Less Is More: Why Using Fewer Actives Equals Better Skin

Skincare actives are a remarkable scientific discovery. They make it possible to fade sun spots, reduce fine lines and tell your cells to turn over at the same relentless pace they did at a time when you were blissfully unaware of the concept of ageing. But, can you have too much of a good thing? Science says, yes … the more is not the merrier with active skincare ingredients. There are some very potent reasons to choose your actives wisely rather than layering powerful anti-agers to your hearts content.

Actives are potent

That’s their whole reason d’être: actives exist in skincare because they make a visible difference. But, just as you don’t use half a dozen different kinds of cleaners to make your shower shine, it’s counterproductive to start mixing too many actives: using more won’t get you better results and may even make your skin scream for mercy.

Some actives don’t mix well

It’s like mixing prescription meds – you’re playing with fire. Choose just one or two key actives, and stick to a simple twice daily cleanse, serum and moisturise routine. You’re more likely to see the results you want in your skin (and save oodles of dollars and time to boot!).

Some actives can actually cancel each other out

Different actives require different pH levels to be able to do their good work so, if you’re layering serums and moisturisers, you may actually be nullifying the actives in each one if they don’t match (scroll down to see a detailed list).

Percentages are important

At the end of the day, there’s limited space for actives in any skincare formulation. The more actives included in a formula, the smaller their concentrations will have to be. So, a product containing 1% vitamin C is not going to be as effective as a product containing 5% or even 10% vitamin C.

What actives are the gold standard in anti-ageing?

There are some actives that deserve their spot at the top of your wrinkle-busting wish list, including vitamin C, lactic acid and peptides. They each do different things but they work together harmoniously to give you firmer, plumper, even toned skin.

Science backs the youth-reviving potential of these actives

Research shows that Vitamin C can protect and repair cells suffering free radical damage. Vitamin C pairs well with lactic acid, which is a super gentle way to encourage new skin cells to emerge (and is well tolerated by all skin types, even the most sensitive). Both get along well with peptides, which are crucial for collagen production (the foundation of firm, plump skin) ­– peptides tell ageing skin that it has lost collagen and needs to produce more. In fact, our octapeptides go one step further by targeting the same protein complex as injectables to visibly reduce expression lines and wrinkles by up to 63% in 28 days.

How do I know if my skincare uses potent actives?

Learn to read labels! If you want to be sure you’re getting a high dose of vitamin C, for example, a quality skincare product will use the best. At Claire Hill we chose Kakadu plum as the main active in our Anti-Ageing Serum because it contains 7000mg of vitamin C per 100g of fruit, which is around 100 times the concentration found in oranges and ten times more antioxidants than blueberries. Antioxidants counter free radical damage to your skin cells and are an absolute must in any anti-ageing formulation.

The skincare ingredients you should never mix

Lactic acid and retinol (pure vitamin A) are not a happy combo (you’ll know by the telltale redness and peeling). Many people find retinol irritating anyway, but you should avoid any kind of acid if you are using a retinol formulation. Salicylic acid and glycolic acid. Both remove surface dead skin cells but using them together will strip your skin. Stick with just one. Benzoyl peroxide and hydroquinone. The first is an acne treatment, the second a skin lightening ingredient. Mixing the two is a recipe for skin irritation.

Which actives cancel each other out?

AHA’s nullify vitamin C. Glycolic and lactic acid alter the pH of your skin, so any vitamin C in your product regimen will be wiped out before it has a chance to get to work. AHA’s and Vitamin B3 They also need very different pH levels to flourish. Benzoyl peroxide (used to treat acne) oxidises vitamin C, rendering it totally useless. Oil and water. Oils are occlusive, which means they shut the door on water-based products. If you like facial oils, use moisturiser first, then the oil.