As any skin care expert will tell you that proper TLC is THE number one way to achieve clear, blemish- and bump-free skin. Yes, there are plenty of products out there, formulas that have been concocted to help with every skin problem under the sun — from acne and scarring to redness and hyperpigmentation. But did you know that a lot of times, the secret to keeping your complexion bright, beautiful, and blemish free actually lays in what not to do to your skin?!
Yep, bad habits can be the culprit for a lot more of those skin issues than you may realize. Here are some of the ways you might be harming your skin… without even realizing it.
Bad Skin Habit: Sunbathing… without SPF
We might sound like a broken record, and it’s possible your parents or doctors have nagged you about the importance of sunscreen before, but we’re here to it again because SPF is just that important. You probably think about slathering on sunscreen to prevent sunburn and, in the long term, avoid skin cancer. Both of those are true, but did you also know that excess sun exposure without protection can lead to fine lines, wrinkes, age spots and dark spots? Yup, it’s true. So if you want to avoid looking like your older than you are, put on your SPF every day (no matter the weather) and wear a wide brim hat! Your complexion will thank you!
Bad Skin Habit: Washing or exfoliating your face too much
Yes, there is such a thing as being too squeaky clean. Have you ever washed your face several times in one day and noticed that it only appears more greasy and feels less “clean?” Washing your face is imperative, but cleansing too often strips your skin of its natural oils, which then encourages your skin to produce even more oil in response.
The same is true of exfoliating: It’s great for your skin, but there’s a reason most exfoliants have instructions that recommend 2-3 times a week, max. Overdoing it can lead to redness and irritation because the ingredients in your products are acids, and can irritate when they’re used too often. Plus, when you’re exfoliating too much you aren’t just removing dead cells, you’re also removing the top layer of your skin.
Don’t get us wrong though — washing your face is still crucial. “Cleansing every night is so important because as we sleep, our skin takes advantage of this time to naturally rejuvenate and heal itself,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf Contributor. “Cell turnover is also more active while we sleep and this process isn’t as effective if skin isn’t clean.”
In other words, stick to cleansing twice a day — once in the morning and once at night — and exfoliating 2 or 3 times a week.
Bad Skin Habit: Sleeping in your makeup
Remember what we said about cleansing at night? That means taking off your makeup! “Sleeping in makeup can also cause clogged pores, breakouts, irritation and rough skin texture. Most critically, it leads to premature signs of aging and bacterial buildup,” explains Dr. Schlessinger. “The makeup, oil and environmental pollutants that gather on your skin all day seep into your pores, causing breakouts and speeding up the aging process.”
We’ll venture to guess that these are probably things you’re aiming to avoid. Bottom line: Be sure to take your makeup off thoroughly (and wash your face!) before you hit the hay.
Bad Skin Habit: Removing your makeup too forcefully
You’ve probably been told to be gentle when removing your makeup — and for good reason. But we’ve all got that shadow or mascara that feels like it could last through the apocalypse, and rubbing more intensely seems like the only way to get it off.
Be warned: The skin around your eyes is thin, delicate and prone to dryness. Tugging at any skin, but especially your under-eye area, can spread infection to your eye and can also cause fine lines and wrinkles to form prematurely.
To remove makeup the right way, apply your remover to a cotton pad sparingly (using too much could flood the eye and cause irritation). Next, gently press the pad to the eye and hold in place with light pressure for at least three minutes. “This will break up the makeup enough that you don’t have to resort to forceful wiping or rubbing,” explains Dr. Schlessinger. “Once the time is up, very gently wipe the rest of your makeup off in small, sweeping gestures.” For hard-to-reach places — like the tear duct and lower lash line — Dr. Schlessinger recommends dipping a cotton swab into the remover and wiping it on the area carefully.
Bad Skin Habit: Constantly touching or picking at your face
Yes, blackheads count too! If Dr. Pimple Popper’s videos aren’t proof enough, it’s best to leave the poking, prodding and popping to a professional. Squeezing these blemishes with your own two fingers often spreads the bacteria and leads to infection, as well as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation — those stubborn dark marks that drive you crazy. Instead, try your best to release the sebum naturally with a quality cleanser and scheduling an appointment for your next facial.
Bad Skin Habit: Not getting enough sleep
Snooze time is important — not just for your energy level, but also for your overall health. Not getting enough shut-eye affects your entire body, including your skin, which goes through its natural repair cycle at night. “This process includes making new collagen, improving circulation and reducing under-eye puffiness,” explains Dr. Schlessinger. Ideally, adults should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. To do this, try to maintain a consistent bedtime so your body becomes used to winding down at the same time.
Bad Skin Habit: Using the same products year-round
Just as you change your closest each season and switch out those chunky sweaters for light sundresses, you should do the same with several of your skin care products. Why? Each season affects your skin differently. “The general rule here is that heavier products are better in the winter (when the air is dry) and one should switch to a lighter base in the spring and summer months,” says Tyler Hollmig, MD, dermatologist and Director of Laser and Aesthetic Dermatology at Stanford Health Care. “So, if you have really dry skin and need an ointment (like vaseline or aquaphor) to moisturize in the winter, you might find a cream (more water, less oil) a more elegant means to moisturize during warmer months.” If you have more oily skin, he recommends using creams in the winter and gels or alternative moisturizers in the warmer months.
Bad Skin Habit: Taking long, hot showers
It’s certainly tempting to crank that water temperature way up (especially during super cold months!) but warm is the way to go when it comes to the temperature of your showers. Though it might feel incredibly relaxing, hot water can be very drying and strip the skin of its natural oils. “The heat from the shower softens the skin’s natural oil barrier and soap washes it away,” explains Dr. Schlessinger. “Without this barrier, skin easily loses moisture, leading to dryness, itchiness and irritation.” This is especially true if you have sensitive skin — hot showers may lead to scaly or cracked limbs. Always take a warm shower and keep it short (around 10 minutes or less). Instead of rubbing, pat yourself dry and moisturize with a body lotion as soon as you step out of the shower, which helps lock moisture in immediately.