts and exfoliating your skin – without causing any irritation. The result? Softer, smoother skin with fewer spots! It also contains  Hyaluronic Acid,  a natural humectant that helps the skin retain water – perfect during the hot, summer months! 

3. OptiPhi Classic Clarity Serum

This soothing spot treatment is fantastic for reducing the appearance of existing breakouts (and helping them to clear up faster), while preventing the onset of new breakouts. It helps to calm irritated and inflammed skin, while balancing sebum levels at the same time. Best applied to affected areas, but it’s also gentle enough to use all over you face. 

Don’t forget that your hormones and digestion are linked, so your skin is often a mirror of your gut. Try loading up on the following vitamins during the festive season to ensure that your skin is clear and glowing all summer long:

– Zinc: not only does this antioxidant help to fight free radicals (ie. helps prevent damage caused by UV rays and pollution), it also regulates oil production in the skin. Find it in seafood, lean meats, legumes, nuts (think cashew nuts and almond), seeds, eggs, and dairy. 

– Potassium: this helps to keep your cells hydrated, so your skin is moisturised from the inside (remember: lack of moisture causes your skin to produce excess sebum, resulting in breakouts. The key is to keep hydrated and ensure that your skin is moisturised at all times). Find it in bananas, oranges, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cooked broccoli, cooked spinach, mushrooms, and more. 

– Magnesium: this is an anti-inflammatory that will help to soothe irritated skin, while preventing inflammation and spot flare-ups. Find it in leafy green veggies, avocados bananas, raspberries, legumes (black beans, chickpeas, etc), seeds and nuts, broccoli, green beans, and seafood. 

Do you have any product suggestions that you swear by to keep breakouts at bay? We’d love to hear all about them – leave a comment and share your knowledge with other Beauty Warriors! 

Top Tips For Better Skin… Fast!

Top Tips For Better Skin… Fast!

Busy, modern life (and trying to juggle a full time career, a thriving social life, and – for some of us – motherhood) means that there’s often not a lot of time left to care for yourself or for your skin.

We asked Stephanie-Anne, a product specialist at Optiphi, to share her top skincare tips and life hacks that will help you care for – and fall in love with – your skin in a flash. Read on for her best skincare advice…

Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse

“This is by far the most important step in loving your skin,” says Stephanie-Anne. “Always cleanse and remove your make-up, no matter how late it is. Choose a cleanser that is the same pH as your skin, and one that is able to remove make-up and double-up as an exfoliator. Optiphi’s Facial Cleanser is the perfect 6-in-1 treatment to help save you time while building your natural skin barrier and providing a deep cleanse at the same time.”


Invest in antioxidants

Stephanie-Anne recommends using topical anti-oxidants, such as Vitamin C, L-Carnosine, and Vitamin B3, to help slow down skin ageing. Look out for an antioxidant-rich moisturiser that will also moisturise and protect your skin.


Be sun smart

If you don’t already do so, it’s important that you start applying a sunscreen daily – even if you spend most of your days in an office. “If you can see light, UV-rays can see you,” cautions Stephanie-Anne.


Boost your skin’s moisture levels

Start incorporating products that contain Hyaluronic acid into your skincare routine to ensure that your skin is well-hydrated from the inside out. “Just like your internal organs need water to function optimally, so does the skin – which is also an organ, albeit an external one,” explains Stephanie-Anne.


Remember that skincare is a long-term investment, and that the more love and dedication you give your skin, the better it will look in the long run. Interested in learning more? Click here to find out more about Optiphi’s range of skincare products or to find your nearest stockist.

Do you have any top beauty tips to share? We’d love to hear them… Leave them in the comments below! 

5 luxurious ways to use Rooibos in your beauty routine

5 luxurious ways to use Rooibos in your beauty routine

Rooibos has long been considered one of South Africa’s best kept beauty secrets and has been used for all manner of skin concerns, from treating itchy rashes and other skin irritations to soothing a bad sunburn.


Whether you drink it or apply it topically, there’s no denying the antioxidant super-powers of this best-loved national treasure. Read on for some great ways to incorporate Rooibos into your daily routine (apart from your morning cuppa, that is).


As a cooling facial mist during the summer months

Brew up a batch of Rooibos, allow to stand, then pop into the fridge for a refreshing facial mist that can be used to treat sunburn, eczema, and even acne. You can also soak a clean face cloth in some cooled Rooibos tea, then use as a compress to soothe patches of eczema or sunburn.


As a calming toner

Cooled Rooibos tea applied to your skin using a clean cotton pad works remarkably well as a toner for sensitive or irritated skin types.


To soothe tired, red, itchy, or puffy eyes

Late night last night? Why not whip up a cup of Rooibos first thing in the morning, then place the cooled teabags over your eyes for 5 – 10 minutes to help soothe sore, tired eyes. The anti-inflammatory properties will also help to minimise swelling and puffiness.


As a relaxing facial steam

A weekly facial steam using a brew of Rooibos tea is a great way to soothe your senses, calm irritated and inflamed skin, and open up your pores for a deep cleanse. Create your own DIY facial by boiling three cups of water and pouring the contents into a large bowl or pot. Add two bags of Rooibos tea, and allow to steep for a few minutes. Lean over the bowl with your eyes closed and drape a towel over your head, allowing the steam to open up your pores. Do this for about 10 minutes, then follow up with a deep-cleansing mask, or simply use some cool water or your toner (why not try a Rooibos toner?) to close your pores.


A luxurious soak in the tub 

For a skin-softening treat for itchy, irritated, or sunburnt skin, fill your bath tub with some hot water, pop three Rooibos teabags into the hot water and let steep, before adding some cool water and soaking for as long as you like. You can also add a drop or two of your favourite bath oil, or a handful of bath salts for an extra sensory treat. (Please do not try this tip if you live in a water scarce area or an area experiencing a drought).


What are some of your favourite ways to incorporate Rooibos tea into your beauty routine? Are there any specific beauty products that contain Rooibos that you swear by? We’d love to know more!



8 New Year’s Beauty Resolutions To Make in 2018

8 New Year’s Beauty Resolutions To Make in 2018

New year, new you? January is known as a month of fresh starts and new beginnings, but even those with the best intentions might start to slip as we head back to work and get back into our routines.

Whether you’ve committed to exercising three times a week or are trying to cut back on sugar, it can be difficult to keep up your resolve as the month wears on… but we’ve come up with a handful of beauty resolutions you’ll actually want to keep! From treating yourself to a weekly face mask to spoiling yourself to a birthday spa treatment, here’s our list of New Year’s beauty resolutions to make now!


Do a beauty audit

When was the last time your cleared out your makeup bag? Beauty products and makeup all have expiry dates, and hanging onto them for longer than you’re supposed to could result in skin irritation, rashes, or even infections like blepharitis (an eye infection that can be caused by using old, expired, and bacteria-infested mascara and eye liner. Gross!). If you’ve had something in your makeup bag for over three years, it’s time to get rid of it – especially if it’s foundation (which typically lasts for about 6 months) or mascara (which expires after three months). Same goes for makeup or beauty products you hardly ever use – if you haven’t used it in the past year, chances are you won’t use it in the year to come. Chuck out all that old makeup to make way for some exciting new products instead.


Get out your diary and make an appointment for a birthday spa pamper

As women, we don’t often take the time to show ourselves a little self-love – even on special occasions, like our birthdays. This year, we’re vowing to spoil ourselves a little more by setting aside some money every month, then indulging in a manicure, facial, or full body massage (or all three!) on our birthdays. If you can’t treat yourself on your birthday, then when can you, right? Pull out your diary and phone up your favourite spa to make a birthday booking right this minute – you’ll thank us later!


 Drink more water

It’s likely that you’ve made this resolution before – and if you’re anything like us, you may have failed miserably, too! Despite this, it’s still a beauty resolution worth making time and time again. Not only does it help keep your body functioning optimally, but it will also leave your complexion looking clearer and more radiant, and might even help you to lose weight. (Hunger pangs are often down to nothing more than thirst, so if you’re feeling peckish, try downing a glass of water instead).


Indulge in a weekly scrub and face mask

Don’t have the time or budget for a regular facial? Why not invest in a facial scrub and mask and treat yourself to a weekly at-home facial instead? Granular scrubs are great, but we prefer enzyme exfoliators to help slough off dead skin cells more gently. It’s recommended that you follow up a good exfoliation session with a facial mask to help moisturise your skin and nourish newly exposed skin cells.


Clean your makeup brushes

When was the last time you gave your makeup brushes a thorough clean? If you’re anything like us, weeks go by before we even think about washing them… until we’re reminded of how all that old makeup, dirt, and grime can lead to unsightly breakouts and skin irritation. Make it a habit to start cleaning your makeup brushes on a weekly basis if you use them every day… we like doing this on a Sunday evening, while catching up on the latest episode of our favourite series. You can use your regular facial cleanser to do this, or a specialised brush cleanser – but regular soap and water also does the trick if you’re in a pinch, and is definitely better than going without washing them!


Wear SPF every single day – even in winter

If you’re still not applying a good facial sunscreen to your skin every morning before venturing out of the house, now is the time to start. Regardless of whether you spend most of your time indoors at the office, wearing a daily SPF is a non-negotiable if you want to prevent premature ageing, dark spots, pigmentation, or  worse – skin cancer.


Switch to a silk pillowcase

We made the switch a couple of years ago, and we haven’t looked back. Sleeping on a silk pillowcase is not only better for your skin (cotton tends to absorb any moisture in your skin, leaving it looking a little worse for wear when you wake up), it’s also hypoallergenic so it’s ideal for those who suffer from allergies. It also helps to keep your hair smooth and frizz-free overnight. We can’t live without ours!


Don’t forget your neck and décolletage!

We’re sure you’ve heard it all before: when cleansing your face or applying your serum and moisturiser, be sure to extend to your neck and décolletage. These areas tend to be neglected, but they’re often the first to show signs of ageing, so be sure to show them a little love.


Which of these beauty resolutions will you be introducing into your beauty routine in 2018? Are there any other beauty resolutions you’ll be implementing this year? Share your beauty resolutions and tips for the year ahead with us below… we love hearing from our readers, and we might just share your tips in an upcoming beauty feature!