Do we need to rotate skin care products?


Sometime ago, I wrote about the need to rotate shampoos because of product buildup. Now, the question is does this happen to our skin and do we need to rotate our skin care products once in awhile too?

I’ve had this question for the longest time because I’ve found that some skin care products somehow lose their efficacy over time and it looks like I’m not alone. In Pei Fang’s review on Istrilene Collagen Enriched Facial Treatment Cream, she mentioned her beautician saying that our skin can get used to the products we use and they would not seem as effective as before after awhile. Subsequently, a reader Bibibam also dropped me a comment asking if our skin can become tolerant to a product when used too often.

Well, I don’t have the definite answer to this. However, I do have some thoughts on why this may happen.

Limited shelf life of active ingredients
Products that have positive effects on our skin contain active ingredients and have a limited shelf life which means they do degrade and lose their potency over time. Some ingredients like vitamin C can be so unstable that they oxidize when they come into contact with light and air, causing the product to become less effective.

Contamination of the product due to poor handling
Sometimes products are not well handled and the ingredients could have been contaminated during usage. When this happen, the product will become ineffective and in the worst case, may cause problems when used.

Ineffective preservatives and stabilizers
Most commercial skincare products contain preservatives and stabilizers to prolong their shelf life and prevent them from breeding unwanted bacteria. However, these preservatives and stabilizers have a limited shelf life themselves and their expiration can also render the active ingredients inactive even before the product is fully used up.

Build up of occulsive ingredients
Ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum and silicones generally acts as a barrier and clogs the skin pores. My theory is that even though a product may not contain a lot of such ingredients but if you use the product containing them over time, these occlusive agents may build up on our skin and prevent active ingredients in the product from penetrating properly into our dermal layers after awhile.

Changes in product formulation
Sometimes products don’t seem so effective because of changes in product formulation. For example, I used to love La Mer Face Serum very much because it was effective for me. However, I stopped using it because they came up with a slightly different variation and the product don’t seem to function as well as before.

Changes in your skin care routine
If you introduce some new products into your skin care regime, you might suddenly find your usual products not working as well. Perhaps the ingredients are not agreeable with one another such as copper peptides and vitamin C, or your usual cleanser is not cleaning your face as well due to a new sunscreen you’ve introduced. (Like me!)

Changes in our skin condition
Our skin changes due to hormonal changes and aging. As such, it is quite normal to find that products that used to work for us suddenly falling short of expections.

Changes in external conditions
Related to the changes in our skin is the change in season, weather and the environment. Something that was rich and worked well during the drier months may suddenly break you out when used during the warmer summer. Likewise, a light moisturizer that worked well under hot and humid weather might suddenly be insufficient when you relocate to a country with colder weather conditions.

So what do you think? Do our skin become immune and get used to products we use after awhile or is it more likely a problem with the products we’re using because of changes to the active ingredients or changes to our skin conditions?


  1. prettybeautiful says:

    hmm..for me i would think that it is a combo of 2 factors, esp our skin condition changes overtime. so what works now may not work the same a year later

    Prettybeautiful: Yup, I agree! Must go for upgrades. Haha…and I guess that’s why the cosmetic business is lucrative! ?

  2. karen says:

    for me my skin is temperamental and acts crazy every once in a while. i need to switch products during those times. i haven’t been able to identify triggers except maybe PMS/stress/environment… so sad. haha.

    Karen: It does? Ah…I don’t think PMS has that effect for my skin but I agree hormonal changes can wreak havoc! Stress does have an effect for mine though.

  3. Den says:

    For my case, my skin must have been “wowed” by the new product, and after a while, it gets sick of it and refuse to improve as before. However, if I give a little break in between, the skin will show improvement again. Weird, eh…?!?! I guess even too much of a good thing is bad.

    Den: Yes, that’s quite weird. Maybe the skin needs time to recognize the ingredients and adjust? But at least it’ll work again.

  4. Synaesthesia says:

    erm.. tat’s a tricky 1.. but I won’t be so ‘faithful’ to 1 product.. hahaha…

    Synaesthesia: Haha…I know…the temptations are always there! It’s a good excuse for us really! ?

  5. Florence says:

    I do rotate my skincare products.When I see some interesting stuff then I will buy,in the end,there’s a lot on my dresser :)Now is better, can control…..

    Florence: Hohoho…I can emphatize. It’s one of our weaknesses! ?

  6. Peapot says:

    Ya, totally agree on the hormonal change and ageing. Both of which will render the product ineffective. I realise products that I used to find oily for my skin is now suitable for me.

    Peapot: Yeah…I used to wonder why the cosmetic companies come out with so many series – now I know better. ?

  7. BT says:

    Sometimes even the ingredient list looks good but the formulation is not effective or, use product in incorrect sequence that a cream might not use after a serum depends on the formulation. This is hard part for us to understand, I just realized this recently from a book that wrote by an ingredient specialist and I tried to learn more.
    Your post is great!

    BT: Hey thanks for your comment! I agree with you – this is not easy to understand. It also doesn’t help that most of the time, the companies don’t explain thoroughly; like what we need to take note because of a certain ingredient that is used and it is photosensitive for example. A lot of times, unless we research, we will not know.

    Btw, I’m keen to know which book you’ve read if you don’t mind letting me know. It sounds very interesting!

  8. devan says:

    Have you heard about the latest Canadian dermatologist to create his own skincare line? I don’t normally ever write on these blogs but if you suffer from dry or dehydrated skin this new line built on the “hydration concept” is a FIVE STAR PRODUCT LINE!! Seriously, its filled with potent anti-oxidants that have changed the way my skin looks and feels and other makeup artists across North America are raving about it since he works on sets to assist top artists when needed! You can order it on-line at or thru select spa’s and medical clinics. Good luck! Devan, Vancouver.

    Devan: Okay thanks for the info. I’ll check out the line when I get the time.

  9. Miki says:

    I totally agree on the age factors.. For e.g. in the later part of life, woman will usually concentrate on face lifting, anti-aging or wrinkles control which these are not much into consideration during the younger days.

    Can stick to same brand but different range if is brand conscious i supposed.

    Miki: Yep, I think we need upgrades as we age… ?

  10. BT says:

    The book is in Chinese and I don’t know how to translate them correctly. I’ll send you the picture of the book, most likely next week. ?

    BT: It’s in Chinese! Interesting! Hey, send me the picture only if you have the time. Don’t worry too much about it.

  11. Isabelle says:

    Actually, it’s not so much of our skin becoming resistant to the same product, but because the needs of our skin changes with environment, diets, and even the beauty products that we slather on everyday.

    Isabelle: Yup, I agree. I think it’s more the other way round too.

  12. lin says:

    what I do is to alternate my skincare products. I have two different night moisturizers and serums, so I use them on alternate nights. I’m not sure if it’s true skin can be immune, but I guess by alternating products, it is one way of preventing skin from being too used to a particular product?

    Lin: That’s a good idea. I don’t use the same products everyday too actually.

  13. MISS CHANDLER says:

    I buy my moistorizor in twos because it comes from overseas and it’s kinda silly to me just to purchase one product with a shipping fee…
    but cosmetically is that not a good idea to buy the same beauty product twice in a row, or just change it per season?

  14. sesame says:

    I wouldn’t say it’s silly; it’s good planning! I guess moisturizer should be okay because you’re not using it for specific skin treatments. However, I’m not sure where you reside – you may sometimes need to rotate if you have different seasons where you live as your skin condition differs from season to season.

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