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Why too many active ingredients can be a bad thing

Why too many active ingredients can be a bad thing

It's quintessential Australian-ism, but sometimes nothing soothes the soul like a cup of tea and Vegemite on toast.

Vegemite is an enigma to many of our international friends as they can’t see how anyone could eat it. But take it from Aaron - the seasoned Vegemite veteran - it all comes down to finding the right balance of vegemite for your taste.

When it's balanced perfectly on toast it is a taste sensation. But if you eat it by the spoonful it will make you dry-retch.

In the case of Vegemite, more is definitely not better. The same applies to active skincare ingredients.

(OK, OK, so there are Aussies out there - including Phoebe - who don’t agree with Aaron’s soul-soothing love of vegemite, but hopefully you get the idea!!) 🤣

We like to keep our eye on what our fellow skincare brands are doing out there, and sometimes it feels like a competition to see who can add the most active ingredients and shout about it the loudest.

Unless you’re a skin expert, you can’t be blamed if you’re inclined to snap up the product with the most actives. But maybe after reading this you’ll think twice.

Active ingredients come with recommended levels and other recommendations so that they are safe and effective. And for many of these ingredients, if that level is exceeded it can actually mean that product will have a negative effect on your skin.

Let’s take a look at some common active ingredients to show why more is not always better.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic Acid, a very common active ingredient, is a beta hydroxy acid which resurfaces the skin and combats acne. In a rinse-off product like the This Is Me Enzyme Exfoliating Mask the maximum amount we could use is 2%. Any more and it would be regarded as a medicinal product and we would need to get it approved as such.

But in our extensive in-house testing while developing this product, we found that 2% is way too strong. After a lot of trial and error, we found that salicylic acid gave the best results at 0.3% when used with the other ingredients in the This Is Me Enzyme Exfoliating Mask.

'This Is Me' Enzyme Exfoliating Mask


Overdosing on an exfoliant is never a good thing and could compromise your skin’s delicate protective barrier, leaving your skin sensitised and susceptible to other problems. So it’s a good idea to go easy on the salicylic acid.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is probably the most confusing of all the active ingredients as there are so many types. Some types of Vitamin C (like Ascorbic acid) need to be used at 20-25%, whereas others (like the Ascorbyl Glucoside that we use in the Fairy Godmother Serum #1 - Brighten and Boost) only requires 2% and will deliver better results.

When it comes to Vitamin C, your body is a very clever thing and will only use what it requires, discarding the rest. That’s why too many Vitamin C tablets = fluro yellow wee! Using more than what’s necessary is just wasteful and costs you more money, so we keep the Vitamin C levels in our products at around 2%. That way you get the skin results without the wastage.


Retinol (a form of Vitamin A) is another very well known active ingredient that has many benefits for your skin - its ability to renew and resurface skin has been used to help all skin types. However, the more you use, the stronger it is. You need to tread carefully because too much can damage your skin (especially if it is unknowingly used in conjunction with Glycolic acid). That is why the products with higher concentrations of retinoids are registered as medicinal products, as you could end up with a skin disaster involving peeling and dryness if you apply too much.

Luckily - just like a U2 tribute band - there are retinol impersonators out there that provide the full retinol/Vitamin A-like experience without any of the overuse dangers and photosensitivity. The Butterfly Kisses Probiotic Gel Cream, Sweet Dreams Ultra Rich Beauty Cream and Fairy Godmother Serum #2 - Clear and Correct provide retinol-like results for all skin types thanks to moth bean extract.

We could go on and on and on…..

Less is definitely more when it comes to retinol, and there are so many other ingredients that we can apply this to as well.

Even just using too much cleanser or moisturiser is a no-no. Too much cleansing can leave your skin feeling dry and tight. And too much moisturising can leave you feeling like an oil slick, triggering breakouts.

Some of us are guilty of simply layering too many products on all at once, even if each one is used at the recommended amount. You may not be over-doing a single ingredient, but there’s only so much product your skin needs for optimal health. If your AM and PM skincare routines consistently have more than 5 products in them, it might be time to have a little check in and test to see if scaling back on the products a little actually leaves your skin happier. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Gosh, all that thinking has gotten us hungry... Now it’s time for another cuppa and a slice of vegemite toast. Spread thinly of course.