Skincare red flags to look out for when trying new products

You’ve started using a new beauty product and your skin is not happy. Here’s how to tell if it’s a skincare red flag or if your body’s reaction is normal.

With endless beauty TikToks and an overwhelming array of beauty products and procedures at our fingertips, it’s no wonder the temptation to try the latest craze or “it” product is high.

This is especially true when it comes to skincare.

There are so many of us wanting and willing to invest in our skin that in 2021 the skincare market in Australia was valued at $1.3 billion.

So, how do you know if your fancy new face cream is actually working or doing harm?

There are a few ways to tell.

Skincare red flag: Skin redness

Dermatologist and director of Complete Skin Specialists Dr Cara McDonald says it’s normal to experience some minor skin redness when using new skincare products.

“Many skincare ingredients stimulate new cell turnover and promote shedding of the older superficial layers of skin,” Dr McDonald says.

“Eventually this gives rise to a fresher, healthier skin layer, which may appear smoother and brighter – but it can look worse before it looks better.”

If the problem persists for a long period, however, and is coupled by other symptoms such as itching or burning, dermatologist Dr Anita Patel suggests you stop using the product to see if your skin settles down.

“If it doesn’t settle down, see your GP, and if your GP can’t help you or feels that you need more specialist treatment, then they’ll refer you to a dermatologist,” Dr Patel, of Complete Dermatology Bondi, says.

Skincare red flag: Itching and burning skin

“If you experience mild burning or itching, you may have a compromised skin barrier, related to a change in the skin turnover,” Dr McDonald says.

“If, however, you experience significant itching or an obvious rash, then it may suggest an allergy to the product being used.

“It is also possible to become allergic to skincare ingredients after you have been using them for some time,” she says.

To address any allergy concerns, Dr McDonald advises ceasing application of the product completely and only using gentle, bland skincare products until the skin settles.

“If you are uncertain as to the cause of the itch and rash, then it is a good idea to do a small test area on the jawline, known as a repeat open application test (ROAT), before restarting the product,” Dr McDonald says.

Depending on the severity of the irritation or how long it lasts, it might be a good idea to see a medical practitioner about the problem.

Skincare red flag: Skin is peeling

Peeling can be a common reaction when you start using active skincare ingredients in your routine such as retinol or acids.

“If the product has a retinol in it, which is a vitamin A, the retinol can cause some rapid turnover of the surface epidermal cells in the skin, which can lead to peeling,” Dr Patel says.

“It’s not really a problem unless there is some associated irritation of the skin such as itching.”

If you experience severe or persistent peeling, Dr McDonald recommends you stop using the product and wait for the peeling to cease before starting to apply it again very gradually.

“If the peeling is minor, then it can be managed with additional gentle moisturiser, and it will usually settle within a couple of weeks of starting a new ingredient,” she says.

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Written by Tania Gomez.