Do You Need To Switch Out Skincare Products For Efficacy?

By Minji

  • The claim that you need to regularly switch out skincare products to maintain efficacy is a myth
  • Skin doesn't become desensitized to skincare products any more than your body might become desensitized to healthy foods
  • Next time you feel like your skin is in a blah steady state, instead of  impulsively switching out product, think about other factors 

Have you ever heard that you need to regularly switch out skincare products to maintain efficacy? After hearing this, have you ever given up your tried and true go-to serum or moisturizer and scoured the market to find a substitute, only to be disappointed and wish you could go back to your beloved staples? 

Well, I certainly have. I’ve heard from so many different sources that your skin can adapt to, and build up resistance towards, products used regularly and eventually stop being effective.  I’ve seen this claim in magazines, blog articles, my friends have told me, etc. 

I've become convinced that this is not true.  Of all of the books on skincare written by K-beauty and skincare experts, there’s one in particular that I love, written by three famous dermatologists in Seoul.  In that book, all three doctors tell us that this is just another one of those skincare myths.

They explain, skin doesn't become desensitized to skincare products any more than your body might become desensitized to healthy every day foods.  The claim that your skin could become immune to skincare products comes from people comparing skincare products to medicine or drugs. 

The error in that approach is that, despite what marketing messages might have you believe, skincare products aren’t as potent or effective as antibiotics or other drugs – if they were, even in the U.S., you would imagine they would be regulated more strictly! 

The better analogy for skincare is food – eating healthy foods like kale will help your day to day overall health and complexion and are absolutely necessary for long term health and wellness. However, you wouldn’t expect kale or other healthy foods to immediately clear up a skin condition or cure some disorder by itself like drugs might. 

Just like you don’t build up resistance to certain foods even if you eat them daily, chances are you won’t to skincare ingredients sold without prescriptions.  As long as you are applying products that contain ingredients that are good for your skin, it should be effective and your skin should remain healthy.  Note that many of the celebrated skincare ingredients today, such as vitamin C, E, hyaluronic acid, collagen, etc., are all also ingredients found in food. 

If you notice your skin improving less or reaching a steady state, it could be your skin just maintaining its new found glowful happy medium (whereas, before you used the products, there were many problems that needed attention). 

If you notice that your skin is getting worse, there could be other factors in play such as products passing their expiration date and losing their efficacy, or other elements of the environment making it seem like they’re less effective – for example, when the weather gets colder/dryer, your normal moisturizer might not seem like it’s keeping your skin hydrated enough.

Also, vitamin C and retinol are inherently unstable ingredients so if you buy products with packaging where your products are exposed to light or air, they might become less effective.  Best to look for airtight pump with either amber or opaque packaging when you’re buying products with these types of unstable ingredients.  

So next time you feel like your skin is getting worse or in a blah steady state, instead of immediately jumping to conclusions and suspecting your skincare products’ work ethic, think about the changes in environment, your habits, diet, schedules, exercise, stress or other factors that might be influencing your skin.