Updated 6/1/20. If you have sensitive skin and/or are prone to blemishes and clogged pores, incorporating new skincare products into your routine can be a scary undertaking. This is because you simply don’t know how your skin will respond, even if you’ve chosen products meant for your skin type. Here are some things you need to know when trying out new skincare products to avoid a negative reaction.
Don’t Go It Alone and Self-Diagnose Your Skin
It’s really important that you use the resources available to help you understand your skin. You can take this Skin Type Quiz or consult with a trusted skincare professional who can help set you up with a routine that is more likely to agree with your skin. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen clients misdiagnose their own skin type.
Five Common Mistakes People Make When Diagnosing Their Skin’s Needs
These are the five most common mistakes I see people making when misdiagnosing the needs of their skin.
1. Only focusing on one area of concern rather than looking at the big picture
For example, if you’re an adult (in your 20s and beyond) and you still get breakouts, you might be overdrying your skin with harsh acne products that could be compromising the health of your skin. In reality, you need a balance of acne-fighting and hydrating ingredients. This an environment in the skin where breakouts and won’t thrive, and issues such as sensitivity and anti-aging can still be addressed. Sound familiar? No worries, skin types 2, 3 and 4 all work to address these concerns simultaneously. Learn more about how to prevent adult hormonal acne without drying out your skin.
2. Not understanding the difference between dry and dehydrated skin
You really need to know this! Learn the difference between dryness and dehydration.
3. Focusing on what your skin did in the past
While the emotional scars (not to mention some physical scars) of past acne can take a long time to heal, it’s important to treat your skin for what it’s doing RIGHT NOW. Not what it did years ago. Once you get into the habit of using acne-focused products, it’s easy to keep using them for fear your acne will come back. But your skin evolves and changes, so should your skincare routine.
4. Thinking that all bumps are a clogged pore
Many people mistake these types of bumps as a form of acne and will squeeze them or use acne-focused products when there is no infection present. (Unsuccessfully, of course.)
5. Treating all blemishes the same way
Whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, papules, cysts, and milia all require different protocols for improvement. You need to understand the life cycle of the blemish and treat each one accordingly.
Perform a Patch Test to Avoid a Negative Reaction When Trying New Products
If you have extremely sensitive and allergic skin, you should always patch test for compatibility prior to using any new products. When you’re trying a new line, I know you’re really excited to dive right in and use everything. However, if you have a negative reaction, you’ll never be able to figure out which product caused it.
It’s important to know that if your skin’s moisture barrier is damaged, it will increase your chances of having a negative reaction to skincare products. It’s imperative that you’re not making your skin more reactive and sensitive than it naturally is. Read this post to see all the ways that your barrier could be impaired.
How to Patch Test for an Allergic Reaction
The side of the neck is a good starting point for true compatibility because it’s thinner and generally more reactive than the face. The idea is that, if a product can be tolerated on your neck, it should be fine on your face. Also, should you encounter a negative reaction such as an itchy, red rash, you might want it to appear on the neck rather than on your face.
Those with allergic skin are most likely to react to leave-on products, meaning moisturizers, serums, toners, eye creams, etc. Products like cleansers are less likely to cause a reaction since they’re rinsed off soon after application. Also, if you are doing a patch test with a product that contains glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acids, it’s normal for the skin to become slightly pink. This should subside within ten to fifteen minutes, especially once a moisturizer is applied.
If you ever use a product and DO break out in an itchy rash, you can apply either Milk of Magnesia or cold, plain yogurt to the affected area. Leave on for fifteen minutes, rinse, and repeat every three hours. You can also use ice to calm the irritation.
Does a Reaction Always Occur Right Away?
No, not necessarily. If you’re allergic to something in a product, it should trigger an immediate reaction. However, certain ingredients can cause what is known as reactivity, which might take longer to manifest resulting in delayed irritation. Delayed irritation is usually caused by less active ingredients, or ingredients included at small percentages. This could include something like fragrance or drying alcohols. While these might not cause a reaction in your skin right away, using them consistently over time can break down your skin’s barrier, leading to reactivity. This could also happen with something like an exfoliating acid. Used correctly, they improve barrier function. But if you start to misuse them, they can make your skin more sensitive and reactive over time.
If you notice a reaction after changing your routine in the past month or so, this could be the case. It is also possible to become sensitive or allergic to an ingredient that worked well for you before. This may be what’s happening if you’ve been keeping your routine consistent for years and suddenly notice a change in your skin.
How to Patch Test for Blemishes or Clogged Pores
The cheek (close to the nose) or chin area is a good place to test if you’re prone to breakouts. There is a higher concentration of oil glands and pores in this area, so the product can penetrate deeper into the pore lining. If a product is going to cause breakouts, it isn’t going to happen after just one use. To truly test for breakouts and clogged pores, you may want to consider testing a small area for seven to ten days if you really want to be cautious.
If all tests well, you can proceed to use the product on your entire face.
When Starting a New Routine, Introduce Your Products SLOWLY
Even if you have patch-tested your products and no negative reaction has occurred, I still believe that it is best to only introduce one new product every five days. This way, if a negative reaction should occur, you are able to pinpoint which product is causing it. This will also be helpful knowledge for future skincare purchases.
When Starting a New Routine, Which Products Should You Introduce First?
- I generally recommend starting with a cleanser. A cleanser is a rinse-off product, so it’s pretty rare that you would have a reaction to it.
- Next up, I suggest introducing your alcohol-free toner. While toners are a leave-on product, they have high water content. This means they deliver a lot of healthy moisture to skin cells, which leaves your skin in a comfortable and healthy state.
- From there, you’ll want to test out a moisturizer. This obviously starts getting into leave-on products. Again, as mentioned above, you may want to start with patch-testing before you use it all over the face.
- After that, you can introduce a facial serum. There are many different kinds that have different actions within the skin. Examples include exfoliating and delivering antioxidants or firming agents. Of all types of serums, an exfoliating one is the trickiest because it’s lowering the pH of the skin. If your skin has never experienced this, it’s not altogether uncommon to have some initial purging. Read more about skin purging and how to treat it.
- From there, you can roll into masks, facial scrubs, and eye creams.
Bottom line, for best results, when introducing new skincare products, it is best to take it slow. Even if you’re wildly excited to dive right into your new routine!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”