Overcompensated skin can result when we overdo it with our daily skincare routine. It's quick - because with the sheer amount of care substances and products, it's not that easy to keep the right balance. The two most common mistakes? First, we overdo it with rich moisturizers. Or two: We use too many active ingredients, and too often too. sounds like you? You can read here which signs you can use to recognize over-treated skin (and above all: what you can do now).
Recognizing over-groomed skin: Signs of over-grooming
Although you are meticulous about your skin care, do you have the dull feeling that your skin balance is slowly getting out of control? You can tell whether it is actually over-treated skin by the following symptoms:
- Irritations and hypersensitive skin
- feelings of tension
- Suddenly clogged pores and impurities
- Dry skin areas
How can over-grooming be related to these symptoms? We'll tell you now.
3 causes of over-treated skin that you should know!
Isn't there a skincare trend you haven't tried? And in your daily care routine with ten steps, you use several cream jars and glittering serums with hyped beauty ingredients? If your skin's appearance is getting worse and worse as a result of this layering overkill instead of resembling flawless «glass skin», this can be due to various reasons.
1. You combine active ingredients as you wish.
Active ingredients such as retinol , vitamin C, salicylic acid and fruit acids are potent skin rejuvenators. However, if we combine them incorrectly or overdo it in facial care, they can be counterproductive.
This is what happens in the skin: retinol boosts cell renewal 1 , fruit acids have a peeling effect as they remove dead skin cells from the skin's surface 2 . When used correctly (at the beginning in low doses, not every day and above all - as a precaution not on the same evening), both ensure a youthful, refined complexion.
However, too much of these power substances can have an irritating effect and can be a cause of a damaged skin barrier due to over-treated skin. The main signs of this are redness and a dry, unpleasantly tight feeling on the skin.
The same applies to the combination of retinol and salicylic acid. This combination can also dry out the skin too much. If our skin counteracts this with higher sebum production, pimples can develop.
2. You use too much product.
In addition to the right combination, the amount of product is also crucial when you integrate active ingredients into your daily skin care routine. If we use such active ingredients according to the motto 'a lot helps a lot', we risk redness, but also blemishes and pimples as symptoms of a disturbed barrier function of the skin.
This is what happens in the skin: Active skincare ingredients such as AHAs and salicylic acid give us a flawless glow by stimulating the removal of old skin cells. However, too much of it can throw our skin barrier off balance.
A permeable skin barrier opens the door to bacteria and environmental aggressors. And once these spread through our skin, pimples, clogged pores, impurities and skin irritations are practically inevitable.
3. "Layering" is the motto of your daily skin care routine.
Layering promises maximum plumped up, crystal clear, smooth, radiant and poreless skin aka Glass Skin or Dewy Skin . All you need for this? More skin care products than you can count on one hand - and above all, plenty of time for your morning care routine. Why can this backfire?
This is what happens in your skin: Even if it sounds paradoxical - too much care can dry out the skin and disrupt the functions of our skin barrier in the long term. We often don't even notice it at first. Because after the care marathon, the skin initially appears plumped up and plump. In fact, however, the skin is overmoist .
In this case, the swollen skin is unfortunately not a sign of eternal youth, but is caused by a swollen horny layer. Skin that is over-cared for in this way is less able to store moisture and loses its own ability to regulate over the long term. If you apply even more cream now, you start a vicious circle – despite constant care, the skin becomes drier and drier.
Did you recognize yourself in at least one of these points? Then it is now important to understand the needs of your skin and to shift down several gears when it comes to care. Let's start with the former.
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What does too much care do to your skin barrier?
A functioning skin barrier is our most reliable protective shield against unwanted intruders from the outside. At the same time, it prevents excessive moisture loss via the skin's surface. Unfortunately , too much care can severely disrupt these important protective mechanisms and even lead to perioral dermatitis . Let's find out why.
Our outermost boundary to the environment is the top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum . This consists of horny cells arranged in a lipid matrix of fatty acids and ceramides 3 . Medical professionals liken the structure of the stratum corneum to a wall made of bricks (horny cells) and mortar (the epidermal lipids).
Chronically over-treated skin can damage the skin barrier in two different ways:
The horny layer swells from the inside due to excessive care. The more care products you 'layer' on top of each other (e.g. cream, sun protection, make-up, etc.), the stronger the overall occlusive (i.e.: sealing) and swelling effect. The swollen, thickened horny layer results in a reduced barrier function 4 , because over time the skin forgets how to regulate itself.
And it can get even "thicker": the increased permeability of the skin barrier makes it easy for bacteria and microorganisms. If you don't pull the emergency brake now, over-treated skin can turn into genuine perioral dermatitis (POD).
Common symptoms of perioral dermatitis are red, itchy nodules and blisters that first appear around the mouth, chin and nose, but can also affect the face.
You can read everything you need to know about this in my article Article Crucible and through it - this is how you get rid of perioral dermatitis!
It shouldn't come to that. That's why we tell you below what you can do to get over-treated skin under control again.
Too many or incorrectly applied active ingredients disrupt the skin's barrier function. For example fruit acid: If we integrate highly concentrated AHA peelings too often into our facial care, the result will be over-irritated skin in the long term . Because in the long run, our skin loses more dead skin cells than is good for it due to constant peeling.
Retinol can also be irritating, especially when used in high doses. According to an American study, the reason for this is the ability of retinol to break the connections between the horn-forming cells 5 . This can cause redness and scaly skin.
Slowly but surely, the vicious circle of too much skincare takes its course: the skin barrier cracks , we lose more moisture than necessary and the skin dries out. Irritating substances and bacteria can penetrate more easily. It goes without saying that our stressed skin is now fighting back with all means: It becomes sensitive , itches, feels dry and is permanently reddened.
Regenerate over-treated skin: what is good for you now!
If your skin is constantly irritated, dry and sensitive, although (rather: precisely because) you use a lot of care products in your daily beauty routine, this is a clear sign of over-treated skin. The number one mission to avoid perioral dermatitis now is: course correct your skin care routine . And fast.
Recognize your skin's needs
Your skin is a quick-change artist. Hormones, environmental influences, the weather, the sun, your diet, your stress level - there is actually nothing that does not affect your skin. For your skin care this means: What worked a year ago may no longer meet your care needs today.
Here's an example: In winter, your skin needs rich care with lipids that strengthen the barrier and protect against the effects of the weather. With the high temperatures in summer, on the other hand, your skin wants a light skincare that provides intensive moisture and is quickly absorbed.
Takeaway: Register small changes and listen to yourself. Let your skin tell you what it needs and adjust your skin care routine accordingly.
Rely on slimmed-down skin care
Even if your collection of glittering jars and tubes smiles seductively at you in the bathroom - over-treated skin needs minimalistic skin care to regenerate completely .
- Only use lukewarm water for morning cleaning . In this way you avoid washing out the skin's own lipids of your protective barrier.
- Remove make-up, dirt and deposits in the evening with a gentle oil cleanser and then apply a light moisturizing serum such as the FIVE Face Serum with Hyaluron.
- Apply your care products sparingly and no more than twice a day. Too much cream, oil & co. cause the horny layer to swell. And we want to avoid that in any case (see above).
Takeaway: Massive reductions are the order of the day for the products that you now put on your skin. Incidentally, also in terms of the ingredients .
With FIVE skin care you are on the safe side in this respect. Every single product in my skincare contains a maximum of five ingredients that give your skin exactly what it needs.
Over-treated skin can also trigger a contact allergy. If you are concerned about this, I recommend reading my article Do I have sensitive skin or a contact allergy?
Try a drastic cure
What does that mean? When the going gets tough, radical measures are sometimes necessary. If the above maintenance diet does not bring the desired success, it is the turn of level two of the emergency plan. But don't worry: The drastic cure that I would like to suggest to you against over-treated skin is the exact opposite of radical. We are talking about zero therapy . This is how you implement the maximum minimalist skin care :
- Only let lukewarm water on your face for at least (!) three days and do without any care products at all. In order for the complete withdrawal to work, it is best to keep cleansing gels, creams and other cosmetics out of your field of vision. The longer you do this, the better your skin can regenerate.
- Take a makeup break . I know - especially when you don't really feel comfortable in your own skin, it's all the more difficult. But: Make-up can aggravate over-groomed skin, since foundation often contains occlusive ingredients such as paraffin or potentially irritating allergens. Therefore, if you can pull it off, your makeup should temporarily take a seat on the reserve bench.
Very important: At the beginning of a zero therapy, the symptoms of over-treated skin can temporarily worsen. Waiting and drinking tea is the order of the day here – preferably organic black tea. You can also use it for soothing compresses on your irritated skin. Even studies 6 show that this really works (in a record time of three days) .
Takeaway: Give your skin time to get back into balance and leave it completely alone for at least three days (the longer the better).
Conclusion: You can regenerate over-treated skin with gentle measures!
To rebalance over-processed skin , the first step is to identify possible triggers in your skin care routine and give them time off. Fast action is particularly important here so that no perioral dermatitis or contact allergy develops from your skin condition.
The rule of thumb for your skin care now is less is more : less product, fewer ingredients, less product and fewer steps in your daily routine. So your skin gets what is really good for it.
I wish you all the best on your way back to healthy, balanced skin!
All the best,
- Mukherjee, Siddharth et al. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety." Clinical interventions in aging vol. 1.4 (2006): 327-48. doi:10.2147/ciia.2006.1.4.327
- Tang, Sheau-Chung, and Jen-Hung Yang. "Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin." Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 23.4 863. 10 Apr 2018, doi:10.3390/molecules23040863
- Engebretsen K, A, Thyssen J, P: Skin barrier function and allergens. Compass Dermatol 2017;5:7-13. doi: 10.1159/000453571
- Warner, Ronald R et al. "Hydration disrupts human stratum corneum ultrastructure." The Journal of investigative dermatology vol. 120.2 (2003): 275-84. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1747.2003.12046.x
- Endly, Dawnielle C, and Richard A Miller. "Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options." The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 10.8 (2017): 49-55.
- Witte, Mareike et al. “Black tea dressings - a rapidly effective treatment for facial dermatitis.” The Journal of dermatological treatment vol. 30.8 (2019): 785-789. doi:10.1080/09546634.2019.1573306