Safety, Skin Health
Is It Better To Use As Many Actives As Possible?
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Combining different actives in one regimen can give you multiple benefits, such as effective treatment for both acne and dark spots. Certain actives can even improve the performance of others. For example, beta-hydroxy acid is oil soluble, meaning it penetrates the skin’s oiliest areas better than most alpha-hydroxy acids, which tend to be water soluble. Applying a beta-hydroxy acid product before your other actives could help them penetrate more areas of the skin than they otherwise would, resulting in heightened efficacy.

That said, active ingredients, particularly beta- and alpha-hydroxy acids, tend to be irritating. Using “as many as possible” increases the risk of irritation and you can definitely over-treat.

If would like to combine actives, keep the following in mind:

1) Select products with minimal or no allergens in the rest of the formulation. It may surprise you to learn how many formulations include parabens, dyes or fragrances, all of which can be irritating on their own. Combined with active ingredients which are naturally irritating, the presence of allergens can spell disaster.

2) Combining actives increases the risk of irritation so you should be extra picky about which actives you do use. Add only what is proven — in randomized, double-blind clinical studies, ideally published in peer-reviewed dermatological journals — to be good and reliable. Very high-tech, exciting-sounding claims that seem too good to be true probably are. They may not add any benefits to your regimen and could end up causing a reaction that you will need to deal with later, such as thinning of the skin, redness, peeling, or even acne or hyperpigmentation.

3) If you have sensitive skin, less is more, period. Use fewer products and choose gentle but multi-beneficial ones.

4) If you have very sensitive skin opt for less irritating active ingredients. “Active ingredient” is often an alpha- or beta-hydroxy acid, another type of microscopic exfoliant (hastens the shedding of old cells), or a drug (like an antibiotic). While effective, too much of these good things can be too much for sensitive skin. street maps There are excellent actives that are less irritating and some that are even anti-inflammatory such as virgin coconut oil (anti-aging, barrier repair, antimicrobial); monolaurin (anti-acne, antimicrobial), and green tea (antioxidant). As long as the rest of the ingredients in your products are free of allergens, combining anti-inflammatory actives may not only be tolerable but beneficial.


Click here for more on combining actives in one regimen.

Or see for some popular combined regimens.