Skincare isn’t one-size-fits-all and a lot of the time, what works for one person might have the opposite effect for another. Take facial scrubs or alcohol-heavy face toners, for example.
If your skin isn’t responding well to a product, a reaction might present itself through dryness, a burning sensation, breakouts, itchiness or redness to name a few symptoms. While the skincare product you’re using might not necessarily be bad, if it seems to be doing your skin more harm than good, it pays to push it to the side instead of powering on through.
In my case, I try to avoid fragranced skincare. Of course, there is something sensorial about skincare that smells nice. It’s enjoyable and uplifting but it has the potential to harm sensitive or reactive skin, as I recently found out while testing a batch of heavily fragranced products. “Fragrances should be avoided altogether within your skincare routine,” says Dr Kemi Fabusiwa, medical doctor and director of Joyful Skin. “In general, the more wonderful it smells, the worse it is for your skin. To achieve the desired aroma, brands use ingredients such as linalool, cinnamal and limonene, which have the potential to irritate, potentially causing breaks in the skin’s protective barrier.” If this happens, you might experience soreness, redness or cracked skin. In which case, stop using the product immediately.
Luckily, there are lots of unfragranced options out there. But it doesn’t stop at fragrance. Ahead, we asked skin experts to detail the products they recommend their clients step away from, especially if they are experiencing sensitivity and other uncomfortable skin gripes.
“I would like people to stop using strong actives, in particular high percentage AHAs such as home peeling solutions,” says facialist Andy Millward. AHAs are otherwise known as alpha hydroxy acids or exfoliating acids, such as glycolic and lactic acid.
“There’s a dangerous mindset that stronger equals better,” continues Andy. “If a clinical study demonstrates that a 5% or 8% alpha hydroxy acid is effective, it doesn’t mean we all need to be using 30% at home on a weekly basis. By overusing active ingredients such as these, we essentially promote irritation, which contributes to an impaired skin barrier and creates further issues.” An impaired skin barrier might present in flaky, sensitive, sore or red skin.
The same goes for high-strength vitamin C, says Andy, which experts tout for brightening skin and fending off pollution. “Equally when 10-15% L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is proven to be effective, it doesn’t automatically mean that 23% will be more effective.”
The solution? Start low. If you’re using exfoliating acids for the first time, choose something which reads 5% on the label. For those who regularly use exfoliating acids, try not to exceed the 10% mark.
Michelle Wong, chemistry PhD and science educator (aka @labmuffinbeautyscience on Instagram) often uses her website to dispel skincare myths around trending products. One thing she doesn’t rate too highly is blue light skincare, which supposedly protects skin from the glare of screens.
“Blue light can have an effect on skin,” says Michelle. “In in vitro studies on skin cells, it has been found that blue light can cause skin cells to produce free radicals and this could theoretically lead to skin ageing, but this hasn’t been tested on clinical trials and skin cells in a petri dish are different to skin cells in skin.”
Michelle continues: “The amount [of blue light] that comes from screens is really tiny [compared] to that used in studies. The only people who need to be concerned about blue light coming from screens are people with photosensitivity conditions. You would need to sit in front of your screen for days or months to get the same amount of visible light that you would get from 15 minutes of sunshine. This sounds kind of scary because we know that the sun causes skin damage, cancer and accelerated skin damage but the reason we’re scared of the sun is because of UV, not visible light. They haven’t been linked to skin cancer or ageing.”
Instead, focus on protecting your skin against UV light by choosing a broad spectrum, high factor sunscreen.
Relying on heavy, rich moisturisers might be doing your skin more harm than good, says Dr Saira Vasdev, aesthetic doctor and founder of Skin & Sanctuary. “Long-term use may cause your skin to become lazy and actually make your skin less functional and less efficient. Old-school heavy moisturisers usually contain fats, thickening agents and often fragrance which can fuel chronic inflammation, which is a major contributor to skin ageing.” If you have acne-prone skin, moisturisers like these are almost always the culprit when it comes to under-the-skin spots, too.
Dr Vasdev explains that healthy skin should be able to self-regulate its natural moisture levels. So what should you use instead, especially if your skin is dry or dehydrated? “We should be opting for functional moisturisers which are enriched with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, antioxidants (which fend off pollution and other environmental factors, which can lead to dull skin) and peptides (essentially proteins, which rebuild skin) to make skin healthy.
“Dr Vasdev loves Obagi Medical Daily Hydro-Drops, £67.27, and ZO Skin Health Daily Power Defense, £93.70. We also rate The Inkey List Peptide Moisturiser, £14.99, which smooths over dry patches and Honest Beauty Hydrogel Cream, £25, a gel-cream that moisturises skin fully without leaving behind a tacky or greasy residue.
You’d be forgiven for reaching for a tube of toothpaste to quell a raging zit, as it has long been thought to have antibacterial properties and the potential to dry out spots. But it’s a myth.”This is a no-no,” says Dr Parisha Acharya, aesthetic doctor and skin expert at Waterhouse Young. “Instead try sulphur-based products or salicylic acid, as these will penetrate deep into the pore, reduce oil, remove dead skin cells and help fight the spot from inside out.
“Try Vichy Normaderm S.O.S Sulphur Paste, £17, recommended by dermatologists, or Perricone MD Blemish Relief Targeted Spot Treatment, £18, which contains salicylic acid to bring down red, inflamed spots fast.
According to Michelle, these are not necessarily bad but the marketing and messaging around them can often be misleading, which means you might not make the most out of your purchase.
“SPF drops are meant to be mixed into moisturiser to turn it into a sunscreen,” Michelle said in a recent video. “Sunscreens don’t always have good textures and break a lot of people out, like me, so this is a really appealing product. But it doesn’t work. Sunscreen drops say they have high SPF, but this is for the product on its own, not after you’ve mixed a few drops with something else.
“Michelle mentions that mixing a few drops in with your foundation or moisturiser means you’re going to be diluting it quite a lot, and the product therefore becomes less effective. “Essentially, mixing skincare isn’t a good idea,” continues Michelle. “How well a sunscreen works isn’t just about how much active ingredient you have. It’s also about how that active ingredient is spread out. Lots of things can impact this, like what the ingredients in your mixed product are, whether they interact with each other, how it spreads over your skin and how it dries. This is why sunscreen is one of the hardest products to formulate.”
Her advice? You’re better off using a proper, dedicated sunscreen. Here’s our roundup of the best high factor sunscreens for all skin types and skin tones.
Raw Coconut Oil
“Raw coconut oil is an ingredient to be avoided in skincare,” says Dr Kemi Fabusiwa, medical doctor and director of Joyful Skin. “This is a highly comedogenic oil,” she says, which means it can cause breakouts. “It has no place being applied straight onto the skin on your face,” Dr Fabusiwa continues. “It is known to work its way into the follicles of the skin, clogging the pores, trapping dirt, sebum and bacteria, which inflame the skin and result in blemishes.” What is coconut oil good for? “Both the skin on the body and your hair,” says Dr Fabusiwa. “Just take care when applying to the scalp and make sure it doesn’t seep into the skin on the forehead, as it can contribute to acne around the hairline.”
“Internet sales for chemical face peel kits have been high this year,” says Dr Acharya, probably because of salon and clinic closures, “but many products are unlicensed and can cause severe damage and even burns to your skin.” Dr Acharya highly recommends steering clear of harsh peels unless prescribed specifically by a skincare specialist. “Instead, opt for gentle chemical exfoliation or speak to a skincare specialist for medical grade recommendations.
“If you’re looking to minimise hyperpigmentation or want brighter, more even skin, try Alpha-H Liquid Gold, £33.50, which contains exfoliating glycolic acid. Use this two to three times a week in the evening and follow with moisturiser. If you’re using any kind of peeling product, always wear a high factor sunscreen during the daytime, as they can make skin sensitive to sunlight.
“Sodium lauryl sulfate (sometimes referred to as SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are commonly used as foaming agents to create a lather,” says Dr Paul Nassif, plastic surgeon, skin specialist and owner of NassifMD Medical Spa UK. But overusing them has the potential to cause issues.
“They may interfere with the skin’s natural ability to regulate oil and to protect, which can cause irritation and dryness. Instead, try a gentle PH-balanced cleanser that won’t strip your skin.” Dr Nassif rates the Pure Hydration Gentle Cleanser, £18.
“While very convenient, face wipes are not formulated to clean the skin or fully remove your makeup,” says Dr Vy Nguyen, aesthetic doctor at Skin & Sanctuary. “You end up smearing the day’s makeup all over your skin, often leaving behind dirt and oil, which over time can lead to breakouts and clogged pores.” As they often come in resealable packaging, Dr Nguyen says that many wipes contain alcohol and strong preservatives, which can be very drying and irritating to the skin. “As well as this, the hard scrubbing required by makeup wipes can also lead to irritation and inflammation that can accelerate the ageing process.” That might explain why your skin appears red or sore after using them. As an alternative, Dr Nguyen suggests double cleansing: using an oil-based cleanser first to remove the majority of makeup, dirt and oil (we love Elemis Pro Collagen Cleansing Balm, £44) and a second gel-based cleanse to ensure your skin is totally clean. Try Pixi Clarity Cleanser, £18. If you prefer to stick to wipes, it’s a good idea to follow with a proper water-based cleanse afterwards.
Credit: Original article published here.