The hardest skincare lesson I’ve had to figure out is that you never stop figuring out your skincare triggers. You just don’t. Your environment changes, your diet changes, your body changes, you’re in a constant state of change, so obviously your skin will change.
There is no easy way to figure out what your triggers are, it really is just trial and error. There is no magic bullet in skincare. Sometimes the trial sucks and your skin throws a monster tantrum, sometimes it a gentle, “no, I don’t like this, let’s not do this again, okay?“. It’s pretty important to listen to your skin. I don’t mean be obsessive with it, but be aware of normal trends. Sometimes the triggers may not be environmental, they may be food based, or connected to your sleep.
My skin, literally can’t even.
I know for example that my skin really likes sunshine and when I don’t have a lot of dairy in my diet. It also really likes it when I go to bed early and wake up early (who’s doesn’t), when I drink at least a litre of water a day (surprisingly hard to do) and if I avoid the following ingredients in any topical product I use.
Tea Tree Oil
If this is a main ingredient, then nope not happening. When I was a wee lass, Boots was doing an intro promotion for their tea tree line, so mother and I bought the wash for me to try out. For about a week I couldn’t wash my face with anything, even water was painful. I basically came up in a rash and had a really hard time sleeping because it hurt so much.
Since then I’ve avoided tea tree oil as a major ingredient (though I can use products with it in small doses like the COSRX A-Sol). I’m not sure if it was the tea tree, or if it was something else as I don’t have the ingredient list to cross check, but the memory is still fresh and my life has been fine without tea tree so, I’m okay.
Niacinamide (Vitamin B)
Who would have thunk it? This ingredient is one of the ‘trifecta’ (Vitamin A (Retinoid), Vitamin B (Niacinamide), Vitamin C) of anti ageing and is in a lot of products I want to try, so this has burned me the most in terms of testing out. I bought a Simple Toner that had this as one of the top three ingredients, and after exhaustively cross checking all the other ingredients with products I’ve used with no problem I had to accept that niacinamide is not for me skincare wise.
Boo! My reaction to this is super gross. Like Tea Tree oil my skin turns bumpy and rash like, but I also get the added reaction of papules (don’t look it up) that form on my temple. They vanished within days of removing the toner, so I was sure that was the culprit. I would really like to try it again, but the thought of papules really put me off and I don’t want to risk it.
SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
This is very very new, ugh and I think it might be related to the weather because I’ve never had this happen before. Basically this is why I’m writing this post. A few weeks ago, I some acne around my mouth was being really persistent and I couldn’t figure out why. I realised that the only thing I’d changed was not rinsing my mouth out with mouthwash, which meant when I drooled in my sleep (stop laughing), any area my saliva touched broke out. From the ingredient list, I saw that my toothpaste had SLS but my mouthwash didn’t, and I theorised that it was possible my mouthwash was helping my skin neutralise whatever ill effects my toothpaste had caused. I went back to rinsing my mouth with the mouthwash and voila all better!
Then, oh my gosh, then, I didn’t think to check any of my other products. Can you imagine? I’ve discovered a skin trigger and I just left it! *hits head against desk*. It wasn’t until last week that I thought it through and realised that a lot of my products have SLS. Since removing it from my products my skin has become so much calmer.
So how do you figure it out for yourself?
It takes time young one.
Lots of time standing in aisles reading ingredient lists, searching online for ingredient lists that are not on the manufacturer’s website (goddamn why) and thanking every blogger who takes pictures or copies down the ingredient list. It will take time pouring over formulation information by people much smarter than you and time spent realising that you know nothing Jon Snow. But more importantly, it will take time searching for samples and tentatively testing them on your skin before you know your triggers.
Your tools are Google, Wikipedia (no shame in using Simple English) alongside more specialised sites like Prospector.
- CosDNA is great for an at a glance look at what ingredients do and can be useful for sourcing ingredient lists. But! The information on that site isn’t super up to date due to it being user submitted. Companies also change formulations for different regions and update their ingredient lists all the time, so always use the site with that in mind.
- Prospector is great because it is way more regulated, and it is independent so less likely to be influenced by companies. It is like a wiki of ingredients, formulations.
I am not a chemist but I know how to use the tools available to me and it is possible for you to do the same! If you know of other great tools, let me know! I’m always interested in learning more!