Like any good detective, solving the mystery of why your skin reacted to a product (or products) requires examining multiple possibilities to identify the most likely culprit. Taking the time to do this means you’ll be less likely to go through a “my-skin’s-gone-haywire” upheaval again.
First, be certain the products you used don’t have problematic ingredients that are known to cause irritation. Using only well-formulated products is essential. Using well-formulated, highly rated products doesn’t mean a reaction won’t occur, but it definitely reduces the risk!
Next, be certain the products are a good match for your skin type. Oil-absorbing or matte-finish ingredients will be a disaster on dry skin, while emollient, thick moisturizers will be a problem for someone with oily skin or combination skin with oily areas.
In situations where highly reactive skin is a primary concern, be cautious about products with active ingredients; don’t use too many of them or use all of them at the same time.
After investigating the ingredients and the types of products being used, consider the combination and frequency of the products you’re applying. Although sunscreen, skin lighteners with hydroquinone, AHA or BHA exfoliants, anti-acne treatments, and anti-aging products with ingredients like retinol can all have remarkable benefits, they can also cause reactions for some, especially when used together in one skin-care routine.
In such a scenario, a starting point would be to change the sunscreen to one that contains only the mineral active ingredients titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, which have minimal risk of causing a reaction. These mineral actives also are super-gentle, making them good for use around the eyes.
Another test would be to reduce the frequency of use. So, rather than using every product in your routine twice per day, alternate them, apply one in the morning and the other in the evening.
It can also be helpful to alternate days. For example, instead of using a retinol-based product or a prescription anti-acne treatment every day, try applying it every other day and see how your skin reacts. If reducing the frequency doesn’t improve matters, then stop using the most suspect product (or products) and see how your skin reacts.
Keep a notebook handy so you can record how your skin progresses. Briefly jot down the pros and cons, and what you did differently. Yes, it does take a bit of time, but you can look back on it later to help you better handle a future reaction.
While active ingredients or problematic ingredients are typical causes of skin reactions, even basic skin-care products like cleansers, toners, or moisturizers can trigger negative skin reactions. In such cases, it usually starts when you introduce a new product into an existing skin-care routine or when you begin using a new group of products. If the reaction is mild, it might be helpful to stop using one of the products and see what happens. If that doesn’t help, stop using another one of the new products and see what happens after a day or two. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, then go back to the previous routine that didn’t cause your skin to react. Sadly, when you reach this point, the hunt for products that won’t cause a reaction starts anew—unless you want to keep using your former products, assuming they’re well formulated.
What products Isn’t Causing the Problem
Some people think silicone ingredients (examples would be cyclopentasiloxane or dimethicone) in skin-care products can cause allergic reactions or breakouts, but that’s a misperception. Silicones are a group of uniquely soothing, gentle ingredients that reduce inflammation and have exceptional moisturizing properties.
Silicones are actually used in burn units around the world because of their unique benefits and their non-sensitizing properties. It’s true that people can be sensitive to silicone ingredients just like many other benign cosmetic ingredients, but a true silicone allergy is rare and they are not pore-clogging ingredients.
Many people think their skin is going through an adjustment or “purging” period when a negative skin reaction occurs after using a new product—especially when the reaction is breakouts. Although skin can break out for a short period of time after using a new product, this response isn’t typical. What is more typical is that the breakouts would have occurred anyway—especially if a new product was started at the same time as a woman’s menstrual cycle began.
If the breakouts persist for more than a week or two, stop using the new product or products and see if the situation improves. If so, and if a new round of breakouts doesn’t happen shortly thereafter, chances are you broke out from the products, not as a matter of coincidence or timing.
Wrapping it Up
Having a negative reaction to a new skin-care product doesn’t mean the product is badly formulated. Of course, there are badly formulated skin-care products that can cause all sorts of reactions, but frequently the bumps, redness, and other symptoms are due to a personal reaction to an ingredient or a combination of ingredients.
What you need to remember is to think like a detective so you can—as quickly as possible—determine what is causing the reaction. This is tricky because it’s not always as easy as pointing the finger at the new product you just started using. It may be the product, or it may be how that new product interacts with other products you’re using. Think of how adding one ingredient to a recipe can completely change its taste, and it’s easy to understand how adding a new product to an existing skin-care routine may cause trouble (or be very helpful) for your skin.
Above all, even though these reactions can be distressing, don’t panic or stop using everything. Armed with the information above, you have everything you need to take control of these reactions and quickly get your skin back on track!