Ten Reasons You Aren't Seeing Results from Your Skin Care

Hello hello! We are coming into autumn, which means you might be thinking of switching up your skin care. (More on that in this blog.) But before we go restocking our medicine cabinets and vanities, I thought I'd take a minute to address a common concern when it comes to skincare: What if you just don't feel like your product is working?

This is not uncommon and you probably aren't crazy. There are a lot of factors that play into whether or not you are able to get results from your regimen. Let's talk about some of the common ones!

Reasons You Aren't Seeing Results:

1. You haven't been using it long enough

This one might seem overly simple but I see this a lot. We use a product for maybe a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks and then our skin hasn't changed, so we throw it out and try something else. Unfortunately when this happens, you never really get a chance to see long-term benefits because you didn't use the product long-term.

Our skin takes about 28 days to complete a normal turnover cycle and this also slows with age. If your skin has been neglected or if you've been using another product for quite some time, it can take several months for your skin to adjust. Some products like serums and retinols can cause the skin to purge impurities or peel and flake when you first use them. While you should never use a product that continually irritates your skin, there are definitely instances where your skin might get a little worse before it starts to get better.

When it comes to new products, I like to recommend that clients stick with it for at least a month, as long as they aren't having a negative reaction. It's always important to remember that treating the skin is a progressive journey. Not an overnight fix.

2. You aren't using it correctly

Similar to not using a product for long enough, sometimes even your tried and true products won't work if you only use them when you feel like it or when you remember. If you've invested in a spendy mask or serum, your inclination might be to save it for a rainy day or only use it for special occasions. Unfortunately, this means your skin is only getting that nutrition on a very sporadic basis, which isn't enough to let it do its job.

That said, you can also thwart your own best efforts by using something too much. Things like scrubs or active cleansers and toners can be addictive because we like the way our skin feels post-exfoliation. But with skin care, sometimes less really is more. Using exfoliating products more often than you need to can start to strip your skin of the lipids and oils that comprise your natural protective barrier. When that happens, you can start to lose moisture more easily. Dry irritated skin can become inflamed and breakouts can even be exacerbated by over exfoliation. Follow the directions with your products and you'll likely get a much better end result.

3. You're using something that isn't quite right for your skin type

We all know the world of beauty products is vast and overwhelming. Marketing geniuses would like to make this easier for us by dividing up skin care lines by skin type. It's pretty typical when shopping a brand to see several different lines of product. They are usually cleverly named and color coded to address common skin concerns - Acne, Aging, Dry Skin, etc. And while this might be somewhat helpful to pointing you in the right direction, it doesn't really take into consideration the fact that the skin is nuanced and many of us are struggling with more than one issue.

Putting skin types into a box and then steering consumers accordingly might yield results some of the time. But more often than not, I see skin that is compromised or damaged because a client chose a product line that attacked one issue but may have been otherwise contraindicated. This is one of my main beefs with non-licensed peeps selling skin care. It's easy to point a customer toward one line when you're in sales, but a licensed professional can help you mix and match several lines, safely, to treat the skin as a whole.

The most common example I see is people with dry skin and acne. Instinctively, you'd go for the acne line because you want those breakouts gone, right? Unfortunately, because most acne lines are full of harsh drying ingredients to target oiliness, a person with already dry skin is going to end up making things worse. Anti-aging is another one that gets people. We think if it's "anti-aging" it's gotta be good right? No one wants to age, so when in doubt, let's ward it off! In this case, however, many products geared at aging focus heavily on potent active ingredients and not on moisture or oil control or promoting healing. Some of these products can be aggressive and irritating to the skin if you haven't been doing skin care prior or have sensitive skin. These products could end up compromising your skin before they have a chance to do anything beneficial.

4. You bought it a drug store/department store

As we've talked about before in this blog, there are differences between over-the-counter products and professional grade products. The biggest one being the ability of the product to penetrate your skin.

Assuming you've found an OTC product that's perfect for your skin type and concerns and that you're using it as directed, you might use it for months or even years without seeing real change. Why? Because by law that product isn't designed to actually work within your skin. Alpha-hydroxy acids, antioxidants and other power ingredients really need to be able to work below the surface. But if you didn't get the product from a pro-strength line, that just isn't happening.

The other problem with these over the counter products is that they are primarily filler. There may just not be enough of the good stuff in there to really do anything. So while there's no harm in continuing to use a product that you like, don't expect to see drastic changes from using it.

5. Your skin has changed

Sometimes, it's just not you. It's your skin. With age, with hormones, with other external and internal factors, it's natural and normal for your skin to evolve and change. While you can't change your skin type, with age, skin produces less oil and turns over less quickly. Over time, it's possible that your skin has shifted and needs a new kind of attention. The same thing can happen if you've recently moved to a new climate or experienced changes in your health.

If a product that once worked great is suddenly breaking you out, drying you out or not doing what it used to do do for you, you may want to consider changing course. Maybe you've spent some time battling acne, but now it's under control and you're still using an acne product. In reality it might be time to switch to something for combination skin to maintain your skin health.

As I mentioned above, a truly customized routine tends to be best. I recommend staying attuned to your skins needs from season to season and be open minded to the fact that you may not have the same skin you had as a teenager or even three years go.

6. It's something internal

This isn't what most people want to hear when it comes to their skin. We'd love it if we could just slap some cream on or make all of our skin woes go away with one facial. Sometimes, I meet clients who seem to be doing everything exactly right but they still struggle with acne or inflammation. When this happens, it can be extremely frustrating. And yet, many many times after a little detective work we find that there's more going on below the surface.

The answer might actually lie in treating the internal symptoms before your skin can reap any benefits. It may involve changing birth control, eliminating certain foods from your diet or finding new ways to manage stress levels. These are just a few examples of issues in the body showing up in the skin. While it may not seem like the easiest fix, I do recommend considering some of these factors before giving up on your skin or a product. Sometimes all of the best products and treatments in the world, can't help your skin if there's a deeper root cause.

7. You aren't wearing your SPF

This is a really simple one, but it's true! Beyond all of the practical reasons for incorporating SPF in your daily face care routine, here's another check in the pros column for sunscreen. UV rays from the sun can really wreak havoc by causing damage to the skin, which can then result in inflammation, irritation or dryness.

If you're a sun worshipper and don't take pains to protect your face, you might actually be counteracting the work that some of your other products are doing. Brighteners are pointless if you don't prevent the exposure that caused skin discoloration in the first place. The free radical fighting properties of a vitamin C serum can only do so much if you're turning around and exposing yourself to more free radicals. Not to mention certain exfoliating products like AHAs and retinols can actually make your skin more sensitive to the sun. If you don't bother to apply a sun block following the use of these products you could end up wasting your money AND ending up with more sun damage. Protect your investment and just wear the sunscreen!

8. You've already stripped your natural barrier

A number of things can destroy your natural barrier. Using harsh products, exfoliating too much, environment or even just using products with the wrong pH. When this happens your skin becomes imbalanced and can become sensitive even to products that it previously tolerated. You may notice that product isn't absorbing correctly or that everything reacts when you put it on. Extreme dryness and acne are not uncommon when this happens because barrier function is what helps your skin stay in healthy.

Needless to say, when you're dealing with an impaired barrier, not much of anything is going to work as intended. The best thing to do is to back off and let your skin heal. Focus on products that are hydrating, soothing and anti-inflammatory. Avoid harsh exfoliation and active products. It may take a couple of weeks or even a couple of months to get your skin back on track, but eventually your skin will bounce back and you can start to introduce products back in.

9. You're using too many different things on your skin

Those of us who love product (guilty!) tend to always be switching it up in order to try new things. But if this is you, don't be surprised when you aren't seeing the dramatic results you hoped for. I don't think I have to tell you that using eighteen different things on your face on a weekly basis could be confusing for your skin. Lack of consistency can leave the skin kind of lackluster because nothing is getting used enough to make an impact. Certain combinations of products might even cancel each other out or aggravate your skin, if you're mixing it up too much.

It's okay to play with new products, but if you truly want to see corrective results, you need to pare it down to just a few focused products. And while I'm not against mixing product lines, it is true that brands design their products to work in tandem with other products from the line. You may not lack for results when you mix lines, but you just might be able to see even better results by using all the products as intended.

10. It's expired or contaminated

Do you check your products periodically and toss older containers? Most beauty products now use a labeling code that allows you to know how long it will stay good. It usually looks like a small jar and will have a number listed 6M, 12M, 24M, etc. This refers to the number of months that the product will be viable after opening. Most products have a shelf life of 6 months to 3 years prior to opening and then a different shelf life once open. It's important to pay attention to this as well as cues such as the product changing color or smell.

Also beware how products are stored. Extreme heat or exposure to UV can cause products to turn faster and lose their effectiveness.


Still with me? While these are ten very common reasons skin care can be ineffective, there are so many more. The best thing you can do is pay attention to what you purchase and how you use it. Set realistic expectations and monitor your skin's progress month-to-month. Once you know how your skin reacts to certain things, it will become easier and easier to identify the right products for your skin and use them to your advantage.

Still have questions? Email me at jenny@iheartskindenver.com

About the blog:

This is a blog about everyday skin health. As an esthetician I strive to provide comprehensive skin care advice and knowledge to anyone who wants to know more.

Read on and please don't hesitate to reach out! I love educating people about their skin and am always happy to respond to questions.

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