Signs Your Skincare Is Doing More Harm Than Good

You don't just wash your face; you have a routine. There are serums, lotions, creams, cleansers, brighteners, scrubs, masks, and mists. Did we fail to mention that all of these skincare products weren't exactly cheap, and that they came recommended by someone who knows a thing or two about fabulous skin, whether it was a dermatologist, that aesthetician at the salon who always looks flawless, or a beauty YouTuber whose fans insist she's a skin genius? So, A plus for effort! But has your complexion actually improved since you've added all of these products?

If your skin is burning when you're using it, or you're seeing dryness, flaking, peeling, a rash or redness, or itchiness, you're definitely using the wrong stuff. A little tingling may be fine, but you're not supposed to want to slap your hands on your face like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone every time you cleanse. "In patients with sensitive skin, it's important that they carefully select products that are designed for their skin type," Terrence Keaney, MD, board-certified dermatologist, told The Healthy. Another common but troublesome reaction that's a sign you're using the wrong skincare: a squeaky-clean face. "Also known as post-wash dryness, that squeaky-clean feel means that your skin has been stripped of its essential oils and your skin barrier may be compromised," Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, explained to Glam.

Why some skincare products don't benefit your skin

So why aren't all of those bottles in your bathroom doing what they promised? Did you just end up buying a big batch of snake oil? Before you run raging back to your derm or the salon — or fire out an angry review — consider whether you might just be using too many of them. "We are encouraging people to overload their system and spend more money than is necessary," skincare expert Abi Cleeve told Refinery21. "You don't need five products in the morning and five in the evening. A good skincare routine is about targeted products that really deliver, because our skin doesn't like being overstressed."

The other issue could be you're combining ingredients that shouldn't be used together. "Don't combine alphahydroxy acids with salicylic acids and retinol. One acid may be enough," advised New York dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD (via New Beauty). And it might not even be the active ingredients that are to blame. "In addition to the magic active ingredient that a product is touting, it can contain many potentially irritating or allergenic inactive ingredients that contribute to its silky feel, fancy fragrance, or prolonged shelf life," explained Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor at the University of Southern California (per The Healthy). Your best bet? Make an appointment with your dermatologist, and bring the whole bag — err, suitcase? — of everything you use regularly, so they can troubleshoot and suggest a better plan.