Can your skin get too used to products and stop delivering results?
When we spend a small fortune on a series of beauty products to correct our skin concerns or achieve desired outcomes, we want to do everything in our power to ensure they work -- and keep working.
But is it possible for the efficacy of skin products to wear off, hit a plateau, or become defunct after months or years of use? Or could it signal something underlying that’s going on which makes our skin get “too used” to a product or perhaps even “too dependent” on a product?
We searched the internet high and low for anecdotes from dermatologists and skin experts alike for their research on the subject. Here’s what we found:
What’s better for our skin? Sticking to a consistent routine or switching it up?
Bad news for beauty bloggers across the globe, dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D. stresses the importance of sticking to a skincare regimen, particularly those seeking anti-ageing benefits.
“Switching frequently reduces the overall benefit because you neither reach nor maintain the maximal response.”
“There may less of a surge in collagen production after one year than there is after one month, but that’s a classic concept in cell biology,” Dr Gross says.
In response to the “pulsing method” - made famous by an Avon executive and a British dermatologist which involves switching back and forth between products in the name of maximising collagen production - Dr Gross explains: “stopping at any time, as in a pulsing method, would lead to a dramatic drop in collagen production. You can even lose what was previously produced.”
Why does it seem like your skincare has stopped working?
The key takeaway here is that we can expect to see our greatest gains at the outset before our skin naturally starts to cycle through different results such as dehydration, dullness, dryness, oiliness due to our diets or environment.
According to Dr Gross, our treasured skincare products may actually have a defensive impact we might not appreciate until we stop using them.
And Dr Gross isn’t the only renowned expert advocating consistency.
"It’s true that there is probably an optimal state that a product can get your skin to in terms of bacterial flora and pH, but by stopping, all you’re doing is taking yourself back to square one," cosmetic doctor Dr David Jack tells Refinery29.
“As for your skin "getting used to" something, I personally don’t buy it.”
When should we start to see new products working?
"As a rule of thumb, the more work that needs to be done on a cellular level, the longer it’ll take to see the difference," says Dr Jack. "If it needs to actually change the cells’ behavior, you can’t expect results within less than a few weeks."
For example, if you’re using products with peptides which solely build collagen, it can be weeks before you notice and subtle signs of improvement.
Targeted ingredients, however, such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, retinol and alpha and beta acids, may start to show signs of improvement from two weeks onwards says Dr Gross.
For products claiming overnight results, Dr Jack says it will only be a matter of days before your skin reverts or replenishes to its former state. "If it promises an instant effect, it may well deliver that," says Dr Jack, "but the effect will be superficial."
Why your skincare routine isn’t working
Okay, so we know that our skincare plateau has less to do with the products and persistence itself and more to do with our natural skin’s cycle, but what if we’re experiencing concerning results that can’t be pinned to changes to our diet and the weather?
Here are some reasons your skincare has stopped working:
1. Your product could be expired
Each beauty product comes with a period-after-opening timeframe in which you should use the product by. While it may seem logical to slowly use that expensive product with loads of active ingredients over a longer stretch of time to get more bang for your buck, you’re actually making the ingredients less effective.
2. You’re storing your products wrong
Sunlight and humidity are detrimental to your beloved beauty products. Storing them in your bathroom where they’re subject to heat and steam may change the effectiveness of some ingredients or lead them to cause irritation. That mini beauty fridge is looking pretty good right now, huh?
3. There are not enough active ingredients
It could come down to the right ingredient at the wrong concentration. Make sure you do your own research on what the recommended concentration of the said active ingredients before making a purchase. A good rule of thumb to follow is where it sits in the ingredients list; if it’s not top five, it’s probably not strong enough to see results.
Image: Free People
Have you ever started using a product that was amazing at the start but soon wore off on you? Let us know in the comments below...