What To Do When Your Skincare Products Stop Working


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Are you frustrated because the products you've used for years suddenly seem to stop working? Just when you thought you had your skincare routine figured out, your skin throws you a curveball that may require going back to the drawing board—or perhaps just a small tweak will make a big difference! Find out what's going on and how you can turn the tide when skincare products seem to stop working.
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Why Do Skincare Products Stop Working?

Even the best skincare products may seem to fall short after a while. There are many potential reasons for this, but often it's that your skin type is no longer what it was when you began using the products. For no apparent reason, dry skin can become oily or oily skin can become dry or combination. Sometimes rosacea creeps up on you or a type of dermatitis such as eczema causes problems. Most worrisome to most of us is the inevitable development of wrinkles and brown spots from those years of sun damage.

Your products may also seem to stop working because you're not seeing the dramatic results of the first few weeks or months. That's to be expected (it shouldn't be blamed on the products) because with ongoing use, the changes won't be as dramatic as they once were. Instead, your skin is in a healthy maintenance mode.

Why Your Skin Type Can Change

Unforeseen changes in skin type actually are quite understandable given the many factors that influence skin type, such as sun damage and skin disorders that crop up with age. For example, more than 50% of those with lighter skin tones will develop the skin disorder rosacea between the ages of 30 and 60. Another factor is menopause, which almost inevitably causes changes, such as never-before-seen breakouts and oily skin for those over the age of 40, and for others a change from oily skin to dry skin (often mislabeled as "mature skin").

Sun damage is cumulative, acquired over many years, and leads to many of the unpleasant skin changes we often associate with age, when in fact they are not about age at all. Over time, sun damage can cause enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, dull skin, and, of course, wrinkles. So, while age is not a skin type, the mere passage of time brings about changes, changes that will show up differently on different people.

Climate Change Affects Skin

Moving to a new location with a different climate can also create changes in your skin type, changes you never thought possible. We hear from women all over the world who are dealing with climate-induced skin changes. Whether moving from a dry, arid environment to one with high humidity, or from a tropical climate to a cool climate, these drastic changes can send your skin into a tailspin, causing even the most reliable products to seemingly backfire.

Skincare Confusion

To add to the confusion—it could be a combination of the issues mentioned above that make the products you once loved impractical. What's the solution? It might be necessary to only partially revise your skincare routine, or you may need to change it completely, to address the changes taking place with your skin type. Knowing what products to start (and stop) using when your skincare routine needs to change can give you back the skin you were once happy with before things went awry.

What to Do When Your Skin Type Changes

Described below are some of the most common reasons people complain about their skin changing and their products becoming less effective. See if any of these describe what you're going through:

  1. Your dry skin is starting to look oily in places. Sometimes, the easiest approach to this is to stop applying your cream or lotion moisturizer over the oily areas. If you are using a toner loaded with antioxidants and other skin-repairing ingredients, that might be all you need over the more oily areas to fight aging, without adding a slick feeling to the skin. You also might consider using a less creamy cleanser. For sunscreen, use a foundation and pressed powder that both are rated SPF 15 or greater to reduce the number of emollient products you apply over your entire face.
  2. All of a sudden you're starting to break out. If you aren't already using a BHA (beta hydroxy acid or salicylic acid) exfoliant, this is definitely the time to start. Salicylic acid is one of the gold standard ingredients for fighting breakouts, no matter your age or skin type. An additional plus is that BHA also evens out skin tone, reduces enlarged pores, and helps fight wrinkles. Also consider a lighter weight moisturizer, such as a gel or serum, that doesn't contain pore-clogging ingredients. These feel light, but still provide enough hydration to smooth dry skin—including around the eyes.
  3. Your oily skin is starting to feel dry. If you've moved to a drier climate or you're going through menopause, it's not unusual for the skin to become drier. That doesn't mean you must run out and buy products labeled "for mature skin" (which typically is synonymous with dry skin). In fact, rather than loading up on creamy moisturizers or masks, try adding a more moisturizing toner that helps rebuild skin's structure and eliminate visible dryness. You also want to continue using an exfoliant to reduce the build-up of dead skin cells. A more emollient cleanser can be helpful, too.
  4. You see redness creeping over your cheek and chin area, with noticeable capillaries showing through. Most likely, this is an early sign of the skin disorder rosacea. Your first course of action should not be to change your skincare routine, but rather to see a dermatologist. Certain medications are essential to keep this pesky disorder in check, and along with gentle skincare products that contain fortifying ingredients, you can reduce the inflammation and see far fewer flare-ups.
  5. Your skin begins to flake in areas around your eyebrows and the corner of your nose. For some people, regardless of skin type or age, intermittent patches of skin disorders like psoriasis or seborrhea occur. You probably don't need to change your skincare routine, instead just add an over-the-counter cortisone cream, which may be all it takes to keep the flaking in check. If that doesn't work, then a dermatologist can prescribe medications that should do the trick. Of course, if the seborrhea or psoriasis is widespread, you'll definitely want to be under the care and supervision of a dermatologist.

Despite the confusing out-of-nowhere changes in your skin type, whatever the reasons, simple changes to your skincare routine may be all you need to get your skin back to normal. Of course, there are times when your skincare routine may need a complete overhaul, but it's always best to start with small steps. Don't assume that everything you're using is to blame because that might lead you to remove some of the truly beneficial products from your routine—a mistake that can make your skin's topsy-turvy state even worse. Be patient, experiment via a process of elimination, follow our tips above, and your skin will soon be back in beautiful balance!

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! Learn more at Shop Paula's Choice.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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