Like it or not, you’ll be showing more skin in the summer. While many companies and products out there claim to be the best at rejuvenating your skin, there are small changes you could make right now that would have a huge impact on your skin’s health. Most of us spend each day damaging our skin without even realizing it. Here are just a few offenders to watch out for.
Rinsing your makeup off each night is an easy first step to taking better care of your skin, but so many of us skip it. We get home late from work, then try to fit in dinner, working out, and relaxing. When you’re ready to pass out for the night, washing your face can feel like an unnecessary step. However, sleeping in your makeup is wreaking havoc on your skin.
“If you want to wake up fresh, you need to use a makeup remover,” cofounder of Chalet Cosmetics Andrea Rodriguez told me. “Sleeping in makeup not only ages you, it prevents skin from recovering overnight to maintain elasticity and hydration the next day.” Rodriguez recommended keeping the process as simple as possible so that you’re able to stay consistent.
“Agua Fresca is a super easy way to make sure you never do this to your face again,” recommended Rodriguez. “Pour this natural cleansing water on a cotton pad, swipe, and then hit the pillow.”
If your skincare products come in a jar, it’s time to rethink them. Applying the product with your hands is probably not doing much good for your skin. “Our hands pick up so much dirt and oil from the day, and when you stick your fingers in a jar of product and apply it to your face, you may be spreading bacteria,” Rodriguez told me. “Skincare without applicators have a much higher rate of getting contaminated. Plus, the active ingredients are much more likely to become oxidized, making them less effective. Try sticking to products with airless pumps or caps with dispensers for better skincare benefits.”
Content director for Beautypedia Bryan Barron agreed. Because many skincare products, especially the anti-aging ones, contain antioxidants, they should not be exposed to air. The more you open that jar, the more the antioxidants break down and become ineffective. “So your anti-aging products become less and less effective,” Barron told Elle.
Most of us are pretty good about remembering the sunscreen on a beach day with friends, but what about the rest of the time? We expose our skin to the sun’s harmful rays everyday, even if it’s just walking to the car. It’s important to start making sunscreen part of your morning routine.
“The number one thing you can do to pause, and in fact reverse the signs of aging, is to be extra diligent about using sunscreen,” oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Brett Kotlus told me. “Ideally, you should use a 15 SPF or higher and a mineral-based product. There are clear zinc products that offer great protection that don’t make you look pasty like the old zincs you remember from Baywatch.”
There is a reason why your skin looks dull and tired after a night of little sleep. Sleep is restorative for your skin, so go to bed late too many nights in a row, and your skin is going to show it. “When the skin is getting less than optimum fuel, it can become dull and pale,” Dr. Dennis Gross told Elle. “Lack of sleep can be so stressful that it actually causes our bodies, including our skin, to generate free radicals.” Start prioritizing your sleep and watch your skin change.
There are a lot of skincare products out there, and many of them are incredibly expensive. Which ones are actually worth it? Well, according to Dr. Kotlus, special anti-wrinkle pillows fall into the “not worth it” column. Many women notice lines on their faces from their pillows every morning, so several companies have created pillows meant to prevent those lines. “Don’t waste money on anti-wrinkle pillows and pillowcases. While sleep lines are formed during sleep, especially on stomach-sleepers, there’s no scientific proof that a specialty pillow or fabric reduces sleep wrinkles over your regular sleep gear,” explained Dr. Kotlus. “I performed a published study showing that the effects of sun exposure supersede the aging effects of sleep pressure, so focus on sun protection.”
I have never been a pimple popper. The thought of it makes me nauseous, and I’m a nurse, so I’ve seen some things. Fortunately for me, the dermatologists are with me on this one. Popping that zit you’ve had your eye on only spreads the bacteria to the rest of your face. “However tempting it may be to pop a pimple, try to resist,” Dr. Gross told Elle. “If the temptation is too much, try washing your face with a clean washcloth. If the pimple is ready to ‘pop,’ this is all the pressure needed to drain it.” Your body is smart. It knows when the pimple needs to go away, so let your skin do its thing.
After a long day, there is nothing better than relaxing in a long, hot shower. Grab a glass of wine, and you have a little spa right in your bathroom. However, the hot water is harsh on your skin, so keep those steamy showers to a minimum. Sure, they feel good, “but they’re guaranteed to turn your skin into a dry, flaky mess,” Dermatologist Dr. Arielle Kauvar told Prevention. Opt for slightly cooler water to protect your skin.
We’ve all seen the women and men who have clearly overdone it on the plastic surgery. Foreheads that don’t move and stretched eyelids always look unnatural. Another product to watch out for is fillers for your face and lips. “Please don’t follow the trend of over-inflated lips,” said Dr. Kotlus. “Cartoonishly large lips are not attractive no matter how many people on your Instagram feed show off their selfie pouts.”
I can’t possibly write an article about things to stop doing to your skin and neglect indoor tanning beds. We know they are associated with skin cancer, but they don’t just stop there. A study in Translational Behavioral Medicine found that indoor tanning users had higher rates of redness and swelling. If you’ve ever been tempted to hop in the tanning bed for a base tan before vacation, don’t do it.
While it’s important to wash your face every night before bed, don’t overdo it. Using a facial brush or even a washcloth can be too hard on your delicate skin. “It’s not unusual for people to routinely use a retinoid, an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), and a mechanical cleansing device, so they wind up red and irritated instead of glowing and radiant,” cosmetic dermatologist Dr. David Bank told Prevention.
If you suffer from acne, being gentle with your skin is especially important. Exfoliating your face when you have acne will only aggravate your skin. “It will just make your acne flare and cause so much irritation that you won’t be able to use products or medications that might help clear the condition,” Dr. Kauvar said to Prevention.
With all of the skin treatments out there, it’s easy to overlook the simple things you can do to renew your skin. The absolute first step you should take is quitting smoking. No matter what treatments you try for your skin, smoking will undo them. “Don’t do a skin laser to reverse the effects of aging and then smoke cigarettes. You’re undoing any benefits you’re getting from the laser treatment, and you’re impairing your body’s ability to heal,” explained Dr. Kotlus. “You can always spot a smoker from the wrinkles around their mouth. Other than being strict about using sunscreen, smoking cessation is the best thing you can do to stop the signs of aging.”
One of the best things you can do for your skin is to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will keep your skin youthful and glowing. Anything that dehydrates you will leave you looking older. Unfortunately, that means saying goodbye to some old friends. “Alcohol and caffeine … act like a diuretic and prevent you from holding on to water, so your skin looks sort of prune-like. It can get dry and get washed out,” dermatologist Dr. Deborah Wattenberg told TODAY. “Junk food contains a lot of preservatives and that will do the same thing.”
Washing your face every night is a great practice for your skin. Washing multiple times per day is definitely too much of a good thing. “Most tend to use harsh soaps that strip natural oils from their body and disrupt the ideal pH of their skin,” Rachel Nazarian, MD at Schweiger Dermatology Group told Marie Claire. “Chronic over-washing will cause skin to dry and crack, leaving it prone to infections and flares of inflammatory conditions like eczema, and can even highlight signs of aging, like small wrinkles and lines.”
Have you ever noticed how much you touch your face? We all do it. The last time I chopped some spicy peppers, I realized I was constantly touching my face as I coughed and sneezed every time my hands came close to my eyes. Each time you touch your face, you’re exposing your skin to bacteria. “Repeatedly touching your face or resting your chin on your hands can introduce dirt, oils, and bacteria to the skin that can contribute to acne,” Arbonne senior director of nutrition Dr. Nancy Steely told Bustle.
Always touching your face is especially irritating for your eyes. Dr. Steely explained that rubbing your eyes can “break the delicate capillaries under the skin as well as damage the tissues in this area and increase the risk of wrinkle development earlier in life.”
Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau was also concerned about the delicate under eye skin. “Pulling on the skin while putting in contacts, applying eyeliner, or rubbing aggressively to remove stubborn eye makeup can create wear and tear on the collagen and elasticity fibers, causing visible lines and wrinkles prematurely,” Rouleau told Marie Claire. “Always apply eye cream with the ring finger (it’s the weakest) and use a gentle patting motion to avoid rubbing and tugging.”
Tanning beds and cigarettes aren’t the only things damaging your skin. That half-eaten slice of chocolate cake sitting in your refrigerator can be just as harmful. Consuming sugar affects our bodies’ collagen stores. Collagen is the magical substance that helps our skin spring back and look young. “Sugary foods break down collagen and elastin in the skin, causing dullness and wrinkles over time,” dermatologist Fredric Brandt told Allure.
Eating too much sugar can also affect your internal systems. “Sugar can weaken the immune system, and a suppressed immune system is bad at fighting off bacteria,” celebrity dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer told New York magazine. When that bacteria is stuck in your pores, pimples can form. Consuming sugar can also increase our testosterone levels, which affects our skin. “Testosterone makes pores larger and skin oilier. It turns your beautiful female skin into ruddy football player skin,” Dr. Lancer said.
When was the last time you checked your skin for new or changing moles? Consistently checking yourself for changes is crucial to catching any skin cancers early. However, self-checks won’t take care of everything. Schedule a yearly appointment with your dermatologist to check your entire body. “We look in more nooks and crannies than you ever will,” dermatologist Patricia Wexler told Allure.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your skin, see your dermatologist.