Are We Using Too Many Products?

Susan Devaney

5 min read

From peels to exfoliators, to serums, navigating the map of skincare can be confusing. With an abundance of beauty products to pick from, looking after our skin has never been easier – but as we apply from morning until night, are we layering too many products onto our faces? 

Which one comes first: the serum or the moisturiser… or is it the sunscreen? Adopting the correct steps in our skincare regime can be as confusing as picking the right product for your skin type. But we all know that keeping your skin looking healthy and glowing requires day-to-day attention. It’s striking a balance of just enough layering that’s the beauty issue of great concern. ‘Overuse of products is the biggest mistake people make in their skincare regimes’, explains Dr. Fazeela a cosmetic dermatologist from the Dermacare Group in Dubai. ‘Some patients come in with a grocery bag full of products and wonder why their skin does not look or feel great. Bombarding your skin with a host of different ingredients can be irritating.’ Applying more than three or four formulas at a time can be exhausting for your skin. ‘The take home message is: do not overdose your skin with multiple products at one time. The simpler your skin regime, the more likely you are to stick with it and enjoy the benefits,’ she concludes. Adopting a simple skincare regime is at the heart of the problem, especially as the beauty industry continues to market the newest must-have products towards us. 

Last year, the US beauty market was worth $11.2bn and the UK’s was estimated at £2.3bn. With an array of products targeted at us, it’s difficult to decipher which is best, especially with high fashion brands launching their own skincare lines such as Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel. ‘The best skin products are those which are created in a laboratory as cosmeceuticals – formulated with nanotechnology’, says Dr. Mona from Biolite Aesthetic Clinic in Dubai. ‘Basically, this means that the molecule is so small that it absorbs immediately into the skin and begins working on contact like a topical drug, so to speak. Most OTC or branded cosmetic/ skincare lines are not formulated in the same way which means its takes weeks before one actually begins to see a result. I’m not convinced that the designer branded products [are] packed with the ‘good stuff’ for which one really ought to be paying for,’ she explains. The cosmetic and toiletries market in the Middle East is considered to be one of the most profitable and largest in the world – growing at a rate of 12% per year. As the region continues to compete with the global market, beauty sales are expected to increase by more than AED20 billion by 2020. 

It’s a minimalist skincare regime that appears to be the winning cocktail. ‘The right sequence of products is key to beautiful healthy skin’, says Dr. Fazeela. ‘When used in the wrong combination some ingredients will cancel out each others’ benefits. For example, the acid in glycolic or salicylic acid breaks down ingredients like retinol, vitamin C or hydroquinone. Use one ingredient product at a time’, she says. With a cabinet full of multiple elixirs such as brightening fluid to dark spot correctors, slathering products across your face can cause a pile up of hydration rather than absorption. Some combinations of ingredients should best be avoided. You thought it was okay to apply your anti-ageing moisturiser on top of your acne breakout treatment? Think again. Retinol (stimulates cell renewal) in anti-ageing products and benzoyl peroxide (dries up blemishes) prove for a red and flaky skin concern. 

Remember: it’s essential to exfoliate, cleanse and moisturise. A popular product choice is cleansing oils as they remove makeup without leaving a sensation of tight and dry skin. But cleansing oils are susceptible to leaving a residue (or barrier) on top of your skin. If you then apply a serum – which usually contains ingredients such as beta-glucan, peptides or vitamin C – these will be prevented from sinking deep into your skin. It’s the potency of serums that make them highly desirable, so not gaining all of their nutrients is counteractive. ‘After exfoliation, a product containing hyaluronic acid or ceramides is preferred and skin can simply not be treated by products containing retinoids or glycolic acid’, Dr. Fazeela advises. Afterwards you should apply the thinnest hydrator first. ‘I have a rule of thumb: Moisturise when skin comes in contact with water. Moisturisation has nothing to do with the oiliness in the skin. Moisture and sebum (or oil) are two different entities. The type of moisturisers will be different according to different skin types and in different weathers. Oil-free moisturisers during the summer and emollients during winter are more in demand as frigid temperatures and indoor heating can rob your skin of moisture’, she advises. In July last year, the UAE witnessed a sales increase of 35 per cent for skincare products as the humidity and summer heat hit the Dubai shores. Keeping our skin protected and moisturised is a necessity, not a luxury. ‘The short or long term effects of not moisturising could result in a dry to very dry skin with an ineffective skin barrier function, resulting in an unhappy irritated allergy prone skin. Unhappy skin gets old at a quicker pace and gets etched with lines and wrinkles. Different skin illnesses like acne, rosacea and psoriasis flare up and skin allergies take a toll in an unhealthy dry angry skin’, she warns. 

It’s essential, living in the Middle East, to factor in sun protection. ‘In every country, the way to pamper your skin and body is different. The norms are dictated not just by the culture but also by the weather environment and the socioeconomic status of the nation’, says Dr. Fazeela. With thanks to the innovative science in beauty developments in South Korea, we can apply sunscreen with ease and add to our makeup routine. From the BB to the CC cream, multitasking and tinted creams are easy to acquire and incorporate within our daily routine. Containing many active ingredients they’re multifunctional and lightweight on our skin. But if your favourite foundation doesn’t contain an SPF? Many people think they can simply combine their foundation with sunscreen applied on top. If only life was that simple. Combining the two doesn’t guarantee. 

SPF protection as you’re altering the formula of both. Applying an SPF should be left to the daytime, and in the evening, your skin care regime should be altered. ‘Sunscreen-containing moisturisers can’t be used at night. Heavy emollients can’t be used during daytime. Retinoids and skin lightening creams are used at night. So there is a timescale for every product to be used at a specific time’, she explains. Adding moisturise to your skin is best left to the night. ‘Generally the moisturiser for the night tends to be slightly heavier than the day, which is perfect for defending and repairing the skin while one sleeps’, explains Dr. Mona. It is of important to note the ingredients contained within your products of choice. ‘There are many ingredients that have undergone scrutiny in the last few years. The notable ones are parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate and phthalates’, warns Dr. Fazeela. On the surface the qualities of parabens appear very useful: they prevent the growth of bacteria, mould and yeast in your beauty products. But they possess oestrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with the increased risk of breast cancer. They can be found in everything from facial cleansers to body washes. This only heightens the essentiality of applying products to your face that have been tested and created by established and certified skin care brands. As consumers we look for innovative products and this in turn drives growth. But, according to Dr. Fazeela, we must remember, ‘Skin is a living organ and is of different types in different individuals. The genes decide what type of skin the person will have and its the physical environment, along with his life style and health, can alter it.’ Everyone’s skin is different, and everyone’s beauty product choices are different. It’s essential to scope out a skincare regime that suits your own skin’s needs. For pilling on an excess of creams and moisturisers can affect their absorption and leave us with layered, but lacklustre skin.