8 Of The Real Reasons Why Your Skincare Routine Isn’t Working

Getting into skincare can be really rewarding. It might come across as nothing more than another exercise in vanity, another obsession with looking poreless or perpetually young. But paying more attention to your skin goes beyond wanting to look Photoshopped at all times. It can let you know if you’re experiencing sun damage, or what triggers your breakouts. Paying more attention to your skin can be a clue into WTF is going on with your body, like the effects of stress, or a lack of sleep, or eating going in on some dairy. But skincare journeys can also be incredibly frustrating ventures. Like, how many of you decided to really take charge of your skin and bought a bunch of products to do so, only to feel like you got played? Maybe you saw zero changes or–worse yet–your skin’s condition didn’t improve, but actually got worse. Yes, that struggle is definitely real.

But believe it or not, your skincare routine’s failure might have a really simple explanation, one that might not seem obvious to you unless it’s broken down. Well, we’re here to help. Whether your face is peppered with zits after trying a new face wash, or you’ve seen zero improvement after a week of using that serum the internet keeps raving about, here are eight real reasons why your skincare routine isn’t working.

You're Being Impatient AF

This is a biggie. I know, you want to see results fast. Like, within two weeks fast. But here’s the truth: You might only start seeing results after about a month to six weeks, and only if you stick to the same routine consistently. We want instant gratification, and while some skincare products might work faster than others, it’ll take a while to see some visible results, especially when it comes to cystic acne and uneven skin tone/texture. Even more disheartening is the fact that using chemical exfoliants or prescription strength acne products can actually make your skin freak out and look worse before it gets better. If you’re using those products, you especially need to resist the urge to abandon your routine. Stick it out for at least one month and then re-evaluate. Consider taking before and after photos in good lighting to further support whatever decision you decide to make. I can vouch for this because I've been sticking to a strict routine for the past couple of months and I'm finally seeing results. Patience eventually pays off, I promise.

My So-Called Life

You're Trying Too Many New Products At The Same Time

So, you just got a little beauty haul—skincare, makeup, maybe even both—and you’re excited to try out all your new products. Hold on, dude, not so fast. What if you try your 5 new products and get a zit. How do you determine what caused your skin to freak out? Sound familiar? Yes, it has happened to the best of us, and it might just be happening to you right now. Instead of calling your new routine a bust, or assuming which product is responsible for the skin eruption, just try each product one at a time, leave a few days in between to see how your skin reacts. If you’re already in the middle of this madness, the best solution is the stop using all of your products and starting from scratch, slowly introducing products while your skin calms down.


You're Using Your Products In The Wrong Order

You might not be seeing any real results in your skincare routine because you’re simply applying your products out of order. Like, maybe you’re adding a serum after your moisturizer instead of before. That serum is probably more effective underneath a moisturizer, see what I mean? This is a simple fix! The best general rule of thumb is this: After you wash your face with a gentle cleanser, apply your products from thinnest to thickest. For example, you might follow up your face wash with a toner, and then a serum, then moisturizer, then sunscreen.

@ drunkelephantskincare /Instagram

You Don't Actually Know Your Skin Type

Maybe you think your skin is super dry, so you pile up on the products meant for dry skin, but all the emollients and heavy oils makes your skin feel uncomfortable. Or, you think your skin is super oily, so you use products meant for oily skin, only to deal with skin that is beyond dried out. What we put on our skin can be pretty deceptive, and the wrong cleanser or moisturizer can convince us that we have a certain skin type that we don’t necessarily have. Go product free for a day or two and see what your skin looks like. If it’s oily after a couple of hours, you might just have oily skin. If your skin feels tight or even looks flaky, your skin is on the dry side. If you’re combo, some parts are oily while others are dry. You could even have “normal” skin, which doesn’t really fall dramatically into any category at all. Pay attention to your skin in its most natural state before deciding your skin type; then, you can try to find the right products for your skin type. When in doubt, go for products that are as gentle as possible; be on the lookout for anything that claims to be ideal for sensitive skin.


You're Using Too Many Harsh Products On Your Skin

Sometimes—especially when our skin is a congested mess—we go all in on products. An anti-bacterial wash, some salicylic acid toning pads, a strong cell-renewing serum that makes your skin tingle in a good way, an acne fighting moisturizer on top…and then we wonder why our skin doesn’t look better, but actually looks worse. This could be a sign of your skin saying, “Um, can you chill the f**k out for a second?” Listen to your skin, it knows what it likes and it knows what it dislikes. You might have acne, but you might want to avoid only using products riddled with acne-fighting ingredients; it could be overkill. Or, you can use some of your more powerful products less regularly; instead of using that benzoyl peroxide toner twice a day, use it once every other day, or only in the morning, or only at night.


You Need To Go For Some Stronger Skincare Products

I know, I’ve warned against getting too aggressive on your skin, but honestly, sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves and investigate some stronger skincare products. This is especially true if you have blemish prone skin, uneven texture/tone, large pores, etc. It might be time to bring out the big guns, like AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), acids which help slough away dead skin cells and encourage cell renewal and cleanse pores respectively. These acids, which I like to refer to as chemical exfoliants, can totally transform your skin if you throw them into your skincare routine, though your skin might freak out before it gets better. You should also consider going to a dermatologist to get a prescription product, a move you should definitely consider if you have cystic acne and/or acne scars.


There's A Lot Of Stuff Going On IRL That Is Effing With Your Skin

Maybe your skincare products are actually working pretty well, but there are outside factors that are turning your skin into a disaster zone. You might be going through some stress and your skin is showing your internal wear and tear on the outside. Or, perhaps your skin is sensitive to inflammatory diets (like ones heavy in dairy). Hey, your skincare routine would work better if you used a better makeup remover. Maybe you’re convinced that you can never find a face wash that won’t fail to break you out after a few weeks of use, but your skin is breaking out because it’s almost that time of the month, not because the product doesn’t work. Whatever the cause, it’s important to be in tune with your body and what’s going on in your life; those things can help you better understand WTF is going on with your skin.

Fresh Meat

You Have Unrealistic Expectations

Sometimes, we can let our hopes get the best of us, and skincare really isn’t an exception. You might think that that serum you keep hearing about just doesn’t work on your skin, but what do you expect it to do? If you think it’s going to turn your face into a poreless canvas, sorry, you played yourself. What about that under eye cream that claims to get rid of darkness? Maybe you see slight results, and that’s all you’re going to get, because a topical cream can really only do so much. See what I’m getting at? Look, some products just don’t work very well on your skin, or they just aren’t as effective as they claim to be. But you also need to have realistic expectations about what a skincare product can do (and how quickly), whether you spent $10 or $100. Like, if you expect that some exfoliating scrub is going to prevent you from having a zit ever again, I’ve got some bad news...


Which of these skincare flubs are you guilty of? Do you have a skincare routine that’s working for you? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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