Single Ingredient Skincare Products? No, thank you!

I am often asked by patients, journalists and colleagues what I think about all those single ingredient skincare products on the market. Unless you have been living on the moon, I am sure you will have noticed the seemingly never-ending release of skincare products containing a single ingredient at a defined, often comparably high concentration (e.g. 30% Vitamin C in silicone, a 5% Alpha Lipoic Acid serum or a 10% Argireline solution – the list is endless). There are multiple brands who are following this strategy now and it seems one of their main tactics with regards to ingredient strength is ‘mine is bigger than yours’.

So, what do I think about these? Well, if I am honest, I am passionately not in favour of this recent trend of flooding the skincare market with single ingredient products. In fact, it’s one of my professional ‘pet hates’.

In my professional opinion as a cosmetic dermatologist, this is a lazy, mindless way of formulating skincare, which is in my opinion often driven by business interests rather than an authentic passion and deep expertise for skincare.

If I am honestly, I really can’t understand how anybody could possibly prefer to buy a single ingredient product, if they can have a clever combination of multiple active ingredients, working in concert for the ultimate benefit of the skin.

But what about layering multiple of these single ingredient products to try and get the same benefits, you will ask? Again, I am vehemently not a fan of that. There are many reasons why I would not recommend it in fact, one of which is that you will very likely compromise optimal absorption of active ingredients into the skin. Another reason is that you will simply not know how exactly these different products will interact with each other. It may be, for example, that one ingredient prefers a different pH from another, so mixing two formulations may not be a good idea, as you will be altering the pH of the original products. You may even risk interaction of some products.

There is a reason why we don’t formulate our own skincare at home (any longer…) but trust the expertise of genuine experts. Why go back to essentially ‘cooking’ your own skincare at home by mixing and/or layering multiple single-ingredient products? What comes next – mixing honey with milk and yogurt and apply this on your skin for anti-ageing purposes, like the ancient Greeks did?

Also, the more layers, the higher the risk of clogged pores, with the possible consequence of breakouts (I see this in clinic every single week!). Overloading the skin with layer upon layer of skincare (not just popular in Korea any longer!) will in my opinion also make the skin appear dull over time. The latter can happen if you prevent healthy exfoliation by essentially ‘sticking down’ the stratum corneum (the top layer on the skin, containing dead horn cells) again and again.

My advice to you is to not try to be your own beauty ‘chemist’ but rely on evidence-based combination products developed by real experts (such as a cosmetic dermatologist J…). Churning out a ton of mindless products, each containing a single ingredient and leaving the rest to the consumer (good luck with that…), is in my opinion a huge step back and a real shame.

And while I am at it – I am also calling for streamlining your skincare routine by using a small number of core products, containing key ingredients that have proven to work in synergy. My all-star skincare team is a high-grade antioxidant serum (containing a mix of antioxidants) and SPF30-50 in the morning; and a retinoid in the evening, frequency of application of the latter as tolerated.

Yes, you can very much have a great skincare regime with just these key products – much like a high-end capsule wardrobe!

Hope this makes sense…

Your truly,

Dr Stefanie