Skin Care Overload - Are You Doing Too Much?

Skin Care Overload - Are You Doing Too Much?

There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about how overuse of skin care products is doing more harm than good for our skin health. Some dermatologists believe our obsession with multi-step routines filled with ‘actives’ is accelerating skin ageing – the opposite of their intent (1).

"Skin care overload"

The allure of doing more to achieve greater results is understandable. But skin, much like nature, thrives on balance—not excess.

Complex, multi-step routines can result in formulas clashing on the skin's surface. Over-applying or combining incompatible formulas can not only neutralise product benefits but lead to irritation, redness, itchiness, congestion, and unwelcome breakouts. A constant barrage on the skin can damage the skin's barrier, making it increasingly delicate and reactive.  We are then left with a relentless cycle of damage control. 

The common culprits

Hydroxy acids, retinol and vitamin C are frequently used actives designed to reverse skin ageing, and all can damage the skin if not used correctly. The risk of an inflammatory response increases when these actives are overused or used concurrently in elaborate routines (2).

Most dermatologists agree that a healthy skin barrier, signified by calm, plump, hydrated skin, together with avoiding over-exposure to UV light, are key to slowing down skin ageing. For most people, a simple, well-formulated skin care routine will achieve that healthy skin barrier we’re all searching for.

Our skin barrier and our microbiome

Apart from actives, most people are not aware that all water-containing skin care contains preservatives - powerful antimicrobials that can alter our skin’s microbiome. Our skin’s microbiome is one of the 3 pillars of a healthy skin barrier, the other two being the acid mantle and the physical barrier made of lipids and cellular structures.

It is now considered that a diverse skin microbiome is one of the keys to overall skin health, and the increase in skin conditions like allergies, acne and atopic dermatitis in western society are likely linked to reduced diversity of our skin microbiome, partly fuelled by our western lifestyle and obsession with cleansing and synthetic cosmetics (3).

Our shower gels, deodorants, shampoos, detergents and all water-containing cosmetics contain preservatives and anti-bacterials that cause ‘mass murder’ on our skin, according to a microbial scientist (4).

How to navigate the skin care quagmire

Just as you would choose pure, clean food over synthetic-laden over-packaged food, choose skin care that is free of detergents, emulsifiers, preservatives and other synthetic ingredients. If you are using actives, use them with care, and ensure you have a healthy skin barrier before you consider using them. 

Simple tips to restore and care for skin at any age:

  • Choose products formulated to restore and protect your skin’s barrier function (read more here). 
  • Avoid detergents, except for washing hands and minimal use on the body.
  • For cleansing the face, use a well formulated, synthetic-free, pure botanical oil cleanser.
  • Looking for a bio-alternative to actives? You can enjoy a full suite of anti-ageing benefits without the harsh, drying effects of synthetic actives. Discover Bakuchiol
  • For long-lasting hydration without damaging additives, switch to water-free, concentrated serums and creams.

Complement your skin care with meals that are rich in important nutrients, take regular exercise, avoid over-exposure to UV light, surround yourself with loved ones, and have fun! 

Pare back & repair 

The path to radiant skin health lies in simplicity; a less-is-more approach that prioritises harmony. At Mokosh, we advocate for a simple, 4-step routine: cleanse, tone, nourish, protect. 

Explore 4-step routines by skin type here.



(1) Overloaded skincare routines may cause premature ageing.

(2) Using too many skin products? 

(3) Meta Analysis of Skin Microbiome: New Link between Skin Microbiota Diversity and Skin Health with Proposal to Use This as a Future Mechanism to Determine Whether Cosmetic Products Damage the Skin (2019) Wallen-Russell C and Wallen Russell S. Cosmetics 4:14

(4) To combat dry skin turn down your shower and care for your microbes.

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