Active Ingredients in Skin Care: How Much is Too Much?

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Active Ingredients in Skin Care: How Much is Too Much? featured image
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We’ve learned the lesson with cupcakes—too much of a good thing is actually bad. So why is it so difficult to accept this fact when it comes to anti-aging methods? Sure, we accept some truths—too much plastic surgery will make us look worse and too many injections are a surefire way to end up with “frozen face,” but we haven’t quite accepted that too many topical anti-aging products with active ingredients might actually do more damage than improvement.

Retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, peptides and vitamins, to name a few, can all be extremely effective in fighting signs of aging like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. But when used incorrectly, they can be harmful. And if you are like most women, you may have a cream, serum, treatment and tonic containing these ingredients for every different area of your face.

Using too many products on your skin, especially more than one anti-aging product, tends to irritate the skin which in turn may make aged skin more noticeable. “Applying more than directed can cause clogged pores, a blotchy complexion or other unwanted effects,” says New York dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, MD.

So why are we all slathering on tons of anti-aging beauty products? Because we are impatient. As consumers we are told to want and expect instant results from active ingredients, but most products and ingredients take time to work. “It’s very important that you allow time for a product to work. While a moisturizer can immediately plump up fine lines, most products take at least six weeks to work and sometimes, it can take up to three months,” Taylor says.

New York dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD says many women believe they must switch up their products to “re-stimulate” skin and prevent it from becoming “immune” to anti-aging ingredients over time. “When the active ingredients in your products are giving you the results and improvement you want, there’s no reason for the active ingredients in that product to stop giving you the same result. Unless, of course, the condition you’re treating changes.”

If you don’t see results from active ingredients after six weeks, or if you believe the product you know and trust has “stopped working,” talk to your dermatologist and then and only then should you consider trying a different product. 


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