Normally, when you think of hitting a plateau, it’s kind of a bad thing, right? If you’re trying to lose weight, hitting a plateau usually means that whatever you’re doing has become less effective, and you need a new strategy to keep losing.
The same is true for careers, hobbies, and some health issues. Reaching a plateau typically means that it’s time to reevaluate and course-correct so that you can start seeing visible or tangible results again.
So, when we talk about skincare plateaus, it’s usually with the same mindset. We look in the mirror and think that nothing is changing or improving, so there must be something wrong.
And let’s be really honest. Sometimes, we’re just bored with doing the same thing with the same products every day. I’m totally guilty here.
This is generally the time that we start shopping for new things to try, switching around steps, or experimenting with higher concentrations of actives. I don’t think that any of these things are inherently bad, but I do think that we should stop for a second and talk about what a skincare plateau might actually mean.
When we talk about skincare plateaus, we look in the mirror and think that nothing is changing or improving, so there must be something wrong. But is there?
Change Isn’t Always Best
Listen, I am 100 percent my skin’s worst critic. I’m always looking for ways to make my pores look a little smaller or my skin tone a little brighter, even if what I have in my routine is tried-and-true.
I have to remember to ask myself two things when I start feeling frustrated about the “plateau” I think I’ve reached.
1. Have I actually plateaued? Or am I just so used to looking at my skin in its current state that I can’t accurately tell if things are any different?
2. Are there outside factors that are making me feel like my skin doesn’t look good? (Hormones, stress, overall mental health … lots of things can affect how you feel about your appearance, even if that feeling maybe isn’t the most accurate.)
Answering those questions honestly has regularly kept me from committing the Cardinal Skincare Sin: changing too much too quickly and making a mess of my skin.
Also, Is a Plateau Always Bad?
Realistically, our skin can only improve so much. Until they figure out how to give us real-life Snapchat filters, we’re always going to have some amount of texture and tone variation. We’re humans, after all.
So, if your skin is in a holding pattern, maybe that’s okay. It might not look exactly how you want it to, but if you’re not regressing, that’s actually something to be happy and excited about. It means your routine is working how it should!
If your skin is in a holding pattern, maybe that’s okay. If you’re not regressing, that means your routine is working how it should!
Another positive to a plateau is that it lets you know you’re heading in the right direction. If your skin is healthy and holding steady, this is usually the best time to do a little bit of skincare science. This is the ideal time to test a single new product (Just. One.) because you’ll notice any good or bad changes pretty quickly and know exactly what caused them.
How to Navigate Skincare Plateaus
First, you need to know whether or not you’ve hit one. This is why it’s so helpful to take photos and keep journals or notes about your skin!
Whenever I start a new product, I like to note when I added it and take weekly photos of my skin so that I have proof of whether or not there are changes. (You can’t trust your brain to accurately remember how you looked in the past. It will lie to you! Take pictures!)
If you have hit a plateau, you have three options.
1. Keep on keepin’ on. If your skin is healthy and looking good, there’s no real need to do anything different. Just thank the Skincare Gods for their mercy and enjoy your beautiful skin.
2. Pick one (I repeat. ONE.) new product and begin the gradual process of adding it to your routine. Document your skin over time. Usually you can see positive effects in the two to four week range.
No change? Use it up on your body! Bad reaction? That’s okay! You know exactly what caused it, and you know that your current routine works great, so it’ll clear up in no time. Improvement? Awesome! Now you have one more solid step in your regimen.
3. Try stripping back your routine. This option isn’t necessary, but I do like to try it every so often. There’s always something new and shiny and exciting to try, and my wandering eye can sometimes leave me with a kind of bloated skincare routine.
When I can’t look through my skincare basket and say for certain whether or not each product is helping, I know it’s time to pare things down and start slowly reintroducing. Sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that all of my products contribute something positive to my skin. A lot of times though, I realize that I somehow have six hydrating toners and they all pretty much do the same thing. Oops.
What Do You Think?
The beauty community seems to be pretty divided about skincare plateaus. Some people say they’re bad, some say they’re inevitable, and I’ve even seen a few people say that they don’t really exist!
Personally, I think they’re unavoidable but not bad, and not necessarily a sign that things need to change. (But will I likely still change something next time I’m bored? Yeah ….)
Tell me what you think! How do you deal with skincare plateaus? Do you even believe in them? I want to know!