Skincare Active Ingredients + Self-Activated Face Products

Skin Care
The Standard
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Are you ready to face the facts? In a study that we conducted with a 3rd party lab on the top 25 products in clinical skincare, active ingredients degraded by 40% on average within 8 weeks. This means there is a good chance that you are using an ineffective product right now.[1] Most pre-mixed skincare products have a short efficacy period because many of the tried-and-true ingredients are prone to degradation when in contact with the daily environment. The solution? Self-activated skincare products that allow you to mix active ingredients at the moment of application for peak potency from every dose. While this is typically only available to a small group of in-the-know people who can afford personalized skincare treatments, it's now available to anyone and everyone with Exponent's activate-on-demand serum kits. 

Are the Active Ingredients in Your Skincare Product Really Working? 

Several factors may render pre-mixed skincare products ineffective. The most likely one is poor packaging that allows constant exposure to light and air, two elements that degrade most actives, including retinol and vitamin C.[2][3] Once jars and bottles are open, it's easy for these culprits to reach the formula and destabilize those active-but-fragile ingredients. If the bottles aren’t stored correctly—which usually requires a dark and cool place—the degradation of these ingredients can increase. 

Many skincare products on the market do not share their best-if-used-by date, which refers to how long a product will contain peak potency of the active ingredient. This date is often much sooner than a more standard expiration date.

Using a product past its expiration date is another reason your actives may not be delivering. Most products have this labeled PAO (period after opening) date to inform you of when a product may begin growing bacteria, indicated by an icon on the packaging with a number from one to 12 and the letter M following it. The M denotes the word months, and the number refers to the number of months the product lasts after opening it. You always want to keep an eye out for consistency, color, and scent changes, as they also indicate that your product has gone bad. This applies especially to natural and organic skincare products which are more likely to spoil.

How to Preserve Active Ingredients 

What you can do to reduce the vulnerability of active ingredients and preserve them as much as possible is to purchase products packed in amber and dark bottles for serums and airtight containers for moisturizers. To help maintain their efficacy, you should store your skincare products in a cool, dark place and away from UV light. Also, avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.

Most people store their skin care products in the bathroom, which becomes humid during showers. Without a robust preservative system baked into the formula, the heat & humidity can degrade the important ingredients and leave the product ineffective.[4] Ensure that your products contain preservatives such as ascorbic acid, vitamin E, phenols, benzoic acid, and sugar to help with the stability and integrity when exposed to extreme heat and humidity. 

The most effective way to preserve active ingredients is to use self-activated skincare. This way, you know that culprits like air, light, and heat can't ever reach the formula and spoil it. With mix-on-demand products, the actives are preserved in a powder until the moment they're activated, resulting in a superior and potent product.

Self-Activated Face Products

Self-activated face products let you mix active ingredients — that come in a powder form — with a liquid hydrator right at the moment of application. Unlike pre-mixed skincare products, the self-activated method lets you get the full benefits of the active ingredient every time you use the product.

Exponent Self-Activated Face Serums

Exponent Self-Activated Face Serums allow you to combine an Active Powder with the Quadruple Hyaluronic Acid Hydrator to whip up a single-dose application and prevent the degradation of actives. This first-of-its-kind system enables active ingredients to maintain efficacy and deliver benefits in their prime potency from every dose. 

And because we always talk facts at Exponent, all of our serums have been clinically proven to perform. For instance, during our clinical trial of the Brightening Boost Vitamin C Serum,  100% of subjects showed a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles after four weeks, while during the clinical trial for Time Rewind Retinol, 76% of subjects showed an improvement in firmness and elasticity after four weeks of daily use.

“My hope is that one day an efficacy standard is established, so we're not wasting time or money on what doesn't work but confidently using what does. Until then — eyes open, expectations raised.”

- Liz Whitman, Exponent Founder

Exponent Self-Activated Serums are easy to assemble and use. The patented packaging Self-Activator System has two chambers: one Globe and a Precision Dispenser for the Active Powder and a Bowl and a Base for the Hydrator. Once assembled, you get an easy-to-use system, and all you have to do is to push and twist the Globe to release a precise amount of Active Powder and Hydrator, mix with your finger for 8 seconds and apply the rich serum over your face, neck and decollete. Check out our guide on how to use the Exponent Self-Activated System in a few easy steps.

Skincare Active Ingredients FAQ's

Read on for some quick answers to the most frequently asked questions about active ingredients in skincare.

How do you know if a skincare product is working?

You know your skincare product is working if it feels comfortable on the skin and doesn't leave your complexion parched or tight, nor does it trigger breakouts or irritation. A good method to know if your skincare product delivers is to take a photo of your skin before you start using it, after seven days, two weeks, and one month and notice if your skin has changed.

How do you know if ingredients are active?

Usually, ingredients are active until they start to change color, consistency, or scent.

Does skincare lose effectiveness over time?

Skincare may lose effectiveness if the products’ packaging lets in too much light or air, the formula has a poor preservative system (no preservative ingredients), the packaging is misused, or not stored correctly.

What are the best active ingredients for skin?

The best active ingredients for the skin include retinol, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids, fatty acids, ceramides, and peptides. 

Get the Most Out of Your Skincare Routine with Exponent Self-Activated Face Products

Exponent Beauty Self Activated Skincare

Unlike traditional skincare that starts to degrade immediately, the Exponent System protects active ingredients, so your serums deliver peak effectiveness in every dose. Now that you're aware of the not-so-glowing facts about traditional skincare, it's time you take the matter into your own hands and add to your routine Exponent Self-Activated Serums. The best thing yet? Our Active Powders combine with the same Hydrator so you can easily customize your AM and PM routine in an instant.


  • Exponent Beauty, Our Founder's Story: Uncovering The Truth Serum, Source
  • Žane Temova Rakuša MS, Petja Škufca BS, Albin Kristl PhD, Robert Roškar PhD, Retinoid stability and degradation kinetics in commercial cosmetic products, 18 November 2020,, Source
  • Ahmad I, Sheraz MA, Ahmed S, Shaikh RH, Vaid FH, ur Rehman Khattak S, Ansari SA. Photostability and interaction of ascorbic acid in cream formulations. AAPS PharmSciTech. 2011 Sep;12(3):917-23. doi: 10.1208/s12249-011-9659-1. Epub 2011 Jul 7, Source
  • Michigan State University, Center for Research on Ingredient Safety, Elisabeth Anderson, Preservatives – Keeping our cosmetics safe & fresh, May 13, 2019, Source


Powered by clinically-proven, pure Active Powders combined with a Hyaluronic Acid Hydrator, our Superior Serums are made fresh in an instant at peak potency.