Turns out, switching it up with your routine is actually good for your skin—as long as you follow these healthy skin rules.
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Confession: I have major FOMO when it comes to skin care. I'm a maximalist, so when something new comes out, I need to try it all.
As a result, my trustworthy cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen routine has mushroomed into using multiple products each week because there are so. many. different. products. I no longer have only my go-tos and, honestly, I feel zero guilt about this beauty equivalent of "seeing other people." (Related: No-Rinse Cleansers That Make Washing Your Face Infinitely Easier)
In a world where you're constantly told to simplify and Marie Kondo everything from your closet to your beauty routine, being a beauty junkie is difficult, especially with the bombardment of new ingredients that promise to keep skin in top shape. How can you not try them?! But I'm learning that it's okay to use a shit ton of products—it might even be better for your skin—as long as you work them into your routine in a smart way.
While fine-tuning your products to a select few you commit to long-term has its advantages (certainly on your bank account), tailoring your beauty routine on a daily basis allows your skin to reap the benefits from introducing new products, say derms. "Your skin can become tolerant and stop responding as well to a product," explains Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist.
"After six months to a year, it's important to reassess, much the same way that you may need to do with your exercise routine," says Dr. Ciraldo. In some cases, your products may not be as effective as you originally hoped or your skin concerns may change. Or, as is often the case, something new and sparkly comes along. If you're like me and could never ditch your habit of sampling new skin care products, read on for how the skin pros recommend switching it up.
Rule 1: Start with a skin assessment.
Before you start experimenting, know your skin type. Visiting a derm for a professional assessment of your skin can help you choose more effective products to work into your routine throughout the weeks or months, says Leslie Baumann, M.D., author of The Skin Type Solution, who adds that 80 percent of people cannot correctly identify their skin type.
In addition to examining your skin in the a.m., be sure to track how it reacts throughout the day and in the evening to see if you need to implement further changes the following day. This helps you better tailor products that are a fit for sensitive, acne-prone, or dry skin types without accidentally introducing products that aren't a fit. For instance, if you wake up in the morning and notice your complexion is oilier than usual, then a lighter night cream can help. (Related: How to Buy Skin Care That Works, Every Time)
Rule 2: Don't automatically reach for the cleanser.
Alternating between a gentle, oil-based cleanser or micellar water in the morning, and a slightly more powerful nightly face wash can keep your face from drying out. (Keep in mind, you may want to opt for a milk-based face wash for a slightly deeper cleanse if you're washing your face post-morning sweat sesh.) Stash away a deep cleanser or double cleanse on days of extra heavy exercise or when your skin gets oilier before your period. Knowing how your skin tends to feel throughout the day can help you better tailor your cleansing routine, says Dr. Baumann. In some instances, "dry types can skip an a.m. cleanser but oily types should not," she adds. (Related: Is Tap Water Bad for Your Skin?)
Rule 3: Tailor products to the weather and your schedule.
On hotter days, when air pollution is higher because of more air stagnation, adding more antioxidants to your routine can help, says Dr. Ciraldo. Consider swapping in multi-ingredient oils, which are packed with natural antioxidants, along with a powerful vitamin C serum to address higher levels of pollution. In addition to an eye cream, use a secondary eye gel such as Boscia's Super-Cool De-Puffing Eye Balm ($26 at dermstore.com) which is better at addressing discoloration and puffiness that can come from a night out.
But it's not just switching it up on a weekly or seasonal basis. Using a thicker moisturizer during plane travel can keep skin hydrated after a flight, and easing up on heavier oilier creams in the middle of summer can prevent breakouts, adds Dr. Baumann.
Rule 4: Evolve your nightly routine.
Some of my most thoughtful products swaps occur in the evening when skin tends to replenish itself. For instance, using a retinoid every other day can make it easier to swap in other options such as a face oil, a lactic or glycolic acid peel, or a heavier antioxidant serum that can absorb overnight.
Less is more when it comes to nightly masks that promise instant results, adds dermatologist Jennifer Herrmann, M.D. "A product with charcoal can be a great option for detoxifying the skin and eliminating blackheads but used too frequently, they strip the skin of natural oils, leaving it dull and flat."
Rule 5: Beware of overdoing it.
Have some restraint, and don't try it all at once. Mixing too many ingredients can leave your skin irritated and leaves little room for products to do their work. Try alternating a moisturizer, while keeping other products consistent. Especially when traveling, simplify the products to only your essentials, adds Dr. Baumann. "Stop a retinoid and alpha hydroxy acids when traveling so your dead skin cell layer can build up to protect your skin from irritants—such as detergent in hotel sheets—on the trip," she adds.
Curious to try some skin-care product swaps yourself? Try switching back and forth with some of these products throughout the week:
During the day: Opt for a lighter cleanser on weekday mornings, such as Monastery's Rose Cleansing Oil ($39; monasterymade.com). For an antioxidant boost, use Dr. Loretta's Intense Replenishing Serum ($70; dermstore.com). Alternate between heavier sunscreen options such as SuperGoop Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40 ($32; sephora.com) when you're spending the weekend outdoors, versus tinted moisturizing sunscreens such as Vive Sana Daily Protezione ($54; vivesana.com), which can be an easy all-in-one fix for the office.
At night: To get rid of makeup, use a gentle yet effective cleanser such as Farmacy's Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm ($34; sephora.com). Alternate between gentle retinol products such as the new StriVectin S.T.A.R. Light Retinol Night Oil ($99; ulta.com) and luxury oils such as True Botanicals Renew Pure Radiance Oil ($110; truebotanicals.com), or detoxifying masks such as the Crop Charcoal Mask ($27; luckyvitamin.com). For acne-prone skin, switch it up between a gentle salicylic face wash such as the Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($7; ulta.com) and a thin layer of Differin Gel ($11; target.com).