Ask the Experts: "How can I tell if a new product is really working?"

Ever wonder if that new skin-care line you're trying is making an impact? Whether using drugstore products or high-end lotions and potions, do you know if your product of choice is really effective? We put this question to the experts and came up with some interesting facts about finding out what works in skin care.


First, let's dismiss some common misconceptions. Many of us can appreciate that a pricey face cream that does little more than feel good is a bad investment. (Yes, investment. We're talking about your face here.) But what about the asking price of a cheap product that is too harsh on skin? In reality, that may cost you much more than its feel-good-do-nothing overpriced counterpart. Wendy Lewis, beauty guru and author of nine beauty books including The Beauty Battle, agrees.



"This is a very common skin-care snafu. If you feel your skin is dry and tighter, or flaking, you are craving hydration, or you are using too abrasive or acidic products and your skin needs a break."


Note that red and flaky skin is not "really clean"; it's really aggravated, and as Lewis explains, "the goal of an ideal program is cleanse, protect and treat."


While we found differing opinions on how to judge a product's efficacy, most of our experts agreed that time is of the essence. The consensus is that products should be used consistently for six weeks to see results. For most of us, even this short-term commitment is hard to make.


"Many women will use a product haphazardly once in awhile, and after seeing no change, dismiss it as not working. That is not the way to truly test a product's effectiveness," Lewis says.


Annet King, training guru for the International Dermal Institute, confirms that six weeks is the standard waiting period for those looking to see results; "You need to give your skin at least six weeks, one epidermis, to fully adjust to new products."


Many dump their new skin-care regimen at the first sign of a breakout, another common mistake. "Expect some congestion to surface," King says. "This is normal if you are using a new line. The skin will purge under surface debris. By this time you should really start seeing results."


King also recommends avoiding certain ingredients that have no benefits for skin and may even do more harm than good. What's on her list of ingredient don'ts? Mineral oil, which can cause under-surface congestion (read: pimples); s.d. alcohol, an extremely drying ingredient; artificial colors and pure formaldehyde preservatives; as well as isopropyl myristae, an ingredient that King sums up as "very comedogenic" (read: causes pimples).


Clearly, everyone is not as zealous about skin care as we are. It's an occupational hazard, but once we've taken the plunge with our product of choice and given it time to do its thing, how then do we know that it's improving our skin? Whatever our goals may be, (repairing damaged skin, anti-aging, refining skin texture), we want to know that we'll see results.


Turns out that "see" may not be a misnomer. Steve Dworman of Nuglow, a skin-care product company, explains "when people are staring at themselves every day in the mirror, they cannot see the subtle changes taking place over time," a sentiment echoed by almost every skin-care expert we spoke with.



Dr. Elias Michael, a board-certified dermatologist, dermatological surgeon and founder of SOHO Dermatology & Health, recommends tracking one's progress digitally: "A good idea is to take photos before and after starting use and making notes on problem areas, i.e. lines, etc. Once you have a baseline, you can compare your process to these images monthly."


The bottom line is that seeing is believing, however, if you're relying on the naked eye to see changes in overall skin health, you may be missing the point.


"We now recommend that a person take a closeup photo of themselves before starting a new regime and then 90-120 days later under the same circumstances," Dworman says. Turns out that with time, commitment and follow-up, picture-perfect skin may just be within reach.


Need more beauty advice? Ask the experts.

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