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Are You Working Your Skin Way Too Hard?

Are You Working Your Skin Way Too Hard?

Treating your skin with active ingredients and potent formulations is all well and good, but when does vigilant skincare become too much for your skin to cope with? 

There are some incredible ingredients in skincare that have been trusted for decades to bring visible benefits to your precious skin. Retinol, vitamin C and glycolic acid are just three powerhouses that come to mind, all of which work hard to bring awesome, skin-changing results to the table.

But here’s the thing. Yes, these ingredients are fabulous and yes, when used correctly they can truly transform average skin into great skin – with regular use and a little side of patience, of course. However, there’s that certain something called ‘too much of a good thing.’ And when it comes to potent skincare, that 'thing' can turn into some real issues for your skin.

The main problem with overstimulating your skin is that your barrier function becomes compromised. Not sure what that means? Well, your skin’s barrier function is its uppermost layer (aka the stratum corneum) and it’s extremely important as it’s your body’s first line of defense from the outside world, keeping crucial moisture in and nasty irritants out. 

When your barrier function is strong and working efficiently, it keeps your skin healthy, soft and supple. But if it gets screwed up – which can easily happen when you throw too many skincare ingredients at it – it’s unable to do its job properly. And this is where things start to go awry.

Read on for the most common signs you're working your barrier function too hard. And that it's unhappy as a consequence…

Your Skin Is Totally Breaking Out

Acne breakouts occur when overactive sebaceous glands produce an excessive amount of sebum (oil). This sebum then gets stuck in your pores where it mixes with bacteria and dead skin cells and results in a nasty old blockage. If this ‘plug’ of debris becomes inflamed it becomes a full-on zit, if not, it will usually result in a white or blackhead. None of which are welcome, if we’re honest.

Breakouts are generally thanks to your genes which determine your skin type and amount of oil your skin produces. However, certain factors can trigger the frequency, duration or angriness of your flare-ups. And overstimulating your skin is right up there with things like stress and your hormones.

The biggest offenders, in our opinion, are super astringent products that suck your skin dry and do no good whatsoever. Of course, it’s tempting to apply drying ingredients like harsh alcohols, and kick-ass surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate to oily skin because it feels like the right thing to do. Mistake. This move just encourages your sebaceous glands to produce even more oil to try to counteract the dryness you’re enforcing on your poor complexion.

On the flipside, you don’t want to over-moisturize your skin, either. Certain ingredients in moisturizers will block your pores and trigger breakouts with lightning speed. These are called occlusives and include things like heavy oils and butters. So avoid these at all times – and that includes makeup as well as skincare.

Do This: Stick with a light, gentle moisturizing product like Vitamin C Brightening Moisturizer, combined with a balancing cleanser, gentle toner and a soothing facial serum like Tea Tree Super Serum+.

Your Face Looks Red & Feels A Bit Irritated

Other than the obvious conditions like eczema and rosacea – which are jobs for a dermatologist, btw ­– your skincare routine can be a major trigger of redness and inflammation.

And one of the most common offenders? Exfoliation. Exfoliating your skin can feel like pure joy and, when done gently and not too often, it’s a great way to boost cellular turnover, encourage collagen production and make your skin look and feel glowy and healthy. But, and this is a pretty big but, exfoliating your skin too often and with a super heavy hand weakens your barrier function and strips away all of those important ceramides, fatty acids and essential nutrients from the surface of your skin. Frankly, this is the perfect recipe for irritation and facial redness.

If you’re guilty of exfoliating more than once or twice a week and have noticed your skin becoming more sensitized than normal, you need to rein it in posthaste.

Do This: Either reduce your frequency or switch to a milder formulation. Better yet, do both. We love our Ocean Minerals Super Toner which contains gentle chemical exfoliators to break down dead skin cells. Try this two or three times a week and see how you go. You can always move to daily as your skin calms down.

Dryness Has Become A Real Thing

Similar to your likelihood of getting acne, dry skin is something you’re born with. The good news, however, is that dryness can be controlled and balanced with the right skincare routine that concentrates on nurturing your skin and replacing the oils your skin often fails to product of its own accord.

Then there’s the wrong skincare routine – and this can have equally as profound results. Just not the ones you were hoping for.

What do we mean by the ‘wrong’ skincare routine. Well, for dry skin types, you have to avoid anything that’s going to exacerbate your dryness. And the biggest no-no for you? Potent cleansers that are big on sulfates, synthetic fragrances, parabens and harsh alcohol like ethanol and alcohol denat. Ingredients like oatmeal, rice milk, aloe vera and chamomile are way better friends for dry skin as they help nourish and protect your skin’s barrier function. Which, as you’ve probably realized by now, is the most important thing for reducing irritation and minimizing sensitivities.

Also, you really have to be careful with retinol because, while it’s the darling of skincare ingredients, retinol can be tricky to get right. Too much, too often can make dry skin conditions so much worse – especially if you go in like a bull in a china shop, not patch testing first, or applying it too frequently.

Do This: If you’ve recently started a new retinol product, pare it back immediately, reducing how often you apply to once or twice a week until your dryness improves. You should also swap your cleanser for something that'll nourish and protect your barrier function. Our new Soothing Cleansing Milk is literally made for dry, sensitive skin, since you asked. 

Your Skin Feels Tight, Itchy & Uncomfortable

Even oily or combination skin can feel tight and uncomfortable sometimes. And this is generally down to dehydration.

Quick refresher: dry skin is a skin type that's thanks to an absence of oils, whereas dehydration is more of a condition and due to a lack of water in the skin. Alongside cold weather conditions, pollution, stress and medications, one of the main causes of dehydration is over-exfoliation or over-stimulation with active skincare ingredients. How so? Because these break down your skin’s barrier function making it unable to effectively retain water.

Thankfully, dehydration is a temporary issue and one that can most definitely be dealt with. You just need to figure out what you’re doing that’s causing your dehydrated skin and work on that first and foremost. Chronic use of highly potent ingredients like prescription retinoids, for example, can be major offenders, as can overexposure to the sun. Then you need to manipulate your skincare routine to ensure it’s working hard to boost water in the epidermis while simultaneously reducing moisture loss from the surface of your skin.

Do This: Simplify your routine and introduce a daily hydrating serum that helps amp up your skin's moisture content. Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum is a great addition and ideal for sensitized skin. Just remember, you must always apply moisturizer on top to seal in hydration. You could also try our awesome new Multi-Vitamin Facial Serum which combines everything you need for a healthier barrier function – minus the irritation.

More About This Article

Georgia Gould

Georgia Gould

Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.