Can Your Skin Become Immune to Skincare Products?


Can your skin become immune to skincare products? Or is there another reason that you don’t seem to be seeing the results you originally saw? This question isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Generally speaking, the skin doesn’t build up an immunity to the products you use - at least not in the sense that your skin gets ‘addicted’.

In some cases, immunity can occur - mostly from the use of specialised products containing ingredients such as topical steroids. In other cases, your skin may react when stopping certain products.

If you’ve noticed a difference in your skin over time, it is usually due to a few other causes and not due to immunity. In this article, we take a closer look at why your skin is not responding to products the way it did when you first started using them.


First, let’s look at what happens when immunity occurs. As we mentioned above, some ingredients such as topical steroids can build up immunity over time. This process is known as tachyphylaxis, which refers to an eventual tolerance to medications.

Speaking to Marie Claire, dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum MD says, “When this happens, the body can alter the signalling pathways on a molecular level so that the product is no longer effective.”

According to Dr Nussbaum, "There are a multitude of factors that can explain why a product may seem less effective.”

These reasons range from not seeing drastic results as skin concerns are targeted to your environment and ingredient interaction.

Real Simple beauty editor Hana Hong consulted board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD to understand why your skin may not be showing the same initial results you noticed when you started using your skincare products.

"Products that increase cell turnover, such as hydroxy acids and retinoids, require an adjustment phase during which time some people may experience skin purging. It's possible that you think a product is helping for a few days, and then once skin purging starts you think that it has stopped working," says Dr King.

This is because you will always have the biggest response to products after you first start using the products. Just because the response may not be as obvious as you start using the product more often, it doesn’t mean it’s not working, however.

Even if immunity in the classic sense doesn’t occur, your skin can start to get used to some products - notably those that address specific skin concerns.

Speaking to Byrdie, Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified and nationally-acclaimed dermatologic surgeon, says, “Our skin does become acclimated to the products we use. For example, if we consistently use skincare products that strip our skin of natural oils, oil production will go into overdrive to compensate for the lack of oils in the skin barrier, and thus after stopping usage of the product skin will be more oily than normal.”

What does this mean for your skincare routine? More importantly, what can you do to ensure that your skin continues to get the full benefit of the products you use?

Celebrity master esthetician Sarah Akram notes that skincare should be a consistent part of your daily routine, just like anything else. "Skin can get accustomed to products, but as long as you’re seeing the results that meet your goals, I say stick to it. Skincare is a lot like brushing your teeth - you have to do it every day or you’ll start seeing a decline in the health of your teeth, or in this case skin," she adds.

You can also switch up your skincare as the weather changes, moving from serums to lotions or creams during the winter months. You can exfoliate once or twice a week to allow ingredients to penetrate the skin’s barrier more effectively.

Finally, if you are still not noticing a big difference or you’re concerned about ingredient interaction or anything else, consult a dermatologist to find out how to get the most from your skincare products.