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Myth vs Fact: Stinging Means it’s Working

Myth: A product that stings is doing its job

Fact: That stinging sensation may mean more harm than good for your skin

Many skincare enthusiasts have probably dealt with this at least once in their skincare journey. That not-so-fun experience of having a product sting your skin when applied. Then you start to wonder…is the stinging a good or bad sign?

Myth: It’s just doing its job

If you believe that the stinging sensation means the product is doing its job and just let it be…we’re happy you found this article! This is a myth that needs some debunking. Hopefully we can save some skin from this possible future trouble maker.

Don’t ignore the stinging!

The stinging sensation is an inflammatory reaction your skin has to the product. The nerve fibers that lie close to the skin’s surface have sensitized and it gives that stinging sensation. If products that are applied to your skin have a much lower pH or any skin sensitizing ingredients, you may experience this stinging sensation.

Degrees of stinging

There are several degrees or leves of the sting:

Tingle: a slight/mild sting that dissipates quickly (within a few seconds). This may happen when you apply exfoliating or vitamin C products with a low pH. However, be sure it doesn’t last over 30 seconds or experience any redness.

Stingle: mild prickling sensation that lasts for a while, but dissipates before 1 minute. Your skin may look slightly pink or look flushed

Sting: a moderate to severe prickling sensation that lasts over 1 minute. Your face may look red with a burning sensation. This is a red flag of skincare products that need to be rinsed off straight away to prevent any more damage to your skin.

Are stinging sensations normal in some cases?

Yes, the product may sting if you have been experiencing any of the following:

  • Over-exfoliating / damaged skin barrier
  • Recently picked a pimple (open wound)
  • Applying wash-off acid-based exfoliating products. Their pH is pretty low and contain a high concentration to optimize the benefits in a short time. They may slightly cause a tingling sensation (It should be mentioned in the product information)

What to do if skin is seriously stinging!

If you are experiencing an unexpected stinging sensation on products, what should you do?

  • Rinse it off right away to prevent longer contact of irritants on your skin.
  • Replenish the hydration
  • Lock in moisture throughout the night for your skin to repair/heal itself.

If it’s serious and doesn’t seem to fade, always set up a consultation with your dermatologist for a professional opinion.

Get Picky

Want more skincare facts? We have a couple other Myth vs Fact articles you can check out. Or just browse through Q&A on the Picky app to find some helpful insight. There’s even a new featured section to find the hottest questions and best answers! Check it out now and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram.

5 Responses

  1. Some of my stronger serums have a tingle to it that quickly fades aways. Glad it doesn’t sting too much or I’ll have to throw it away 😅

    1. what if i feel stinging after applying moisturiser?

      i use benzoyl peroxide 10%, it doesn’t sting. But after applying ceramide moisturiser it sting like crazy?
      I let it on. & pimples has started to decrease in size & number.

      should I stop?

      1. This is a tricky one, I’m glad you have put this out there.
        I sometimes struggle from that too, I will apply normal, gentle, hydrating products then my serum stings it?
        Maybe check the ingredients of your moisturiser, go picky is great for this, if it has fragrance or alcohols, I would change it. Sometimes people have allergies or are sensitive to certain ingredients, so research into common allergens that can be found in skincare and see if cutting them out helps.

        I find that treatments, such as acne treatments can make your skin more sensitive, so keep the rest of your routine simple and suitable. Try not to over exfoliate and don’t bombard your skin with loads of active ingredients.

        I hope this helps, I have had similar experiences so I learned from them to help others

  2. I have a peptide moisturizer that sometimes stings, I love how it hydrates and died t always sting. Should I stop using?

  3. Products sting my skin all the time, its a damaged barrier thing…
    I found that when I started using 10% niacinamide after I damaged my barrier, I had to ease my way back in as the stinging lasted over 5 minutes. To this day, if I have used an over- exfoliating wash ( only over exfoliating to me, should be fine for you) such as one with salicylic acid, then apply niacinamide, it will sting. Which is a pity as I happen to suffer with moderate acne and these products work wonders on others skin. Now I still have slight damage and can’t use lots of acids, so I probably will not be able to control my acne, but at least my barrier may heal.

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