This week’s question comes directly from Camille, who loves experimenting with new skincare products. Her skin is almost always glowing, thanks to her personal dermatologist Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce of Westlake Dermatology. That said, we’ve all had the experience of trying out a new product that actually made our skin worse.

According to Dr. Geddes-Bruce, just because a product is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s going to be great for your skin, and there are certain OTC products on the market that are truly operating on false claims.

Read on for our conversation with Dr. Geddes-Bruce and figure out your Goldilocks skincare routine (not too little, not too much.)

image by hannah haston

image via advanced skincare clinic

Is there such a thing as overdosing on skincare products?

You can definitely “overdose” on skincare products and I’ll be first to admit I’ve been guilty of doing so on more than one occasion. Because I’m in the skincare business, I sample a number of products before recommending them to my patients. And sometimes I go overboard with my regimen and suffer the side effects. Luckily the skin is a pretty resilient organ and can easily bounce back with a little TLC.

image via pop sugar

What are the tell tale signs you see in patients who are over-treating their skin?

If you are overdoing your anti-aging or skin brightening/lightening products you will likely see dry or chapped/flakey and irritated skin. It’s red from inflammation and can be painful or itchy. Often this kind of irritation presents around the eyes and mouth. Sometimes it will improve by stopping the offending products, but sometimes you need a little extra help with a topical steroid cream. If you’re overdoing your moisturizers, oils or hydrators you’ll likely see an increase in acne or acne-type bumps, or tiny white cysts called milia.

image by hannah haston

Are there particular OTC products out there that you think are too harsh/extreme/dangerous?

There’s not one product that comes to mind as dangerous, but there are a few natural home remedies for skincare that I’ve seen go way wrong. For example, I’ve seen bad burns with subsequent skin darkening from apple cider vinegar (also known as acetic acid) and raw garlic applied to the skin. I’ve also seen a number of red itchy rashes from coconut oil. Just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s safe, or that you can’t develop an allergy to it. I like to remind my patients that both poison ivy and arsenic are natural, and look how much damage they can cause.

image by because i’m addicted

In your professional opinion, what’s the bare minimum face care routine a person should be doing daily?

Recognizing that everyone’s skin is different (which is why a regimen should be tailored to your specific needs), I do believe that most individuals need a basic routine of cleansing twice daily, applying a light moisturizer when dry, and protecting with sunscreen. That being said I’ve seen women with flawless skin who do absolutely nothing – they routinely fall asleep in their make up and just rinse their skin with plain tap water. Most of us didn’t win that genetic lottery.

image by into the gloss

Is there one product category you think most people should throw out of their medicine cabinet?

Anything that promises to shrink pores, get rid of stretch marks or erase cellulite. We just haven’t developed topical skincare products that can reliably do any of those things.

image by glossier

What else do we need to know?

I try to remind my patients that keeping their skincare regimen simple is the best way to keep things consistent, and that’s when you’ll see results. Don’t try to add too much to your daily routine too quickly. Once you’ve got the basics down then you can introduce a new product. Doing so in a stepwise fashion will make it much less likely to “overdose”!


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Comments (4)
  1. 1
    ohsodeco March 2, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    I always wondered if using all these products were harmful to my skin. Thanks for such an interesting piece.

  2. 2
    Eme March 13, 2019 at 6:54 am

    Thank you for sharing the very interesting and informative post, I have also had the experience of overdosing on beauty products resulting in dry flaky patches on my skin. It’s true that even though it’s natural it isn’t always good for you.

    Eme xo