Can Your Skin Become Immune to Skincare Products?

December 29, 2021
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | by L'Oréal
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If the strict and steady skincare routine that once gave you glowing, healthy-looking and balanced skin has seemingly stopped working, don’t stress. While it may seem like your skin isn’t responding to your everyday retinoid, moisturizer or serum like it used to, that’s likely not the case.

To find out why skincare products may not be providing the same visible results they did originally and learn how to help reboot our skincare routine, we consulted with Dr. Sapna Palep, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York and expert. See what she had to say, ahead.

Can Retinoids and Acids Stop Working?

Even if you feel like your products have stopped producing the same results they once did (read: perfectly exfoliated, adequately hydrated and glowing skin), they haven’t. “You can’t get desensitized to your routine,” says Dr. Palep. She explains that it’s a lot more likely that your skin is experiencing acclimation to your products rather than desensitization. When acclimation occurs, your skin has completed the renewal phase (like shedding skin cells) and begun the maintenance phase.

This is especially true when dealing with retinoids or acids. Dr. Palep says that a lack of peeling and irritation is a good thing. “It just means that you have acclimated your skin and thinned down your stratum corneum [the outer layer of the skin] to a point where it can’t thin anymore, so the skin can’t peel anymore.”

So while you may no longer see visible changes or improvement to your skin’s appearance, it doesn’t mean you should cut the product from your routine altogether. “Don’t stop using the product because your stratum corneum and dead skin are just going to rebuild,” says Dr. Palep.

Using a larger quantity of the product won’t do you any good either, especially with retinoids or acids. She says, “At that point you’ll want to talk to your doctor about increasing the strength or concentration of your product.” That said, if your skin looks good and responds well to your current lineup, keep your routine as is.

What About Cleansers and Moisturizers?

If you suspect that your holy grail moisturizer, cleanser or serum has stopped giving your skin its former hydration or glow, think again. Just like retinoids and acids, your skin can’t become desensitized to cleansers, moisturizers and serums. That said, external factors can change how these products interact with your skin.

“If you have a great hyaluronic acid moisturizer, for instance, and then all of a sudden it doesn’t seem like your skin is responding to it in the same way, chances are there’s something else in your routine that’s not allowing the hyaluronic acid to penetrate the way it used to,” says Dr. Palep. She explains that this is likely due to minor changes in your skin’s pH, which should be slightly acidic. Fluctuations in your skin’s pH can be caused by a variety of factors like using sunscreen, exfoliating or even adding a new skincare product into the mix.

The environment can also affect how your skin looks. For example, your heavy winter moisturizer may be too much for skin come summer and lead to breakouts. And your lightweight moisturizer may give your skin a plump appearance in the warm weather but not offer enough hydration when the season changes. All of these factors are about what else is going on around you, not the product itself.

cerave hydrating facial cleanser

How to Reset Your Skin

If you’re not sure what’s causing your skin to seemingly stop responding well to your current lineup, though, it may be time to start from scratch. “Sometimes the best thing you can do for your skin is to reset, go cold turkey,” says Dr. Palep. “Use a basic cleanser and a basic moisturizer — that’s it.” We recommend the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser and the CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Dr. Palep advises sticking to a basic routine for at least a few weeks and then reevaluating what serums, masks or treatments need to be added back in. “Sometimes less is more, so don’t throw the kitchen sink at your skin,” she says. “You’ll be surprised by what you actually need.”

Visual Designer: Hannah Packer

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