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Active Ingredient Overload: You're Stressing Your Skin

Skincare Active Ingredients Overload. How to reset your skin barrier with an actives cleanse

People are throwing the kitchen skin at their skin with all these active ingredients and, guess what, it’s not making your skin happy. People love their active ingredients—mainly because they give you quick results—but long term they can stress your skin out, ESPECIALLY if you are combining a lot of them all at once. Follow along for active skincare ingredients to avoid, which are good for your skin, and how to reset your skin barrier when everything is out of whack from actives overload. 


Why are too many active ingredients bad for your skin?


Having too many active ingredients in your skincare routine can potentially lead to several issues. 

Sensitivity and Irritation

Active ingredients are potent! Too many of them can cause irritation, redness, and sensitivity. It’s ironic because people often start using all of these products because they feel dry or their skin looks irritated. 

Skin Barrier Disruption

The skin has a natural barrier that helps retain moisture and protect against environmental stressors. Using too many active ingredients, especially aggressive ones (more on what those are below), can compromise this barrier, leading to increased water loss and vulnerability to environmental irritants.

Product Incompatibility

This is the big one! Certain active ingredients don't play well together. Mixing incompatible ingredients can 1) neutralize their effectiveness (you’re wasting your money!) in some cases, create harmful byproducts. For example, combining Vitamin C and certain acids may lead to decreased efficacy.

Allergic Reactions

Introducing multiple new ingredients at once increases the likelihood of an allergic reaction. It becomes challenging to identify the culprit.


Many active ingredients, such as retinoids and chemical exfoliants, promote skin renewal by removing dead cells. However, excessive exfoliation can lead to over-exfoliation, causing redness, flakiness, and sensitivity. I recommend some super ingredients, like Broccoli Seed Oil that have the same benefits as these active ingredients but without the big downsides.

Wasting your Products

Using too many active ingredients simultaneously may result in the wasteful use of products. Your skin can only absorb a certain amount of active ingredients at a time, and excess product may not provide additional benefits but can contribute to irritation.

Gentle vs. Super Active Ingredients

There’s a big spectrum of active ingredients in skincare. Some are gentle, some are super harsh. None of them are on the surface bad but I much prefer gentle actives (though I mainly just prefer FEWER actives). And just because something is deemed ‘gentle’ doesn’t mean it’s good for your skin. Let’s dive into the different types of actives and my opinions on each.


5 ‘Super Actives’: 

  1. Retinoids 

    • Most people have sensitivity to retinol but keep using it because they want the anti-aging properties. There are lots of more gentle options though! 

  2. Vitamin C 

    • The brightening, collagen-boosting, yes. Tough in combo with other ingredients. 

  3. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) 

    • AHAs are exfoliants. And they can be harsh. Many skin types don’t mix well with this type of active ingredient. Common names on labels for AHAs might be Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, Citric acid, Hydroxycaprylic acid, Hydroxycapric acid etc.

  4. Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) 

    • Look out for this one. Some BHAs are magical and others are harsh. BHAs exfoliate the surface of the skin and inside the pore. BHA is fat/oil soluble. You just need to be careful which one you pick and how often you use it.

    • Pro tip: This is a BHA I love. It’s great for acne.

  5. Essential Oils 

    • This one is a bit of both. I love some essential oils like Rose, but some, are super irritating for the skin.


5 ‘Gentle Actives’: 

  1. Hyaluronic Acid 

    • Gentle maybe but I dislike this very popular active. Many HAs aren’t able to be absorbed by the skin because the molecules are just too big and long term it dries you out more.

  2. Peptides

    • This is a great gentle active ingredient. And there are so many benefits. Peptides speed up wound healing, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin texture, and strengthen the skin. There’s a wide variety of peptides in skin care, some are found in nature and others are created synthetically. Natural peptides can come from plant sources like yeast and oat kernels. But, you need to watch out. Natural peptides are not stable in water solutions. This means you want to avoid them in your water-based skincare products. Peptides are short-chain amino acids that are the building blocks of our skin. They help build a strong skin barrier. Along with collagen, peptides make up elastin fibers which is a type of protein. You can safely use peptides in tandem with other actives like Vitamin C and niacinamide. 

    • Pro tip:  I love this one from DNA Skin Institute, we sell it at Saving Faces.

  3. Niacinamide

    • This is one of my favorite active skincare ingredients because it plays well with other actives. It is a very stable form of vitamin B3 and helps to fight inflammation, strengthen our skin barrier, improve fine lines, and brighten dark spots. It's a powerhouse ingredient even for sensitive skin. You can find this fave in our VibrantBoost Face Mist.

  4. Ceramides

    • The building blocks of our stratum corneum—aka the epidermis aka the outer layer of your skin. Ceramides are almost like the glue that holds everything in place. They are lipids or natural fatty acids, responsible for locking in moisture and keeping our skin dehydrated. As we age our ceramide levels decrease so adding them to our skin care routine can be beneficial.

  5. Vitamin E

    • Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble antioxidant and It protects the skin from solar radiation by acting as a free-radical scavenger.

Active Cleanse – How to Reset Your Skin Barrier

When people have big skincare issues like Acne or Perioral Dermatitis, Rosacea, etc. I always recommend an ‘active cleanse’ when we start to treat it. Your skin might need a breather. Take out all the active ingredients from your routine, use gentle alternatives (that often have much bigger and longer-term benefits), and see what happens. 


A good rule of thumb when figuring out how to reset your skin barrier? To truly see if an active serum is working for your skin and giving you the maximum benefits, use one serum at a time


✨Jenny Jewel✨

My favorite active serum is CryoStem Signal Plus from DNA Skincare. We sell it at Saving Faces but many places sell it online.


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