12 Reasons Your Skincare Routine Is No Longer Working For You

Some of you like changing it up. Some of you like sticking to the tried-and-true. Whichever camp you fall into, your skincare routine usually follows your mantra. Unfortunately, sometimes, whether you like it or not, your skincare routine may seem to just be going wrong. Breakouts, rashes, itchiness, and dryness suddenly seem to spring up where they weren't before.

Skin conditions are nothing new, as most people in the United States suffer from one ailment or another, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD). To give you a rough estimate of their numbers: 50 million Americans suffer from acne, one in ten suffer from atopic dermatitis, seven and a half million suffer from psoriasis, and 16 million suffer from rosacea. All-in-all, that's about one-third of the United States that suffers from some form of skin issue.

But how exactly do you know that your skincare routine is the problem and not something else? The first step, of course, is to rule out anything else. Sounds easy, but this can be hard. Once you've conquered that, though, there are a few steps you can take to make sure that the routine you've accustomed yourself to isn't doing your skin more harm than good.

Rule everything else out first

Some of your skin changes might be due to environmental causes or contact with an allergen that you haven't had before. Usually, these will be resolved by limiting contact with that allergen or changing your environment. We know that's easier said than done though. Environmental causes could be a whole range of things from the water your drink and bathe in, to the air you breathe, to the temperature it is outside.

Old-fashioned stress can also be contributing to outbreaks or changes in your skin. Stress induces hormonal changes which will wreak havoc on your skin's ability to adapt to the environment and will leave it susceptible to nuisances that it would have otherwise overcome.

Skin issues can also be a symptom of something else entirely going on with your body. Healthline cautions that underlying conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and lupus can present in the form of skin problems. If there is some indication that you might have one of the above-listed conditions, talking to your doctor and resolving the main issue is best, rather than targeting your symptoms one at a time.

You don't know your skin type

Knowing the type of skin that you have can be a crucial step to properly setting up your skincare routine. Derm Collective has a quick rundown of the five major skin types: normal, dry, oily, sensitive, and combination. Skin types were determined in the early 1900s (per Derm Collective) and have been used since then by doctors and patients alike to help us understand the way that our skin reacts and handles all kinds of conditions and products.

Your skin type is determined by genetics but that doesn't mean that it can't change over time due to weather, pollutants, or cleansing habits. That can be good or bad news, depending on what skin type you have. That's why you shouldn't assume that just because you had a certain type of skin in your teens that it will still be the same two decades later. Derm Collective has a handful of tests that you can perform at home to determine the kind of skin you have currently and be able to adjust your skincare routine accordingly.

Knowing your skin type is important because you could be overdoing it in the care of your skin or not doing enough for it. You could be inadvertently causing your skin problems if you don't know that you have dry skin and are over-exfoliating or if your skin is sensitive and you're using too many products.

You overwash your face

Alright, so now that you've determined your skin type and have a handle on what is recommended for it, you can start to see if your skin is still having issues. If you've adjusted your skincare routine to factor in your skin type and your skin is still acting up, you might need to tweak it some more. One of the biggest culprits of skin problems is overwashing it.

It might sound contradictory because we all know that we should wash our faces, but overwashing the skin on your face can cause it to become sensitive and react in ways that it has not before. The experts at Kate Somerville agree and warn against overwashing your face and stripping it of the necessary oils that it needs to stay soft and supple.

So how much is too much? Well, that depends on your skin type (see above) but the minimum is to at least wash it once a day, usually in the evening before heading to bed and applying any other moisturizing products or treatments, per Kate Sommerville's experts. You can work up to washing your face twice a day, morning and night, but if it seems like your skin isn't needing it, don't bother. Save extra washes for after a sweaty workout or if you get dirty.

You over-exfoliate your face

Hand-in-hand with the overwashing of your face can be over-exfoliating your face. Scrubbing your skin too much, or using acid-based exfoliants too often, can be detrimental to your skin's integrity, according to Healthline. Signs of over-exfoliating include redness, peeling, and flaking, according to dermatologist Avnee Shah, MD (via Women's Health).

Here's a quick rundown for properly exfoliating your face — always make sure that the exfoliating product you're using is appropriate for your skin type, keep the exfoliating to a minimum of two times a week, and exfoliate your face in the morning (via Healthline). You could even dial down the exfoliating to zero and let your skin recuperate for a week or two before starting up with the most gentle of products.

Chemical-based exfoliators will likely be more irritating than most physical ones such as scrubs and tools. And even gentler versions of those include jojoba beads and pumice stones (via Healthline). You can also more easily adjust the force and amount of exfoliant you use if you're using a physical exfoliator. 

You're sleeping with your makeup on

You're what?! It's a well-known fact in the makeup community that something you should never, ever, do is sleep with a face full of makeup on. Weirdly, it seems like the one faux pas that everyone harps on is the one we've all fallen into. But there's a good reason that everyone mentions it.

Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant, tells Skincare.com that failing to wash off your makeup before hitting the sheets can cause the process of cell renewal and repair to be hindered. Our bodies work the hardest to repair our skin during the period of our rest and non-comedogenic makeup can even cause acne if worn overnight, per the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Of course, sleeping with your makeup on once or twice won't completely ruin your skin but it's better to not keep repeating a bad habit. Plan some time into your nighttime routine to properly cleanse your face and apply any overnight products. If you're wiped from a good night out, at least keep a pack of makeup-remover wipes on your nightstand to somewhat clean your face before falling asleep.

You use too many products

Minimalism isn't restricted to home design — when it comes to your skincare routine, using multiple products just might be doing you in. We all love finding the latest and greatest in makeup and facial products but that doesn't mean that all of them — or even half of them — will be good for your skin.

Dermatologist Marisa K. Garshick tells Coveteur that the 'less is more' rule applies to facial products too. She suggests letting your skin give you clues as to when your products are overwhelming it — it's breaking out, drying out, or becoming sensitive — and dialing down the number of products.

When using a new product, Coveteur suggests always starting with a smaller amount to acclimate your skin to it and then amping that up if you feel like less isn't giving you the desired results. In general, most products only require a pea-size to pearl-size amount to produce effects. Some exceptions include cleansers (which require dime to quarter-sized amounts), toners (two to three spritzes or enough to moisten a wipe), and moisturizers (small or large blueberry size depending on if your skin is dry or oily).

Your skin is being damaged by the sun

You've been diligent in the summer months and have religiously applied sunscreen but now that fall has hit, you seem to be forgetting that wearing it is still important. Forefront Dermatology, a group of 210 dermatologists across 24 states, shares the reminder that just because it's fall or winter doesn't mean that UV radiation is non-existent and the sun's rays can't hurt your skin.

In fact, on snowy days the sun's rays can have even more of a detrimental effect on the skin as the extra reflective, white, snowy surfaces will increase the amount of UV light that gets directed at your face (per Forefront Dermatology). You'll have rays bouncing back at you from below as well as coming from above.

Continue to wear sunscreen and products with it even in the fall and winter months, even if the days are overcast. If adding another product to your routine seems too overwhelming, consider products that include sunscreen already such as foundations, primers, or setting powders.

Your neck isn't protected

A paper published by the Journal of Cosmetic Chemists found that the skin on our necks tends to be thinner than the skin on our cheeks but it is also more elastic and has greater extensibility (via Wiley Online Library). These two factors combined mean that our neck skin is very susceptible to overall damage as we age. Unfortunately, most of us tend to forget about our necks and only kick the damage control into high gear once we see the damage.

Prevention is preferable to repair later on, so include your neck skin in your skincare routine. This means cleansing daily, exfoliating to keep clogged pores at bay, applying sunscreen, and moisturizing with ingredients like hyaluronic acid or manuka honey, as suggested by Skincare.com.

If you've ignored your neck in your youth and your neck skin is starting to show it, fret not. Skincare.com assures us that there are plenty of products out there now for helping us remedy at least some of the damage that has been done. You can use a hyaluronic acid mask to get deep moisturizing benefits or a serum packed with caffeine or vitamin C to help the skin on your neck stay youthful. A daily cream that helps to firm and strengthen will also be a good bet to counteract the thinness of the skin in that area.

Your products don't absorb well

Your nighttime skincare routine might be in tip-top shape but it won't matter much if you're going to sleep too fast after applying all your products. Vivian Bucay, a dermatologist in San Antonio, tells The Klog that it takes about 30 minutes for products to be fully absorbed so if you're rolling around on your pillow before that, most of what you applied probably wiped off.

Nollapelli, a sleep brand that focuses on creating bed products that help your skin, says that how much of your products rub off on your pillows is determined by how well your products absorb into your skin, the order that you apply them, and the material of your pillowcase. The size of particles in your products will determine how quickly they absorb through the first layer of the epidermis, which is made up of corneocytes. These skin cells are thick, so they don't absorb products too well (via Healthline). The smaller the particles, the better they absorb through.

Applying creams or thick products at the end of your skincare routine will also increase the chance of them rubbing off since they don't absorb as easily. Lastly, Nollapelli states that cotton pillowcases are more prone to absorbing products while silk and satin pillowcases are not as absorbent but are less breathable. VillaCotton also suggests linen pillowcases as that fabric is highly breathable and its texture makes it soft enough to not incur wrinkles as you sleep.

You're DYI-ing too much

We all love to save a buck or two and find ingredients that can do double duty in our kitchens and on our faces. But not every tip about making your own cheap and easy skin products should be followed. Your favorite DIY product could be harming your skin and you don't even know it.

First, make sure that the ingredients you're including in your DIY products aren't making your skin break out, dry, or become sensitive. Some ingredients might be fine for some to use but will negatively impact others. You might have even seen some of the ingredients you're itching to try on the list of store-bought products, but that doesn't mean they're safe to try at home, says Healthline. Bottled products use ingredients that are diluted, sanitized, and mixed in specific combinations which will likely not be the case in your kitchen.

In particular, Healthline suggests staying away from egg whites, lemon/lime juice, cinnamon, breast milk, and apple cider vinegar. While some of these products are used successfully in store-bought products, they're highly refined and used in concentrations to ensure no side effects. Instead, opt for ingredients that have been tested and are known to be relatively safe for all, such as coconut oil, which the National Eczema Association endorses, or tea tree oil, which was found to help treat acne in a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology (via National Library of Medicine).

You don't get enough sleep

Lack of enough sleep seems to be somewhat of an epidemic in the United States. We're all tired regularly and we've all stayed up way too late too many times. Whatever your reasons for your late nights just remember that your skin could be taking the hits. Just like the rest of your body, your skin can become stressed and thus "act out" in different ways.

Several studies of prolonged sleep deprivation show a noticeable effect on the skin's integrity, per a study published in Medical Hypotheses (via PubMed). Dr. Deborah Lee, of Dr. Fox Online Pharmacy, writes on Open Access Government that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 57% of us say we are sleeping less well and a whopping 98% say that our sleeping habits have changed. She suggests that the skin's ability to produce collagen is affected by a lack of sleep and that the more nights in a row with less sleep you have the more the effects will become pronounced.

A 2020 Korean study found that even after only one night of sleep deprivation that the subjects' skin showed considerable dehydration, aggravated wrinkles, and a loss in elasticity (via National Library of Medicine). If you've been a late-nighter until now, consider changing your sleeping habits to help out your skin. Other helpful things to implement can be taking 20-minute naps, resting more on the weekends, and making a sleep schedule.

Your skin isn't hydrated

Being our biggest organ, our skin feels the effects of not getting enough moisture. While moisture from the outside, in the form of moisturizers and misters, is good, we also need to be keeping our skin hydrated from the inside. Not getting enough water throughout the day, and day after day, can be detrimental to your skin in many ways.

Healthline says to be aware that dehydrated skin and dry skin are not the same. Dehydrated skin lacks water while dry skin lacks oils. Dehydration means that your body is not taking in enough water as compared to how much it is using or losing (per Healthline). Dehydrated skin will present in some of the following symptoms: itchiness, dullness, darker under-eye circles, sunken eyes, 'shadows' around your face, and an increased appearance of fine lines or wrinkles.

To prevent dehydrated skin your first step is to just drink more water. But there are a few other steps you can take to help your skin retain the moisture that it needs. Using emollient creams will help to keep a barrier on your skin to prevent the loss of moisture and even using hydrating sprays throughout the day will help your skin.

Your skin isn't nourished

The food pyramid is imprinted prominently in most of our brains, but if you're wanting to make sure you eat for your skin you should also be aware of a few crucial vitamins and minerals that you need. Antioxidants, found in many fruits and vegetables, are vitally important for skin health, as are vitamins E, C, D, and K, according to Healthline.

Most of these vitamins are easy to find in our everyday food and even easier to supplement synthetically. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology found that vitamin D, in the form of a cream made up of synthetic vitamin D, helped treat psoriasis and reduce inflammation (via National Library of Medicine). Vitamin C is just as readily available as many citrus foods contain high amounts and over-the-counter vitamin supplements are plentiful (per Healthline). Similarly, vitamins K and E can be found in foods such as nuts and seeds, kale, spinach, lettuce, and green beans.

Making sure your diet includes at least some of these foods can make a huge difference in the condition of your skin. And if you know you're not exactly eating what you should be, taking a multivitamin or individual vitamin supplements will greatly benefit not just your skin but your entire body.