Six ways to practice safe skincare and avoid the pitfalls of trying new products

I used to have a nonchalant attitude towards buying makeup and skincare. I didn’t care much about what’s in a product so long as people talked about it. I’d buy something on sale because it’s from a known brand and it looked pretty, and worse, I tried anything that the Internet said would work on my acne-prone skin. I DIY-ed the heck out of treatments that more often than not worked horribly. All this because I didn’t make time to talk to my skin and ask “What do you need?”

At that time, it seemed silly but doing so could’ve saved me my money and my skin. Makeup and skincare, I realized, does not carry the “one size fits all” tag.

I read once that the beauty world is dangerous to those who are naïve: those who don't take precautions, who fall into the trap of “it item” bandwagoning, who buy and buy and buy without really considering their skin's condition and needs. Sure, having so many product choices can be completely overwhelming but it will save you a great deal of trouble to learn more about your prospective purchase before throwing in all your savings. After all, won’t it feel so much better to see it work for you than having to ditch it because it broke you out?

While there are no exact rules on how to build and practice your skincare routine, there are ways to help ensure that the product you buy will actually work, won't harm your skin, and won't waste your money.

DO check the ingredients list against the product promise.

It's expected for products to carry a lot of promises as they go out to the market, as it makes it easier for people to understand how they work and the kind of product performance they can expect. That's okay but make sure to read the fine print just to see how much of it can actually be true! Aside from checking for bad ingredients to avoid, the ingredients list will help determine if a product has actually been formulated to do what it promises to do. You don't even need to be a chemist - you easily search online for the effects of common beauty ingredients. We also have features on ingredients that help to fight acne, control oil, and lessen the signs of aging..

DON’T use new products all at once. 

We've all been guilty of being too excited to try out everything in our haul all at the same time. Aside from the joy of opening up a new bottle of toner, there’s always that anxious feeling of wanting to see what great difference it can make on your skin. We know it's hard but it helps to rein that excitement in. If you have an established and trusted routine, incorporate new products in one at a time, allowing at least a week or two to pass before adding the next product. This gives your skin time to “welcome” the new member of your skincare routine and check that it works well with your other products. You can try using new products once a day or every other day to see how your skin would react.

The same holds true for first-timers. Avoid shocking your skin with an all-new 10-step routine when you didn't even use to have one! Start with cleansers followed by toners and moisturizers. This also allows you to gradually build the habit instead of rushing in and feeling overwhelmed - both you and your skin, in this case.

If you don't get any negative reactions, you can make it a permanent part of your skin care routine. Adding products one at a time helps you to better observe what effect it actually has on your skin and easily identify the culprit if you get a rash, allergy, or breakout.

Finally got your In Her Element haul? We swear by everything in here but even so, we recommend incorporating just one product at a time your skincare routine.

Finally got your In Her Element haul? We swear by everything in here but even so, we recommend incorporating just one product at a time your skincare routine.

DO take note of your skin concerns and what you are most sensitive to. 

Study your skin and how it reacts to products that you use. While it is such a heartbreak to let go of a certain product that doesn’t work for you, can help you pinpoint which ingredients to avoid the next time you try something new. If you have particularly sensitive skin or simply want to be thorough, consider keeping a skin care diary! Just take notes when your skin is feeling particularly fabulous or shitty, and list the products you were using when it happened. You may also want to list down the "suspect" ingredients and compare your notes in the future.

It also helps to know what your skin needs more than anything. This allows you to narrow down your choices of products so you won’t end up getting something that won’t help you out. If you're not sure how to assess it properly, pay a visit to your derma. They're the definitive experts on how good your skin condition is and can help you create smart treatment plans. They can also help you to identify which skin concern to focus on first so you don’t get overwhelmed with too many products.

Should you treat your pimples, hydrate dry spots, or focus on anti-aging first? Unless you have unlimited time (to apply all those products) and budget (to buy multiple products), it's best to focus on one skin concern at a time.

Should you treat your pimples, hydrate dry spots, or focus on anti-aging first? Unless you have unlimited time (to apply all those products) and budget (to buy multiple products), it's best to focus on one skin concern at a time.

DON’T just rely on beauty testimonials.

Does that sound weird coming from a site that churns out product reviews on the regular? Aside from PV, I blog hop, subscribe to beauty newsletters, and follow tons of beauty-related sites that inspire and inform my purchasing decisions. I've bought skincare items that everybody seems to love but despite all my careful research and planning, I had to learn the hard way that does not guarantee that a product would work for me. Skincare is an intensely personal experience that can vary wildly from person to person - that's why you should always keep YMMV (your mileage may vary) in mind, even as you read another rave review.

DO know the difference between purging and an all-out negative reaction from new skincare.

Purging is something you’d hear very often from people trying out new skincare. It isn’t a bad thing as it may only further indicate that the product is working and can result in your skin looking better than before. But how do you know if your breakout is caused by purging or a nasty adverse reaction to the new product? Here are a few quick tips:

  • Purging is expected to last for only about a month, which is about the time it takes for your skin to renew. If you keep getting (a lot of) new pimples even a month after your initial breakout, that may actually be a sign of irritated, unhappy skin.
  • The chances of experiencing a purge is higher when you use products that encourages faster skin turnover such as acidsexfoliants, retinoids, vitamin C, and even benzoyl peroxide-based acne treatments. If you had comedones in your skin at the time of use, these types of products can "turn" them into a full raging pimple much faster, but only because the blockage was already there to begin with. The purging then gets rid of all these clogs lurking in your skin and helps you achieve clearer skin as a result.
  • Speaking of clogs, the site of your breakout can also be an indicator of whether it's a purge or not. If it's in the same place you usually get a pimple, it may be a purge because of the comedones that are prone to forming in that area. But if you breakout in a strange spot where you don't usually get pimples, that may be a bad reaction.

If you think your skin is experiencing a purge, be patient and continue to use the product so it can finish the job. You may want to use it less often though, to give your skin some time to rest. If your breakout is caused by your skin just hating on the new product, get rid of it and go back to using what has previously worked for you.

DO use sunscreen

Yes, applying sunscreen is a guideline on its own as it affects greatly how your skin reacts to products. There are products that can increase the skin’s sun sensitivity, which in turn can cause your skin to get easily irritated or inflamed. Some examples are products with acids such as BHAs and AHAs, products with tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide, retinol, and the like. While some products carry reminders to put on sunscreen after application, it helps to just make it a habit. Putting on sunscreen everyday, regardless of the weather and the products you use, is simply non-negotiable as you always need protection from the sun. 

How do you keep your skincare routine safe and effective? Are there any rules that you follow?

Photography by Samantha Gonzales

References: LabmuffinUS News