“Weather changes, internal health, and lifestyle [habits] are the main factors that drive the need to adjust skin-care regimens,” says Biba De Sousa, a Los Angeles-based esthetician and founder of Biba De Sousa Los Angeles, her eponymous skin-care line. “Balancing a consistent routine with the need for changes in the skin-care practice requires a thoughtful approach.”
It’s necessary to reassess what skin needs so frequently because most concerns (like hyperpigmentation and acne) tend to be easier to chip away at when they’re in their beginning stages versus when they’re set in. “My advice to clients is to listen to their skin and pay close attention to changes that are happening to them,” she says.
Just like with a bra fitting, it may be worth consulting a professional to help guide you through this process, as they’ll be able to spot cues from your skin that signal an improper product fit. De Sousa does this frequently with her clients, and explains that each and every complexion she comes across requires education around skin type and concerns. After assessing, she recommends a core skin-care routine that includes a cleanser, moisturizer, and sun protection that should stay fairly consistent over a six-month stint.
Below, De Sousa shares the most common reasons you may need to treat yourself to a skin-care reset. Take stock of all of this now, at the top of the year, then plan to do it all over again come June.
1. You’re over-exfoliating
Over-exfoliating is a surefire way to strip your skin barrier, which in turn keeps your complexion from functioning properly. According to De Sousa, there are a few different ways that you can do this:
Washing your face the wrong way
For starters, when you wash your face, many of the details (what type of cleanser and how often you wash) depend on what kind of complexion you have. For drier or more sensitive complexions, reach for a cream or oil-based cleanser to help dissolve the residue on your skin with the like-dissolves-like method. For oilier or acne-prone complexions, look for foaming or gel-based cleansers that contain hydrating ingredients. By tailoring the first step in your regimen to your skin type, you’re able to give your skin what it needs later on, as well.
While most experts recommend washing your face in the morning to remove any treatment products that may sensitize your skin to sun and at night to wash away the gunk from the day, it’s also important to note that if your skin feels tight after your wash, you may only need to do so once-a-day. Conversely, if your skin is extra oily, an expert may recommend a mid-day wipe or micellar water to help tamp down the shine.
Over-using acids and scrubs
In modern-day skin-care formulations, we’re often getting many benefits from a single product. “There are so many hidden exfoliating agents in otherwise benign products, like creams labeled with words like ‘renewal,'” Angelina Umansky, an esthetician based in San Francisco, previously told Well+Good. “Many people are using products that contain acids and retinol derivatives together, and since their skin could tolerate the combination at the beginning, they assume it’s working.”
Umansky says to look for dryness, redness, and irritation in the skin, and if you notice these things, it may be time to switch out your products. She suggests getting back to basics with easy-does-it products that calm and regulate your skin with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, essential fatty acids, and B vitamins.
Using comedogenic products
If you’re prone to skin congestion, you probably know that you should stay away from cocoa butter, glycerin, beeswax, and other comedogenic (or “pore-clogging”) ingredients like almond oil or avocado oil, as dermatologist Parvisha Patel, MD, has previously advised. But what you may not realize is that over-exfoliation can actually cause comedones to close as a protection mechanism. So, talk with your own esthetician about how often you should exfoliate and with what.
2. You’re not hydrating or moisturizing enough
Particularly around the cozy season, adding a big dose of hydration and moisturization to your skin is important—and that can mean more than just slathering on a single moisturizing product and calling it a day. Hydrating ingredients are those—like hyaluronic acid—that pull water into the skin to keep it functioning optimally. Moisturizers are products that sit on top of the skin and prevent the water from evaporating out and trap the water into your skin, such as ceramides.
In the cooler months, you need both hydrators and moisturizers, because the cold, dry air can pull water out of the skin. “ Harsh outdoor conditions, combined with indoor heating, require clients to implement more hydration and moisturizing and to back off on exfoliation,” says De Sousa.
3. You’re using the wrong treatment product
If you’re using the wrong actives, then you might not be getting the results that you want to see, according to De Sousa. Here’s a quick run-down of popular skin-care ingredients and what they do—the better you understand what you’re putting on your face, the easier it will be to understand what’s working (and what’s not).
A potent antioxidant and free-radical fighter, vitamin C is known to fend off the signs of aging, like collagen breakdown, which causes fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps guard against hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase.
The most-studied skin-care ingredient, retinol has been shown to speed up skin-cell turnover and turn on your body’s own ability to produce collagen and elastin, leading skin to look plumper over time.
This B vitamin “helps increase cellular turnover, as well as promoting new collagen production. It also helps combat hyperpigmentation and boosts the skin’s production of natural ceramides, as well as reducing inflammation in the skin, which makes it a nice choice for those who suffer from breakouts that tend to turn into post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation,” Geeta Yadav, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology previously told Well+Good.
This hydrating ingredient is a humectant that holds one thousand times its weight in water. So when it sinks into the skin, it attracts moisture in the air and holds onto the moisture in your complexion so that your skin stays well-functioning and dewy.