July 29, 2021

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11 Weird Reasons Your Skin Care Products May Stop Working

9 min read

There’s no denying that a great skin care regimen (sunscreen included!) can keep your skin looking healthy and radiant over time, especially since prevention is key. 

However, there’s always room for cracks in even the strictest of 10-step routines, as there may be some unforeseen factors at play that can hinder the effectiveness of your product. 

To shed some light on why your products aren’t working the way they should, we tapped six board-certified dermatologists to break down everything from weather changes to medications that may be messing with your skin. 

Read on to reveal 11 reasons why your skincare products may stop working according to dermatologists.

1. Your Product Has Expired

Just like your food, your skin care products may also expire, making them not as effective as they once were, according to board-certified dermatologist Blair Murphy-Rose.  

This makes it important to check your product labels for an expiration date before you shop, she added, so you won’t waste your hard-earned money on a product that doesn’t work as long as it should. 

“I find that patients’ retinoid creams often expire while there’s still plenty left ― so it appears that the product has stopped working, but really the product just needs to be replaced,” she said. “It usually occurs about four months after opening, as even if the expiration date is ahead in the future, once opened the product seems to be less long-lived.” 

Look for products in dark glass bottles and store them out of the sunlight. (Photo: JulyProkopiv via Getty Images)
Look for products in dark glass bottles and store them out of the sunlight. (Photo: JulyProkopiv via Getty Images)

2. You’re Storing Your Products Incorrectly 

Although it’s easy to gloss over storage instructions on any product label, Rose said it’s important not to ignore them, especially since direct sunlight (or hot and humid environments) can break down the active ingredients used in your products. 

“Vitamin C serums often expire, and therefore will lose that powerful antioxidant effect,” she told HuffPost. “The best way to get the most out of these costly serums is to store them out of direct sunlight, and to even refrigerate them ― which gives the added benefit of a cold, soothing application.” 

3. Your Body Becomes Used To Your Product

As odd as it may sound, board-certified dermatologist Jeffrey Fromowitz explained that it’s possible for a product to stop working after your skin becomes used to it, making it important to rotate your products every so often. 

“The body simply adjusts, and using the product becomes the new normal for your skin,” he said. “Sometimes changing routines, products and order-of-use can lengthen the amount of time a product gives you positive skin benefits.” 

4. You Aren’t Paying Attention To Important Weather Changes

This one shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but board-certified dermatologist Peterson Pierre told HuffPost that your skin care concerns can vary depending on the season.

“Environmental factors can definitely interfere with the efficacy of your skin care regimen, so it’s important to be aware of that and make the necessary changes to keep your skin looking its best,” he told HuffPost. “Winter can cause the skin to get red, dry and irritated, while the hot and humid summer months can lead to oily skin.”

5. You’re Experiencing Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can also impact your skin, even when you aren’t on your period. Pierre said that other hormonal changes (associated with pregnancy, menopause or any hormonal imbalances) you may be experiencing can also have an effect on your skin care regimen. 

With this in mind, he advises switching up your skin care products often to help combat any acne, dryness or irritability that may arise. 

“Your skin can get oily and develop acne or it can get dull, dry and irritated,” he said. “It’s important to switch up your regimen to adapt to these changes.”  

Medications can change the condition of your skin, making it less reactive to the products you're using. (Photo: Laurence Monneret via Getty Images)
Medications can change the condition of your skin, making it less reactive to the products you’re using. (Photo: Laurence Monneret via Getty Images)

6. Your Medication May Be Causing Problems For Your Skin 

Whether internal or topical, Pierre said that medications can be another sneaky culprit behind your skin care woes. Certain medications, he explained, can cause irritation to your skin, making it important to talk to your doctor (or dermatologist) if this is of concern. 

“Certain medications can stimulate oil production and acne, while others can cause rashes and red, dry, irritated skin,” he said. “This may require an adjustment to those medications, and certainly a change in the products you use.” 

7. You Aren’t Applying Products At The Right Times

Board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Austin Cope suggested that timing may be one of the surprising reasons your skin care products aren’t working the way they should, as products like retinol, for example, are products that should be applied before bedtime and not during the day. 

“Retinols are very important, but they need to be applied at nighttime before bed,” he said. “If you wear them during the day, they are deactivated by the sun.” 

Similarly, he said this same concept applies to sunscreen, as he suggested that many people forget to reapply their block throughout the day. 

“In order to get full protection, you need to put on more sunscreen than you think is necessary,” he said. “This is problematic, because people who wear sunscreen put it on in the morning.” Then, after it’s been deactivated 90 minutes later, those people “have a false sense of security that they are still protected throughout the day.”

8. You Aren’t Consistent With Your Routine

Along with the importance of switching up your product use based on the weather, expiration dates or hormonal changes, it’s key to maintain a daily routine and try to give your skin time to adjust to it.

“The number one reason products stop working over time is the same reason diets stop working over time ― we stop doing it consistently,” he told HuffPost. “Consistency is key, as once someone falls off the consistency bandwagon, they then begin to wonder why treatments aren’t working as well as they used to.” 

Exfoliators can scrub away dead skin cells that impede your skin care products from helping your skin. (Photo: imagehub88 via Getty Images)
Exfoliators can scrub away dead skin cells that impede your skin care products from helping your skin. (Photo: imagehub88 via Getty Images)

9. You Aren’t Exfoliating Enough 

A lack of exfoliation can be another reason your serums and essences may not be working, as board-certified dermatologist Marisa K. Garshick explained that a layer of dead skin cells can prevent your product ingredients from effectively penetrating your skin. 

“If skin care products are no longer helping, it can be helpful to consider exfoliating if you are not doing so already,” Garshick said. “Exfoliating a few times per week helps to get rid of the layer of dead skin cells, which enables better penetration of product ingredients.”

10. Your Product Isn’t Strong Enough

This rings especially true for products such as antiperspirants and retinol, as Garshick said that if these products are continuously used at a low strength, they may not be as effective. 

“People prefer to start certain skin care ingredients such as exfoliants, retinoids and antiperspirants at a lower strength to ensure they can tolerate it,” she said. “However, if someone is no longer seeing benefits, it often makes sense to increase the strength.”

11. The Condition Of Your Skin Changes

Although your skin type never changes, cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green said it’s more than possible that your skin can go through different cycles. This makes it important to rotate your products often, she added, as you’ll want to ensure you address any skin concerns at a particular time. 

“Sometimes your skin can go through different cycles such dehydration, dullness, oiliness or dryness; factors that influence this can be due to climate change,” she said.

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Also on HuffPost

Sunscreen: Laroche-Posay Melt In Sunscreen Milk

&ldquo;Laroche-Posay always does well on consumer reports,&rdquo; Saedi said. &ldquo;One reason is that it&rsquo;s SPF 60, which is actually accurate. And the other reason is that it goes on really smoothly.&rdquo;&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;A lot of people don&rsquo;t like wearing sunscreen because it makes them look chalky or, if they&rsquo;re walking or biking to work, it melts on your face. &ldquo;This sunscreen just feels really nice and doesn&rsquo;t leave a residue. It also doesn&rsquo;t have any of the chemical ingredients so it&rsquo;s great for reapplying,&rdquo; she said.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;&ldquo;Most people are really bad about reapplying,&rdquo; Saedi said, &ldquo;You should reapply every two hours and even more frequently if you&rsquo;ll be in the water.&rdquo;&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;<strong>&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://www.laroche-posay.us/sunscreen/anthelios-melt-in-sunscreen-milk-spf-60-antheliosmeltinmilk.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Laroche-Posey Melt in Sunscreen Milk" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Laroche-Posey Melt in Sunscreen Milk</strong></a><strong>, $36</strong>
“Laroche-Posay always does well on consumer reports,” Saedi said. “One reason is that it’s SPF 60, which is actually accurate. And the other reason is that it goes on really smoothly.”<br><br> A lot of people don’t like wearing sunscreen because it makes them look chalky or, if they’re walking or biking to work, it melts on your face. “This sunscreen just feels really nice and doesn’t leave a residue. It also doesn’t have any of the chemical ingredients so it’s great for reapplying,” she said.<br><br> “Most people are really bad about reapplying,” Saedi said, “You should reapply every two hours and even more frequently if you’ll be in the water.”<br><br> Laroche-Posey Melt in Sunscreen Milk, $36

Sunscreen: Isdin Eryfotona Actinica

Isdin&rsquo;s Eryfotona Actinica sunscreen is extremely lightweight and easy to rub into the skin &ndash; and it&rsquo;s Rogers&rsquo; top choice. This sunscreen has a milky texture and comes in both white and a universal tint for people with darker skin. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not cheap,&rdquo; Rogers said, &ldquo;but it is very well formulated and comes with a lot of bells and whistles like antioxidants including 11% zinc oxide.&rdquo;<a href="https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/zinc-oxide/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Zinc oxide" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> Zinc oxide</a> reflects and scatters damaging UV rays.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.isdin.com/us/ultralight-emulsion-sunscreen-spf-50-eryfotona_actinica.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Isdin Eryfotona Actinica" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Isdin Eryfotona Actinica</strong></a><strong>, $55</strong>
Isdin’s Eryfotona Actinica sunscreen is extremely lightweight and easy to rub into the skin – and it’s Rogers’ top choice. This sunscreen has a milky texture and comes in both white and a universal tint for people with darker skin. “It’s not cheap,” Rogers said, “but it is very well formulated and comes with a lot of bells and whistles like antioxidants including 11% zinc oxide.” Zinc oxide reflects and scatters damaging UV rays.<br><br> Isdin Eryfotona Actinica, $55

Sunscreen: Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer

&ldquo;If you decided today that you're not going to get as much sun,&rdquo; Rogers said, &ldquo;your body could actually go back and correct some of the mutations and damage that happened in the past because it&rsquo;s not trying to keep up with any new damage you're doing.&rdquo;&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;According to Rogers, Drunk Elephant sunscreen comes with a whole slew of antioxidants including<a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/astaxanthin_b_2750910" data-ylk="slk:astaxanthin" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> astaxanthin</a>, grape juice and sunflower shoot extracts. It&rsquo;s also infused with raspberry seed and marula oils.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.drunkelephant.com/products/umbra-sheer-physical-daily-defense-spf-30" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer</strong></a><strong>, $34</strong>
“If you decided today that you’re not going to get as much sun,” Rogers said, “your body could actually go back and correct some of the mutations and damage that happened in the past because it’s not trying to keep up with any new damage you’re doing.”<br><br> According to Rogers, Drunk Elephant sunscreen comes with a whole slew of antioxidants including astaxanthin, grape juice and sunflower shoot extracts. It’s also infused with raspberry seed and marula oils. Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer, $34

Sunscreen: Supergoop Zinc Sunscreen

Rogers is also a fan of Supergoop Zinc Sunscreen, a 100% mineral SPF 40, non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen. The pink-hued lotion is infused with ingredients like winter cherry, coconut fruit and blueberry extracts to help nourish your skin.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;<a href="https://supergoop.com/products/zincscreen-100-mineral-lotion" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Supergoop Zinc Sunscreen" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Supergoop Zinc Sunscreen</strong></a><strong>, $42</strong>
Rogers is also a fan of Supergoop Zinc Sunscreen, a 100% mineral SPF 40, non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen. The pink-hued lotion is infused with ingredients like winter cherry, coconut fruit and blueberry extracts to help nourish your skin.<br><br> Supergoop Zinc Sunscreen, $42

Lip Balm: Vaseline Lip Therapy

When it comes to lip balms, Rogers advises against using anything with excess ingredients like cinnamon, mint or even lanolin.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&ldquo;Your lips don't have a characterizing layer on them so they&rsquo;re going to absorb the chemicals so much more than other parts of your body,&rdquo; she said. So what does Rogers recommend when it comes to lip balms? Good old fashioned Vaseline.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;<strong>&nbsp;</strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Vaseline-Petroleum-Providing-Hydration-Essential/dp/B07HRK9Z3J/ref=sr_1_17" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Vaseline Lip Therapy" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Vaseline Lip Therapy</strong></a><strong>, $2</strong>
When it comes to lip balms, Rogers advises against using anything with excess ingredients like cinnamon, mint or even lanolin.<br><br>“Your lips don’t have a characterizing layer on them so they’re going to absorb the chemicals so much more than other parts of your body,” she said. So what does Rogers recommend when it comes to lip balms? Good old fashioned Vaseline.<br><br> Vaseline Lip Therapy, $2

Anti-Aging: Differin Adapalene

If you&rsquo;re looking for a retinoid instead of a retinol (retinoids are more potent),&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2374937/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:prescription strength adapalene" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> prescription strength adapalene</a> is now available over the counter.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;&ldquo;You can get it at any drug store now for about $15,&rdquo; Saedi said, &ldquo;which is kind of amazing because two years ago if you were to get it without insurance, it was close to $300.&rdquo; Differin helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles and maintains clear skin.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Differin-Adapalene-0-1-Acne-Treatment/dp/B07L1PHSY9/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Differin Adapalene" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Differin Adapalene</strong></a><strong>, $15</strong>
If you’re looking for a retinoid instead of a retinol (retinoids are more potent),  prescription strength adapalene is now available over the counter.<br><br> “You can get it at any drug store now for about $15,” Saedi said, “which is kind of amazing because two years ago if you were to get it without insurance, it was close to $300.” Differin helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles and maintains clear skin.<br><br> Differin Adapalene, $15

Anti-Aging: Oil of Olay Regenerist Retinol 24

As for retinols, Saedi recommends the Oil of Olay Regenerist line and Skinceutical retinol cream. &lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;<br><a href="https://www.olay.com/regenerist-retinol-24-night-facial-moisturizer-fragrance-free" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Oil of Olay Regenerist Retinol24" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Oil of Olay Regenerist Retinol24 </strong></a><strong>, $39</strong>
As for retinols, Saedi recommends the Oil of Olay Regenerist line and Skinceutical retinol cream. <br><br>
Oil of Olay Regenerist Retinol24 , $39

Anti-Aging: SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3 Cream

Saedi is also a fan of SkinCeuticals, which makes a few different retinol creams. The 0.3 cream is recommended for first-time retinol users because of its gentler, less potent formula. Once skin has become conditioned to retinol usage, it&rsquo;s usually possible to move to a higher concentrated retinol. SkinCeuticals has 0.5 and 1.0 products as well.&lt;br&gt;&lt;Br&gt;&nbsp;Skin can be very sensitive to retinol, so it&rsquo;s best to start out with a small amount. Also, pregnant women should not use retinols.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.skinceuticals.com/retinol-0.3-3606000507142.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Skinceuticals Retinol Cream" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Skinceuticals Retinol Cream</strong></a><strong>, $67</strong>
Saedi is also a fan of SkinCeuticals, which makes a few different retinol creams. The 0.3 cream is recommended for first-time retinol users because of its gentler, less potent formula. Once skin has become conditioned to retinol usage, it’s usually possible to move to a higher concentrated retinol. SkinCeuticals has 0.5 and 1.0 products as well.<br><Br> Skin can be very sensitive to retinol, so it’s best to start out with a small amount. Also, pregnant women should not use retinols.<br><br> Skinceuticals Retinol Cream, $67

Face Wash: Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Cream Cleanser

When it comes to face washing, Saedi said sometimes she thinks people wash their faces too many times a day. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no set standard,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;but I&rsquo;d suggest a max of twice a day.&rdquo; Saedi personally uses and recommends the Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit line.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;<br>Saedi likes this face wash because it has salicylic acid, which helps break up things that clog your pores. &ldquo;I feel like the grapefruit kind of brightens your skin a bit,&rdquo; she added.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;<a href="https://www.neutrogena.com/skin/pink-grapefruit-acne-face-wash-and-cleanser-with-vitamin-c-and-salicylic-acid/6805365XX.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Cream Cleanser" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Cream Cleanser</strong></a><strong>, $9</strong>
When it comes to face washing, Saedi said sometimes she thinks people wash their faces too many times a day. “There’s no set standard,” she said, “but I’d suggest a max of twice a day.” Saedi personally uses and recommends the Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit line.<br><br>
Saedi likes this face wash because it has salicylic acid, which helps break up things that clog your pores. “I feel like the grapefruit kind of brightens your skin a bit,” she added.<br><br> Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Cream Cleanser, $9

Face Wash: PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash

For people who are worried about bacteria on their skin or who get a lot of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/pustules-facts" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:pustules" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">pustules</a>, Saedi suggests using a benzoyl peroxide wash like PanOxyl. Pustules are those raised pimples filled with pus. &lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;&nbsp;<a href="https://www.panoxyl.com/acne-products/acne-creamy-wash/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash</strong></a><strong>, $12</strong>
For people who are worried about bacteria on their skin or who get a lot of pustules, Saedi suggests using a benzoyl peroxide wash like PanOxyl. Pustules are those raised pimples filled with pus. <br><br> PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash, $12

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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