Why you should be using single ingredient skincare
Back to basics
Complexity seems to be a given in skincare right now. Taking our cues from Korea and Japan, a multi-step routine has become both the industry and consumer comme il faut. The debate between chemical and physical exfoliants is a brunch-level topic; people advocate for double-cleansing over single-cleansing and it’s acceptable to ask someone their stance on single ingredient skincare without any preamble foreplay.
Building upon the two-step Clinique routines our mothers reigned with a decade ago, the pursuit of perfect skin has made sitting in front of the mirror applying a ten-step serum-oil-moisturiser-oil-serum the happy norm.
And not only are the routines themselves intricate in their make, so are the products — our oils soothe and strengthen, our serums repair and refresh. After all, why settle for vitamin C, when you could fold in B, D, X, Z? Why stop at ‘moisturising,’ when ‘nourishing,’ and ‘brightening’ are on the table?
But despite our acceptance of the rigmarole, is it time to rethink our complex skincare obsession?
The rise of single ingredient skincare
Our increasing demand for our skincare to be multifaceted — including multiple actives, vitamins and chemicals — has meant that products now include more and more ingredients in their make.
From binding components, to fragrances and extracts, the back of bottles can read like confusing, highly-complex shopping lists.
Ross Macdougald, founder of label Biologi, notes that the complexity of skincare products can sometimes be more of a negative than a positive.
“Most people buy skincare products because of the actives in them — the actives are the things that make the skin look better or feel better,” Macdougald explained to ELLE, “But when you’re looking at formulated products like creams or lotions, most of the ingredients in them are not there to benefit the skin, but to make the cream itself.”
“When you see fatty acids, fatty alcohols, water, preservatives, fragrances… none of these give any benefits to the skin. They’re just there to create the cream itself.”
This is why Macdougald created Biologi, his own skincare label of 100% active serums, which do not add any synthetics or additives.
“I worked as a formulating chemist in the industry for 30 years, and I worked for a lot of the large multi-nationals. The industry can be more worried about the packaging, or how the product looks, the formula looking nice, the smell… and the effects on the skin, and if the product really works, is secondary,” said Macdougald.
“I decided to study how plants work, how they produce their photo-actives, and how to extract it in a stable environment. I came up with an extraction technique that mimics the inside of the plant.
“So the Biologi line delivers the extracts directly to the skin.”
The line currently is made up of three serums: a face serum (made of Davidson Plum), a body serum (Finger Lime), and an eye serum (Kakadu Plum).
But not only can ingredient-complex creams and serums have a minimal effect, the wrong composition can actually have negative consequences for your skin, says Macdougald.
“When they’re building the cream, a lot of the ingredients are emulsifiers which bind things together to make sure they don’t break down. But the issue is, when you put active [ingredients] in there, it also binds them up, too. So they can’t get to the skin to be absorbed, and they get left on the skin with the emulsifiers.
“Two, when you’re putting products on your skin that contain fragrances, preservatives, and synthetic emulsifiers, they all have the potential to sensitise your skin. Over time you get redness, itchiness, acne… that’s all due to putting synthetics on your skin,” explains Macdougald.
The single note trend
But this return to fundamentals isn’t just for the skincare crowd. The trend has also extended to fragrances, where the new wave is scents without top notes or base notes.
Not a Perfume’s peculiar scent is made with just one note: cétalox. Cétalox is generally considered a base note upon which other, more pungent scents are built on. This minimalist scent strips everything back to the single note, which has been described as ‘musky’ in nature.
“Usually used in perfumery as a base note, it plays here the lead role…” reads the description of Not a Perfume. “Another advantage of this particular composition is that it is entirely allergen free. The result is minimalist, elegant, pure.”
Other pared-back fragrances which side-step the top note routine are Costume National’s So Nude, Byredo’s Elevator Music, and Rain by Commodity — all popular products in their own right.
Like skincare, it’s not hard to see the appeal of a single-note perfume. The lack of overwhelming layered notes, coupled with the understated, minimalistic scent that results, means that it doesn’t overpower the senses or stick around in the air.
“These neutral scents tend to be less obtrusive, multi-functional, easy-wearing, environmentally friendly, gender neutral, and generally more affordable,” Nick Smart, founder of Agence de Parfum, told ELLE of the ‘nothing perfume’ phenomenon.
Are we using too many products?
But composition of products aside, this back to basics appeal also extends to the entire routine of beauty itself.
Macdougald tells ELLE that the culture of layering product over product in our routines may be having less effect than we’d like.
“I think you need a cleanser, and maybe an exfoliant, and then a moisturiser. That’s it,” says Macdougald. “The issue with laying cosmetics on top of cosmetics is you get occlusion — it’s like putting clingwrap on your skin. Your skin can’t breathe; the product just sits on top of the skin and doesn’t penetrate.
“That causes irritation, blocked pores, blackheads… and it’s so important to let the skin breathe.”
Too many active ingredients, too many products, and too many layers — is it finally time to make like Christina Aguilera in 2006 and go back to basics?
From: ELLE AUSTRALIA