So, what’s the deal? Unfortunately, your skin and skin care, in general, can be incredibly confusing. Even with a bank of considerable knowledge, there’s a chance you might be making choices that aren’t suited to your skin and its specific needs.
In order to make things a little easier and help you on your skincare journey, we asked three leading dermatologists to let us in on the top things they wish their patients would stop doing when it comes to caring for their skin.
1. Not Wearing SPF
This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s astonishing how many people don’t apply any type of sun protection every day. Dermatologist Dr. Natasha Cook notes, “this is my biggest gripe! Sun exposure and sun damage is the single biggest cause of ageing, pigmentation and skin cancer. People may claim they don’t go out in the sun during the day, but they forget walking around to and from work as well as driving to work involves sun exposure.”
Dermatologist and Associate Professor at Monash University, Dr. Greg Goodman concurs: “while there may not be much UVB in many temperate climates in Australia in winter, there are plenty of deeply damaging UVA, visible and infrared lights”. He adds, “in a study I was part of recently, Australian women between 10 to 20 years old aged faster than their northern hemisphere counterparts and not just with wrinkles, but also in regards to underlying skin volume. We think that it is the deeper wavelengths that are responsible, as Australians are able to be out all year round from a young age compared to the more severe winter conditions overseas”.
As such, it’s vital to ensure you’re applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays every day, regardless of what the weather looks like outside.
2. Picking At Pimples
“People often believe that popping a blemish will make it heal faster. In actuality, self-extractions cause inflammation and further spread bacteria to the skin and can lead to acne scars,” explains dermatologist, trained pharmacist and founder of Murad Skin Care, Dr. Howard Murad. “There is bacteria on the surface of the skin and even though your body produces peptides that work as a natural antiseptic, when you break the skin barrier you introduce that bacteria into your body and run the risk of exacerbating that problem.”
3. Over-Exfoliating (Or Exfoliating At All)
While using a combination of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) has become an incredibly popular way to exfoliate the skin, Goodman believes exfoliation with chemical or physical formulas isn’t necessary as it interferes with the skin’s natural exfoliation process. “You need to think of your skin as something to be nurtured. The outer part of your skin is an amazing system that both protects your body from the outside world and interacts with it. As such, the skin harbours ‘friendly bugs’ that work to defend against ‘unfriendly ones’. It does this through providing just the right water balance and nourishment for these bugs. The skin is also a delicately organised structure of cells that end up falling off individually as they get to the surface, taking with them any nasty bugs and toxins sitting on the skin. Exfoliation disrupts all this, strips the top layer of skin and alters the microenvironment, which interferes with its water-holding abilities and allows the wrong things to strive.”
Cook also notes over-exfoliating the skin “wears down the skin barrier, creating sensitivity, rashes, breakouts and rosacea”. So, if you’re not willing to part with your Holy Grail AHAs just yet, it’s important to at least go easy with the powerful formulas and treat your skin as something that needs to be protected, not exfoliated into oblivion.
4. Applying Too Many Acids
Acids, such as retinoic acids, hyaluronic acids or ferulic acids, are great and can reap significant skincare benefits. However, Cook explains you need to use the right ones in the right concentration. “Too many acids, especially glycolic, can be irritating, create sensitivity, excessive flaking and inflammation.” If you’re not sure how much of a product you should be using, check the instructions for best practice or speak to a dermatologist.
5. Cleansing Your Face With Soap
While cleansing with soap certainly isn’t the worst faux pas on this list, Goodman says, “soap is very alkaline and the skin surface is an acidic environment [so] this interaction is not healthy. [Soap works] by dissolving the natural oils in the skin and that squeaky-clean feel that many people like is an indication that the top layer of skin is devoid of its normal oils”. Although using soap once in a blue moon when you run out of your normal cleanser isn’t going to cause any major skin issues, continued use “is going to lead to a very dry and irritated skin,” explains Goodman.
6. Having An Over-Complicated Skin Care Routine
Using a million-and-one products formulated to tackle any and all of your skin concerns might sound like a good idea, however, the reality is that doing so will do nothing but confuse your skin. “I call it cosmetic overload,” says Cook, “And it’s a big culprit of a condition known as perioral dermatitis, which leaves skin sensitive, red, patchy and flaky with little bumps around the nose, eyes and mouth,” she adds.
To avoid this, Murad suggests paying attention to what you’re applying. “It’s ok to layer on products, however, follow the instructions provided for anything you’re applying as you may be using too much of one ingredient.”
7. Relying On Your Friend's Skin Care Recommendations
With skincare, there’s no guarantee that what works for one person will work for another. “Skincare is an individual thing based on many individual parameters such as skin type, sensitivity, gender, age, pregnancy status or likelihood, redness, pores, acne prone skin, pigmentation, sun damage correction or prevention, loss of elasticity and many more. Basing your skin care on a friend’s recommendation makes no sense unless they are an identical twin with exactly the same environmental factors,” explains Goodman.
If you’re not sure what products are best suited to you and your skin, it’s always best to seek the assistance of a skin care expert – either a dermatologist or facialist – to compile an appropriate routine.
8. Using Products That Aren't Suited To Your Skin
Furthermore, you need to remember that your skin is dynamic and changes depending on many of the factors, Goodman mentioned above. As a result, your routine needs to change as you do. For instance, “for someone in their later 20s, it’s important not to use products aimed at teenage acne. Those products target ‘violent’ hormonal acne, which is a very different condition than what women in their late 20s through 40s have. What you need are calming agents with anti-inflammatory ingredients. People with acne or the occasional pimple think they need to dry out their skin, so choose products that are too harsh – doing so will just cause further irritation than the breakout itself,” says Murad.
Additionally, Goodman stresses you need to be careful with the toners you choose to use. “Toners are only rarely useful in skincare. In those with really oily skin or in those with a lot of sun damage, I can almost see a reason, but for the majority, they strip the skin of oils.”
9. Not Paying Attention To Your Diet
Over the past few years, there has been a wealth of information published regarding how someone’s diet, gut health and stress levels impacts their skin. Consequently, Murad stresses that you shouldn’t “ignore the fact that what you eat and how you deal with stress has a big impact on the appearance of your skin. Besides what you put on your skin, what you put in your body and mind can be equally as damaging."
10. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your skin, says Murad. “It’s during REM (or deep sleep) that your body regenerates cells and produces collagen, both of which are key for maintaining youthful skin.” So make sure you’re clocking up your recommended eight hours every night.
This article originally appeared in marie claire.