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Is less really more? Part 2: What you should look out for when choosing active ingredients

Posted by Lara Schimweg on
Ist weniger wirklich mehr? Teil 2: Worauf du bei Wirkstoffen achten solltest

Many skin care products on the market promise wonderful effects

The beauty industry tells you every day how many active ingredients your skin needs to stay healthy and soothed in the long term: anti-aging, tighten wrinkles, refine pores. Is that really healthy?

This is the subject of the second part of our four-part series of articles. The first part was about which ingredients and products are irritating and unnecessary for your skin . The third part of this series of articles deals with other active ingredients and the fourth part will deal with how you can find your individually tailored care routine and how you can avoid irritation, irritation, allergic reactions, the cocktail effect or perioral dermatitis . Both parts will appear tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

There are quite a few active ingredients that can have a positive effect on the skin. However, you do not have to believe every advertising promise. The promises are often exaggerated. Many active ingredients are only suitable for very specific skin problems and are definitely not an all-round solution for everyone. Some active ingredients may contribute to healthier skin in the long term if you choose the products with care. Similar to medicines, which are not equally suitable for everyone.

Always remember: Many active ingredients can irritate the skin or trigger allergies. In this and the next part you will find out what to look out for, because sensitive skin in particular can be very irritated by potent active ingredients such as niacinamide or fruit acids, resulting in redness or pustules.

If you care for your skin too much or use the wrong products, what is known as “over care” can occur. With sensitive skin, such as rosacea and generally with atopic skin, the skin is overwhelmed more quickly. However, even for people with more robust skin, too much care can simply be too much. One example is perioral dermatitis , the so-called "stewardesses' disease": It often occurs in people who have used a large number of cosmetic products. Redness and pustules appear on the face. Usually a small area remains free around the mouth. This is then a very clear sign of perioral dermatitis. Unfortunately, it's easy to fall into a vicious circle with perioral dermatitis if you try to control your skin problems with other powerful skin care products. Usually only consistent omission helps - the so-called zero therapy . So the most radical form of skin minimalism. In any case, less is more here.

In any case, it's better if you don't overdo it with your skin care from the start. If you have few ingredients in your skin care, you also keep track better. An average cream can contain 40 ingredients or more. If you use this cream and your skin turns red afterwards, it's almost impossible to find out which ingredient caused it. Or maybe it was the interaction of several ingredients. And if you use even more products, it becomes even more confusing. Of course, the same also applies the other way around: you know neither what irritates your skin nor what has been good for it. If you are allergic, it is even more important to use fewer ingredients, as the risk of an allergic reaction increases with each additional ingredient.

Especially with potent active ingredients, caution is also required for another reason: the so-called cocktail effect can lead to undesirable interactions between several substances.

Skin-identical active ingredients

Among all the active ingredients, let's start with those that are very good for your skin. Active ingredients that are found in the skin or that are very similar to the substances in your skin are best. They ensure that your skin is soothed, well moisturized and protected in the long term. These include moisturizers such as hyaluronic acid , glycerin , sugar or salts . They provide your skin with the moisture it demands. Body-like fats ensure that moisture stays in your skin. These can be, for example: caprylic/ capric triglycerides or squalane . Ceramides are particularly suitable for very dry skin. These skin-like active ingredients are uncomplicated and can be combined with each other without fear of a harsh interaction.

plant extracts

Certain mild plant extracts can also soothe your skin. They usually contain a lot of antioxidants. Licorice root extract naturally counteracts redness, green tea extract has an anti-inflammatory effect and black tea soothes the skin. They can be easily combined with each other and are well tolerated insofar as there are not too many.

On the other hand, if the plant extracts sound too exotic, it is advisable to be more careful because they could possibly trigger a contact allergy. This danger always exists when your body is not yet familiar with the substance. Many exotic plant extracts are advertised as "superfoods" or true miracle plants in trendy skin care products. If you're new to plants like this, take it slow. Allergies can develop even if you didn't have any before. Especially if you are allergic to grass, flowers and plants, always check whether you can tolerate the product. You can test this in the crook of your arm or on your wrist. An article with skin care tips for allergy sufferers is in the works. If you don't want to miss an article, subscribe to our articles at the bottom of the page by email or follow us on Instagram or Twitter. It is best to use well-tolerated extracts that are just as good for the skin and rarely cause allergies.

There are also herbal extracts that can have wonderful natural effects on the skin, but they can also cause an allergic reaction. Salix Alba Bark Extract is derived from willow plants. It acts mildly against impurities. Unfortunately, however, willow is one of the allergenic plants. If you are allergic, you may therefore react to such extracts.

Also avoid the so-called witch hazel (Hammamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract). Due to the manufacturing process, the extract contains essential oils and drying alcohol. As with rose water, these substances are not included in the INCI list.

Tea tree oil also contains drying alcohol and essential oils. Unfortunately, the myth that te tree oil works well against pimples has been around for a long time. While alcohol does dry out pimples, natural essential oils can fuel inflammation and attack the skin barrier. Alternatively, you can use products with green tea extract or zinc .

Potent active ingredients

If you still want to do more because you hope for more from more potent active ingredients, you should consider the following:

Potent active ingredients such as niacinamide, vitamin C, pure salicylic acid, retinol, acid peelings, etc. trigger a desired active stimulus on your skin.

It is often recommended to use the most potent active ingredients possible to tackle specific problems or to prevent wrinkles.

Potent vitamin C is wonderful for strengthening the skin. However, not every sensitive skin tolerates ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C). How compatible ascorbic acid is also depends on the pH value and whether it is dissolved in water or in fat. Products in which the vitamin C is dissolved in oil are milder. It may be that you tolerate the milder vitamin C derivatives (derivatives) better. However, you should always take a close look at what your skin reports back to you.

Every skin has a few pimples and inflammations on some days. Because our skin is a living organ that reacts sensitively to stress, weather and the body's own hormones. A healthy, balanced diet also ensures that your skin develops less inflammation. An article on healthy, balanced nutrition is in the works.

If there are only a few pimples, it makes sense to simply treat them with some zinc . Just make sure your little pimple helper doesn't contain any drying alcohols or essential oils. These only fuel the inflammation unnecessarily. That's why you should leave them out.

Small inflammations usually go away on their own after a few days. Our skin can usually get a grip on small pimples without help. You'll help her a lot more if you just leave out the irritating and overpowering stuff. The best recipe is serenity and healthy, calm skin care.
In the case of very deep and extensive blemishes, however, it can make sense to see a dermatologist to rule out acne vulgaris.

If your skin tends to have strong deposits or numerous pimples, you can actively intervene with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid (also called BHA or beta-hydroxy acid ) has an anti-inflammatory effect and removes dead skin cells. It loosens the fat from the pore so that the sebum can drain better. Like many acid peels, it makes the skin more even.

Always be aware that BHA is an active ingredient that actively interferes with your skin's metabolism. This can be too much, especially for sensitive skin. Consider carefully beforehand whether your skin really needs this active ingredient. With a few small pimples, you don't need to trigger such strong reactions. If you do want to try it out and have no experience with salicylic acid, find out more about the correct application and recommended concentrations.

The skin may become a little red or tingle. Does not matter. However, sensitive skin can also overreact with excessive redness, sores and inflammation in the skin. Always take care of your skin and listen to its needs. If BHA causes you severe pain, inflammation, or excessive redness, stop taking it immediately. No skin care product should cause such reactions. This is a clear sign of intolerance.

Since BHA ensures that the sebum can drain off better, there is sometimes an initial deterioration in the complexion. In places where you generally tend to have deposits, pimples appear so that the sebum can drain to the outside. The so-called purging can last about 4-8 weeks. If you're supposed to get pimples and pustules in places where you've never had breakouts, then it's probably not purging. In this case it could be an intolerance. Better stop taking BHA then.

Caution: It is imperative to apply adequate sunscreen daily when using salicylic acid. Because the skin flakes off, your skin is much more sensitive to the sun. You should also take good care of your skin, as BHA dries out the skin.

An alternative for salicylic acid is benzoyl peroxide . It kills acne bacteria and acts on inflamed pimples. Unfortunately, with some skin types, it also dries out the skin very much. Benzoyl peroxide is often used to treat acne. Inform yourself in detail beforehand. Concentrations that are too high belong in the hands of dermatologists. Again, ask yourself if you really need it.

Tomorrow we will continue in the third part of our series with niacinamides, retinol, fruit acid peelings and mechanical peelings.

Lara Schimweg

about the author

Lara Schimweg is the founder of Xeno ® . She studied sports science and health research and is a trained health worker. Lara has rosacea and very sensitive skin.

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