Strategies for Successful New Product Introductions
It’s always exciting starting a new product. It could be something you’ve been saving up for, or a new active that will surely be the answer to all your problems! You probably realise that strong actives like acids and retinoid/ols need to be introduced slowly so your skin can become accustomed to your new product. However regardless of the product you will have more information on its effect if you follow a considered plan.
The introduction period can be tricky. You are excited about your new product but at the same time you don’t know how your skin will react. The temptation is just to add your new magic potion and see what happens. With many products you could easily do this: throw it on and hope for the best. Unless you have allergies or sensitivities you probably won’t have a negative reaction to most products, after all, skincare products are formulated to generate improvements! Cleansers, hydrators, oils and face creams tend not to contain too many actives (if any) and could slot into your current routine without much of an issue. But just because you have avoided a negative reaction doesn’t mean that you have set yourself up for a positive one either.
So, set yourself up for success and follow a reasonable introduction: patch testing, evaluation and planning, incorporation.
At this point you need to evaluate your product and decide if it is an “easy” introduction or if it’s a something that will be a bit more of a challenge to fit into your routine – a more “advanced” introduction.
“Easy” Introductions are for products that are unlikely to cause an interaction with other products or complications – products that are either replacing a similar product (starting a new cleanser, for example) or will just slot into your current routine (adding in an oil when you haven’t already been using one) without having to reorder your whole routine or disrupting your usual products. Easy introductions are mainly for products that do not contain actives, contain small amounts of actives or contain actives that you have already used in formulas that are similar to ones you have already used.
Products like cleansers, hydrators (HA, toners, sprays and spritzes), oils and face creams are likely to be easy introductions. These products should slot into your routine easily and generally it will be easy to figure out where to put them. Once you have competed your patch test you can go ahead and add them to your routine. By this point you will have done your routine planning and decided where this product will likely fit in. You may have to adjust this at some point, but you have to start somewhere. With easy introductions you will simply start using the product as you plan to continue using it. You may wish to limit the quantity used at first; this can make a big difference especially with products like hydrators and oils – the only way to discover the exact quantity that works for your skin is by trial and error.
Start with the Introduction schedule I’ve outlined below. After one week of paying close attention to your introduction you can consider your new product successfully ‘introduced’. If you are planning any more introductions then it is fine to go ahead with the next one. In general you are better off to complete ‘easy’ introductions before moving on to more ‘advanced’ products. This isn’t simply because they are less likely to cause reactions but also because you are more likely to have success with actives if your basics are solid.
PHASE ONE: PATCH TESTING
DAY ONE: patch test one or two drops on your inside arm.
DAY TWO: patch test one drop under the jawline AND patch test your routine including your new product on your arm. To patch test a routine simply perform your usual routine on your arm and add in a very small amount of your new product where you imagine it would be placed in your routine. If you’re not sure where it would go then simply layer it on last and then use the routine planner to figure it out. You may wish to try 2 (or more) different patches if you are unsure of how to use the product or if you intend to use it different ways in AM and PM routines. Or even if you just want to see if there is a difference with different combos. If you are introducing an active use no more than one drop of the new product in this phase, and you may prefer to buffer the active with your cream or an oil. Details and hints for patch testing can be found here.
Day THREE: Day off from the product to do your Routine Planning. If you had a reaction or irritation from either of the straight patch tests you may want to reconsider on this particular product. If you have your heart set on it there may be ways around it but before you do so you really need to consider if it’s worth it – if you want to proceed there’s more on that below. Assuming you haven’t had any reaction it is now time to plan how to proceed. This is my favourite part of the process because it’s when I daydream! This is where I decide where the new product might best fit into my routine, I’ll expand on routine planning later. I don’t really wait until after my patch test to begin visualizing how to fit something new into my routine. But it’s often only when you get your hands on the actual product that you have all the information you need to decide when and where to add it in.
DAY FOUR through SEVEN: Begin your new routine. For the first week of an easy introduction the main purpose is to evaluate. You will evaluate your skin and also evaluate the product (more on this below). You may wish to make notes so you can remember what you used and the outcome. For this first week in particular you need to pay attention. You may find it easier to evaluate if you do exactly the same thing every day. You may find you need to tweak your approach as the week progresses. You may wish to apply the product only to one half of your face for the first few days (or a week) in order to compare ‘with’ and ‘without’ results. You may run into unexpected roadblocks and need to re-evaluate completely (see trouble shooting). You may be just fine and you and your new product can sail off into the sunset together. If you run into difficulty you may wish to try the advanced introduction technique, as even simple products may complicate other parts of your routine.
WEEK TWO: your new product is successfully introduced. You have had measurable results. Your skin has adapted to the new product. Your skin is in balance. If you have another introduction planned you may want to proceed. If the above statements do not apply to you it may be best to continue your process of trial and error until you feel your skin has re-balanced and is responding favourably to your new routine.
If you are using a product with an active ingredient you will probably have better results with a more conservative approach rather than the easy introduction. With actives it is not simply a case of minimizing irritation (although that is important as well) but also optimizing the product for your own skin. It’s also a good idea to plan for success and to consider any lifestyle factors that might affect your success with this product (see below).
Even actives can be divided into easier and more difficult introductions. Certain products are known to cause purging or other detrimental effects and will need to be added very slowly. These include: retinoid/ols, niacinamide, acid exfoliators, copper, other strong acids (pure vitamin C) and others. Some actives are more gentle to begin with: derivatives of Vitamin C, peptides, Alpha Arbutin, certain anti-oxidants. Unfortunately there is no way to know exactly which product is in which list because every face is unique – however your patch tests should give you an idea. The first few times you use any new product pay particular attention to tingling, irritation or other reactions. This will give you the information you need to choose between a slow advanced introduction and a standard advanced introduction. Some products may be suitable for an accelerated introduction, but more on that later.
You are now ready to proceed.
WEEK ONE: complete the patch test procedure for DAYS ONE, TWO and THREE as outlined above. Your patch tests (arm and jaw) haven’t caused any irritation. You successfully patch tested your routine. You can now implement a slow product introduction. Now it’s time to trial your new product on your face.
DAY FOUR: you will begin with literally one drop of your new active. Add it into your face cream or moisturiser in your PM routine.
With acids or retinoids this first step is probably enough for the entire week. For other actives you can start to increase the frequency more quickly. From here you will increase the use of the product slowly. There are three ways to increase product use: quantity (how much product you use), intensity (slowing penetration by mixing your product with creams or oils) and frequency (how often you use the product). Only adjust one of these factors at a time. The starting point is one drop, buffered, once per week. Each time you want to increase the dose of your product change only one factor.
Here are some ideas on how to manage the three ways to slowly introduce your new product:
One drop buffered in face cream and/or oil, 1x per week then increased to every 6 days (or increased at a reasonable frequency), then 5, then 4 etc until you reach your threshold Increase to two or three drops buffered in face cream and/or oil, 1x per week, then increased One drop unbuffered as it fits into your routine, 1x per week, then increased These three variables will not necessarily progress in the same way for all products. You will have to judge which factor you wish to increase but ideally you only increase one of these factors at a time.
SAMPLE INTRODUCTION for an active:
Day One: Patch test one drop of product on your arm Day Two: Patch test one drop of product under your jaw AND patch test your routine on your arm. If you use the product AM and PM test one routine today and one on Day Three Day three: Patch test remaining routine (if applicable) and complete your Routine Planning (develop a specific idea of where you will incorporate this product into your routine) Day four: add one drop of the product into your moisturiser or face cream, PM only. If you are feeling experimental try using the new active on only half your face. Don’t use any other actives this day Day five and six: Day off. Do your normal routines AM and PM as usual but don’t use your new product Day seven: add one drop of the product into your moisturiser or face cream, PM only, and half-face only as well. Don’t use any other actives this day You have now completed the first week of your new active. Evaluate.