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9 Signs You’re Using The Wrong Skincare Products That Could Actually Be Irritating Your Skin

We're taking a closer look into the subtle (and not-so-subtle) signs that your products might be staging a rebellion on your face.

What if I told you that unexpected breakouts or sudden dry patches might be more than just a bad skin day? It could be your skin’s SOS signal, telling you that your skincare products aren’t right for you. Here are the most common skin reactions caused by using the wrong products that you should be aware of.

Itching, redness, burning and stinging

If your skin has a reaction that it doesn’t normally have after using a new product, that’s a warning sign. Persistent redness, itchiness, or burning sensations can indicate that your skincare products are too harsh for your skin or contain irritating ingredients. Sure, treatments like retinoids or exfoliants might cause a little initial discomfort as they work by causing minor damage to your skin to rebuild it stronger. But everyday items like cleansers and moisturizers? They should leave your skin nourished and hydrated, not inflamed. If you experience adverse reactions from these products, it’s a sign they’re not suitable for you.

Acne breakouts

If you’re experiencing a sudden onset of breakouts (pimples, blackheads, whiteheads) than usual, your skincare products might be clogging your pores. Products containing ingredients like coconut oil, silicones, or heavy waxes are highly comedogenic, and they’re a big no-no for those with oily skin prone to acne. If new pimples are popping up, it might be time to ditch comedogenic products and go back to the drawing board.

Related: These Types Of Products Can Make Your Acne Worse

Tight, dry, or flaky skin

Dry, tight, or flaky skin can be a sign of dehydration or a lack of moisture, which means your moisturizing products aren’t working. Dehydrated skin lacks water, while dry skin lacks oil. So slathering on a heavy cream might not cut it; you might need a product with hyaluronic acid to draw water into the skin. And those flakes? They could be a sign that your skin’s barrier is compromised. This isn’t just “dry skin”; this is your skin failing to retain moisture, and you’ll need more than basic lotion to fix it. Ingredients like ceramides and fatty acids can help repair that barrier, so try to apply a cream containing these compounds every night.

Skin discoloration

Some skincare products can actually worsen dark spots if they are misused. For example, improper use of chemical acids is known to lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). These acids peel off the outermost layer of the skin, which sounds good for getting rid of dead cells, but it also makes your skin super sensitive to the sun and dark spots. Moreover, irritants like alcohol and artificial fragrances can trigger an inflammatory response and activate cells to produce more skin-darkening pigment. Some products also contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals like oxybenzone, which can lead to hormonal imbalances and skin conditions like melasma.

Hives or rashes

Hives, rashes, or swelling are all signs of allergic reactions. To be on the safe side, perform a patch test before incorporating new products into your routine. Apply a small amount of the product to a small area of your skin, like the inside of your wrist, and wait 24-48 hours. If you experience persistent reactions, it’s best to steer clear of the product.

Pores appear larger

If your pores seem larger than usual, it means they’re clogged. This is a warning sign that something is wrong with your skincare routine. Make sure the products you’re using don’t contain comedogenic ingredients, as these are often the culprits behind enlarged pores and pimples.

No changes in skin appearance

Have you been loyal to a serum for a reasonable period and still haven’t seen changes in your skin appearance? It’s a sign that the product is not working for you. This could be due to low concentrations of active ingredients, incompatibility with your skin, or poor formulation. 

The bottom line

The state of your skin can serve as a gauge for the effectiveness of your skincare routine. If something feels off, it probably is, and it’s worth taking the time to reevaluate the products you’re using. Ignoring these signs and continuing with the wrong products can worsen existing skin conditions, making it all the more important to choose your skincare carefully.

Read next: 8 Secrets To Boost The Effectiveness Of Your Skincare Products

Who wrote this?
Picture of Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder of Women's Concepts and a certified skincare consultant. She has over five years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and over a decade as an acne sufferer. With a background in dermatological research, Ana brings a wealth of expertise to a diverse range of topics, from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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