The Skincare Heidi Safe Introduction Protocol: Adding New Products to Your Routine.

Updated: Feb 12

Starting a new product is one of the best parts of Skincare. You have a box of shiny new bottles... Hurrah! The rush! The excitement! The questions!?! You know it's a bad idea to do the thing you really want to do and just start dripping them all over your face...

But what should you do instead? To get to your best routine you need to plan out these steps:

  • Patch Test Week. Rule out any allergies and get to know your new product.

  • Plan Your Progress. How are you going to get the best results from your new product?

  • Find Your Maintenance Level. The Three Tent Poles of Routine Building.

Every new product is an opportunity for better skin and every new product will do one of three things, either: nothing, make your skin better, make your skin worse.

My Introduction Protocol is a system to evaluate new products and to assess what is happening to your skin. This article will break down the Safe Introduction Protocol so that you can feel completely confident at each step along the way.



The boring first step of all skincare. The bit you just want to get out of the way. Pointless. Wasteful. Right? Wrong! Time to change your mind and discover the joy of getting to know your products. Just because patch testing isn't as glamorous as a Red Peel selfie doesn't mean you should ignore it! Don't treat patch testing as a necessary evil, but instead think of it as a way to play with your new friend without all the hassle.

Why I love to Patch Test:

💘 You don't have to slot it into your routine 💘 You don't have see if it conflicts with every other thing you use 💘 You don't even have to decide when or how you are going to introduce it. You can just play!


My idea of a Patch Test is a bit more in depth than a quick swipe and be done. The goal of the patch test is to discover something about your skin and your skin won't tell you much with only one little drop of product. The first week with your new product is your chance to learn as much as you can about how it works and what it does for you. Each daily step is another opportunity to collect information.

Use this information to plan out your first week of testing any new product. Make notes - there is a template to copy and paste below. Evaluate the product. Assess your skin.

💙 SH SIP: Safe Intro Protocol, Patch Test Week 💙

There is no reason to be intimidated or to overthink Patch Testing. It's not a complicated process. You don't have to worry about messing it up. I've provided a lot of detail because I want you to feel completely confident about each step.

• Day One: test one drop of product on your on inner arm or elbow fold by lightly patting the product into the skin. I know, arm skin is not face skin and you're only likely to have a reaction on your arm if you have an actual allergy. However, testing for adverse reaction is only one reason to patch test. The main reason is to observe the product: texture, colour, consistency etc. Record your evaluation of the product and assessment of its effect on your skin in your Bullet Journal (you can use the template below). And besides, if you DO have a reaction won't you be glad it's not on your face?

• Day Two: test one drop of product under your jaw or behind the ear. This is because you want to test close to the face but in an area that's not too visible. Ideally you should do this patch test after cleansing, on clean dry skin. Avoid the area when you're doing your normal skincare that day, or better yet, test at a time of day when you don't normally do skincare, like mid-day, for example. You may choose to skip actives altogether on this day so you don't have to worry about affecting the results.

• Day three: Patch test your full *test routine* on your arm (shout out to Ali K for this idea!) By *test routine* I mean the routine that you expect to test for the rest of the week. In most cases this will mean adding one drop of your new product into your night cream. The goal is to evaluate how your new product will fit in with the rest of your products. If you plan to use the product in different toutines (ie morning and night) test one routine today and one on Day Four. It's surprising what you can learn by patch testing your routine. I learned that NAAP will make Euk sink straight in, but only IF the NAAP goes first, not after.

don't use the new product on your face this day.

• 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 product on only half your face, as this will give you the most information - I apply my usual night cream and then tap one drop of the new product on top, but over half of the face only. It's interesting what you may discover - with CAIS there was a clear improvement in hydration on the CAIS side. Unexpected!

Don’t use any other actives this day.

• Day five: Day off. Do your normal routines AM and PM as usual but don’t use your new product.

• Day six: add one drop of the product into your moisturiser or face cream, PM only, after your normal routine. You may want to repeat the *half face* technique from Day Three.

• Day seven: repeat day six. Go full face if you tested half face on day six.

Wonderful! You have completed your Patch Test Week for your new product. 💙💙💙

Next step: plan your second week for how you will build this product into your routine.


PRODUCT NAME: Start date for Day one:

• Day One: One drop on your arm.

Evaluation of the product:

Assessment of its effect on your skin:

• Day Two: One drop under your jaw.

Evaluation of the product:

Assessment of its effect on your skin:

• Day three: patch test your routine on your arm. No test on face.


• Day four: 1 drop in moisturiser, PM. Try half your face. Don’t use any other actives this day.

Evaluation of the product:

Assessment of its effect on your skin:

• Day five: Day off. Do your normal routines AM and PM as usual but don’t use your new product. Complete your plan for your updated routine for day six/seven.


• Day six: tap one drop of the product over half of your face, after your moisturiser, PM only. Do your usual routine, omit any chemical exfoliants.

Evaluation of the product:

Assessment of its effect on your skin:

• Day seven: add one drop of the product into your moisturiser or face cream, PM only. Do your usual routine, omit any chemical exfoliants.

Evaluation of the product:

Assessment of its effect on your skin:


MULTIPLE TESTS: Yes, in theory, you can patch test multiple products at once by testing one on each arm, but it can be hard to keep track of. Personally, I don't do it, but you know me... I'm all about delayed gratification and prolonged anticipation! You can't really rush the process and you can't really evaluate what's going on if your products get mixed up. And since you can't safely overlap using new products on your face, I don't really see the point in starting more that one intro at a time.

ADAPTING YOUR PATCH TEST TO THE SPECIFIC TYPE OF PRODUCT: The Skincare Heidi Safe Intro Protocol (SIP) outlines your first week of a new product but you may need to adapt the SIP depending on the type of product you're using. For example, sunscreens should never be mixed with other products so it wouldn't be a good idea to test it this way as that's not how you'll be using it.

Actives need the most care and attention for intros, so the protocol is primarily aimed at this type of product. But all products need to be Patch Tested. And you always want to get to know a new product as a way to figure out how you're going to use it. Cleansers, moisturisers and hydrators can all cause their own issues so they definitely need to be tested. You can adapt the SIP in a way that makes sense for you. The key is to make sensible adaptations and to have a clear idea of what you are doing. This is where it's important to track your Intro - always document what you've actually done, not what you're *supposed* to do.

MIGRATION: Yes, products can migrate below the surface of the skin. This means that you can apply the product in one area but it ends up in another area as it's travelled through the skin. Watery products will migrate more easily. Product can also be transferred on your fingers/hands when applying. This may or may not be a problem, but if you discover that you are particularly sensitive to a specific product or ingredient then it's something to keep in mind.

At each step of your Patch Test Week I recommend you document two things: your evaluation of the product, and your assessment of your skin. Let's look at the difference.


The goal here is to see how the product behaves. Factors to observe should describe the physical properties of the product, like Product Type, Texture, Absorption

TYPE: describe the type of product: a serum, emulsion (cream), oil, hydrator? (I don't like to use the term *toner* as there are so many different products covered by this word)

TEXTURE: is the product watery? Oily? Runny? Thick? Thin? Is it a cream, gel, or liquid?

ABSORPTION: does the product sink in easily? Or is it sitting on top of the skin? Does it leave a film? Can you feel it on top?


The goal here is to see how your skin behaves. Factors to observe should describe the effect on your skin, both negative and positive. Negative effects to specifically watch for: signs of irritation (redness, itching, rash, heat, hives, etc.), fine lines or puckering, rough texture, acne, blackheads. Positive signs include plumpness, even tone, signs of hydration, healthy colour, glow, smoothness,


Hopefully your new product will suit you and fit right into your Personal Skincare Plan. But sometimes you'll have problems. If you experienced any of the negative effects listed above then you may want to look a bit more closely at what's going on. Please consider that there is always a range of reactions and just because your reaction isn't extreme doesn't mean that everything is just fine. Even a small reaction should be documented. Reactions can get better or worse, so it's important to manage the situation properly if you do have a negative reaction.

FORMULA VS INGREDIENT: Any product can cause a reaction. It doesn't matter if it's a single-ingredient product (like an oil) or a complex serum - there's no such this as a product that will be okay for every single person. A reaction could be the result of a particular ingredient, the formula of the product, or a combination of products. That's why I recommend that everyone go through the full week process for each product, no matter how basic it might be. You're not just testing the new product, but the way it combines with everything else you use and how it all works together.

IMMEDIATE REACTIONS are the most serious type of reaction. Pay attention if you have any negative reactions on your initial Patch Test.

SERIOUS IMMEDIATE NEGATIVE REACTION: if you get any pain, burning feeling, disruptions to the skin (blisters, etc), or other serious reaction then you should wash the area with soap immediately. Providing you followed the instructions and used the product correctly then this is a sign that it might not be the product for you. You can test again on the other arm but be prepared to walk away. In the case of extreme reactions or harm to the skin you might want to visit a pharmacist for advice on a topical treatment.

ALLERGIC REACTIONS: redness, hives and itching can indicate an allergy. Allergic reactions are rare but will generally show up quickly - allergies are an immune system response and are not an indication that there's a problem with your skin. If taking an antihistamine resolves the symptoms that points to an allergy. If this happens, it's probably not the product for you. You may want to do some investigation to discover exactly what caused the reaction.

MINOR IMMEDIATE REACTIONS: smaller reactions could also be a sign of allergy or it could be a sensitivity to the ingredient. Anyone with sensitive skin is particularly prone to having minor reactions. This does not necessarily mean that you can't use the product but you will have to consider carefully if you decide to continue, and come up with a good strategy.

DELAYED REACTION: a reaction that doesn't show up right away is an indication that the product isn't a good fit. It might be too strong, incompatible pH, or just that your skin doesn't like it. You may not have any problems immediately following your patch test, but notice other effects that show up within the next 12-48 hours. If you really want to use the product you will have to consider carefully how to get the most from it without negatively effecting the skin.

REACTIONS THAT DEVELOP LATER: as you build your routine you may experience a delayed reaction. Allergies aren't usually delayed, so if a reaction shows up later it's more likely that the product is causing the problem, not your immune system.

BREAK OUTS can be a reaction, can be purging or can be a co-incidence.

PURGING: is a contentious issue. Some people cry *purging* for any kind of breakout to any kind of product. This is not purging. PURGING ONLY HAPPENS WITH RESURFACING PRODUCTS. Purging is what happens when exfoliation is accelerated and allows *hidden* acne to be revealed. It's not that common, especially if you already exfoliate.

SENSITIVE SKIN: Many people with sensitive skin have a reaction to ANY NEW PRODUCT. If you have reactive skin then a reaction won't tell you much. If your skin is very sensitive you have to expect a reaction to every single introduction and you should have a plan for how to proceed in spite of your inevitable reactions.

SENSITISATION: this is a process that happens gradually. Your skin may be compromised without you realising it. When your barrier is weakened then any new product may trigger a reaction. If this happens you need to realise that the new product didn't cause the reaction because the sensitisation was pre-existing. You may not have a problem with the new product, it may simply be that your skin wasn't strong enough to withstand a new introduction.

Once I patch test the daydreaming can truly begin 😊😊😊😊😊

You have now completed the first week of your new product. Review your notes and prepare your plan for Week Two. 💙 SH SIP: Safe Intro Protocol Week Two: Building Your Tent 💙

Thoughts? What's your method? Talk to me about patch testing!

💙💙💙💙💙💙💙 Have a great day everyone 💙💙💙💙💙💙💙



Heidi Van Regan

Montreal CANADA

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