How your skincare regime might be irritating your skin

Is your ten-step routine helping or hindering your skin?

If you're a fan of layering various serums and creams onto your face, but still aren't seeing the results you want, your skincare routine could be the culprit. 

Biologi founder and cosmetic chemist Ross Macdougald says that when people see skin irritation, the first thing they do is try to fix the issue with another product.

"Their skin might be red, itchy, breaking out or flaking and most people just want a solution," he says. "However, what many people don’t realise is that their skincare products could actually be the thing that’s irritating their skin."

Ross shares some of the most common mistakes that could be causing skin irritation:

Layering skincare products

Many skincare trends involve layering many different products, however, Ross explains how this doesn't always help your skin.

"Firstly, many people aren’t aware that certain ingredients can cancel each other out and render them useless and secondly, some ingredients when layered together can cause harsh skin reactions," he explains. "A great example of this is applying a Glycolic Acid to remove dead skin cells, then applying a product with Salicylic Acid – this can cause major reactions to the skin disrupting the epidermis."

Cleansing too much

Yes, there is such a thing as being too squeaky clean. Our skin's ability to naturally fight off environmental stresses and infections is affected by its pH level, Ross tells. So, if all natural oils are stripped from your skin, its pH levels won't be at their best. 

"Your skin naturally needs time to breathe and rejuvenate on its own," Ross says. "So, instead of cleansing several times a day, try to minimise. It's best to cleanse twice at night to remove makeup and just a super light cleanse or water only in the morning."

Using products that contain irritants

Ross says to be careful when selecting what products and active ingredients you apply to your skin. 

"Exactly what is in a product and how it is labelled can be confusing or rife with unsubstantiated claims," he explains. "The truth is that many ingredients found in skincare will build up over time and may pose a long-term risk. The below ingredients are known irritants to the skin":


The European Union, USA and UK are considering banning fragrance from beauty products; however, Australia and New Zealand won't be banning this ingredient just yet, Ross tells. "Fragranced products contain a range of chemicals that can be harmful to the skin, but ingredients do not need to be fully disclosed on the product label or material safety data sheet," he adds. 

Ross says that the problem with fragranced products is the rise in reports of adverse health effects and skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. Recently, one in three Australians reported adverse health effects from fragranced products, including breathing problems, migraine headaches, skin irritation and asthma attacks.

Essential oils

Ross says that over time, with prolonged exposure to essential oils, you may become sensitised. Your skin may redden, itch, develop pigmentation or experience eczema or psoriasis.

Hyaluronic acid

The main issue with synthetic hyaluronic acid, Ross explains, is that it has been known to induce rashes and redness with prolonged use. 

"Counterintuitively, the water-binding properties of synthetic HA used in skincare can cause the skin to become more dehydrated, as it pulls up the moisture from the deepest layers of your skin," he adds. 


While you may get an ultra-smooth finish, Ross says using products with silicones is like wrapping your skin in cling wrap.

"Silicones basically suffocate the skin and can cause irritation, acne and much more," he explains. "On top of this, most mainstream brands are also filled with petrol chemical glycols. Stay away from any products that have ingredients ending in ‘cone’ like Dimethicone, Methicone, Cyclomethicone etc. Brands use them because they’re cheap, easy to formulate and have long shelf lives. They have absolutely no benefit to the skin."

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