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Can Using Too Many Products Backfire?

January 24, 2017 Reviewed by Marta 0 Comments

Skin care is very beguiling and it can be addictive. (I bet that resonates for most people reading this post.) It can also encourage gluttony. Imagine you are really hungry and find yourself at an all-you-can eat buffet — before you know it, you are helping yourself to dish after dish with little attention to sequence or the principle food groups. Skin care can be like that, too. We buy all the latest things and our bathroom cabinets become the all-you-can smear equivalent of a buffet. But slathering on serum after serum is not necessarily the best approach for optimal anti-aging. There is such thing as too much of a good thing. Follow these smart tips to pare down your regimen without skimping on results.

Stop at three layers (or even two)

I regularly get emails from people with a long laundry list of all their products, saying that they are confused as to which order to use them. It’s often exhausting just reading the list. There’s a law of diminishing returns from layering on multiple treatments; more doesn’t equate to more results. There’s only so much that your skin can do at any one time to repair signs of aging.

You may also be running the risk of irritation and adverse reactions, like inflammation or blemishes. When people contact us saying that a product made their skin break out, the first thing we ask is what else they are using. Often times, they mention products with a slew of powerful actives — all of which can be great on their own, but layered together can become a cocktail of actives that the formulators never intended to go together.

Sticking with a basic regimen of serum, moisturizer (if needed!), sunscreen and eye cream is a good less-is-more approach. I know, I know — this isn’t fair when there are all of the wonderful and promising products that just have to be tried. Don’t despair: There ways to pare down your regimen while still sampling and enjoying as many products as possible. Read on.

Dedicate your products to times

Try to stick to a simple, uncluttered regimen by using products at different times. The most obvious is a morning regimen and a night regimen. Just because a product instructs you to use it twice daily, doesn’t mean that you have to. In fact, I rarely do, unless it is for testing. At night, you can use products that don’t sit well with makeup, are a little heavier, contain ingredients that can make your skin more photosensitive (such as retinol or AHAs), or can be a little oily or greasy. During the day, layer your lighter serums, day cream and, of course, sunscreen.

The other thing that you can do is alternate different products every few days. I do this a lot. I’m a huge believer that skin has different needs on different days due to lifestyle, hormones and just because it seems to have a will of its own. I start and end the day by peering at my skin for the signs it needs more moisture, more or less exfoliation, a nice dose of amino acids and so on. Then, I’ll choose that day’s products accordingly.

Stay focused

If you are suffering product overload, then I recommend you become task-oriented. Have a good think about what a product really does best and confine its use to focusing on that one thing. A good example is a serum with peptides for expression lines, called neuropeptides, like ClarityRx Get Fit Serum (105.75 in the shop). Don’t think about using it all over the face and neck, just target wherever expression lines — for you as they won’t necessarily be the same for me — form (crow’s feet, eleven lines, etc). If the primary ingredient is for sagging skin, then you’ll want target your jawline, for example, but not your forehead.

On the flip, if you don’t have the time or energy for such nitpicking, you can look for multitasking products — or even experiment with using your products off-label. Look for moisturizing day creams that are loaded with antioxidants and added SPF. Or, an anti-aging serum that has a cream, rather than gel, base may double up as a moisturizer if your skin is normal to oily. If you don’t have dark circles or puffy eyes then you might not need a dedicated eye serum that has ingredients for those conditions; your face serum might suffice. Eye creams can often be used for the outer lip area with success. Proven effective on both areas by the TIA community: Your Best Face Correct ($150 in the shop).

When purchasing don’t duplicate the primary actives

Although some of our most sophisticated products have a list of ingredients as long as your arm, our descriptions and reviews will point out the most important actives and what they do. There are some red carpet ingredients that get into some of the best products, such as Matrixyl 3000, amino acids, growth factors and hyaluronic acid, to name but a few. When you are shopping try to avoid duplicating your purchases.

Remember the retinol rule

If you want to incorporate a retinol or a strong AHA product into your regimen, then remember a couple of rules: You should use these products in the evening as they can make your skin sun sensitive. Secondly, if you want to layer another product on top, wait about 15 minutes (or as long as you can) before doing so. Deeply exfoliating products will remove the natural sebum from your skin and while the skin is working hard to put it back, it won’t be doing a very god job of absorbing all the actives in the next product that you apply.

Smear, don’t slather

The vast majority of people use way too much product. Modern and well-formulated products require just a small amount. A couple of pea-size drops will usually cover the whole face or neck. A lentil-size drop is enough for the eyes. Slathering will result in pilling, as well as being simply wasteful.

Finally, take a tip from the late Dr. Brandt. It applies to all of the above: Take your time. Expand your beauty regimen for as long as possible to give your products the time to settle, especially if you are layering. Dr. Brandt said he would apply one thing, then brush his teeth, another and then go make coffee. I like this idea. To me, it says we need to take the time to treat our complex products and our skin with respect. 

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