Once upon a time, skincare was only about cleansing and moisturising. Then, toners came along. Now we have exfoliants, serums, facial oils, clay masks, sheet masks… New types of products and ingredients are popping up every year.
But isn’t using them all a bit too much? Don’t we risk overdoing it and hurting our skin? Well, that depends. Your skin doesn’t care much about how many products you use. It’s how often you use them and what they contain that can, sometimes, prove too much for your skin.
And when that happen, your skin is sure to let you know. It won’t be pretty, and it may even be painful. Here are three warning signs you are overdoing your skincare:
1. Your skin is dry
Harsh cleansers and scrubs contain ingredients that can disrupt the skin’s protective barrier. When this happens, skin is not able to retain moisture very well. As a result, it becomes dry and dehydrated. To fix this, switch to gentler cleansers and scrubs that leave your skin soft and clean, not dry and tight.
Other common culprits that can cause dryness are alcohol, retinoids, and AHAs. Alcohol (particularly alcohol denat) is often used to thin out a formula, but if it is at the top of an ingredient list, it can do more harm than good. Do your skin a favour and leave it on the shelf.
Retinoids and AHAs can be very beneficial, but your skin needs time to get used to them. A bit of dryness at the beginning is normal, but if it doesn’t go away quickly and you also experience redness and irritation, see point 2 below.
2. Your skin is irritated
Redness, inflammation and irritation are all common signs that something is wrong with your skincare regime. Some of the best ingredients, such as retinoids, AHAs, and salicylic acid can all irritate skin when used too often or in too high doses. Harsh physical scrubs can be very irritating too.
I personally don’t recommend the use of physical scrubs. Even when they are gentle, they are never as effective as AHAs or BHA based exfoliants. If the latter are irritating your skin, reduce frequency of use. Most people don’t need to exfoliate more than 2 or 3 times a week.
Retinoids need to be introduced into your skincare routine carefully too. Start using them every other day and increase frequency slowly. That way you’ll get all the benefits without the side effects.
3. Your skin breaks out
Some skincare products can cause breakouts. It works like this. Silicones, mineral oil and other occlusive emollients form a protective barrier on the skin that prevents moisture loss, but can also trap in comedogenic ingredients. When that happens, pimples start rearing their ugly heads all over your face. The best solution is to opt for products without comedogenic ingredients. That’s easier said than done.
Just because an ingredient is comedogenic, it doesn’t mean it will cause breakouts. That depends on its concentration (the higher on the ingredient list, the more likely it is to cause pimples), and your skin type (the oiler your skin, the higher the chance of a breakout).
But there’s one case when a breakout is normal. Acid based exfoliants work by removing the superficial layers of dead skin cells that accumulate on the surface. If pimples were already started to form underneath your skin, these exfoliants will bring them to the surface sooner. Hence, the breakouts. But, once healed, continued use of exfoliants, particularly those containing salicylic acid, should prevent further bouts.
The Bottom Line
Too much of a good thing can often be a bad thing. To avoid problems, introduce new products into your skincare routine slowly, and only one at a time. That way, if your skin starts to act out, you’ll be able to figure out quickly what’s causing the problem. Sometimes, all you have to do to fix it is cut back on usage. Other times, the bin is the only option.
Are you overdoing it with skincare?