When I’m not writing articles for you, sometimes I like to make myself comfy on the sofa and turn on the TV, to set my brain to “off” for a while and relax a little… Ah, TV. Could I live without it? I doubt it. I’m sure I couldn’t live without my favourite TV series, or without those variety shows that “represent” today’s culture… 😉
I love those shows that have us glued to the screen, that have us on the edge of our seat… I bet you’re thinking of all sorts of shows right now, coming up with all sorts of guesses: “What shows is he thinking of? Which ones does he mean?”
Well, you’re probably going to laugh, but so be it: I watch THE VOICE. I love the concept – blind talent show auditions, where the judges judge singers only by their voice and nothing else. It doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful, ugly, or different-looking… Your voice is the only thing that matters. (Well, I have my doubts about that, but let’s not ruin the fun. Let’s all just believe it very very hard, okay?)
Ah… sigh… Maybe it’s the repressed singer in me, somewhere deep down, who finds an echo in that show, living the dream by proxy… Unfortunately, in my case, I have neither the voice, nor – especially – the looks… I have to accept that I’m just a googly-eyed mad scientist… But when I watch this show, I experience those auditions with passion and empathy…
I’m melting, trembling… It’s often a bit disturbing to have all of those emotions at once, and after an hour of watching, I’m all saturated with it, and then I start to have had enough of it… And I start zapping. It’s like I’ve been numbed, like the show doesn’t do anything for me any more…
Should I go on or can you see where I’m going with this…?
I’m sure it’s happened to you before that you discovered a fantastic miracle product among your impulse purchases, one that meets or exceeds all your expectations… And you decide it’s your favourite from now on… Your skin is so beautiful, and you’re floating on a pink cloud of bliss, with little hearts everywhere and some hello kitties too… (What do you mean, cliché? Ok maybe…)
You declare you and this product will be together forever, united by the sacred bonds of beauty… and then one day, it all stops, you snap out of it, no more pink cloud, no more hearts. All gone.
The product doesn’t work for you any more, and you ask: WHYYY?!
1) Your skin gets used to the product, bla bla bla, you know the rest.
That’s the answer you usually get, and the one I kept telling my customers at first, when all I did was repeating things I’d been told… Well, when you’re just getting started, as a little 18 year old student without any experience of your own, you just stick to what people tell you to say… and I’ve got to say, I stuck to it very closely. 😉
Well, in my opinion, I’d say this answer can be justified to some extent, but it seems far too simple, and maybe a bit too commercial for my tastes…
Indeed, at the perfumery or the pharmacy they’ll insist with a lot of conviction that you can’t keep using the same products all the time, because if you do, your skin will get used to it and you won’t see any effects any more… So, being an innocent customer, you ask: oh no, what do I do? Please tell me!
And they’ll tell you to switch products regularly, and they’ll cheerfully suggest some new products for you! Hallelujah! And then the perfumery has made another sale. Hurray…
“a deprived, neglected skin reacts to nutrients more than a skin in good shape.
In hindsight, I think now that this argument about skin habituation is being misused somewhat to boost sales figures. I do believe that skin can really get used to a product, or “get bored” with it, but I don’t believe that’s a very important factor in the process… It’s worth a mention, to be sure… but to be more precise, I’d sooner say that the skin “gets the hang of it”; it reaches a state where it no longer absorbs nutrients as well as it used to, just because, obviously, a deprived, neglected skin reacts to nutrients more than a skin in good shape. But your skin is an extremely complex organ that’s good at adapting… Yes, besides extreme cases, skin does adapt…
If products stop working after a while, I think other possible reasons could be worth looking into:
2) The activity of cosmetics can change.
Active ingredients can lose their effectiveness over time. If you’d compare a freshly made product to a two year old product… well, I won’t insult your intelligence by asking you which would be more active. 😉
This is the case with delicate ingredients like vitamin C, which oxidises easily when exposed to air or light, or with ingredients that are vulnerable to heat. That’s why it’s important to keep your products’ expiration date in mind, and to store them properly (see the article about preserving cosmetics ), so you can preserve their benefits for as long as possible.
3) Cosmetics interact with each other.
You’ve been using a product for a few weeks and you’re happy with it, and then you come across something new that you absolutely want to try, you add it to your make-up routine and suddenly, your products are less effective…
Every cosmetic product starts out in the brains of us formulators, and we try to combine both feel and, most importantly, effectiveness… always keeping in mind the product’s stability, since it’s still a complex mixture of things…
The product on its own is stable, and we can guarantee a certain level of effectiveness, but in combination with different products, and particularly in the case of layering, its effects can be diminished…
Simply put, for example, you could apply a cream and then add a foundation cream; then both creams can interact and the foundation can deactivate some of the other cream’s active ingredients… or vice versa.
Think of exfoliating ingredients for a more specific example, like fruit acids; those work best within a certain pH range. At a lower or higher pH, the exfoliating effect won’t be as strong… Your other cosmetics can change the pH and, as a result, get in the way of the fruit acids’ optimal effectiveness.
4) Cosmetics can block the passage of active ingredients.
Cosmetics, particularly cosmetics containing occlusive ingredients, like silicones or mineral oils, can accumulate on your skin and create a barrier that shuts out active ingredients.
Your skin can fully benefit from them at first, but after a certain amount of applications, your skin isn’t really in direct contact with the product any more, so to speak.
So what do you do about it? Well, consider scrubbing every once in a while, to keep layers like that from accumulating, and to free your skin so it can properly use active ingredients again… It’s like what I was saying earlier about silicone shampoos. (If you need to refresh your memory, you can find my post about cosmetic silicones .)
5) Your skin is an evolving organ.
It’s not just an unchanging, lifeless layer. Your skin is a living organ that evolves over time, and its needs can change with the rhythm of life, or with the climate… A moisturiser you use in the summertime may not be enough in winter. Your skin can also be influenced by your diet, or by taking nutritional supplements, or by oral contraceptives… When your hormones are partying, your skin is usually invited, so be prepared for a hangover… 😉
6) Your perception might change.
When you use your fantastic new product for the first time, the effects are amazing, and your skin is so soft… but after 20 days, you don’t notice a lot of improvement any more. What should you think about that?
I say: PERCEPTION. And by that I mean that the first day, you still have the memories fresh in your head of what your skin was like before you started using it, so you can easily make a before/after comparison, a kind of easy snaphot.
The difference is obvious, so you do a victory dance, but over time your standards change, and your “new” skin becomes your point of reference instead of your “old” skin.
As a result, you get the feeling that the product doesn’t work any more, or not as well… That’s the problem with subjective evaluations based on standards that can change…
When your friends tell you: “your skin is amazing!”, you think “what are they talking about? My skin? What about it? Well, it’s not bad I guess…” The thing is that your friends can do something you no longer can: look at it with fresh eyes. They haven’t gradually gotten used to it by seeing tiny improvements that add up over time… and that gave you an amazing skin without you noticing it any more…
Diets are different (yes, we’ll be getting to that soon 😉 ). When you’re on a diet, you have a clear, precise, concrete, easily measurable point of reference: your weight before you started. (Even if it should be said that that’s not the only thing you should be looking at.) That’s a fixed number that doesn’t change.
So, to summarise, when I hear someone say: “My cream doesn’t work any more! It’s my skin’s fault!” then you’ll know I don’t entirely agree with that…
In the face of such injustice, surely I can’t just let “skin” fall victim to such unfair accusations, I need to say something to restore its wounded honour… I, the Cosmetist, the knight in shiny whit lab coat, must come to the rescue… 😉 Standing up for the truth… or at least my truth. 😉
Anyway, what about you? Dear readers, I’d very much like your opinion on this. Do you have any anecdotes? Any examples that illustrate this article…? Thoughts?