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Yes, Your Skin Can Experience Burnout
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Burnout. You’re likely very familiar with the word by now, especially thanks to how 2020 has unfolded.

Generally, it’s used in relation to how one’s job impacts their overall well-being. But this isn’t a term that’s just reserved for jobs, because skin burnout is also a thing.

Your skin can experience burnout much in the same way as the rest of your body when you’re overwhelmed or emotionally drained. However, there are a few noticeable differences. 

To learn more about what skin burnout is, why we experience it, and how to treat it, we reached out to a few experts: celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care, along with San Francisco Bay Area medical and cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Kaveri Karhade.

What Is Skin Burnout?

"Skin burnout is when the skin is overly sensitive, dry, or dull," Vargas explains. 

Dr. Karhade breaks it down a bit further.

"Skin is the largest organ of the body, yet it can sometimes be delicate, especially on the face," the MD shares. "Facial skin is as thin as 1.5 millimeters. This means that your complexion can be prone to the many stressors that are placed on it, including environmental stressors, such as UV light and pollution. Aggressive skincare routines and procedures can sometimes be a bit too much for the skin."

What Does Skin Burnout Look Like?

Vargas points out a number of symptoms. "It could just be that the skin is red, irritated, or very reactive," she says. "But, it can also be skin that looks dull and tired."

Dr. Karhade notes that this can be due to a particular blend of products.

"Overuse of retinoids, AHAs/BHAs, and other potent topicals can lead to dryness, irritation, and redness," she shares.

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What Causes Skin Burnout?

It can be a number of things, including the typical pressures and strains of everyday life. Even something as simple as going overboard with the products used in our skincare routines can lead to burnout, according to Vargas.

Dr. Karhade notes that the biggest contributors to skin burnout is often times overexposure to the elements. "Pollution and UV, overuse of harsh or potent topicals, such as retinoids; overzealous exfoliation with scrubs, overuse of facial brushes or devices, and sensitivity to products" are all factors, she says. 

The derm also adds, "Excessive sun exposure and pollution can, over time, contribute to signs of skin aging including wrinkles, sallow skin, broken blood vessels, and brown spots."

Vargas even mentions that the colder weather can be to blame for skin burnout.

"The fall to winter weather can be really rough on the skin," she says. "A lack of moisture in the environment and climate ups and downs can create itchy, flaky, reactive skin." 

When this happens, many of us are quick to reach for an exfoliating product to get rid of the dry skin. But Vargas warns that this can actually do quite a number on your skin — and not in a good way.

“I find when people are overzealous with exfoliation this same thing can happen,” she notes. “Or, if they just try too many treatments all at once.”

When it comes to skincare products that cause burnout, both Vargas and Dr. Karhade shine a light on acids and retinoids being overused or used incorrectly.

“I see a lot of clients with sensitive skin who are using acids in every step of their routine,” Vargas says. “Also, some people like to use retinol nightly, when perhaps, their skin would do better on an every other night routine.”

How Can I Combat Skin Burnout?

Dealing with skin burnout is less difficult than it may seem. Once you experience the issue, all hope is not lost. And Vargas knows exactly where you should start.

"I would first incorporate LED light into the routine, either at home or in the salon," she notes. "LED light brings life back to anyone’s skin. It also reduces inflammation and increases collagen production."

The next step is toning down your extravagant skincare routine.

"I would be concerned about too many products or procedures on the skin when a person has a very complex skincare routine, yet struggles with breakouts or blemishes and other common skin complaints," Dr. Karhade shares. "Sometimes blemishes, cracked dry skin, redness can be the result of irritation from too many products or procedures and what the skin actually needs is a break."

That said, your best bet is to just keep things simple when it comes to your daily skincare routine.

"Don’t do a 12-step skin routine," Vargas notes. "Try just a few simple products and slowly introduce things to see if you are just experiencing sensitivity to one product. Using a soothing oil-based serum at night and during the day, or using products that have soothing oils in them will go a long way to making the skin feel better."

One particular product Vargas recommends is vitamin C oil.

"A soothing vitamin C oil, like my own Rescue Serum, works for all skin types and all skin tones to bring life back to the skin," she mentions.

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On the other hand, Dr. Karhade recommends “restorative, nourishing topicals” and “products that can calm and hydrate the skin gently.” Her personal favorites are Mineral 89 by Vichy and Alastin Skincare Restorative Skin Complex.

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If all else fails, Vargas recommends sticking to the essentials.

“Look at your overall self-care routine to make sure the basics are there — good sleep, good food, and exercise," she says. "Exercise can help reduce stress and make your skin glow!"

And if that doesn’t work, be sure to visit a dermatologist.

"Burnout is not an official skin diagnosis; instead, there are many, many different rashes and issues that can affect the skin," says Dr. Karhade. "It’s important to have a professional evaluate your skin to help you improve it."