We love helping our patients incorporate new products into their skin care routines.
But sometimes, new products or particular ingredients can cause unwanted skin reactions. Here, we'll break it down and talk through what to expect as your skin adjusts.
Why is my skin reacting like this?
It takes time for your skin to build up a tolerance to certain ingredients in order to experience their benefits—especially active ingredients like retinoids, retinols, and alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs/BHAs) like glycolic, lactic, salicylic, mandelic acids, benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid. These active ingredients can help heal acne and improve scarring by accelerating skin cell turnover, shedding dead skin cells and exfoliating oil and debris from deep within the pores. These are powerful ingredients that, when used correctly, can make major improvements to your skin! They just take some getting used to first.
Initially, active ingredients can trigger more breakouts, blackheads or tiny bumps that form under the skin’s surface. We refer to this as the dreaded “purging phase,” as the active ingredients are encouraging skin cell turnover, removing excess sebum and buildup from clogged pores.
We understand this can be frustrating, especially when you’re excited to see results from your new skin care products. But don't worry – it's only temporary! The increased cell turnover that your skin experiences during this phase ultimately leads to clearer, more even-toned and youthful-looking skin.
Is there a way to get through the purging phase faster?
If you can ride out the purging phase and continue your routine, your skin will calm down and you’ll be able to see the amazing long-term results you’ve been anticipating. (Consider Crystal Clear clarifying pads to treat breakouts, too!) When you’re in your 30s, the average skin cell turnover time is approximately one month, but this turnover time grows longer as we age.
My skin feels flaky and dry — am I doing something wrong?
This can be a common side effect, and it's generally due to over-exfoliating, which includes AHAs/BHAs, retinoids and physical exfoliants, too. To combat dryness, back off your exfoliants and reintroduce them gradually. It's important to not stop your entire new skin care routine, though. Doing so could create a rush sebum and oil production, actually causing acne to worsen.
For retinoid use in particular, It's important to consider application. We generally recommend 4-6 Night Watch retinol drops or 1-2 pumps of our in-house tretinoin prescription. Start slow, using as little as once per week, and increase as tolerated.
Remember to keep your skin moisturized and hydrated! An emollient can be applied under, over or even mixed with the retinoid to help. Emollients are moisturizers that soften, soothe and calm dry, peeling or flaky skin. Our Youth Serum, Face Whip and Recovery Lotion are all great options.
Active ingredients can initially be a bit drying or irritating. Sensitivity, redness and mild swelling can take 3-4 days to show up after use. A good rule of thumb is to start 1-2 active products – like our Crystal Clear clarifying pads or Night Watch — at a time and allow 1-2 days between each use. Most skin reactions occur due to misuse of product, such as using too many exfoliating products on consecutive days.
While this reaction is normal (especially when these products are first introduced to your skin care routine), a true allergic reaction would involve moderate to severe swelling, itching and hives. If you’re having an allergic reaction, immediately discontinue use of the product. If you’re just experiencing sensitivity from overuse of product, temporarily discontinue and then slowly reintroduce.
Does this affect how my other new products are working?
If you’re using products with active ingredients alongside gentle, inactive products — like Youth Serum, Eye Sculpt or Face Whip — you may think one of these is the culprit behind your reaction, but that's rarely the case. If you’re experiencing a reaction, it’s likely due to a product with active ingredients like the ones mentioned above, which is why we encourage discontinuing use and gradually reintroducing to pinpoint the product causing irritation.
Adhering to a new skin care routine or getting used to a new product can take time, but the end result — beautifully clear, glowing skin — is totally worth the wait.