Do you really need 10 different face creams?

Single-ingredient beauty is all the rage, but: Do you really need 10 different face creams?

  • Alice Hart-Davis compared single-ingredient beauty products to one-size-fits-all
  • British beauty expert gave her verdict on five of the best single-ingredient items
  • Dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams, warned the cosmetics can cause problems 

So, HOW do you choose your skincare? Do you go for a well-known brand, and grab a cream that looks right for your skin and budget?

I suspect that’s what most of us do — but now some companies hope we’ll go for a more personalised solution.

Instead of one-size-fits-all products, they’re offering an array of little pots and bottles, each focusing on a single active ingredient. The idea is you get more concentrated skincare and can work out what really works for your skin.

This new single-ingredient approach was pioneered by The Ordinary, the ground-breaking range from beauty company Deciem. Other small brands followed suit, and Boots has taken the trend mainstream with Ingredients.

So is there a case for using single ingredients rather than traditional skincare?

British beauty expert Alice Hart-Davis, explored the growing trend for single-ingredient products (file image)

‘Absolutely,’ says Nicola Kilner, CEO of Deciem. ‘The consumer has control over exactly which ingredients they are putting on to their skin. Multi-ingredient formulas make it difficult to understand which active [ingredient] your skin does or doesn’t like.’

But sorting through all those little bottles’ effects can get quite scientific. Get it wrong with retinol and it could cause a nasty case of peeling, irritated skin.

And then there’s the price. Depending on which ingredients you choose, the cost can start to stack up quickly.

But women are increasingly wise to skincare ingredients and curious about how they work. In the past, if you wanted to try a vitamin C serum, you had to splash out £40 or more on a specialised product. Now you can experiment for a fraction of that.

Here’s how it might work: you could start in the morning with a vitamin C serum, to brighten and strengthen the skin. If your skin is dry, you could layer a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum over it before your daily sunscreen.

Or if your skin is oily, you could use a pore-cleansing salicylic acid.

So who is buying these products? ‘Single-ingredient skincare appeals to opposite ends of the spectrum,’ says Shabir Daya, the co-founder of Victoria Health, the company behind single-ingredients line Garden of Wisdom.

‘One is the novice overwhelmed by the myriad creams available; the other is the aficionado who wishes to experiment.’

However, not everyone loves them. Dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams finds her patients can use single-ingredient products over-enthuastically and erratically, ending up with new skin problems.

Alice recommends the Hyaluronic acid serum from Boots (pictured), if your moisturising cream isn’t doing the job

‘I can’t understand how anybody could prefer a single-ingredient product if they can have a clever combination of active ingredients working together,’ she says.

It is also worth pointing out that ‘single-ingredient skincare’ rarely means just one ingredient. Most need to be woven in with other substances so the skin can best use them.

If you are applying more than one product at a time, start with the runniest, which will be the most easily absorbed, wait until it has settled into your skin, then apply the next.

That’s how I use these products. I could find similar ingredients in a typical day cream, but I prefer this direct approach where I know exactly what I’m applying . . .

And here are five that can work wonders 

Boots Ingredients

£5-£7 for 30ml,

What is it? Eight products such as salicylic acid, which is good for clearing out blocked pores, and hemp-seed oil, which is rich in fatty acids for dry skin.

My pick of the bunch: Hyaluronic acid serum, £5. The acid is naturally occurring in the skin and holds many times its weight in water.

If your moisturising cream isn’t quite doing the job, try applying a layer of this to clean dry skin and let it sink in before using a moisturiser. It will act as a moisture magnet to cushion the skin.

The ordinary

£5-£15 for 30ml, 

Alice said the Natural Moisturising factors + Hyaluronic Acid products from The Ordinary (pictured) soothes and moisturises 

What is it? The huge range now includes ingredients as diverse as Alpha Arbutin (which softens pigmentation) and Pycnogenol (an antioxidant which helps reduce redness). 

My pick of the bunch: The NoBrainer Set provides three products for £24.50. The first is Granactive retinoid 2 per cent Emulsion, similar to retinol, but less harsh. Start by using it twice a week after evening cleansing to make sure your skin tolerates it. Then there’s Natural Moisturising factors + Hyaluronic Acid, which are soothing and moisturising. If the retinoid above dries your skin, add this afterwards. finally Buffet, a serum of antioxidant ingredients.

The Inkey List 

30 items: £4.99-£15.99,

The British beauty expert recommends The Inkey List’s Caffeine Eye Serum (pictured) to depuff the eye area

What is it? The brand’s aim is to deliver skincare’s most-wanted ingredients at ‘give-it-a- go’ prices. 

My pick of the bunch: Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment, priced at £14.99, is an overnight brightening mask designed to reduce pigmentation. This one is well worth a go. The £8.99 Caffeine Eye Serum is another favourite from this selection. Caffeine constricts blood vessels, so this has a reputation for helping to depuff the eye area.

Garden of wisdom

28 products: £9-£20, 

Alice claims the Azelaic Acid 10% serum (pictured) is great for reducing bacteria and oil levels that can cause breakouts

What is it? A thoughtful range of oils and serums with the fewest possible inactive ingredients, which the brand says allows the active ingredients to work more easily. 

My pick of the bunch: C-Deep Serum, £18. This is a vitamin C serum which penetrates deeper than most thanks to the variant tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. Azelaic Acid 10% serum, for £9, is great for fighting breakouts by reducing bacteria and oil levels in the pores.

Q+A skincare

13 items: £6.50-£12, 

Alice suggests tapping Squalane facial Oil (pictured) over your face, to keep skin firm, supple and waterproof

What is it? This young brand sells skincare made in Norfolk. Its founder freddy furber says: ‘People want simplicity and transparency.’ 

My pick of the bunch: Squalane facial Oil, £10. A hydrating ingredient derived from olive oil keeps skin firm, supple and waterproof. Tap gently over your face. This is one of the few that actually contains no other ingredients. Or try the Niacinamide Daily Toner, £8.50. Niacinamide calms the skin, decongests pores and reduces oiliness.

Alice Hart-Davis founded

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