No, You Should Not Feel Your Skincare Products 'Working'

by Jessica L. Yarbrough

This article originally appeared on

"It burned like a motherf*cker," reads one Sephora customer's review of The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution… accompanied by five shining stars.

"I have sensitive, acne-prone skin and it stings for about two minutes upon application," reads another, this one about Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask. "This is by far the best facial I have ever tried!"

"I ended up getting some burn spots." (Five stars.)

"The stinging is a little scary." (Five stars.)

"It scared me so much the first time I used it, I washed it off immediately." (That one still earned four stars.)

This might not register as anything out of the ordinary at first. Generations of beauty enthusiasts have grown up hearing that beauty is pain, being told to feel the burn, craving something that hurts so good. We've internalized these catchphrases — which originally referred to piercings, abs and love, respectively — to the point that pain isn't just something to tolerate. It's something to validate. If it's powerful enough to hurt, it's powerful enough to work. Right?

Not exactly. According to every trained professional Fashionista consulted for this story — three doctors, two beauty brand owners and one holistic aesthetician — skin-care should feel good. Or, at the very least, it shouldn't feel bad.