Is Product Resistance Even Real?


A little something to add to your “answers to questions you never asked” file: When I was six, I was obsessed with baloney. Not metaphorical baloney—not trying to be cute here—but actual baloney. Loved it, couldn’t get enough of it. I declared my deep appreciation of this true mystery meat to my parents nearly every day, and lo, just like that, it got promoted to “lunchbox regular.” Something about the tangy harmony of salt and nitrates really whet my appetite. And then after a few months of this demanding behavior, I got sick of it—the smell alone made me want to hurl. So I stopped eating it, and haven’t eaten it since (although I hear that hotdogs are, in fact, simply baloney in a tube).

Bet you’re wondering what this has to do with beauty—good question, thanks for keeping me honest. The thought I had about my sudden aversion to baloney plays out in a similar way when it comes to beauty. The beauty verion of “Did I eat so much baloney that my body rejected it?” sounds like this: “Have I used the same moisturizer for so long that my face no longer accepts it as valid?” Or, “If I don’t switch up my shampoo and conditioner ever once in a while, my hair looks dull and sad.” The product switch-up notion is a tale as old as time. And while it may have been good for scamming your mom to load her Sephora cart with a little something something for you when you were in high school, it's not clear if the argument holds any water at all. Fact or fiction? That’s the question. So, after years of watching MythBusters with my brother (who, by the way, conveniently could never find the remote control when that guy with the beret emerged within view), I’m ready to do a little myth-busting of my own.

Myth: All beauty products need to be rotated in and out of your routine in order for the products to remain efficacious.

Nope, not all products. In fact, some guys like vitamin C or retinol need to be used over a long period of time in order to notice any change in your skin. And not only should you be using those for months, if not years, but you should be using them consistently as well. Let’s just say that no on-again, off-again relationship with C E Ferulic ever prospered…

Myth: You need to take a break from a small, select group of products from time to time.

There are a few products that require a break. Got eczema? Then you probably know a bit about topical steroids, and how prolonged use can build up a resistance to the steroids’ effects. Silicone products are another group you should look out for. Silicones deliver a smoothing effect to hair and skin, and when the creams or conditioners are not thoroughly washed off, the silicones tend to hang around and, in turn, dull your hair or limit your skin’s capacity to look fresh and glowy. The fix? When it comes to your hair, switch out to a clarifying shampoo every month or so (only you can determine the cadence to switch in and out, so experiment a little). And for your face, give your skin a break once a week with an exfoliant. Whether that’s P50, a gentle rice scrub, or a weekly peel, is up to you.

Myth: Other than the products mentioned above, I can use the same beauty products forever.

Let’s not get crazy here. You can’t go through life using the same stuff forever. Sometimes a seasonal change will force your hand—that heavy duty moisturizer for the winter is probably better left on your shelf in the summer. And then there’s the matter of expiration dates… Flip over your serums, creams, and cleansers. Every single one of ‘em should have a cylinder with a number inside printed on the label. That number is how long your product is meant to last. Just keep in mind that we’re not talking spoiled eggs here. That number has a bit of give, but just don’t get too crazy and use it way beyond the expiration date. Use your very wise judgment!

So explain to me why my favorite cream in the whole wide world isn’t cutting it anymore!

It is! It’s just that you’ve gotten used to the results. When you first try something new, your skin reacts to how it would with any new experience—it changes. Ideally for the better, and if not then it’s time to move on. But when you’ve been doing the same thing every day for months...years...after a while it’s easy for your cream and whatnot to start to feel like it’s not doing anything special. Here’s a remedy for that. Stop using the product in question for a month, about the time it takes for your skin cells to turnover. What do you see? An improvement? A decline? If it’s the former, then it really is time for you to switch to something new. But the latter? Eh, you’re fine.

—Ashley Weatherford

Photo via ITG