Here’s why a surge of single-ingredient skincare is changing the way we care for our complexions...
Ever needed a chemistry degree to decipher what’s in your day cream or peered at the back of a bottle to find a novel-length INCI list? We hear you. But a stripped-back, minimalist skincare revolution is brewing. Single Ingredient Products, also known as SIPs, are based on one solitary active. ‘These products do not contain one ingredient, but rather one doing ingredient,’ explains celebrity facialist Debbie Thomas. ‘There will still be a base and stabiliser, but they contain a high concentration
of a hero ingredient.’
While this might not sound particularly ground-breaking, given that 10-step regimes have become the norm, the birth of single-serve skincare signals a tide of change. Significantly more affordable than cosmeceutical formulas, which can spend up to seven years in development, skincare has been democratised. Take, for example, Superdrug’s single-ingredient Me+ range, which offers skincare big guns such as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide for as little as £5.99, and it’s clear that tried-and-tested actives are becoming increasingly accessible.
It’s this one thing
While some cultures – notably France and Korea (according to research by Mintel) visit dermatologists as often as they hit the hairdresser, British women prefer a pared-back regime*. ‘SIPs have been touted as the affordable way to create bespoke skin routines at home,’ says Debbie. ‘You can focus on your individual skincare concerns without having to use multiple products.’
Cosmetic doctor Sophie Shotter agrees. ‘People are starting to understand ingredients better and cherry-picking what is best for their skin,’ she explains. ‘A lot of people have at one time or another reacted to a product, and it’s difficult to know whether it’s one of the active ingredients or the carrier that’s causing the issue. SIPs allow people to gauge the effect that each active has on their skin.’
Yup, singling out ingredients can tell you a lot about your skin. ‘Provided you don’t start multiple different SIPs at once, you can measure the response to each ingredient and tailor-make a regime that will benefit your skin,’ explains dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto.
Do it like a derm
Affordable, adjustable – so far, so much sense. But with so many one-ingredient-only products on the market, where should we start? ‘Vitamin A, also referred to as retinol, is the single ingredient that has benefits for nearly any skincare concern,’ explains Dr Anjali. ‘It resets the skin by increasing the turnover of new cells,’ she explains. Try Optimum Retinol Night Sleep Cream, £14.99.
And while do-all retinol and hyaluronic acid work hard across the board, SIPS are also great for targeting dark skin-specific concerns. ‘Dark skin tends to be oilier, so salicylic acid can be great to control sebum production,’ explains cosmetic Doctor Sophie Shotter. ‘Pigmentation is a big problem, but visible signs of ageing are less so. Focus on antioxidants like vitamin C to protect the skin from free radical damage, and use a pigment-regulating ingredient such as niacinamide.’ Try Nip+Fab Salicylic Acid Gel Cleanser, £9.99, and pigmentation-fighting Me+ Niacinamide & Zinc Booster, £5.99.
While SIPs allow us to focus on our skin woes, we need to exercise caution. ‘Don’t overhaul your skincare routine suddenly,’ advises Dr Anjali. ‘If there is an ingredient that you know works, it is better for your skin if you build up gradually to using it every day.’
Debbie Thomas also suggests reading up on each ingredient. ‘Take the time to build up a routine that you have researched, and ensure the actives work synergistically together,’ she advises. ‘You need to understand what will work best for your concerns.’
As long as you take the time to research what goes with what, SIPs can be a great way to give your skin what it needs – and on a budget. ‘There is a misconception that skincare needs to be complicated or expensive to be genuinely worthwhile,’ argues Dr Anjali. ‘It doesn’t. Cheaper products can work just as well, and we don’t need to be using complex routines.’ Genuinely skin-changing, time-saving skincare on a budget? We’re here for it.