Are You Using The Wrong Skin-Care Products?

A good skin-care routine is like a good friend: tough to find, but once you’ve got one, you can’t imagine your life without them. So, when you’re asked to part with said routine, even for one day, it can (understandably) cause some serious anxiety. Now, consider for a moment giving up your products for a week.
Scary thought, we know. Because of that fear, it's insanely easy to fall into a product rut and figure those products are ideal for your complexion. But, what if your perfect-skin solution is actually hiding in a bottle you wouldn't normally have given a second glance?
We asked six brave souls to test this theory. Turns out, there’s a lot more that goes into giving up your favorite skin-care routine than you’d think. Sure, we expected some havoc — whether it be in the form of epic epidermis freak-outs or desperate bargaining on the part of our guinea pigs volunteers. But, we also had a few surprises and changes of heart, including a gal who fears oils scrubbing with them daily, another who pared down her half-dozen-long product list to a mere three bottles, and one gallant male who took on the routine of a woman.
So, before you completely rule out a cleansing routine that's the opposite of your own, have a read over our results. You may be surprised by what we found — and you might even be inspired to cheat on your products. We promise not to tell.
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The Swap: Tons of Products vs. Short & Sweet

The Swappers
The Involved Gal: Maria Del Russo, beauty writer
The Simple Chick: Melissa Green, marketing consultant

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Maria’s Regimen: “I’m one of those people who has always been super hard on herself about her skin. It’s like my own form of dysmorphia — I think my skin is a lot worse than it actually is. So, when I got into the business of being a beauty editor, I dove headfirst into finding products I loved.

“Over the past six months, I’ve started leaning in heavily to the Drunk Elephant line because I loved the way my skin felt. Sure, it’s a little nuts to use two different cleansers and two different serums, but my skin feels the best it ever has. Plus, I’m obsessed with my moisturizer, and I use it all the time. In addition to the products I gave to Melissa, I also try to use masks a few days a week. But, since my routine already makes me seem super anal, I left that part out so as to not freak out Melissa.”

Melissa’s Regimen: “My quick and easy regimen includes face wash followed by face and eye cream. It has suited me well, as I am relatively low maintenance and typically traveling or on the go. Applying the Aesop and Kiehl's creams makes me feel like I'm doing at least something positive for my skin without spending too much time or money. I particularly love the lightweight Aesop moisturizer because it absorbs almost immediately into my skin, so I can put on makeup and run out the door.”
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Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
Maria’s Experience
“Once I got my products, I took a look at them and had a minor meltdown about how little I was going to be doing to my skin. Melissa only uses a face wash, a moisturizer, and an eye cream. No serum, no masks, and no exfoliant — which freaked me out the most. I am obsessed with how great exfoliating makes my skin feel. But, after being talked down by my fellow beauty editors, I figured this would be a nice 'skin vacation.' That said, I still kept all of my skin-care products at the office and out of my apartment so I didn't tempt myself.

“When I first used the Purpose face wash, it was amazing how easily my makeup came off. It literally melted between my fingers! But, when I moved on to the moisturizer, I was overwhelmed by the smell. I typically love Aesop’s products, but this one had a super-strong scent. As someone who is migraine-prone, I was immediately turned off. Alternatively, I was very impressed with the eye cream. Since it’s made with avocados, it has a slight green tint that offsets the dark circles that constantly plague my under eyes. Score!

“The next few days progressed without much consequence until about day three. About midday, I went to the bathroom and noticed that my foundation was starting to cake. It seemed to apply just fine, but once it started to settle, it got this weird, flaky consistency to it. Plus, my skin itself was looking super dry and flaky, especially around my nose and my lips. I chalk this up to the fact that I wasn’t exfoliating. It was kind of strange, because the moisturizer was super thick, but it never fully settled into my skin.

“At the end of the experiment, I couldn’t wait to get back to my skin-care regimen — mainly the exfoliation. And, once I was able to scrub, my skin bounced back immediately. My makeup was wearing better, and my face felt much more moisturized with my gel cream.

“I do see the benefit of paring down your routine from time to time, and I have actually been using the Purpose Face wash to remove my makeup before cleansing with my regular bar soap. I've also been using the Kiehl’s eye cream regularly, and it’s totally changed my under-eye situation. Someone else may see my routine as totally high-maintenance, but I guess that’s just what works for me."
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Photo: Courtesy of Melissa Green.
Melissa’s Experience
"On day one, I ditched my gym bag and went straight home to test these pretty products out. The Pekee bar gave a rich lather and creamy wash that took a bit more effort to wash off than I was used to, but it was well worth it. The Glycolic Serum was next; it absorbed pretty quickly but left my face a bit slick and sticky. The Hado Labo moisturizer was relatively heavy and thick — after applying, I could see myself having some facial-sweating issues in the morning, post workout, and running out the door. However, I loved the eye cream — a tiny bit went a long way and felt creamy. All in all, I felt heavily moisturized but pretty sticky.

"The next morning, I tried out the JuJu bar, which had a nice balance of being simultaneously gritty yet gentle. The Vitamin C Serum stung a little bit but then slicked over, and adding the Hada Labo on top definitely made my face heavy and shiny.

"Throughout the week I learned to use less Hada Labo to deter the sticky-face effect, and by day three (with a finishing powder to mute the shine), my skin even started glowing a bit. I began to notice my skin tone evening out and almost brightening — I even started using less under-eye concealer as a result!

"I for sure was able to see the beginnings of the long-term effects these products would have on me. Overall, I enjoyed the extra time and attention spent on taking care of my face, and I plan on working some of these products into my regimen — definitely the exfoliant and night serum."
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The Swap: Battle of the Sexes

The Swappers
The Girl: Ammiel Mendoza, designer
The Guy: Axel Esquite, senior front-end developer

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Ammiel’s Regimen: “I never had a big problem with acne in my teens, so I was used to being a dirty kid and never washing my face. This bad habit carried on to my college years and up until a year ago. But, as my body changed, I was getting a little hormonal acne around my jaw and did not know how to handle it. After several dermatologist appointments and some research and suggestions from our beauty team, I started implementing the regimen I use today. I always thought I had very oily skin, but it was made known to me that the greasiness was caused by dehydration and an overproduction of oils, which is why I always make sure to moisturize.

“I use the witch hazel to remove my makeup since it's very effective and doesn't make my face feel super dry. The collagen booster and wrinkle cream are good for some anti-aging purposes — I'm trying to take care of the look of my skin while I'm still young. To treat my hyperpigmentation caused by the acne, I use Lancôme DreamTone to help fade the marks. I use it in tandem with the sunscreen so I don't further ruin my skin in the sun. Finally, the masks help me cleanse my skin — especially after a night out or when my face feels super clogged up.”

Axel’s Regimen: “I want acne-less, non-oily-looking skin that won't be an impediment to the spontaneity I enjoy. Prior to this, I was through with experimenting on my face. Once I got something down to treat my acne, I was done. My definition of skin care is making sure I don't end up looking like Edward James Olmos.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Ammiel Mendoza.
Ammiel’s Experience
“When I first saw the products, I realized a lot of them are used to treat acne. I don't really have an issue with recurring acne but more of the aftermath — hyperpigmentation, scarring, etc. There were also only two daily products, which seemed a lot different (easier) than the multistep process I’m used to. Since I’m obsessed with making sure my face is hydrated and protected, though, I was concerned that the regimen did not include a moisturizer or sunscreen.

“I was directed to use the Neutrogena Acne Face Wash, followed by the Bioré Acne Scrub. First impressions: I wasn’t a fan of the scent — I thought it smelled like grapefruit cough syrup — but I liked the way it lathered. The face scrub smelled amazing, and I experienced a nice, tingly feeling. After my face dried, my skin felt very taut and uncomfortable. I felt like if I made any expression my skin would tear! I then applied the Kiehl's eye de-puffer, and it felt sort of slimy in a good way. Since there was no moisturizer, my skin stayed tight for the rest of the morning, and toward the end of the day, my face was extremely greasy and flaky at the same time.

“However, I really liked the Kiehl's Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Masque. My pores were very cleansed, but when I washed it off, my face again felt very dry. I woke up the next day with a very greasy face.

“Overall, this regimen was the opposite of what I needed and left me feeling really greasy. The only product I would consider purchasing is the mask.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Axel Esquite.
Axel’s Experience
“So, this was a bit enlightening. I found out I like a sunscreen. I found some new masks — I wound up loving the Lush Mask of Magnaminty. Ammiel also splashes cold water on her face 20 times every morning — a ritual I thought was torturous in the beginning but eventually got used to. The real test for whether people could see the difference in my skin came when I saw my grandmother for dinner on Saturday. She always mentions my skin’s condition, and she didn’t that night. I also told my mother I was doing the test and showed her the pictures of my skin, and she demanded to know the name of some of the stuff I was using — a good sign.

“I don't think I can comment on the efficacy of the anti-aging or dark-spot stuff. It seemed like they did nothing. I think the dark spots were healing on their own, and the effects of the products weren't visually apparent. Anti-aging might just be insurance for me at my age or stage of life. I don't have forehead wrinkles.

“I like the sunscreen Ammiel swears by — I will continue using that and experiment on my own. Now, I'm thinking of seeing which products might be best for my skin type and that offer pleasant results. Before, I had a scorched-earth strategy to my face, and now it's more of an exploratory phase. As far as the whole regimen goes, it was designed by someone who had different goals than me, so it wasn’t ever going to fully turn my skin around.”

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The Swap: Beneficial Chemicals vs. Ayurvedic Techniques

The Swappers
Team Natural: Katie Hegarty, associate director, brand experiences
Team Acids: Rachel Shatkin, front-end engineer

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Katie’s Regimen: “Due to hypersensitive skin, I have always tended toward skin-care products with minimal fragrance and gentle, more natural ingredients.

"One of the products I use is Pratima Neem Rose Face Sunscreen. It has zinc in it, so it's the real deal, but it uses neem as the base, which is a very common product in Ayurvedic skin care. I started using this line when I was in yoga-teacher training about a year and a half ago. Learning even basic Ayurvedic principles resulted in a somewhat dramatic purge of my entire beauty cabinet. There was a stint of using only olive and coconut oils on my skin, but I have now settled into a more middle-of-the-road regimen with a combination of natural, sensitive skin and Ayurvedic products."

Rachel’s Regimen: “I've always been battling some sort of acne issue. It seemed to me the only way to combat it was to bombard it with every kind of over-the-counter ointment and glycolic acid and/or salicylic acid face wash I could find and switch it up month to month. The answer was always a chemical one, in the form of 'more.' Oil was a term I grew to detest when it came to skin care — except when it came to anti-aging regimens, which aren't typically part of my routine yet.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Katie Hegarty.
Katie’s Experience
“I was very curious to try out new products, especially the cleanser, which is a product I would never have selected on my own. The first thing I noticed was the smell, which I really liked — it's just fresh and clean. This product also has little beads that act as exfoliants, but they are not too harsh. My skin felt nice after using it. In a rookie move, I did use it around my eyes, creating a mild tingling, burning sensation. Then, I read the label, which instructed not to do that.

“The Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus was pretty great. It comes in this little dropper wand that makes it fun to use. I loved the light texture and the way it made my skin so soft. It's also an anti-aging product, which I would like to start using more of in the future. I didn't end up using the Aveeno moisturizing lotion on my face because my skin felt nice and hydrated after using just the Clinique, but I do absolutely love it as a body lotion.

“After about four days of using all these products, my skin started to break out. Nothing dramatic, but I noticed a few small bumps here and there. To be fair, I think that no matter what products I had switched out to, this would have happened. Because my skin is sensitive, I try to not change too much about my regimen at once. The exfoliating cleanser, for example, would not be something I'd use every day — it's too intense but could be a good cleanser once or twice a week. For now, I will stick to my Juara, as it has the same exfoliating effect but with more natural ingredients.

“I would definitely consider branching out to other products after this experiment, especially looking into high-quality anti-aging products such as the Clinique — though I'd probably use it more sparingly — since this was my favorite product from the batch. I am still very committed to my sensitive-skin, natural, Ayurvedic products, especially since my skin did break out after using other products this week. More than anything, I like the idea of using products that allow me to keep it simple and that are as close to my natural skin as possible.”

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Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Rachel’s Experience
“I was so excited to give someone else’s regimen a try. Maybe, just maybe, I would receive the holy grail of all skin care that would magically clear up every single skin issue I’ve been plagued with. I excitedly dug through my bag of goodies. Then, it happened — my eyes fell to the ingredients lists on each of the labels. To my horror, there was the thing I avoided like the plague in my skin-care routine: oils. Jojoba, shea, macadamia.

"Still, I had made the commitment, and I decided to take the plunge. After all, with all the hype over oils over the past few years, surely there must be something to it. I understand why oils are good for some skin, just not really convinced they will be good for my specific needs.

"I followed the skin regimen exactly as it was detailed for me. At first I thought it was strange that the SPF was to be applied first, but when I got to the moisturizer I understood immediately. It was very thick, but having come-and-go dry/combination skin, I figured it was probably going to be really good for my complexion. Since the moisturizer was very thick — perhaps a little too thick for me, it left kind of a sticky residue long after I put it on.

"At first I was doubling up exfoliation with the Clarisonic and the scrub, so I was breaking out a little bit extra. So, I got into the habit of skipping the Clarisonic here and there. But, by day three, my skin was peeling. I started skipping products to see if they were causing the peeling, starting with the sunscreen. I’d had some adverse reactions to sunscreens in the past, and the peeling was definitely reminiscent of my past reactions.

"That said, I was noticing my makeup was staying better, and my new breakouts from the week before were definitely down. I also needed a lot less makeup, which was great. By the end of the week, I was being told my skin was glowing, and it felt amazing. I am so happy I decided to give the all-natural, oil-laden routine a shot. I’m now one step closer to admitting I am a true believer in using oils to solve my skin-care woes — almost.”
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