8 Bad Skin Habits You Need to Break ASAP
There’s no shortage of skincare tips and tricks out there — but that doesn’t stop us from making skincare mistakes that can harm the largest organ in our body (yep, your skin is considered an organ). So what bad skin habits are we guilty of? We asked dermatologists to weigh in on the worst habits they see — and how to build healthy skin habits.
Tanning — either in the sun or at the salon — tops the list of bad skin habits. “The single most detrimental factor in the development of skin aging and skin cancers is exposure to ultraviolet radiation,” says Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, a double-certified dermatologist and the editor of DermBoard. “If you want to get a tan, use self-tanners.”
2. Skipping Sunscreen
Sunscreen isn’t just for beach days. You should apply sun protection whenever you’ll be spending time outdoors — even if it’s cloudy. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 and water-resistant.
If you don’t like the smell or feel of sunscreen, at least look for skincare products with SPF. “Even wearing a moisturizer or makeup with SPF is a good first step,” says Alan J. Parks, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of DermWarehouse.
3. Picking Your Skin
While it might feel oh-so-satisfying to pop a pimple, dermatologists recommend a hands-off approach. “The best choice is to leave the zit alone,” Tonkovic-Capin says.
Picking at blemishes can lead to a secondary infection, says Robin Evans, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Even if it doesn’t, she adds, it may cause scarring and skin discoloration.
We’ve seen all the usual warnings about how smoking can affect your cardiovascular and respiratory health — but it can also do a number on your skin over time. “I still find smoking the single most frustrating skin-damaging habit,” says Henry Gasiorowski, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Greenwich Dermatology. Tobacco use can affect collagen and elastin levels in your skin, he says, which can contribute to premature aging.
5. Buying a Product Just Because It’s Trendy
Even if your favorite influencer or celeb swears a certain product transformed their skin, it might not be right for your skin type. (And don’t forget: There’s a good chance they’re being paid for their rave review.) If you’re looking for product recommendations that address your specific skin concerns, ask your dermatologist instead. “Trust your doctor over skin tips from random strangers on the internet,” says Sonam Yadav, MD, dermatologist at Juverne.
6. Exfoliating Too Much
Exfoliating your skin — with a scrub, a loofah, or a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid — is an effective way to remove dead skin cells, but it also has the potential to damage your skin if you do it too often. Dermatologists told us that over-exfoliating can lead to redness or irritation. You might even break out in a rash or develop tiny, rough pimples.
The good news: This habit is easy to reverse. Switch to a mild cleanser (like Cetaphil) and spot-treat any red or rough areas with thick moisturizing creams (Aquaphor is a good choice) or an aloe vera gel.
7. Skimping on Sleep
Poor sleep quality can affect your skin health and aggravate certain skin conditions. It can also make your skin look… a little blah. In one study, researchers compared photos of participants when they were well-rested to photos taken after 31 hours of sleep deprivation. Looking at the sleep-deprived photos, observers noted changes like dark circles under the eyes, paler skin, and more wrinkles. Tonkovic-Capin recommends making a full night’s sleep a priority — no matter how busy you are.
8. Skipping Your Nighttime Skincare Routine
The majority of us skip out on washing our faces before bed, and it’s a bad habit that drives dermatologists crazy. “During the day, various air pollutants accumulate on your skin, causing skin damage,” says Dr. Tonkovic-Capin. Makeup can also trap pimple-causing sebum in the pores, leading to breakouts.
At the bare minimum, Tonkovic-Capin recommends using pre-moistened facial pads to wipe away dirt, makeup, and other impurities. But the best option is to get in the habit of following a nighttime skincare routine that includes a cleanser and moisturizer. Your dermatologist can help you find the best nighttime routine for your skin.