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Understanding Skincare Actives: What Actives can be Paired & What Can’t.

Understanding Skincare Actives: What Actives can be Paired & What Can’t.


Active ingredients target specific skin concerns and often have a scientific basis for their activity. Understanding how different active ingredients interact can help you create a skincare routine that maximises their benefits.

Cactus Flower Skincare does not stock many of these particular actives (with the exception of Vitamins C, E & Natural A which retinol is derived from) as we believe in the power of natural skincare, but we know that everyone loves an active, so we want to help you understand them so that if you decide to use synthetic actives, you get the best possible result.

In this article, we will explore the most powerful active ingredient combinations that deliver excellent results for your skin. We will also discuss combinations that require caution to ensure optimal skincare outcomes.


Active Ingredient Combinations that Work:


1. Vitamin C + Ferulic Acid: 

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from UV damage and free radicals. However, it can be unstable. Combining vitamin C with ferulic acid helps stabilize it and enhances its effectiveness in fighting free radicals.


2. Vitamin C + Vitamin E:

 Vitamin C and vitamin E are both antioxidants, but they target different types of UV damage. When used together, they provide enhanced protection against free radicals and sun damage, making this combination highly effective.


3. Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid:

This combination takes the benefits of vitamin C and E a step further by adding the stabilising properties of ferulic acid. It creates a powerful trio that provides triple protection against UV damage and free radicals.


4. Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin C:

Hyaluronic acid and vitamin C work synergistically to improve skin texture and reduce fine lines. Applying a vitamin C serum before a hyaluronic acid serum can provide bright and balanced skin.


5. Retinoids + Peptides:

Combining retinoids and peptides is a powerful combination for improving skin firmness. Retinoids promote collagen production, while peptides enhance the penetration of the peptide cream. Look for peptide creams that contain hydrating ingredients to counteract any potential irritation from retinoids.

Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A which naturally occurs in many of our products in Rosehip & Apricot Kernel oils.


6. Antioxidants + SPF:

While sunscreen is crucial for skin protection, antioxidants can enhance its effectiveness. Using antioxidants like vitamins E and C alongside SPF helps scavenge damaging free radicals and provides an additional layer of protection against ageing and skin cancer.


7. Retinoids + Hyaluronic Acid:

Retinoids are known for their effectiveness but can cause skin dryness and irritation. Pairing them with a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum helps counteract these side effects. Apply a layer of hyaluronic acid first, followed by a pea-sized amount of the retinoid.


8. Niacinamide + Vitamin C:

Niacinamide and vitamin C complement each other, creating a powerful duo. This combination can promote radiant and youthful-looking skin when used together. 


Active Ingredient Combinations Requiring Caution:


1. Retinoids + Skin Acids:

Retinoids are effective but can cause skin sensitivity. Using them with skin acids increases sensitivity further. If you want to use both, apply the acids in the morning and the retinoid in the evening, or use them on alternate days.


2. Retinoids + Vitamin C:

Combining retinoids and vitamin C can lead to over exfoliation and increased skin and sun sensitivity. It is best to separate these two active ingredients, using one in the daytime and the other in the night.


3. Benzoyl Peroxide + Vitamin C:

Combining benzoyl peroxide with vitamin C can render both ingredients ineffective. The benzoyl peroxide oxidizes the vitamin C. To avoid this, use these two ingredients on alternate days.


4. Benzoyl Peroxide + Retinol:

Mixing benzoyl peroxide with retinol also deactivates both ingredients. If you use both, alternate their usage on different days.


5. Beta Hydroxy Acid + Alpha Hydroxy Acid:

While these acids can work together when properly formulated, it is generally best not to use them simultaneously. Look for products that contain both acids, as they are designed to minimize irritation.


>>> It is important to note, that due to the potency of many active products, you CANNOT just launch into using them all at once / every day. This will almost definitely cause skin irritation / damage your skin barrier.

Instead, gradually work a new active into your routine. Start with once a week to see how your skin tolerates the product and gradually increase the frequency. Add only 1 active to your routine at a time.


When to Apply Active Ingredients:

Morning Skincare Routine:

  • Cleanse.
  • Use hydrating products like hyaluronic acid or vitamin C and antioxidants to protect the skin from free radicals and sun damage.
  • Apply SPF as the final step before makeup.


Night Skincare Routine:

  • Double cleanse (with a gentle cleanser like our Lemon Myrtle Cleanser) to remove makeup and impurities.
  • Apply a serum, treatment, cream or facial oil with active ingredients suitable for night use.
  • Retinoids are best applied at night, allowing for better absorption and pairing with a heavier, hydration focused cream to reduce irritation.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) should also be used at night due to their potential to increase sun sensitivity.


Understanding the power of active ingredient combinations can revolutionise your skincare routine. By using the right combinations, you can target specific skin concerns and achieve optimal results.

However, it is important to exercise caution with certain combinations to avoid potential skin irritations. Additionally, knowing when to apply your active ingredients can enhance their effectiveness. With this knowledge, you can make informed decisions and take your skincare routine to the next level, resulting in healthier and more radiant skin.


 Natural Alternatives to Synthetic Actives.

Prickly Pear: Rich in antioxidants and vitamins, it hydrates and nourishes the skin, reduces signs of ageing, and aids in skin repair.

White Kaolin Clay: Absorbs excess oil and impurities, unclogs pores, speeds up skin cell turnover (boosting collagen production) and promotes a refreshed complexion.

Jojoba: Lightweight and non-comedogenic, it moisturises without greasiness, balances oil production, and nourishes the skin.

Kakadu Plum: The HIGHEST natural source vitamin C available in the skincare market, it brightens the skin, boosts collagen production, and protects against environmental damage.

Colloidal Oats: Soothes and relieves dry or irritated skin, forms a protective barrier, and reduces inflammation. Has been used for centuries to soften, hydrate & protect skin.

Shea Butter: Deeply moisturises, soothes dryness, improves skin elasticity, and enhances the skin's natural barrier function.

White Tea Extract: Packed with antioxidants, it protects against free radicals, promotes youthful-looking skin, brightens and helps reduce inflammation.

Apricot Kernel & Rosehip Oils: are naturally high in Vitamin A which retinol is derived from. They help hydrate the skin, improve elasticity & scarring, reduce wrinkles and promote a smoother and more youthful appearance.

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