Active ingredients are highly potent and designed to penetrate deep into the skin where they stimulate different responses at a cellular level. As effective as they are, active ingredients have the potential to cause irritation and sensitisation, so it is important to incorporate them into your routine with consideration for your skin’s natural barrier function. Below are some suggestions on where to start.
Do a patch test
Always carry out a patch test prior to using it on your face to ensure the product is right for you. I recommend doing this on your neck as the skin is generally thinner than on the face, so if the product is well-tolerated by the neck it should generally be fine to use elsewhere. Look for any negative reactions such as redness, dryness, irritation, bumps and rash-like symptoms. If these occur within a few days of doing the patch test, the product is probably not right for you.
Introduce products gradually
It’s always best to introduce one new active product at a time into your routine. We want to ensure that we are supporting our skin and barrier function by not overdoing it all at once. Introducing one product at a time also allows you to monitor how your skin is responding to the specific product, rather than flooding it with an onslaught of active ingredients and not being able to work out which is working and which is causing irritation. Wait a month (the time in which it takes for the skin to naturally renew itself) before introducing any other new active products.
Start in low doses
Many active products are available at different percentile doses, it’s best to start with the lowest dose possible if you’re introducing an active for the first time, using it once or twice a week to begin with before slowly building up to more frequent use over the course of a few weeks or even months.
Be prepared for purging
The skin can take a while to adjust to the new product. When first introduced, active ingredients can temporarily cause irritation, which might include dryness, sensitivity or breakouts and congestion. It’s important to know the difference between a break-out or irritation and skin purging, the latter being completely normal. Skin purging is the result of a new product drawing impurities out of the pores, pushing them to the surface of the skin. These typically appear in the same place you would regularly breakout. A breakout or irritation on the other hand is the result of your skin reacting to the product, often signalling it isn’t right for your complexion. These will appear in new areas where you don’t usually break out, and will also last longer than a skin purge. Help to mitigate these effects by continuing the use of your nourishing, hydrating and antioxidant products to support the skin’s natural barrier.
Wait for results
Unlike using masks or facial massage, the results from active ingredients are not instantaneous. Expect to wait 4-6 weeks to see the first benefits, and then 3-4 months of continued usage to really witness results. It takes around 28 days for the top layer of the skin to turnover; a few cycles of this renewal process will give the best indication of positive change.