When something mysterious in your diet starts to cause digestive woes, one of the best ways to deal is to go on an elimination diet—AKA to remove certain foods or food groups from what you’re eating and then slowly introduce them back, one at a time, to see which is the culprit.
You can do the same with your skin care. Oftentimes, inflammation can sprout up in the form of redness or acne, and it can be tough figuring out which product in your (guessing here) several-step routine may have caused it. This is why it could be beneficial to use skin-care products with 10 ingredients or less.
“The more ingredients a product has, the greater likelihood that you may develop irritation or allergic contact dermatitis to one of the ingredients in the product,” says Jennifer Chwalek, MD, a board-certified dermatologist from New York’s Union Square Laser Dermatology. “Also, as you increase the number of ingredients in a product, there’s a risk that the active ingredient becomes less bioactive, so you may not get the benefits of the most important ingredients.”
“As you increase the number of ingredients in a product, there’s a risk that the active ingredient becomes less bioactive.” —Jennifer Chwalek, MD
So, basically, you’re getting more bang for your buck since there are less filler ingredients reducing the potency of the star ingredients that you’re actually trying to reap glow-boosting benefits from. “The benefit of limiting your skin-care ingredients it that you reduce the risk of irritation or allergy, and that you can focus on products that have a higher concentration of active ingredients like vitamin C, pure ascorbic acid, or retinol,” says Dr. Chwalek.
Besides that, you also know exactly what you’re putting on your face. “I like products with 10 ingredients or less because then you know exactly what you’re using—there’s no fluff,” says Liana Cutrone, skin therapist at Heyday.
The thing is, once you’ve got your streamlined regimen down pat, it’ll take some patience to see what skin-care products are really working (here’s how to tell). So if you’re mimicking an elimination diet in your beauty routine, be sure to introduce more complex products slowly. “Start with one product at a time and use it for a few weeks,” recommends Dr. Chwalek. “Once you know your skin tolerates a product, you can add another safely. If you develop any irritation, then you’ll be able to identify which product is likely the cause.” That irritation can come in the form of redness, itchiness, or over-dryness or oiliness, explains Cutrone.
To build up a regimen that only harnesses a few but key ingredients, Dr. Chwalek advises to focus on those that have plenty of research backing up their glow-inducing powers—such as antioxidants, retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, and growth factors. Cutrone also recommends starting with a strong moisturizer or cleanser, “then build into exfoliants,” she says. As they say though, less is more—and that definitely goes for your beauty product ingredients.
To shop skin-care products with 10 ingredients or less, see below.