5 Reasons Your Skin May Break Out with a New Skin Care Product
See the original blog post here.
People are always afraid of trying new products. In the acne world it's like the scariest thing we can think of. Every time I suggest a product to someone, the first question they ask is, "Yeah, but will it break me out?"
I don't know. I can't answer that question - literally the only way you can know with 100% certainty if something will break you out, is by trying it. Usually I like to weigh the odds - the risks of it breaking you out versus the odds of it helping your skin, and go from there. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge!
Regardless, here are some reasons that your skin may break out or react negatively to a new product, a new routine, or maybe even to a product that you've been using for months or years.
1. You may be using products that just plain aren't right for your skin. I see people rave about products all the time, and yet I know that if I bother trying them (based on their ingredients or what they're intended to do) I will just end up with breakouts, or dry and damaged skin. So I usually stay away (although sometimes I like to tempt fate hehe). That's the beauty of knowing my skin and my skin's needs - as much as I want to have clear skin that never breaks out, I don't, and so it doesn't do me any good buying skin care products formulated and geared toward people with normal skin. I always have to keep my acne in mind.
An example is using products that claim to dry up oily skin despite the fact that your skin is very dry. It just doesn't make any sense! You need to buy skin care products that are suitable for your skin type and your skin's needs (dry skin needs more moisture, oily skin might need a little less moisture, but it also might need a little reparative help!). It also doesn't help to use bacteria-fighting ingredients if bactera isn't your skin's problem.
And it goes without saying (although I'm going to spell it out for you, anyway) that sometimes a product just doesn't work for you - just because. There may be no obvious rhyme or reason, it just isn't compatible with your skin. I'm sorry, I know. I feel your hurt.
2. Using too many treated products is another reason your skin may react adversely. With anti-acne products this is especially true.
People will have a face full of acne, and they think that if they slather on treated products that acne doesn't stand a chance. A little bit is good - so a lot must be even better, right?!
So they use a tea tree oil wash, a benzoyl peroxide cream, followed by a prescription retinoid or antibiotic, and then a salicylic acid spot treatment.
This may sound like a winning combination - and it may even work for the first little while (it's probably drying the hell out of your poor skin). But it also can go south mighty fast.
This can cause the skin to become increasingly sensitive and irritated.
Less is certainly more in this case. Use 1-2 really good treated products, and that's it (usually a treated moisturizer or prescription + a spot treatment).
3. One of the most obvious reasons might also be that you're using a product or products that are poorly formulated (just because something is on the shelf at the store doesn't mean it is well formulated).
The product may have a high alcohol content, or other ingredients that are common skin irritants like certain fragrances or SLS. The reaction from irritating ingredients might happen immediately, or they may manifest over a long period of time - based on continued and/or cumulative use.
This is especially common in products that have several irritating ingredients in it - one irritating ingredient on its own may not be enough to bother healthy skin, but when combined with other irritating ingredients they may overload our poor faces!
4. Although this is a less common occurrence, sometimes we may actually be allergic to a certain ingredient, even one that is not irritating at all. This has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of a skin care product, however. For example, chamomile is a common allergen, and it's in some skin care products as a soothing agent - because it is very soothing. But it sure as rain isn't soothing to people with allergies to it.
Allergies and irritants can sometimes manifest in similar ways, so they're difficult to tell apart.
Irritant contact dermatitis can cause the skin to become red, inflamed and dry after contact with a product. It can be by contact with acids, alkaline materials like soaps and detergents, fabric softeners, etc. The reaction usually looks like a burn, or a rash.
Allergic contact dermatitis can also make the skin red, inflamed and dry. This is commonly caused by skin care ingredients that might also cause photosensitivity (when exposed to sunlight), such as sunscreen (I, for example, can wear sunscreen indoors with no skin problems, but not outdoors - kind of a catch 22 don't you think?).
It's important to note that the first time you are exposed to a substance you may not have an allergic (or irritant) reaction, but you may become more sensitive to it the more you continue to use it.
A fairly good indication of an allergic reaction is if the area that is affected spreads outside the area of application. For example, when I had an allergic reaction to a cream I used on my body, not only did my body break out in a rash, I also broke out in a rash up my neck and on the bottom half of my face even though it hadn't been applied there. I was quickly able to tell this was an allergy, and it was hydrocortisone and antihistamines to the rescue.
If you're worried that you may have allergic or irritant contact dermatitis, only a doctor will be able to make a proper diagnosis. However, the best way to eliminate all probable causes is to start your routine from scratch - eliminate any new products immediately, and re-introduce products back into your routine one at a time (with a couple weeks between).
5. And alas, unfortunately - some people are just unfortunate enough to have sensitive skin. Sometimes it just plain doesn't matter, and your skin reacts negatively to seemingly everything. This is usually when people can only use the most basic, fragrance-free, pH balanced products on their skin - no oils, no treatment, no masks, no nothing. And this usually stems from some kind of systemic inflammation, some form of autoimmune disorder, or a compromised moisture barrier that would require attention prior to introducing new products. A sure sign of increasingly sensitive and irritable skin is dry, flaky skin that feels tight after cleansing with even the most basic cleanser; skin that becomes red and itchy when any products are applied, etc.
So hopefully this has shed some light on the delicate situation that is picking a skin care product for your beautiful face. Sometimes a product makes us break out, we need to come to terms with that - but make sure you're giving it time, you're using it properly, and that you're not changing your routine up too often (your skin needs some time to relax, too!)