4 Warning Signs Your Skin Care Routine Is Damaging Your Skin

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It’s easy—and often expected—to occasionally purchase the wrong skin care products. After all, even after reading countless product reviews and correctly diagnosing your own skin issues, it’s still possible that your products won’t react well with your skin. So, in an effort to reduce the risk of your products wreaking havoc on your complexion, we tapped Charleston, SC dermatologist Marguerite Germain, MD, for exactly which warning signs you should be on the lookout for and all the ways to prevent a reaction from happening altogether.

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“Some signs that your skin care routine is damaging your skin are irritation, swelling, peeling and itching,” explains Dr. Germain, adding that various reactions can actually indicate a specific cause. In fact, there’s quite a few common reactions—which Dr. Germain breaks down below—that many people experience without realizing that their products are to blame. Check out her top red flags, below. 

If you develop sudden swelling, redness and itching…

“The most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis in the United States is fragrance,” says Dr. Germain. “The second most common cause is preservatives.” Unfortunately, if the skin is exposed to these allergens, they can cause swelling, redness and itching. “I have even seen patients with eyes swollen shut from allergies to product ingredients,” warns Dr. Germain. “A reaction such as that can take a long time to get over so be sure to use products that contain hypoallergenic ingredients.” 

If you develop dryness and peeling….

“Soaps can cause dryness and peeling so I always recommend a soap-free cleanser,” explains Dr. Germain. One of our favorites? The Meaningful Beauty Skin Softening Cleanser ($33). This mild face wash is soap- and fragrance-free so skin is never dry or flakey post-wash.

If you develop milia, enlarged pores or acne…

“The other sign of damage is from the occlusive properties of some products, which means they block the pores,” says Dr. Germain. “This results in increased oil production, enlarged oil, little white cysts called milia, and an increase in acne and rosacea.” Unfortunately, a lot of skincare products add unneeded “fillers” to make a product look, feel, or smell a certain way, and as a result, these fillers can sit on top of the skin and cause visible irritation.

If you develop rosacea or sensitive skin…

If you don’t normally suffer from rosacea but suddenly see a flareup, your products could be to blame. “Retinol use can worsen rosacea if it is too strong,” says Dr. Germain. “Glycolic acid can also irritate sensitive skin as well.” For those looking for a good alternative to traditional retinol products, try the SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream ($110). This formula contains alphahydroxy acids and retinoids that are put together in a way that many sensitive skin people can tolerate.

Ultimately, Dr. Germain claims that the best way to defend yourself against an adverse reaction from products is to do your research before purchasing. “It is best not to use products willy nilly,” she explains. “I recommend doing your research on the product’s ingredients before buying or even sampling, since effects from the irritants can be very prolonged and damaging.” A quick google search can oftentimes alert you to harsh ingredients and therefore prevent potential irritation altogether. And considering an allergic or adverse reaction to ingredients can sometimes mean months before a full recovery, this quick, pre-purchase step is vital for preventing any unwanted reactions.

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