The 5 Active Ingredients You Actually Need In Your Skincare Routine

How do you approach your skincare routine? Is it with a certain sense of abandon, incorporating any and every strong active ingredient? Or have you taken a more measured route – stepping back, consulting a professional, and considering what will work best for your skin? If you’re in the first camp, a little swotting up is all that’s required to get you back on the beauty straight and narrow. Thanks to LA-based celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, who has worked with everyone from Julianne Moore to Emma Roberts, we have her book Glow From Within to consult on the rules of skincare. And Vargas knows a thing or two about what makes for a robust, radiant complexion. 

An advocate of a “pillar-based”, 360° approach to the skin, Vargas has conquered all manner of concerns in her time as a facialist. “Beauty isn’t skin deep,” she says. “Today, most of my clients know that they need to eat nutritious meals, avoid particular foods, and drink enough water to achieve their own brand of youth.” Other positive lifestyle choices she recommends are good self-care, paying attention to your body, prioritising sleep, reducing stress, and doing some exercise. She sums it up as making “time for connection and joy” in her book.

As for products, “I recommend a minimalist regimen,” Vargas says. “Cleanse at night and apply a serum or a mask for sleeping. In the morning, cleanse or rinse, apply a serum, moisturiser and a sunscreen,” she says. “I also exfoliate twice a week and do a beauty mask once a week.” Finding the right cleanser for you is relatively straightforward – simply use a gentle formula that targets your skin issues and doesn’t leave your face feeling tight after washing. So far, so simple. But Vargas is also enthusiastic about another, potentially confusing pillar of good skincare: active ingredients. So where to start?

Vargas says any effective routine should incorporate a retinol at night. “It’s great for all skin types, and using a vitamin C in conjunction for the day will help brighten skin.” Despite what many people think, good retinoids can be bought over the counter – brands like Skinceuticals and Medik8 offer an array of options that cause little to no skin irritation. Medik8’s Crystal Retinal 3 Serum is a brilliant entry point and will help to increase cell turnover, leading to more even skin tone, smoother texture and, of course, fewer fine lines. No 7’s new Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex is a good high street option. There’s also Vargas’s own brilliant vitamin C serum (the Rescue Serum), which combines vitamin C with super-hydrating squalene and elderberry extract, a powerful antioxidant. You can also find it more potently in Vichy’s LiftActiv Peptide C Ampoules, which contain 10% fresh vitamin C as well as hyaluronic acid within each capsule.

Exfoliation is also at the top of Vargas’s list when it comes to encouraging a glow back into the skin. “It usually acts as a mini facial and brings back glow immediately,” she says. She recommends a fruit enzyme-filled mask or treatment, with one or two other alpha hydroxy acids (actives that are excellent for keeping skin healthy and luminous), like lactic, kojic, mandelic or glycolic, to gently nibble away at the pore-clogging dead cells that can sit upon skin, making it look far less happy than it should.
Try Sand & Sky Emu Apple Enzyme Power PolishHerbivore’s Prism 20% AHA + 5% BHA Exfoliating Glow Facial,or Joanna Vargas Exfoliating Mask. Note that she recommends performing a treatment like this twice a week, rather than every day.

For hydration, Vargas is a fan of hyaluronic acid, the wonder molecule that can hold up to a thousand times its own weight in water, meaning it hydrates and plumps the skin as no other active can. Niod’s Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex is a great option, since it contains 15 different forms of hyaluronic (which means it’s more likely to conquer the skin barrier), or Dr Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Acid is also highly concentrated, with long and short chain hyaluronic molecules for better penetration.

Of course, there are other active ingredients that can prove beneficial in any good beauty routine, but as Vargas points out, these are the key power players that form the basis of excellent skincare. Listening to your skin and what it’s telling you, however, is also key – what works for one face won’t necessarily work for another. “Unhealthy skin can appear red, inflamed or irritated and, when pinched, may not bounce back but will tent up in a wrinkly shape. Or you could simply be struggling with breakouts,” says Vargas. If that’s the case, combat irritation with soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide, aloe vera, green tea or cica, to name four, then reconsider the product you’ve used and whether you might have overdone it. 

After that? Your fifth and perhaps most important active, SPF (which is actually a cocktail of different actives). Apply, and you’re ready to take on the world. 

VOGUE article

What Do Jade Rollers Do for Your Skin, Anyway?

Jade rollers aren’t a recent skincare innovation. They’ve been a staple in Chinese skincare routines since the 7th century, and are believed to have healing and protective properties. The handheld massagers are usually dual-ended with two jade stone heads that are ran across the face, which can de-puff skin and boost circulation.

How Does a Jade Roller Benefit Your Skin?

Jade rollers are believed to boost blood circulation, reduce swelling, and can help products penetrate deeper into the skin. Basically, they’re supposed to be a quick, easy cure for daily skincare struggles like dark under-eye circles and puffiness. The increase in circulation can also help smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. A jade roller can be used at room temperature or chilled in the fridge.

“The pressure and cold of the roller helps to improve circulation and increase lymphatic drainage,” Dr. Sperling (InStyle) explains. “They also can help to temporarily improve puffiness or help to rub in topical creams.”

On top of the skincare benefits, jade stones are said to be calming, so using one can potentially improve your mood. (Yes, really!) “You are also getting the benefits of jade as well,” says Vargas (InStyle). “It is a traditional stone that soothes the mind and releases negative thoughts.”

How Do Jade Rollers Work?

After cleaning your skin and applying whatever skincare products you typically use, Vargas (InStyle) says, “You want to roll your face in an outward motion.” Light pressure can work to drain lymphatic fluids, while light to medium pressure can help products penetrate deeper and boost blood flow. “The movements help increase blood circulation and collagen production to maintain a youthful glow serving as a sort of mini facial on the daily,” she explains.

For a firming effect, Park (InStyle) recommends starting with the cheekbones, and moving outwards. “Then, go against the jaw line to create more contour and definition,” she says. “Afterwards, move the roller down the back of your ears toward the clavicle, allowing the excess fluids to drain down to the lymphatic system.”

What Skincare Products Work With Jade Rollers?

A serum or face oil and a jade roller are a winning combo. These products will help the facial massager glide against your face, plus the tool can help their active ingredients get deeper into your skin.

As for what ingredients to use, there’s options. “I like to use firming peptides and work around areas with fine lines and wrinkles,” says Vargas (InStyle). “Plant-based stem cells are also beneficial when using a roller. Also, a hydrating serum is key since we all need hydration. You can also use brightening oils as well.”

When Should You Use a Jade Roller?

The beauty of this ritual is that it’s a great addition to any morning or nighttime skincare routine. In the a.m., a chilled jade roller can made sleepy, puffy eyes look refreshed, while in the p.m., the facial massaging tool is great for calming inflammation in the skin.

Do Jade Rollers Have Any Side Effects?

Jade rollers are safe to use every day, and for every skin type. But Dr. Sperling (InStyle) does note that they can spread bacteria and infection if they aren’t properly cleaned. Jade rollers also won’t help with inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or rosacea.

Is There a Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Jade Rollers?

It all depends on personal preference, but a cheap option won’t be made with a quality stone. “I would personally invest in a high quality jade roller, because you’re paying the price for a good quality stone,” says Park (InStyle). “Also, you’re investing in a beautiful piece that will allow you to use it daily as a ritual!”

OK, now that you know the deal with jade rollers, what do the before and afters of using one look like? Check out #jaderollers on Instagram to find out.

The Best Jade Rollers at Every Price Point

Have you used jade rollers before? Are you inspired to do so now? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below!