First, determine whether or not your anti-aging, acne-centric, or calming regimen is working.
woman applying face cream
Credit: Getty / shironosov

We've all been there: We carefully craft a skin care routine, composed of a series of highly-rated products, only to look in the mirror morning after morning to lackluster results. While inflamed, burning skin is a dead giveaway that something isn't quite right in your regimen, other indications aren't quite as obvious. With that in mind, we asked New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian about signs that indicate your overarching routine—whether yours is dedicated to managing fine lines, stopping blemishes in their tracks, or calming sensitive skin—isn't working.

You're using anti-aging products, but aren't seeing a reduction in fine lines.

While anti-aging skin care routines can't fully prevent time from impacting our complexions, they can drastically diminish the appearance of its telltale signs, like fine lines—whether on your forehead or around the outer corners of your eyes. With that said, Dr. Nazarian notes that anti-aging products can be a bit ambiguous, since everyone's skin is different. "Aging skin can be dry, dull, have uneven texture, have lines from movement, lines from collagen loss, and more," she explains. "Addressing the correct issue is the first step—the second step is ensuring that the ingredient you've chosen is appropriate." Not all products labeled as time-fighters address the same signs of premature aging, she adds—and that's why your overarching routine might not be working.

As an example, she calls out retinoids—and notes that application consistency or formula strength could also be to blame. "For fine lines, retinoids work quite well, but require diligent use over several months to notice improvement," she shares. "If you're not noting any improvement, it may be because your product is too weak (retinol vs. retinoid), not being applied often enough (or for long enough), or it may just require additional ingredients to stop the lines from forming (such as adding a neuropeptide to soften muscle contractions in addition to the retinoid to improve collagen formation)."

Your adult acne-centric regimen isn't making your breakouts better.

Like all treatment routines, adult acne regimens take time to work, says Dr. Nazarian. If, after eight weeks of diligent use, you're not noticing any improvement in your breakouts—or worse, they have become more severe—it's time to rethink your product lineup. "New pimples in new areas (such as around the nose and eyes) or new types of pimples (such as whiteheads), may indicate that your acne regimen is too aggressive or being used improperly," she adds. Thankfully, there's a simple fix. "Decrease how often you're using the products and increase the use of moisturizers," she suggests. "If signs of new bumps are continuing and not decreasing in severity, discontinue the regimen altogether and discuss it with your board-certified dermatologist."

You're using gentle formulas only—but your sensitive skin is still irritated

If you have tailored your routine to your sensitive skin, but are still experiencing symptoms of irritation, Dr. Nazarian says you could be more than just sensitive to a product or ingredient—you might be allergic to it (and it might be scattered across multiple formulas in your regimen). "When choosing your products, always allow your skin to adjust to one formula for at least a week before you add in a second," she explains. "This prevents any confusion about potential allergic reactions or irritation." Although she recommends this method for anyone adding new products to their routine, she admits that it's slightly more relevant for those with sensitive skin who are more prone to develop allergic reactions.


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