NB. This is taken from another of my old instagram posts focussed on skin health (July 2020), but useful to keep here for those of you not on social media!
Being kind to skin is fundamental to my skincare approach, so the idea that "stronger is better" is something I've challenged before but it keeps cropping up!
We shouldn't push our skin with higher strengths of actives. I feel like I'm stating the obvious when it comes to actives like retinoids & acids (or maybe not?!) where less is more, but the same is also true of ingredients like niacinamide. The optimal concentration of niacinamide is generally believed to be in the 2-5% range for a lot of its benefits. But 20% niacinamide? Not necessary! 100% niacinamide?! Not necessary. I was chatting to fellow skincare expert @perbuchcom just a couple of weeks ago about this push for higher strengths of products and we were actually joking about the idea of a 100% niacinamide product - this week (July 2020) I see one has actually been launched 🙈! Aside from the fact there is little rationale for this ingredient to be available in this format (it's not unstable like L-ascorbic acid for example), these products can lead to using much higher strengths than the skin needs = potential irritation, not to mention the issues with being able to accurately measure appropriate quantities.
I understand why people are interested in concentrations of ingredients in formulation (because in a few cases, actives are added to a formulation at a suboptimal concentration purely for marketing claims), BUT if you're buying from an honest brand who understands product labelling and formulation, you should trust that they're using optimal amounts especially because the percentage of an ingredient used in a formulation is just ONE of the considerations for what makes a good product!
Aside from the increased risk of irritation with higher strengths of actives, the other issue contributing to this is over-inflation of percentages by some brands, as they capitalise on the misguided belief that stronger is better. They use perentages of ingredient complexes which is really misleading! 1% Retistar isn't the same as 1% retinol, products with very high percentage extracts (often seen in K-beauty) are often a mix of other ingredients, rather than solely the extract, which is much lower in reality (this is down to differences in labelling requirements between EU / UK and Korea). Fun fact: if I sold my skin quenching essence in Korea, cucumber extract could be listed as the 2nd ingredient on the list, rather than the 7th ingredient in order to comply with EU / UK regulation! Similarly different Vitamin C derivatives are aggregated to give a total (meaningless) percentage. @peterkloosterman_ wrote about this recently too!
If I sound frustrated about this, it's because I am! And you should be too! As consumers I would really encourage you to be alert to this push for stronger products - they aren't necessary, they create false hope around quicker/better results, they could damage your skin and in many cases, the percentages used by a few brands in their labelling are misleading. This isn't limited to small/indie brands, I've seen it with big mainstream brands too. I would love to see brands behaving more ethically with their marketing, and what might help push them in the right direction is influencers/bloggers considering these issues when featuring brands (i.e. is the brand being transparent, are there claims that sound dubious?). But most of all, consumers understanding that stronger really isn't better when it comes to skincare - find brands you can trust. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!