Skincare Myth: “The Burn Means It’s Working!”

If you feel the burn, you’re doing it wrong.

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Curology Team
May 03, 2018 · 4 min read

We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Go to the usual places to find acne products (your local pharmacy, Sephora, Walmart, whatever), and you may think you have dozens of options — but not quite. Most products contain the same ingredients: salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These two ingredients can help, but they can also easily irritate your skin and make acne worse. Yikes.

Here’s the worst part: some brands even sell entire lines where each product contains salicylic acid or other harsh ingredients. This is serious overkill for your skin! If your skin ever gets red, dry, squeaky/shiny, or your acne gets more inflamed, you may be feeling the burn.

Irritated skin = more acne

When you feel the burn, that means your skin is irritated, and irritated skin is prone to acne. If you spot rough, dull, or dry patches on your face, that’s a good sign your skin is dehydrated from over-cleansing or using harsh soaps, which strip your skin of its natural protective oils and can aggravate acne.

How to get out of the burn unit

1. Check your products on for any irritating ingredients. Here’s how it works:

2. Ditch the salicylic acid — especially if you’re using your Curology cream.

If you’ve been feeling the burn, it’s best to give your skin a break so it can recover. And if you’re using a topical treatment like your Curology cream, you may not need salicylic acid anyway!

3. Don’t wash your face more than twice a day.

Cleanse with a truly gentle cleanser made for sensitive skin—like the Curology cleanser, which is made to be safe for sensitive and acne-prone skin. To remove makeup, use a micellar water such as Bioderma Sensibio H2O.

4. Don’t scrub your skin when it’s irritated.

Avoid physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation until your skin has had enough time to recover. This includes cleansing brushes like the Clarisonic!

5. Ditch the toner.

First off, definitely avoid toners that contain alcohol in the ingredients list! It’s a common culprit in skin irritation. (By the way, we should say that toner isn’t even a necessary step in your everyday skincare routine.) But if you still enjoy toners, try a gentler alternative like Thayers Rose Petal Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera.

6. Beware even “gentle” products.

Yep, you’ve got to do your research. Even with products labeled “soothing” or “for sensitive skin,” it’s a good idea to check the ingredients. Use our go-to tool,

Those 2s aren’t ideal, but might be alright. However, anything higher than 3 is a no-go!

Anything with a red number under the “Irritant” column is potentially irritating. If it’s just a 1 or 2, you might be able to get away with using it, but that depends on how sensitive your skin is. If you’re feeling the burn and your products have low-level irritants, you might want to look for another product.

Counterintuitive though it may seem (especially if you’re acne-prone or oily), you really want to go easy on your skin. Give the gentler, less-is-more approach a try for a few months, and you should notice your skin looking much happier and healthier.

As always, if you’re using Curology, you can chat one-on-one with your personal skincare expert to get advice for what products to use (or stop using!) for your particular situation.

You are straight fire.

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