Is your skincare routine damaging your skin? 

Why ‘less is more’ when it comes to maintaining healthy skin.

How many different products do you use on your skin every day? Most people I ask are surprised by the answer when they add them all up. And it’s no wonder. Skincare and beauty brands have become so sophisticated at marketing to us online that regularly buying and experimenting with new products has become the norm.

But what if the amount of products we’re using on our skin is actually causing more harm than good?

Over the last few years I’ve seen more and more patients suffering from seemingly unexplained skin irritation, dryness and sensitivity. What they all have in common is they’ve been using – and combining – lots of products containing active ingredients that they’ve been recommended on social media. In turn, this has caused damage to their skin’s natural barrier and resulted in the kind of irritation and soreness I would normally expect to see in patients with eczema and rosacea.

Healthy skin has a brilliant natural barrier that does a great good job at keeping the skin hydrated and protected from irritation. The products we use need to work with this natural barrier to enhance and maintain it – rather than disrupt it. And it’s not necessarily the individual products themselves that are causing this damage. It’s the amount and combination of many different products. 

If you suspect that your skin barrier may be damaged, try the following things.

  • Strip back and streamline your skin care routine, starting with the essentials and building up from there.
  • Introduce products with active ingredients (such as retinol, AHAs, BHAs and Vitamin C) slowly and one at a time.
  • Try avoiding physical exfoliation. Scrubs can sometimes cause micro-tears to your skin, which further irritates symptoms. 
  • Chemical exfoliators, like glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid, can be more gentle if used in low concentrations. 
  • Use products containing ceramides, glycerin, petrolatum and hyaluronic acid to help replenish the skin.
  • Avoid products with harsh or irritating ingredients, such as alcohol, fragrances or strong acids.

With all this in mind, it’s also important for us not to go to the other end of the spectrum and be afraid of trying new skincare products. In fact, I already see skincare brands jumping on the ‘skin barrier’ wagon by releasing new products to support its replenishment. It’s great that they’re doing this, but it does run the risk of simply being the next skincare and beauty marketing trend.

At the end of the day, it’s all about balance. Each and every one of us is different. Think about what products you’re using on your skin. Challenge yourself to see if they’re all strictly necessary. Try to use more products that look after your skin’s natural barrier. But, most importantly, enjoy your skin! Feel free to experiment gently and discover the best routine that works for you.