How to Tell if You’re Overworking Your Skin

By Mary Radford, RN

Here’s a concept for you: Too much of a great thing can really be not-so-great for your skin. Using too many skincare products too frequently and/or too enthusiastically can overwork your skin, leaving it looking and feeling worse instead of better.  

What Overworked Skin Looks and Feels Like

From my experience as a dermatology nurse, I can tell right away when someone has been overdoing it. Their face looks red, irritated, puffy, shiny and inflamed all over, or in symmetrical spots like the cheeks. If this is what you’re seeing, or if you feel a stinging or burning sensation, you may be overworking your skin.

Typical ways people overdo it include the following.

Too much: Using multiple active ingredients at once; layering on competing products such as Retinal, Alpha-hydroxy Acids, scrubs and peels.

Too often: Not following instructions to ramp up product usage; not testing a new product on your skin first to be sure you can tolerate it; using a derma-roller or exfoliator too frequently. 

Too hard: Scrubbing too enthusiastically, squeezing clogged pores or pimples.

Why Overworked Skin Looks Older

So, what causes us to do this to our own precious skin? A lot of us live by the philosophy “more is better.” We’ll see dramatic Before-and-After photos and believe by doing more we can achieve better results faster.  

The truth is, skin has a delicate lipid barrier that holds moisture in and keeps irritants out. If this barrier is distressed, microscopic fissures can form and predispose skin to moisture loss, infection and irritation. Skin can become less tolerant to skincare products and look red, dry and blotchy, with increased lines. 

In their book, Write Your Skin a Prescription for Change, the Doctors explain that once the lipid barrier is compromised by “excessive cosmetic overuse or friction or rubbing,” skin goes into a “downward spiral.” 

Caring for Overworked Skin

First of all, immediately stop any abusive behavior like over-exfoliating, picking or squeezing. Avoid the sun, and take a break from any products that may have caused the irritation. You can soothe skin with crushed ice in a plastic bag wrapped with a soft cloth, applied for three to five minutes every 20 minutes.

If your skin doesn’t calm down after 24 hours, you might want to see your dermatologist for an evaluation. Bring a list of the products you’ve been using. (You can show your doctor the ingredients in your Rodan + Fields products; just find each product on our website and select the “ingredients” tab.)

Products to Help Overworked Skin

If you’ve compromised your skin’s moisture barrier, all is not lost. You can help strengthen it again with gentle products. That’s what the Rodan + Fields SOOTHE Regimen is all about. Use SOOTHE Gentle Cream Wash, then test a small amount of SOOTHE Sensitive Skin Treatment on the area. If your skin tolerates it, apply full-face twice a day. Help protect skin from the sun with SOOTHE Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30.

SOOTHE Rescue Mask is a great way to calm skin, no matter which Rodan + Fields Regimen you use. This soothing calamine face mask reveals softer, smoother-looking skin in just 10 minutes and calms visible redness and dry, irritated skin over time.

Active Hydration Serum has Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid to deliver optimal hydration for all skin types. This is exactly what to use after cleansing when your skin feels tight, dry, rough and dehydrated.

Most of all, be kind to your skin (and yourself), have patience, don’t overdo it, and you’ll see the results you’re hoping for.  

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