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Freaking Out! What Do I Do if My Skin Is Reacting to a New Product?

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Freaking Out! What Do I Do if My Skin Is Reacting to a New Product?

We love guiding our patients as they integrate new products into their skin care routines. Sometimes, we get questions about skin reactions to particular products or ingredients. Let’s talk about what you can expect when your skin is adjusting to a new product.

Why is my skin reacting to this new product?

It takes time for your skin to build up tolerance to certain ingredients in order for you to experience the benefits. This is often the case with active ingredients, such as retinoids, retinols, alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs/BHAs) like glycolic, lactic, salicylic, mandelic acids, benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid. Scientific data supports that these active ingredients can heal acne and improve acne scarring by accelerating skin cell turnover, or shedding or exfoliation of dead skin cells and oil and debris from deep within the pores. These are powerful ingredients that, when used correctly, can make major improvements to your skin!

What do active ingredients do to my skin?

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, extracting excess sebum and buildup from clogged pores from beneath the skin’s surface.

We understand this can be frustrating, especially when you’re excited to see results from your new skin care products. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is your glowing skin! The increased cell turnover that your skin experiences during the purging phase ultimately leads to the emergence of newly regenerated skin cells in the subdermal layers of your skin. The result? Clearer, even toned and youthful skin.

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Is there a way to get through the purging phase faster?

You can back off on using your products with active ingredients, which may help in the short-term. But if you can ride out the purging phase and continue your regimen, your skin will eventually calm down and you’ll see the amazing long-term results you’ve been anticipating. Generally, this takes about six weeks, but it can take longer. 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.

What can I do to minimize skin reactions?

Active ingredients can initially be a bit drying or irritating if you overuse them. Reactions from these products like 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 Clarifying Pads, Night Watch or Clarifying Brightening Polish — 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.

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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, Youth Eye Complex or Face Whip — you may think one of these is the culprit behind the reaction, but that is 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 worth the wait.


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