Step by Step Guide to Incorporating Actives for Your Skincare Routine


In my previous post whereby I talked about how to introduce actives to your skincare routine, I promised that I’ll give you a step by step guide on what to do. As I’ve already mentioned before (and also kept repeating) in my previous post, it’s best to take it slow when you want to add any actives to your skincare routine and give each active around 4 weeks to gauge how it’s working for your skin first before you add another different active.

Below I’ve separated the different actives that I commonly use into daytime and night time routines. Please note that the actives step is always after the cleansing step no matter day or night. After the actives step, you can add in all the hydrating lotions/ serums/ creams that you desire.

Daytime Routine



Daytime Actives Routine (start from left to right)

In the daytime, I like to incorporate a strong anti-oxidant (such as a Vitamin C serum) to shield the skin from the stresses of pollution as well as evening out my skin tone. Vitamin C also provides visible anti-ageing benefits such as the improvement of lines and wrinkles, loss of firmness, and a brighter complexion. Most importantly, there have been some studies showing that if you use a Vitamin C serum underneath your sunscreen, you’ll increase the stability of your sunscreen in the presence of sunlight.

However, because generally Vitamin C works best if your skin’s pH is low (around 3.5), you can use a pH-adjusting toner to immediately lower down your skin’s pH after cleansing to maximise the effects of the serum. Then you’ll apply your Vitamin C serum and wait for around 10 ~ 15 minutes before you continue with your BHA and AHA steps. I would advise that you apply BHA first before you apply AHA because BHA is better able to go deep into your pores and dissolve all those oily gunk. Then you’ll use an AHA to not only remove the gunk from your pores that the BHA had dissolved, you’ll also be able to do surface exfoliation. In short, BHA is used to deal with blackheads, oily pimples etc. while AHA is used to deal with closed comedones, whiteheads and milia.

After you’ve completed applying all your actives, you can continue to apply your other hydrating toners, serums, creams and most importantly, sunscreen.

So my daytime routine will be in this sequence:

Cleanse => pH Adjusting Toner => Vitamin C Serum => Wait 10 ~ 15 minutes => BHA => AHA => Wait 10 minutes => Hydrating Toner/ Mist => Hydrating Serum => 2 drops of Face Oil mixed with Day Cream => Sunscreen

Nighttime Routine



Nighttime Actives Routine (start from left to right)

At night, I like to use either my over-the-counter (OTC) retinol products or my prescriptive retinoids. Again, after double cleansing to remove my makeup and sunscreen, I’ll go in with my BHA, AHA and then wait 10 minutes. If I want to buffer my retinoids, I’ll apply my hydrating toner and serum first and wait additional 20 minutes before I apply my retinoids. Otherwise, if I’m just using OTC retinol products, I’ll go in straight after my AHA step without the hydrating serum buffer (after waiting 10 minutes of course). Finally, I can then add in my other lotions, serums, creams and oils.

So my nighttime routine will be in this sequence:

Double Cleansing => BHA => AHA => Wait 10 minutes => OTC Retinol => Wait 30 minutes => Hydrating Toner/ Mist => Hydrating Serum => Face Oil => Night cream

Note: If I’m using a retinol oil such as the Pestle & Mortar Superstar Retinol Night Oil, the OTC Retinol step will be in the face oil step. So I’ll just wait 10 minutes after my AHA step before starting on my hydrating toners/ mists and continuing with the rest. 

Below is my sequence when I use prescriptive retinoids:

Double Cleansing => BHA => AHA => Wait 10 minutes => Hydrating Toner => Hydrating Serum Buffer => Wait 20 minutes => Prescriptive Retinol => Wait 30 minutes => Face Oil => Night Cream


I hope that this step by step guide has been useful to you. Just remember that everybody’s skin is different and you definitely do not need to use all the actives that I’m using. Also, you’ll notice that I’ve incorporated some waiting time in between the steps because for me, the actives work better that way. However, I think that perhaps you might not need to have so much waiting in between the steps. You can experiment to find the most effective and efficient way you can incorporate them into your daily life.

Additionally, please always be in tune with your skin and observe it carefully when adding any new products.

As always, thank you for reading!

Tips for Introducing Actives into your Skincare Routine

Actives Family.jpg

My Actives Family!

I’ve always been using actives in one form or another since a long time ago. However I only started a more regimented actives routine around last year when I started to notice some fine lines on my forehead and really want to step up my anti-ageing game. Now I do love my beautiful face oils and creams but in my opinion, actives are a whole different ball game altogether. Actives are the ingredients which are scientifically tested and proven to actually work. Let’s face it alright? Rosehip oil may be nice for some slight anti-ageing effects but nothing comes close to the effects of prescriptive retinoids except aesthetic treatments like Botox and lasers or doing more invasive treatments like getting a face lift. I’ve never come across a “green” alternative to prescriptive retinoids that actually matches the effects of the chemical ones. Actives are the powerhouse in your skincare regime which will really make the most difference in the way your skin looks and feels. However, I still think that many people are apprehensive about adding actives into their skincare routine as it all feels so clinical and foreign. Or worse, there is a fear that their faces will melt from all these actives?!

face melting

Poor schmuck!

In this post, I hope to demystify the role of actives and how to incorporate them safely in your skincare routine.

Just a word of caution for people with the following conditions, please tread slowly/ check with your dermatologist about the inclusion of actives into your skincare routine:

  1. People with compromised skin barriers e.g. flaky, itchy, extremely sensitive and easily irritated skin
  2. People with eczema
  3. People with rosacea
  4. People with sunburn (obviously do not start on actives if you had recently suffered from sunburn.. but I’m still gonna leave it here.. just in case..)
  5. People with severe acne (actives are actually good for people with acne but they need to be more cautious because actives actually can cause even more “purging” initially)

What are “actives” in skincare?

“Actives” in skincare terminology are the ingredients in a cosmetics product which are deemed to have a pharmacological effect that is documented by scientific evaluation and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use within a precise set of regulations. Products in this category are referred to as “over-the-counter” or “cosmetics that are also drugs” or “quasi-drugs”. Common skincare actives include AHA, BHA, Vitamin C, Retinol, Niacinamide, Benzoyl Peroxide etc. It is also important to note that skincare products with “actives” in it usually have a percentage of “XX” stated on the packaging. For example, a Vitamin C serum will usually state its percentage of Vitamin C that is formulated for that product.

Below are some tips that I would like to share with you when you are looking to start adding some actives into your skincare routine.

1) Sunscreen is a MUST – no compromises!

One thing you MUST do while you are adding actives to your skincare routine is that you definitely need to be diligent in your sunscreen usage. If you don’t want to use sunscreen/ cannot be bothered (why tho?), then please do not use actives at all! There’s absolutely no point in adding actives to your skincare to have your lovely smooth new skin coming out if you are not going to protect it! Also, you need to make sure that you are using the correct amount and type of sunscreen for your needs. There are many beautifully light sunscreen with strong protective powers on the market nowadays that are a far cry from the nasty oily sunscreens of yesterdays. Experiment and find one that your skin likes and that is also within your budget so that you can use it consistently at the right amount.


Always use sunscreen!

2) Tread slowly

Actives are a different beast from your normal creams and toners. They are actually meant to give you results and some of them are also prescriptive based so essentially they are like medicine, except for your skin. You do not want to load all of them onto your skin in one go, especially if you are just starting out. Also, some actives do not play well with others and must be used separately either on different days or different times. Additionally, if you generally have sensitive skin, please listen to your skin! Do not try to go all in and damage your skin barrier unknowingly! Remember, little but consistent use of actives is better than sharp spikes of unrelenting use than a drastic drop when your skin becomes too sensitised to even wash with water.

You can start with any skincare actives depending on your own needs and skin goals. Personally, I started with a gentle AHA (like the PIXI Glow Tonic) and then I gradually added more stuff. You need to give your skin time to adjust, especially when you are just starting out. I think that you can start by using the product on every 3rd day/night for around 2 weeks and then check your skin condition. If you discover that your skin can tolerate the product, then gradually increase its use to alternate day/night and then daily. I also generally give the product about 4 weeks time to check for any adverse reactions before I add in a different active (such as Vitamin C or Retinol). Patience is key! Do not go all in unless you are sure your skin can take it!


Tread slowly.. Without the falling down part.. Lol..

3) Mix the use of actives with skin fortifying ingredients

In my opinion, I think that while you want to use actives to sort of make your skin work “harder”, you also need to be very careful to maintain a balance to avoid damaging your skin barrier. A damaged skin barrier is the start of a long and bumpy road to skincare hell. When the skin barrier is damaged, the skin becomes dry, irritated, sensitive, and becomes prone to skin inflammation leading to psoriasis, eczema, severe dryness and acne. Therefore, you should always be mindful about over-exfoliation when you are using actives. I like to mix my actives (when I say mix, I mean layer and not to mix in one giant pot) with some of my favourite hydrating serums, face oils with omega fatty acids and moisturisers with ceramides that can repair and fortify the skin barrier. Also, you’ll need to take note of the type of cleansers that you are using. Harsh cleansers (especially those with abrasive scrubs) are out!


Double, double toil and trouble…

I’ll be sharing in a separate post on the exact steps (eg. Step 1: Use XXX, Step 2: Use XXX) on how you can use different actives together to form your daytime and nightime skincare routine.

Thank you for reading!

Review – Biotherm Aquasource Gel


In Singapore, although we do not really have the traditional 4 seasons like spring, summer, autumn and winter, I’ve always thought otherwise. To me, Singapore do have 4 seasons: hot, hotter, hottest and haze season (LOL.. Thanks to our neighbour Indonesia..). As we approach the middle of the year, Singapore has actually gotten even hotter with average temperatures during the day hovering around 32°C to 34°C (that’s around 89°F to 93°F). During such times when the thought of putting anything heavy on my face feels suffocating, I would turn to one of my favourite gel moisturisers – Biotherm’s Aquasource Gel.

Before we begin the review proper, let’s check out its ingredients, shall we?


Aqua, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Alcohol Denat, Prunus Armeniaca Kernel Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter, Mannose, C12-13 Pareth-23, C12-13 Pareth-3, PEG/PPG/Polybutylene Glycol-8/5/3 Glycerin, Ceramide 3, Carbomer, Zinc Gluconate, Sodium Hydroxide, Serine, Divinyldimethicone/Dimethicone Copolymer, 2-Oleamido-1, 3-Octadecanediol, Cholesterol, Ammonium Polyacryldimethyltauramide, Disodium Edta, Hydroxypalmitoylsphinganine, Vitreoscilla Ferment, Citrulline, Xanthan Gum, Menthoxypropanediol, Chlorphenesin, CI 19140, CI 42090, Linalool, Limonene, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde Citral, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Salicylate, Parfum.

You would notice that this product actually does contain some silicone. I’m usually not too fussed about silicone in my products as long as it doesn’t feel too siliconey. However, I do not feel that the texture of this product is too siliconey (unlike another other gel moisturiser which I’m also using). I also do not experience any “rolling”or “flaking” problems with this product, which are usually common with products with high levels of silicone in it.

How does the Biotherm Aquasource Gel fare?

Honestly speaking, I’ve used this product since I was 19 years old (I’m 32 years old now!) and have gone through so many tubs of this product as well as all the times that it had been reformulated. It remains one of my favourite products from Biotherm even though it’s just a normal hydrating moisturiser (nothing fancy!). I remembered that I first bought this product when I was just 19 years old. It retailed for S$52 then and now it costs S$69. Oh well, time flies and so does inflation I guess… Anyway, the reason why I liked this product so much to keep repurchasing throughout the years is that it really does keep my face nicely hydrated. It also absorbs easily without leaving a film on my face. Sometimes on really hot and humid days, I just use a toner and this moisturiser with sunscreen on top and my face still feels alright. I also love the way it smells although some people might find the smell a bit strong. It has a very fresh citrus ocean spa smell (oh god.. I’m so bad at describing smells but I think you’ll know what I mean when you actually take a good whiff of this product) that is also somewhat nostalgic for me. It doesn’t claim to do any fancy stuff except hydration and for me, I don’t really need my moisturisers to do fancy stuff. That’s what I use my serums for! However, I sincerely hope that Biotherm keeps this present formulation as it is because I find that their moisturisers have been getting more and more siliconey. I gave up trying their latest Everplump moisturiser when I read through the ingredients and felt its texture in stores cause it’s just way too many silicones for my taste.

Where can you find it?

Biotherm is quite a common brand in the departmental stores so I think you can definitely find it at all the major stores in Singapore. Sephora stores in Singapore also carry this brand as well.

It retails at S$69 (50ml sized).

Thank you for reading!