Why aren’t my skin care products absorbing into my skin?

Hi Dr. Irwin, My skin has never really absorbed anything I apply topically and I am becoming more concerned about this as I near 40 and am using more anti-aging products. Should I be concerned about how this can affect the efficacy of my products? Lotions, serums and creams sit on top of my skin, whether it is my face or body, and never skin in. For example, 4-5 drops of my SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic makes my face shiny and greasy in the morning and my Atralin from bedtime is still sitting on my face when I wake up. Even the new spray body lotions that are supposed to absorb instantly end up just sitting on my skin. I've tried various remedies: applying less, applying more, applying immediately after washing or a shower or waiting longer, exfoliating more or less... nothing has had any effect. Could this diminish the effectiveness of my products and is there anything I can do about this? Thank you very much for your help with this! Abby

Abby, thank you for writing, this is an interesting problem that I suspect is moderately common. Since I don’t know your skin type I’m going to guess a little here. Usually people who have issues with products absorbing have very oily skin and the oil pours out through those pores leaving a very effective barrier on the skin against products. It would be like the rest of us putting a layer of olive oil on our skin and then trying to apply products!

I was recently at a national laser controversies conferences and one of the sections was on acne scarring. There are even people with soooo much oil that they don’t heal well from punch grafts or scar excisions on the face because the oil accumulates in the suture line itself and prevents healing!

How to help skincare products absorb into your skin

  • Try washing your face first with an exfoliating cleanser. Since you will be using it twice a day, make sure it’s gentle enough. The grains should be gentle. Try using the exfoliating cleanser with the Clarisonic Mia. That should cleanse the existing oil from your pores long enough to get better penetration.
  • Try the Skinceuticals Phoretin CF, it’s just as good and leaves less sheen.
  • Use moisturizers that are gel based and oil free, like the SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel.
  • Also, try the Sheishdo blotting paper at Nordstroms and other department stores to lessen oil sitting on your face.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

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Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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