The Unpleasant Truth: Why Effective Skincare Products Often Feel Unsatisfying

I’ve read a lot of negative reviews about the brands Allies of Skin and PSA. Many people complain that while their formulations are great, the sensory aspects (texture, feel on the skin, tendency to pill, scent) are disappointing. Why is that, especially given their high prices?

Here’s a harsh truth: the more active the product, the worse (often) its sensory qualities. Why?

Acids (AHA, BHA, PHA, and others)

Acids tend to thin out the product, making lotions and gels sticky and runny. Do you know why some special shower gels, like those with acids, aren’t as thick and viscous as, say, Palmolive? It’s because they contain an effective percentage of acids.

Aluminum Salts

Used in most deodorants because they are the most effective at blocking odor, these ingredients can also break down fragrances.

Ascorbic Acid

It oxidizes the formula and can feel gritty on the skin when used in high concentrations. This is because ascorbic acid comes in powder form. When dissolved and then dried on the skin, any excess remains on the surface.

Azelaic and Salicylic Acids

These are poorly soluble in non-alcohol solutions. When used in high percentages, they can be felt on the skin and may pill over time.


This breaks down with light and temperature (it’s an extremely unstable active ingredient. It can lose up to half its potency, and you wouldn’t even notice).

Lactic Acid, Alpha-lipoic Acid, Azulene

These smell awful on their own (the raw materials) when used in large amounts.

Think of products from The Ordinary, SkinCeuticals, Paula’s Choice, Medik8, Ultraceuticals (ever tried their Ultra Moisturiser Cream? It’s incredibly smelly and sometimes pills), and many other brands that create active skincare. If we were to take a sample from each, remove the label/tube – I guarantee you’d have a lot of questions. The unfortunate truth is: if you want effective skincare, be prepared for it to be less pleasant than a Dior cream.


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