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Let’s face it, choosing the right ingredients and products for your skin takes lots of trial and error – any person who uses skincare will attest to that.

So, it’s important to identify the signs that a product is not a good fit for your skin before it causes any damage, long-term or short.

If you’ve been wondering about whether or not your skincare routine is ruining your skin, here’s what you should watch for when testing a new product – and signs you should take it out of your routine.

Major red flags you need to be aware of when it comes to the skincare products you use

Intense burning or stinging sensation when using a product for the first time


Photo source: Linda Prebreza/Pexels

Whether it’s a cleanser, lotion, or mask, no skincare product should cause burning or stinging – this is often a sign that you’re allergic to something in the product or your skin is simply too sensitive for whatever the formula contains.

Also known as contact dermatitis, this reaction is your skin’s defence mechanism to shield itself from the offending ingredient, be it a fragrance, preservatives, or other additives.

Some enzyme and acid-based masks may cause mild stinging of the skin for about a minute, but if your skin feels like it’s on fire, do not suffer in the name of beauty – just wash it off!

Slight burning or stinging sensation when using a product you’ve used before

asian woman checking skin in mirror photo source jcomp freepik

Photo source: Jcomp/Freepik

This scenario is a little different than if you were using a new product for the first time. Your skin has already shown that it can handle whatever ingredients the product contains.

Slight stinging and burning are common side effects from products with an alcohol – or ‘drying’ base – which you’ll experience if you have pre-existing skin sensitivity, such as eczema or rosacea. So if you have especially sensitive skin, it’s important that you carefully select products that are designed for your skin type.

Another possibility? You’re simply using too much of the product or using it too frequently.

Generally, a pea-sized amount of product is enough to cover your entire face and neck for any given skincare product. Do not use more than this, and don’t use it more frequently than recommended – more is simply not more when it comes to skincare.

Excessive dryness, flaking, and peeling

skincare serum bottle in hand photo source karolina grabowska pexels

Photo source: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

If you’ve got this going on, particularly around your nose and at the corners of your mouth, you might be overusing an acne product, such as a retinoid or a benzoyl peroxide.

Topical retinoids are used to help lightly exfoliate the skin and regulate cell turnover, which encourages new collagen growth.

They’re one of the best anti-ageing products as the formulas are designed to slowly diminish the appearance of fine lines, even skin pigmentation, and thicken the skin for a younger look.

But if they’re causing too much irritation, to the point that you’re constantly peeling and your skin is red and sensitive (read: skin inflammation), this might not be the best anti-ageing treatment for you.

Chronic inflammation actually can stress the skin and accelerate skin ageing, so try cutting back your prescription retinoid to once or twice weekly and layer it with a gentle moisturiser.

If it’s still too irritating, try over-the-counter retinol skincare products, which will be milder. If that is still too strong for your skin, consider avoiding this class of topical medication.

Rashes or blisters start to form in the spot where you applied the product

formation of rashes blisters photo source tatiana pexels

Photo source: Tatiana/Pexels

It’s tempting to sample a product with the most eye-catching packaging or one that you read about online, but just because it works for one person doesn’t mean it’s a universal wonder.

In addition to the magic active ingredient that a product is touting, it can contain many potentially irritating or allergenic inactive ingredients, as well as preservatives, fragrances, or chemicals.

Always, always, always do a patch test before you apply any skincare product on your face.

If you want to be extra careful, consider getting an allergy patch test at your dermatologist’s office, so you’ll know which offending ingredients to look out for in the future.

Sudden pigmentation changes after using a new product

sudden pigmentation changes

Photo source: Cottonbro/Pexels

If you notice freckles, brown spots, or a sunburn, you’re most likely not using a strong enough sunscreen on your skin.

But if you notice pigmentation changes, particularly on your cheekbones, after applying a new product for a few days to a week, this could be a rare allergic reaction to certain ingredients that cause actual lightening of brown spots.

Dermatologists call this phenomenon paradoxical hyperpigmentation and it’s usually related to botanicals that lighten the skin, such as kojic acid, arbutin, and hydroquinone.

If you experience this, discontinue all skincare containing these offending agents and simply wait for the skin to balance itself out. Do not use another skin lightener or bleaching cream at this time, as you’ll only make the condition worse.

Also, no matter what skincare products you’re using, always make sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day, rain or shine, to ensure full protection.

Redness and irritation start to appear after using an acne treatment

redness irritation after using acne treatment

Here’s some news for you: adult acne is usually not caused by the same bacteria and oil that triggers teen acne.

That means that harsh topical treatments like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide designed for teenage pimples can actually irritate and dry out the top layers of the skin in adults, making your skin more red and sensitive while flaring up your acne situation.

First thing’s first: Make sure the products you’re using are non-comedogenic and do not contain mineral oil, cocoa butter, or other pore-clogging ingredients.

Depending on your acne condition, you may need prescription medications that are strong, but less harsh on your skin. Sometimes, it could also mean finding a vehicle that makes it more tolerable. Schedule an appointment with your dermatologist to figure out the best treatment plan for your skin and acne type.

Increased skin oiliness after using a new product


Photo source: Freepik

Does your skin feel slicker than usual out of the blue? Well, it could be a sign that you’re stripping it of its natural oils.

Your skin naturally acts as a barrier to keep out dirt and other free radicals in the environment. It does this by arming itself with a healthy balance of oils that keep moisture in.

Over-washing or using a product that strips your skin of this natural oil prevents your skin from doing its job of maintaining that barrier.

Instead, your skin will overcompensate for it and produce even more oil when you use harsh products or don’t use enough moisturiser. To counter this, look for a moisturiser or serum containing hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and use a gentle cleanser.

Generalised itching episodes all over the body

generalised itching on body photo source angela roma pexels

Photo source: Angela Roma/Pexels

If this happens, it’s possible that you’re having an allergic reaction to one product (or more) that you use – it could possibly be something you inhaled or ingested, too.

To find out if it’s triggered by your skincare, try discontinuing all the products you currently have on rotation and then add one product back at a time for a week each to see if the generalised itching restarts or persists. It takes at least two to three weeks for an allergy to “wash out” of your system, so allow that much time before reintroducing your regimen one product at a time.

An oral antihistamine that’s commonly available over the counter, such as Zyrtec or Clarityn (don’t mistake it for Clarityn-D), can also be very effective in reducing histamine (allergy reaction) in the skin much more quickly.

Go for a skincare brand that cares, not tears apart your skin

If you want to worry less about your skincare products potentially harming your mien, it may well be time to reconsider what you use on your skin and opt for gentler formulas.

Mei, a new homegrown skincare brand, is one that you can consider trying – here’s why.

It’s tailored specifically for Asian skin

mei skincare serums lotion

You may not think that this is important, but there’s a key difference between our skin and our Caucasian counterpart’s – the strength of our skin’s barrier.

According to one study, Asian skin is found to have the weakest skin barrier function, which means we have to be extra careful when using a skincare product.

Luckily for us, Mei is developed with Asian skin in mind so we can use any of the products with peace of mind.

It’s developed by an experienced medical practitioner who’s also a MOH-certified aesthetic doctor

mei skincare dr tan hui suan dermstetiq clinic

Mei is a skincare line developed by Dr. Tan Hui Suan of Dermstetiq Clinic. She has trained in prestigious medical schools in Manchester and Cambridge, United Kingdom, before practising as a certified aesthetic doctor here under the Ministry of Health Singapore.

During her decade-long time as a medical doctor, Dr. Tan has helped patients suffering from skin irritation, dryness, allergy and infection as a result of using products that were unsuitable or too harsh for their skin.

That’s one of the reasons why she created Mei, a clinical skincare one can trust to produce results without triggering irritation or sensitivity.

It’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin

mei skincare essentials

Understanding that every person has different skin types and conditions, Dr. Tan specially formulated Mei products using non-toxic, natural ingredients as well as safe fragrances.

On top of that, all the products are cruelty-free and do not contain parabens or sulphates. This makes the products suitable for all skin types – yes, even sensitive skin.

Hearing about all the unique qualities of the brand, it’s safe to say that I was stoked to get the opportunity to try Mei for the first time.

I have combination-dry skin and the skincare products I go for have to satisfy both my oily T-zone, as well as my dry U-zone which has gotten worse ever since the pandemic hit.

mei skin review before after results

The essential skincare products from Mei ticked all the boxes for me and kept my skin happy and also healthy-looking throughout my two-week review of the full skincare regimen.

The textures were all very lightweight, which made it very easy for the skin to absorb in our humid weather.

Keep reading to see what these products are!

Meet the essentials from Mei

Mei Gentle Vitamin-Rich Cleanser

mei gentle vitamin rich cleanser

With my skin leaning on the dehydrated side, I’ve always been told by beauty advisors and facialists to go for gentler facial cleansers that are hydrating like a milk cleanser.

This clear gel formula, however, is possibly one of the best face washes for my skin simply because it’s a gentle hydrating cleanser that cleans deeply without drying the skin at all.

It doesn’t foam up too much and contains a blend of cucumber extract as well as NMF complex that’s rich in vitamins and minerals to provide hydration to various layers of the skin.

Mei Gentle Vitamin-Rich Cleanser retails for S$90 online.

Mei Gentle Aqua Balancing Toner

mei gentle aqua balancing toner

Many of us tend to overlook the importance of a facial toner, as well as the type of toner you should be using for your skin type.

I’m glad that this lightweight formula suits my skin type, offering to quench my skin’s thirst so that it feels soft and supple while refining texture and unifying skin tone.

It’s powered by biosaccharide gum-1, a.k.a “SMART sugar”, which provides soothing, moisturising, and anti-ageing properties.

Mei Gentle Aqua Balancing Toner retails for S$90 online.

Mei Ultimate Glow Lotion

mei ultimate glow lotion

One of the products I did not expect to fall in love with is this gentle lotion.

It’s not typically an essential step in my usual skincare routine but I’m glad I tried it during the review because I noticed that it did help prep my skin to better absorb the subsequent skincare products I apply afterwards.

The formula features a hydration-boosting protein, as well as exfoliating lactic acid and moisturising allantoin.

Mei Ultimate Glow Lotion retails for S$180 online.

Mei Ultra-Moist Radiance Serum

mei ultra moist radiance serum

Ever since I found out that my skin is always parched, I’ve started incorporating a hyaluronic acid serum in my daily skincare routine and am always on the lookout for a good one that absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a sticky residue.

I’m happy to report that I may have just found one of my favourites in this serum that’s almost water-like in texture.

It contains hyaluronic acid in not one, but seven molecular sizes to boost hydration within mere hours and provide intense hydration to different layers of the skin.

The formula also has 5% mandelic acid to help brighten up the complexion, smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, fight acne, and refine pores.

Mei Ultra-Moist Radiance Serum retails for S$140 online.

Mei 72-Hour Intense Hydrator

mei 72 hour intense hydrator

It’s not easy to find a moisturiser that isn’t too oily for my T-zone or too mild to hydrate my dry U-zone, but this gentle emulsion checked all the boxes for me with its hyaluronic acid-based formula.

It has a cocktail of four types of hyaluronic acid and saccharide isomerate to deliver lasting hydration that can stretch as long as 72 hours!

In addition, it also has the ability to rebalance the skin’s microbiome so that it can return to its radiant, youthful glory.

Mei 72-Hour Intense Hydrator retails for S$250 online.

Mei Natural Light Weight Sunblock SPF 30

mei natural light weight sunblock spf 30

For those with sensitive skin that’s prone to redness, you can consider using a 100% mineral filter sunblock like this one.

It has gentle active ingredients to improve skin tone and colour while promoting skin hydration and replenishing the skin’s natural lipid barrier.

As it is a mineral sunscreen, it does leave a white cast when you first apply it onto your skin so do start applying a small amount first and build up the coverage you need from there.

Thanks to its tone-up effect, you can also use the sunscreen under your makeup.

Mei Natural Light Weight Sunblock SPF 30 retails for S$140 online.

Other skincare products to try from Mei

Mei Gluta-C GOLD Serum

mei gluta-c gold serum

On a hunt for a lightweight vitamin C serum? Look no further than this formula that offers skin-brightening benefits while stimulating new collagen growth.

Not only does it act as a powerful antioxidant to reduce inflammation and defend the skin against environmental assaults, but the serum also works wonders in lightening skin pigmentation and evening out the skin tone.

Mei Gluta-C GOLD Serum retails for S$250 online.

Mei Pore Clearing Serum

mei pore clearing serum

Featuring a blend of seven natural botanicals and essential oils that work synergistically to prevent future acne formation, this formula helps to control oil production and clear pores.

Mei Pore Clearing Serum retails for S$58 online.

Mei Spot-On Acne Gel

mei spot on acne gel

This acne spot treatment stands out above the rest as it is a formula powered by medical-grade beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that treats and calms acne instantly.

Mei Spot-On Acne Gel retails for S$58 online.

Mei Oil-Free Hydrating Emulsion

mei oil control hydrating emulsion

This oil-free emulsion is formulated with all-natural plant and fruit extracts that are clinically proven to control oil production and maintain the optimal level of sebum-water level of the skin.

Mei Oil-Free Hydrating Emulsion retails for S$78 online

Besides its official e-store, you can also find the entire product range from Mei, along with specially curated skincare bundles, at Dermstetiq Clinic located at 1 Orchard Boulevard, Camden Medical, #11-09, Singapore 248649.

This article is brought to you by Mei.