Is it true that the more active ingredients a product has, the better it is?

The more active ingredients it has, the better it is, right?


We’ve conducted this experiment several times in the laboratory. We put skin cells on a slide, and we treat them with a small amount of the active ingredient dissolved in water. The result is nothing.

Next, we increase the amount of the active ingredient. Then we do see an effect. The cells react and start to reproduce more, to move better, and to produce more collagen and hyaluronic acid. Perfect.

Finally, we substantially increase the concentration of the active ingredient. And then the same substance that revitalized them, kills them. It has become toxic.

Paracelsus, a 16th-century doctor, stated even back then that “Everything is poison and nothing is poison; only the dosage makes it so.” This means that no substance is toxic per se. Toxicity is determined by the quantity of each substance. There’s a toxic dosage of water and a healthy dosage of botulinum toxin.

In an age when many brands announce they’re “toxin-free,” it’s crucial to bear the actual scientific situation in mind. “Toxin-free” does not mean anything because no substance is toxic per se. The same slogan would have scientific meaning if it said: “All the ingredients in our products are below the quantity at which they become toxic."

It’s not the substance but its concentration that makes it toxic.

The same applies to slogans that say “over 20 active ingredients.” There’s a specific space in a cream for active ingredients; more of them means a smaller quantity of each one. A smaller quantity may mean it is below the amount at which this active ingredient becomes effective.

Vitamin C is a good example. Hardly any does nothing. The correct quantity is a great antioxidant. An excessive amount irritates your skin.

The main point is to determine the concentration at which an active ingredient is effective (if you use hardly any, it isn’t toxic, but it won’t do anything). And not to exceed that.

If we add more, the skin reacts negatively.