Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.
Bryan Barron, beauty expert and co-author of The Original Beauty Bible, is the Research Director for Paula’s Choice Skincare, where he has been for over 15 years. Bryan's experience in the cosmetics industry includes many years as a professional makeup artist, product research specialist, and skin care professional. Always at work behind the scenes and in the media, Bryan and his team strive to bring you the most accurate information on skincare and makeup so you can look and feel great.
Does beauty have to hurt? Not if you’re using the right products and being careful about how often you use those with active ingredients. And, by "active," I mean over-the-counter drug products like sunscreens and anti-acne treatments with benzoyl peroxide, plus anything that contains anti-aging ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, or the skin-lightening agent hydroquinone. All of those ingredients do something to the skin beyond creating a smooth finish.
For all the good these active ingredients do, they can be troublesome, too — especially if they’re not properly formulated or used too aggressively. Products with anti-acne ingredient salicylic acid often contain skin irritants like menthol or alcohol. If you’ve used these products too often, you’ve likely seen what happens: The skin can become oily, redness increases, flakes abound, and you’re this close to wanting to put a paper bag over your head. And, if you’re using that type of irritating product with other active products (like a prescription retinoid), well, you probably won’t want to be seen in public for a while.
What to do? First, some wise words from best-selling beauty author Paula Begoun: “Many people think that with active products, if a little is good, then more must be better, but that's not true. Skin often goes haywire from the constant application of very active products. It’s critically important to pay attention to how your skin responds to any active product, and adjust frequency of application if needed — and of course, stop using any products that cause redness or lasting sensitivity.” Now, let’s put it all together.