Tricks of the Trade: Get clearer skin by easing up on the products


I feel like I’ve done everything to get rid of my pimples (I’ve tried peels, facials and scrubs), but they keep coming back. Also the more I apply products, the worse my skin gets. What do I do?

I can spend the whole day recommending different skin care products for you to try, but sometimes it is better to remove rather than add. I think your skin might be overloaded with products and treatments, and needs time to rest and recuperate. Introducing product after product can wreak havoc on skin, especially if it is on the sensitive side (there is such a thing as skin care abuse). It might be better to ease up on the treatments, and let your skin breathe.

It is important to remember that we need to be kind to our skin—you can avoid irritation and inflammation by dialing down the skincare routine. Doing things like vigorously rubbing or massaging active ingredients into skin can cause adverse reactions. And scrubs, if used at all, should be done with a gentle hand.

Most of us are so used to piling on products and even layering them that we don’t realize what it is really doing to our skin. Some products have a strong concentration of active ingredients that require very little application, while others cannot be mixed with certain products. Remember that there is such a thing as product misuse or over-use, so try a little of the product at a time to be on the safe side.

Read the label. It is easy to get lost in the different terminologies for skincare. Most ingredients have long and confusing names, and are difficult to remember. Thankfully, it is easy to Google search what these ingredients are and to get acquainted with what they do exactly. What you need to know when reading the label: the first few ingredients that appear on the list are the ones with the most concentration in the product. And the last four to six ingredients in the ingredient list are there for shelf life: these are preservatives, emulsifiers and chemicals that should be minimized as much as possible. This is really why you should use as little of the product as you can, as you don’t really want to overload your skin with these ingredients.

Edit your skincare regimen. Being too aggressive and putting too many products on your skin are the most common mistakes. For example, some of us will use a product that contains vitamin C, followed by one with AHA in the morning, then a scrub and Retin-A in the evening and wonder why their skin broke out or got red and painful. If you’re breaking out and you don’t know what to do, try assessing your skincare products and do the process of elimination. If your skin gets better without one or two of your products, ditch it. That might be the cause of your breakout.

Look for multitasking products. If you can, stick to skincare products that do two or more things in one go, like a cleanser that also removes makeup, or a sunscreen that contains anti-aging ingredients. This allows you to apply fewer products on your skin, which will be good for you in the long run. Plus it cuts down on application time and lessens the guesswork when it comes to which ingredient goes with what.

No to skin care aggression. More often than not, products made to clear acne contain ingredients that dry up the oil and aggressively exfoliate the skin. What we tend to forget is oil is there to protect skin, and removing the oil will signal to the brain to produce more. This worsens the problem, as skin works overtime to try to fix what’s happened, which may lead to irritation and inflammation (even a breakout). That’s why before starting on a skincare program, consult your dermatologist. He or she will be able to prescribe a regimen that works for your skin.

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