For a skin care lover, there’s nothing more exciting than tearing open a brand new product and immediately slathering it all over your face. But, just like when you try certain foods for the first time, you’ve probably encountered a few products that haven’t agreed with your skin. That said, to avoid irritation, or even worse, an allergic reaction, learning how to test skin care products is essential. And who better to turn to than those who test out tons of new formulas for their job, like beauty editors?
A common technique for trying any new formula is by first doing a patch test to observe any adverse reactions or changes in the skin, which most beauty editors (and dermatologists) will cosign on. “Yes, I absolutely do [a patch test], and personally, I think it’s beneficial for everyone to do, but particularly for people with sensitive skin,” Theresa Massony, Elite Daily’s Senior Style Editor, tells TZR. “I’ll do it the day before I plan to start testing a product with potent ingredients like retinol or acids, and I’ll do it on a discreet part of my face I can cover up if necessary, like on my neck near my ear, the underside of my jaw, or a small corner of my forehead.”
To really play it safe, Dr. Harold Lancer, a Beverly Hills dermatologist, suggests performing a patch test on the inner upper arm daily for three to five days before applying it directly on your face. And as tempting as it is to dive right into your Sephora bag full of skin care goodies, he says it’s best to try one product at a time to prevent confusion and any potential irritation.
Ready for more expert-approved tips on how to test new skin care? Ahead, some crucial advice from six editors who are constantly test-driving new formulas.
Michelle Li, Fashion & Beauty Editor At Teen Vogue
Teen Vogue‘s Michelle Li says when you’re shopping for new products, always look at the ingredients and don’t fall for the packaging. “I am so guilty of choosing a product because of how cute the packaging is and hating it, and now it just sits on my shelf looking cute but still full,” she says. “Also I recommend reading reviews, but know that everyone’s skin is so different and there are a lot of factors that determine how your skin looks!”
Hallie Gould, Senior Beauty Editor At Byrdie
Byrdie’s Senior Beauty Editor Hallie Gould says the time in which you start to see results depends on the product, but she’d suggest giving it a good few weeks, and even longer if it has anti-aging claims. “The reason everyone loves acids and exfoliating products is because they yield immediate, glowy results,” she explains. “But that’s why we’re so prone to overdoing it. Make sure you’re balancing any actives with comforting, soothing hydration and giving each product time to do its job before tossing it off.”
Hannah Baxter, Senior Beauty Editor, Coveteur
To determine if a product is working or not, Hannah Baxter, Senior Beauty Editor at Coveteur, keeps her eyes peeled for a noticeable change. “Generally in the first few days and weeks, I’m looking at consistency, texture, the scent or lack thereof, and how it feels on my skin — does this sunscreen leave a film? Does that serum make my makeup pill? Can this cleanser remove my makeup or do I need to pre-cleanse with a remover? Those benchmarks are great to start with, and then you can measure what the formula is doing for your skin and whether it’s worthwhile.”
And like Dr. Lancer mentions, the beauty editor recommends to refrain from trying all your new products at once. “You’re just asking for your skin to freak out, and you could potentially harm your skin barrier and microbiome,” Baxter says. “It’s easy to feel like a kid in a candy store when it comes to skin care products, but you need to approach them with caution and a low and slow mentality.”
Kayla Greaves, Senior Beauty Editor At InStyle
Kayla Greaves, Senior Beauty Editor At InStyle, suggests booking an appointment with a dermatologist so they can assist in developing a proper skin care plan. “Skin care isn’t like makeup in the sense where it’s something to play with,” she notes. “Yes, it is trial-and-error, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to achieve a certain type of skin, or find a solution to an ailment. So you don’t want to go trying out all these products and make things worse. That’s why it’s best to always talk to a professional before you dive into anything new.”
Stephanie Saltzman, Beauty Director, Fashionista
Fashionista’s Beauty Director Stephanie Saltzman recommends not getting too drawn into marketing and to do your research (not on Instagram). “Ask your dermatologist what routine would work best to address your concerns, and if you don’t have access to a derm yourself, seek out information online and on social media that comes from board-certified dermatologists, not just anyone with ‘skin’ or ‘glow’ in their bio.”
Also, she says it’s important to realize just because a product is labeled as “natural” or “clean” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe, gentle, or non-irritating. “In fact, a lot of ‘clean’ formulations rely on natural fragrances and essential oils, and those are things some people are allergic to or have adverse reactions to,” Saltzman notes. Plus, the beauty director says that skin care isn’t one size fits all. “Just because you see something on social media or something worked for your friend, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be right for you.”
Theresa Massony, Senior Style Editor, Elite Daily
Massony advises everyone to follow the instructions before using a new formula on your face. “If the instructions say to use a product only once or twice a week, don’t use it every day,” she emphasizes. “If the instructions say to use a thin layer, use a thin layer. If the instructions say to leave on something for only 10 minutes, don’t leave it on for two hours. Your skin will thank you, I promise.”