Miracle Active Ingredients: A Dermatologist Recommends His Personal Favorites

It seems like every week there’s a new “hot” active ingredient in the skincare blogosphere. To help us sort through the hype we asked Dr. Richard Thomas, Clinical Associate Professor of Clinical Dermatology, Department of Dermatology and Skin Science, University of British Columbia, to come up with a list of 7 truly effective active ingredients.

Bigstock-Smiling-Young-Woman-Applies-Cr-12360611-300X200“Ceramides are a normal constituent of the skin. They help hold together the top layer of the skin, and they also help the skin retain moisture. Your ceramide levels decrease as you age, but fortunately, you’re not limited to your natural reserves. Ceramides can be applied to skin to help the skin repair itself and rebuild its own barrier. They’re especially helpful for patients coping with conditions like eczema and rosacea.”
– Dr. Thomas

Recommended For: Dry Skin, Rosacea, Eczema


“Acne is a complicated thing, but one thing we know for certain is that acne sufferers biologically react to bacteria —and Benzoyl Peroxide is a very powerful anti-bacterial. Over the years it’s shown to be a safe, inexpensive, effective treatment for inflammatory acne. It’s an active ingredient in many acne medications, and it’s also available over-the-counter.”
– Dr. Thomas

Recommended For: Inflammatory Acne

Bigstock-Blackberries-962756-300X200“Alpha Hydroxy Acids are a group of natural acids found in foods like milk and fruit. They have an ability to ‘de-scale’ skin by removing the top layer of dead cells, which makes the skin look smoother and helps it attract water. They can also strengthen the layers of the skin, which causes it to look firmer.”
– Dr. Thomas

Recommended For: Dry Skin, Scaly Skin, Melasma

Bigstock-Mature-Blond-Beauty-Confiden-466337-300X200“Retinoids are probably the most powerful agent that gets skin back to normal. They can reduce pigmentation, slow collagen breakdown, and minimize the appearance of wrinkles, resulting in skin that looks smoother. Retinol can be purchased over the counter in small dosages. To find out if your skin would benefit from a higher concentration, consult a dermatologist.”
– Dr. Thomas

Recommended For: Wrinkles, Forehead Lines, Aging

Bigstock-Armpit-Yeast-Infection-5640481-300X205“It’s normal for there to be yeast in the body, but yeast overgrowth can cause a variety of issues, including dandruff and rashes. Zinc Pyrithione is a safe, easy-to-use, effective anti-yeast. It’s an active ingredient in Head and Shoulders shampoos.”
– Dr. Thomas

Recommended For: Dandruff, Tinea-Versicolor

Bigstock-Young-Woman-Applying-Lip-Color-12208676-300X240“Used at the right time, on the right area of the body, it can be a very effective, inexpensive remedy for dry skin. In fact, it is one of the most effective moisturizers available. It can do wonders for hot spots, cracked fingertips, lips, et cetera.”

Recommended Uses: Dry Skin, Lips, Eczema, Dermatitis

Travel-Bite-300X212“Hydrocortizone is the most potent anti-inflammatory we have. It’s an inexpensive, effective treatment for a variety of skin conditions, especially eczema and insect bites. It needs to be used in moderation, and used with caution, but, if used correctly for short periods of time, it is very safe. It’s been used as anti-inflammatory for over 60 years.”
– Dr. Thomas

Recommended Uses: Eczema, Insect Bites, Allergies, Dermatitis, Rash