Why did my acne product stop working?

Why did my acne product stop working?

If you’ve relied on topical products to help with your acne – that means this story is familiar to you:

You heard (insert any product/brand name/prescription here) worked super well for acne. So you purchased the product, used it diligently and low and behold, your acne began to clear! Maybe even 100%. Phew! You found your fix.

Then a few months pass, maybe a year. You see a few pimples pop up. No problem, you can take it. But then there are a few more, then a few more, next thing you know you’re right back where you started and it seems like those ZitZapper 10,000(tm) products that were endorsed by that clear skinned celebrity aren’t doing a darn thing any more.

What gives?!

Well, possibly a lot of things.

There is a misconception that your skin builds up a tolerance to acne products. This isn’t entirely true, unless you’ve been relying on antibiotics. Bacteria can adjust to antibiotics, so if that is what you are using – yes, those can stop working over time.

As for other products, sometimes skin can become sensitive to ingredients that are used repeatedly over long periods of time. This sensitivity can lead to increased breakouts – which means the thing that was helping the breakouts, may now actually be causing them.

Also, the shelf life of products isn’t as long as most manufactures put on the label. Usually the active ingredients either start to degrade after a few months, or sometimes the ingredients become stronger, like with retinols – and stronger is not better. Either problem can lead to the product not working as well as it did when it was first purchased.

To deal with these problems, you can try rotating to entirely different products every 4 – 6 weeks, to prevent sensitivity. Also, make sure your products are “fresh” and do not use products that were purchased more than 4 or 5 months ago.

Most often however, if a product works for you, it will always work for you – but only to the extent to which it was actually working.

Confused? Let me explain.

First, acne can be cyclical. Sometimes it is just coincidence that you started a new treatment at the same time your skin was naturally going through a “good phase”. This gives you the biased opinion that it was the product that caused the change. Then when your skin cycles back to a bad phase, you think it’s because the product stopped working – but it may not have been working all that well to begin with.

Also consider that using topical products to fight acne is a lot like shooting at a moving target. There are a lot of things in play when it comes to your skin and what’s causing your acne. If one variable in the equation changes, it can affect how well your products work. There are a lot of internal and external factors to consider.

For example, your skin tends to be oilier in the summer than in the winter, making it more prone to breakouts. The product may become “overwhelmed” in the summer with the extra oil and won’t be as effective. So the product that was working fine during Christmas may have more problems to deal with come 4th of July.

Or, if you start using another new product (or perhaps a new makeup or sunscreen), the combine ingredients may either clash, or reduce the treatment’s efficacy.

Or, if your stress greatly increases, causing cortisol and other hormones to become imbalanced, this puts greater stress on your skin (and immune system). This can cause more breakouts than normal, leaving your product unable to keep up.

Changes in diet can also lead to digestive stress, increased cell growth, or increased insulin levels, affecting hormones, or causing systemic inflammation – all of which lead to more breakouts.

Moving to a different city, with different air and water quality can cause your skin to break out more.

And let’s not forget the power of your mind. The placebo effect is very real. It’s entirely possible your expectations for the product to work gave you results. But once those first few blemishes come back, your hopeful expectations are replaced with doubt and fear and the products efficacy falls like a house of cards.

That’s why I tell my clients products that can help, but they shouldn’t be depended on as the only way you treat your acne. Getting to the root cause of your acne by understanding how your body works as a whole is the best way to heal your skin. It allows you to take the guess work out of treating your acne so you can see lasting results.

If you want to get to the bottom of your acne problem once and for all, so you can feel confident and no longer tied to your products, click here to find out how I can help.

Questions about your products? Let me know in the comments.

Much love,

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  1. 1

    Thank you for the article! I had annoying acne for a long time and I finally was prescribed Aczone (dapsone) Gel 7.5%. This topical really, dramatically, cleared my skin to be pretty much flawless for about 5 months. Then all of a sudden I developed some kind of irritation so I stopped using it and used Cortizone 10 creme which helped with the irritations. But I didn’t want to keep relying on that so I went back to Aczone and now it’s back to irritations and more breakouts that seem to have resulted from the Aczone. I am so confused and frustrated. Why might this be happening and what do you suggest that I do?

    • 2
      Brianne Grebil

      Hello Natalie,
      I received the email you sent regarding this issue and responded. Did you receive it? We can definitely talk about this – so let me know if my email did not make it to you.

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