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Are single-ingredient products more effective in treating skincare woes?

"Single-ingredient beauty products include only one active ingredient. This ingredient, in turn, focuses on just one issue"

Written by Shambhavi Dutta | New Delhi |
Updated: May 13, 2021 9:43:57 am
The biggest benefit of using single-ingredient skincare products is that it helps cut down your routine. (Photo: Getty)

Today, the beauty consumer base is much more aware than it was a few years back. Beauty routines are no longer limited to the basic cleansing, toning, and moisturising (CTM), and enthusiasts are now open to experimenting with their routines and want to try new formulations. The numerous queries online like ‘what is retinol?’ or ‘whether niacinamide and vitamin C be used together?’ are proof. 

However, with so much information and a range of products available, how does one streamline and build an effective skincare routine for oneself? How does one figure out the best combination of active ingredients and serums to achieve the best results? In a bid to make things easier for consumers, members of the industry switched things up and introduced skin care products that have a straightforward formula — or single-ingredient skincare — to solve skincare matters.

But do single-ingredient skincare formulas work better than their counterpart all-in-one formulas? To understand more, we reached out to dermatologists and market players, and here’s what they had to say.

What is a single ingredient formula?

“Single-ingredient beauty products include only one active ingredient. This ingredient, in turn, focuses on just one issue,” said Rajat Mathur, senior skin expert at Kiehl’s India. “On the other hand,” said Dr Stuti Khare Shukla, MD Cosmetic Dermatologist at Elements of Aesthetics “the composition of all-in-one products is very complicated and requires better machinery and a better refining process.”

It is this very reason, according to those in business, which is behind the soaring popularity of these products. “Our aloe vera water has been a preferred choice for those with sensitive or sun-damaged skin, and rosehip seed oil helps to help even out the skin tone,” said Megha Asher, COO and co-founder of Juicy Chemistry. 

To sum it up, Dr Rashmi Ravindra, Consultant, Dermatology/Cosmetology, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road said: “Single-ingredient products are bought by people who want a solution to a single issue. Put simply, it has a more targeted approach. For example, anti-acne preparation containing only clindamycin or only benzoyl peroxide”.

Benefits and downsides

The biggest benefit of using single-ingredient skincare products is that it helps cut down your routine. Not only that but you are also sure of the results. “Single-ingredient products have less complexity when it comes to results. The ingredients are delivered in much stronger concentrations because they’re not diluted with ‘filler’ ingredients,” added Mathur.


Also, the labels are way simpler to understand, so you know exactly what you are applying to your skin. “More often than not, with all-in-one formulations, it becomes hard to pinpoint which ingredient might be triggering or irritating your skin. That risk is removed if you’re using a single-ingredient routine,” elucidated Asher.

Moreover, because there is only one ingredient, it becomes easier to get absorbed into the skin which helps increase penetration as well. “Since single-ingredient products are made to target specific skincare issues, they are more efficacious as it is a targeted solution. This can mean that it would be quicker to show results as well,” Loveena Sirohi, co-founder and director of India Hemp Organics told


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A post shared by Juicy Chemistry (@juicy_chemistry)

But, since everything revolves around one ingredient, most of these products have a shorter shelf life. “If a product only has one ingredient, that means no preservatives. Thus, shorter shelf life,” said Asher. This also makes them expensive. 

“In a single-ingredient formulation there are fewer active ingredients, they need to be used at a higher percentage and hence it’s not necessary that these products come at a lower price point. This is because active ingredients are the most expensive ingredients in a formulation,” said Malini Adapureddy, founder of Deconstruct Skincare. Despite that dermatologists give these products their vote because “they are free of potential irritants like parabens, phthalates, fragrances.”


Are they better than all-in-formula?


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A post shared by Kiehl’s India (@kiehlsindia)

This is where opinions are divided. While Adapureddy said that “they are definitely more efficacious”, Dr Shukla said a single ingredient is used only for one type of skin issue. “For example, if you’re suffering from acne and acne pigmentation, then this product is not for you as this isn’t a single problem but a combinational one. In such cases, an all-in-one formula is what you opt for,” she added.

However, it must be noted that if you are someone who does not have the time to research labels or ingredients, all-in-one formulas are what you must opt for. “Multiple actives help target several concerns. All-in-one formula is better suited as it saves time in analysing which product/ingredient is more effective,” explained Mathur.

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First published on: 12-05-2021 at 12:30:35 pm

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