You know how you can develop a tolerance to things like medications (painkillers are a common example), alcohol, and other substances? It turns out, you might actually be able to develop a tolerance to certain skin care products too. What we mean by this is that there is evidence suggesting that if you use certain skin care products for long enough (around a year) they can stop being as effective, in the same way that if you take a certain painkiller a lot for the same kind of pain, it will get less effective at blocking it out for you after awhile, or how the more you drink alcohol, the more you can drink at a time without the adverse effects being as effective (do note, this is only provided as an example, and we do not encourage irresponsible drinking by any means; try to keep it to one glass of antioxidant-rich red wine a night).
How does this happen? And what can be done about it? Let’s talk about that.
The process wherein your skin can develop a tolerance to certain ingredients involves the particular enzymes that the ingredient activates. You can’t develop a tolerance to all skin care ingredients, because this applies specifically to ones that are active in a certain way. Some skin care ingredients, like retinol, vitamin C, and others, cause enzymes to be released in the skin cells and attach themselves to a specific receptor, which then triggers the desired effect of the product. However, your cells only have so many receptors, and if you repeatedly flood them with enzymes, eventually they will all be taken up and bonded to an enzyme and unable to accept more for awhile, lessening the effect the product can have on your skin.
How to Fix It
The solution here is to vary the skin care products you use; to change them up on a regular basis. It’s recommended to use the same set of products no longer than 6 to 8 months, and then switch to another set of products which aims at producing similar effects, but with different formulations of ingredients, and/or with ingredients available in different forms (recall, for example, that all vitamins have several different “forms” which all act as the vitamin, but trigger slightly different reactions in cells). Conveniently enough, this span of time lines up relatively well with the change of seasons from summer to fall and then winter to spring. As such, try taking advantage of this convenient timing and do what’s already recommended anyway: a seasonal switch. Use slightly heavier, more moisturizing products in autumn and winter than you do in spring and summer, and kill two birds with one stone.