Can Your Skin OD on a Cosmetic Ingredient?

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

Um, yes, of course it can, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use that ingredient.


Humans can technically overdose on almost anything. For example, you can die from drinking too much water. That’s a legit thing but, I digress. The point is, I think we all know more isn’t always better. The problem is that more almost always SOUNDS better, and that’s the rub. Speaking of rub... this fascinating info about rubbing alcohol might help you understand this phenomenon of how more isn’t always better when it comes to balance of ingredients.

Rubbing alcohol, aka isopropyl alcohol generally only has two ingredients, water and isopropyl alcohol, so it makes for an easy example. Have you noticed how there are two options for buying rubbing alcohol? One is 70% and the other is usually 90% or so. One disinfects a lot better than the other. Which one?

Before I got into cosmetic chemistry, I thought it was obvious it must be the 90% one. Right? Wrong. The 70% isopropyl alcohol disinfects better not only because it takes more time to evaporate, but also because the additional water helps it cross the cell walls of bacteria more easily. This means regardless of contact time; the 70% option is the better one to buy for disinfecting. It is about the amount and about the balance next to other ingredients. And think, if this balance is so important with a product that only has two ingredients, think how important this must be in a product that has 15 or more ingredients like a facial moisturizer!

You may be wondering, then why they even sell the 90% percent one? The higher percent alcohol dissolves things better, like makeup on a shirt. And if you get a super high percent one, like 99% you can clean electronics without damaging them because it evaporates so fast. You can learn even more about rubbing alcohol here.

So, there’s a good reason for buying alcohol at different concentrations. Does this apply to cosmetic ingredients too? Unfortunately, unless you consider “marketing” a good reason, then no. Ingredients in skincare products only have one purpose, to help your skin. For every ingredient there tends to be a “sweet spot”, if you will, a balance of that ingredient to other ingredients that is best for application to human skin. Think of a “just right” amount, like in the fable of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

With the popular ingredient niacinamide, that happens to be between 2% and 5%. But get this- you can currently buy niacinamide products that are 20% niacinamide! And we buy them because our brains can’t help but think more is better. I fall prey to this thinking myself. I have to be vigilant in reminding myself that balance is better than more. I hate that someone may buy and react badly to a 20% niacinamide serum and then decide not to ever buy products that contain any niacinamide again. Niacinamide does great things for your skin.


I feel the same way about caffeine. A little caffeine in an eye cream is great, it can really help with the appearance of dark circles. Too much, and suddenly you can cause more harm than good. Your eyes themselves can actually dry out. So, for caffeine in an eye cream, under 1% is best. And there are products out there at 5%! I bought them myself before I knew better.

I know it is hard to research everything but do try to keep in mind next time you go shopping that more isn’t always better. You may not want to write off specific ingredients just because they were in something that your skin didn’t like because those ingredients could still work wonders for you at a lesser percentage. In my ideal world, beauty companies would only sell products with safe balances of ingredients. Alas, that will probably never happen. BUT… I can make sure that all of our BeLIFTED Botanicals products have researched, proven, and healthy percentages of ingredients in them. We use ideal percentages of actives and our products WORK because of it. We won’t raise a percent for marketing. We will only raise it if we are certain that it is better for your skin. That is because to us, your skin health is our highest priority.


Sending love, health, and healing to you all.


April Billingsley

Owner and CEO of BeLIFTED Botanicals

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